Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Kara Kondo Interview
Narrator: Kara Kondo
Interviewers: Alice Ito (primary), Gail Nomura (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 7 & 8, 2002
Densho ID: denshovh-kkara-01-0002

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KK: But my mother grew up in Kobe, although she was born in Shizuoka-ken. She was adopted by her aunt, who was fairly wealthy and had no children. They were... she was Amitani, and they, they adopted my mother and, with the idea that they would find a yoshi for her to carry on the Amitani name. And my mother was, received her education in Kobe and went to the Aoyama Gakuin, and she was, she told us that her mother felt that she would never, she would never need to use English. My mother wanted to learn English and take English so she could speak English, but her mother told her that oh, she would have no use for it because she would never leave Japan. And so she took all the cultural studies such as tea ceremony and ikebana and the, both the shamisen and the koto and all the social -- to obtain the social graces. But, and then she did finally marry. And I can't even remember what his name was, but she was married for about a year, and she had a child. But I don't know how she met my father. But after she met him they were, she di-, whether she divorced her husband, I'm not sure. But she vowed that she would come to America to join her new husband, and she did.

And so her life began here in the early 1900s. And it was quite a shock to her, being sheltered and given the privilege of a wealthy child, to be faced with living in a very raw, undeveloped area where her transportation -- she was told she would have a basha, and when she came, it was a wagon with farm, driven by farm horses. And that the water was a pump, that she had to pump water. And she had to heat the water on wood stoves. So it was a very primitive condition, which I'm sure she had no idea. She felt that America was a land of opportunity, and that it would be an adventure. Of course, it was an adventure for her and a very difficult life, I'm sure. But I will give credit to her and to so many of the Issei women who probably had a more difficult time than she did.

But we lived in a, the area called, at that time, (...) the Brownstown area, which is about, oh, about eight miles west of Wapato, the small town that was the center of the middle valley. And we lived on a hay farm. And whereas most of the Japanese families had smaller acreage, and they lived closer to town, we were located some distance from the town. There were, and we were, the reason why it was called Brownstown was because the Brown brothers, seven of them, came from Virginia with the idea of having big plantations, Virginian plantations, that they had seen in Virginia. And they had staked out large amounts of farmland, and they were all around us with great big houses. And (they were) hardy people who, we were told, that they had accumulated land in very, some ways that were not really legitimate. But that we do not know. But we lived on a hay farm or alfalfa farm. And our school, my, I have an older sister, Amy, and I grew up during that early period in the '20s where we went to a two-room schoolhouse called Johnson School. And, of course, you know, we walked two miles through very cold, and often hot days and dusty days, through... on, unpaved roads.

AI: Excuse me. Before we get too far along here, I wanted to back up a little bit back, going back to your mother. And I wanted to ask you what your mother's name was.

KK: Oh, my mother's name was Kiyoko.

GN: Kiyoko Amitani.

KK: Kiyoko Amitani, and then Matsushita.

AI: And she was born in -- I think you showed us earlier, 18-

KK: 1870 -- let me see. It was in 1886.

AI: So she was born in 1886, and then she came to Yakima in about, 19-

KK: I would think about 1912. Something like that. (1912).

GN: And I don't think I heard when your father came?

KK: My father came in, he was born in 1879, and he came in 1905.

GN: And did he come directly to the valley, you think?

KK: Yes, I think he did.

GN: Uh-huh.

KK: Yes, he did.

GN: You didn't tell us something about your father's family in Japan?

KK: Oh, my father's family lived in Akashi. It was close to Kobe, I think it is a suburb of Kobe at the present time. And they had a small farm, a citrus farm. And, but he had an older brother, of course, who inherited the land. So the younger brothers did not, did not inherit. But both of them were teaching school before they came here.

GN: I see. Did they go to normal school or --

KK: Oh, I don't think so. I think they were, finished high school and were probably, at that time, were able to teach lower, very lower grades. But I'm sure that they, it was not very productive in that way, and you know, the venture of a new country certainly beckoned many people in those days.

GN: Did your father ever tell you why he wanted to come to the United States? I mean, how did he hear about it, and why Washington?

KK: I'm sure that they had some, word by mouth, I'm sure. And they probably had the opportunity of finding employment. But their first intent was, you know, when young people, what do they do nowadays? They, they go even if, to another land even if they don't have a job. I'm sure that's the kind of spirit of adventure of young people even now, I hope.

GN: And how many siblings do you have?

KK: I have a older sister, Amy, and a younger sister, Marjorie. And Marjorie is six years younger than I am, and my older sister is two years older. And we both will, still in existence. [Laughs]

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.