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Title: Tosh Yasutake Interview
Narrator: Tosh Yasutake
Interviewers: Alice Ito (primary), Tom Ikeda (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: November 14, 2002
Densho ID: denshovh-ytosh-01-0037

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AI: You were just finishing talking about your initial lecture in Japan --

TY: Uh-huh.

AI: -- and on that trip in 1979, you had a series of lectures at universities.

TY: Yeah, in 1980 I went, well, actually, but what happened was in 1978 I think it was, I was approached by one of the professors at University of Tokyo that came to Seattle, was working, who was working under Dr. Egusa. And I mean that literally, because in Japan if you're head of the department or chairman of the department, the rest of the people are just like slaves, whether they're professors or anything. Anyway, he came, he came to visit the lab and then he, we had him over for supper one night, that, one of the nights and he said, "Tosh, Dr. Egusa has asked me to ask you whether, that he would like to have you" -- he found out that I didn't have a graduate degree and he said, "He would like to have you work on your, on the graduate program from the University of Tokyo." And I said, "Oh my gosh." You know, I was reaching, way past my middle age and I thought, "Oh gosh, I don't think I'll be able to stand it." And he let it go at that. And I thought, "Well, you should think about it," and then the next month another prof. came over to this university, I mean from the University of Tokyo to the lab because he was attending a conference. And he came over to my office and he said, "You know, Dr. Egusa really would like you to work on your Ph.D." And he was so insistent that I just couldn't say no, as reluctant as I was, because I didn't think I was mentally prepared for that, and be able to physically stand all the work that would involve. And so I finally said okay and... and then, once I got the permission I went and asked the, I mean got, told I would do it, I went and talked to the director of our lab, Dr. Fox, and I said, explained the situation with him. And he said, "Do you really want to do it?" And I said, "Not really." But he said, "But you'd be foolish if you pass it up." And I said, "Yeah, I think you're right." And so I finally said, "Okay, I would like to do it, but how much time would you give me? How much time off would you give me?" Because I said, "You, I wouldn't have, you're gonna have to be full-time my part for at least six months." He said, "Well, you can have four months."

So I decided, I found out that what I had to do was well, robun hakase was different from the regular Ph.D. degree in that it was offered to people who, who are internationally known in their field and if they have published a lot and all this other stuff that goes with it. And so I, we, what, we had to write a thesis, we found out that I had to write a thesis in some of the, my, all the work that I've done thus far, summary of the work that I've done. And that would be my thesis. But, and then I had to be proficient in three languages. And luckily, English was one, because it's a Japanese university, and the other one is Nihongo of course, and I just was barely getting by on Nihongo, and then I took French as my third one. And so after I'd finally decided to do it I went and got permission to audit French, intensive French and intensive Japanese courses, for one quarter. I took them at the same time one quarter, and I almost died. And luckily I was, they let me audit the thing. And they said they will either give me a pass or fail grade for that. So luckily, I passed. And then the French, when I went over there I had to translate a French scientific paper that they had chosen, and translate that into English, luckily not in Japanese, but into English, so that was okay. And then for the Japanese part they asked me to, when I defended my thesis that I had to defend it in Japanese. And that was kinda difficult, I, but I did get by, I think.

And another difficult thing was that the committee, my committee consisted of about, unheard of, about twenty professors from other departments at the university. Even the philosophy professor was there, physiology, and chemistry, biochem, zoology, well, anyway, that's an awful lot of people. I was just flabbergasted because they didn't tell me how many -- and Dr. Egusa picked all the professors for, to be my committee, and I never met them before. And I had to defend my thesis in front of some people that I didn't even know. I only knew three of the profs that was on my committee, and they were all from the Department of Fisheries in University of Tokyo. But the rest of them I didn't know them from Adam and I was so scared I was wondering what kind of questions they would ask. But here again I lucked out in that they, they were so interested in the type of diseases that we found in the salmon here in this country, which I was very familiar with, and which much of my thesis was about, that I didn't have any problem defending my thesis and so I was very lucky in that sense. So, that it's, I really, well, as I told you before, I think I've been very lucky in my life, the way things turned out for me. [Laughs]

AI: Well, though, in addition to your defending your thesis there in Japan, you also did some lecturing and traveling around Japan.

TY: Yes, and then, after, oh, I think what -- oh, I got on a tangent there, but, in 19-, see 1979 was the first time I went to Japan and they, I went to all the different universities, University of Tokyo, and the University of Tokyo Fish, University, Fisheries University, Fishery, University of Fishery, no, wait a minute, Tokyo Fisheries University, I think is the other one that, is another university in Tokyo that just specializes in fisheries. And then I went to Mie University in the Mie Pen-, Prefecture, gave a lecture there, and then I went to Hokkaido University and the fisheries department was located in Hakodate in Hokkaido, and I went and gave a lecture there. And then I went to -- oh, and another thing was that they asked me where my folks were from and I told them they were from Fukuoka, and they said, "Well gee, we'll have to arrange for you to give a lecture in Miyazaki University," which is in southern part of Kyushu and Fukuoka is in the north end, of course, of Kyushu, and after I gave my lecture there they arranged for two of the professors to drive me up to Fukuoka, which was an overnight trip. And they let me off in Fukuoka in my relative's home and I visited, all the relatives got together and had a big dinner for me and that's the first time I met most of them. One fellow I did meet when I was a teenager and I didn't remember him from Adam by then, and so it was just like meeting him for the first time. And I really had a great time visiting my relatives I've never met before. And then they arranged, Dr. Egusa arranged for me to catch a plane and get back to Tokyo to go, to come home. So that whole trip was thirty-two days, which is, and they paid all the expenses, which is, really very thankful for that. And...

<End Segment 37> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.