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-01-0006

<Begin Segment 6>

AI: So...

GN: I'm wondering if we should go back to some of the cultural activities, early cultural activities, and then go detailed into the reservation situation? You were talking about the churches?

KK: The churches, yes.

GN: And what kinds of activities did the churches do?

KK: The churches had their regular services, of course. But then they also had their festivals like the Bon Odori and the hanamatsuri. I can remember them. And, and the Methodist church followed, had a, the minister, or the woman who came to be the Japanese language school teacher was a widow, Mrs. Okuda, who was a single parent. And I don't, we didn't ever find out what happened to Mr. Okuda, but she, but she was a very intelligent, forthright, brave woman who was the language school teacher and was, also was a worker within the Methodist church. We have had the Methodist ministers and the Buddhist priests until, until we were evacuated from the area.

But they had their regular festivities, and they also had cultural events where they would -- the greater public -- would be invited. Most of them occurred in conjunction with the, the language school, and they had their regular activities. Then they had the sports activities, the judo lessons and the kendo and the Wapato Nippons, or the baseball teams that became quite famous. And I believe they probably, until this day, there's some myth about, about the Wapato Nippons, that they sort of integrated to a greater Northwest baseball picture of the Nisei baseball teams. But it also integrated with the other baseball activities of the community in that way, but, but the Japanese community was a community in itself. It was a subculture within a culture. We had our Japanese grocery stores. There were several of them. And a couple of eating places, a little garage, and we even had a dentist. I can remember the early dentist who would pump his foot for the drills and it was just a, a community within itself. And where the, it was very close-knit. And the Wapato people were, there were more of them around Wapato but there were some from the Toppenish area -- and that's the lower valley -- and from Yakima. But as a whole, the whole valley was a very close-knit... and I think we just continued to live our unique lives.

GN: What were the major events for the community?

KK: The major events, we, the Japanese community had their dances, they had their -- which, you know, some parents disapproved, and it always created some sort of controversy. We didn't care. But they had athletic events, and then they had their cultural events, and they had organized into a girls' club and the judo and the kendo and related activities were also very --

GN: How about the Issei? What kinds of organizations did they have?

KK: Well, you know, I think that they were, they were not involved in too many social activities except the shigin groups and --

GN: Shigin groups are...

KK: Yes.

GN: Could you define that?

KK: Yes. And, you know, they took time to visit each other a lot. I think that our house was always full of Isseis. Always, always talking. And they were, I think they were much more worldly in their attitudes than, that we were led to believe. And sometimes we would argue from our American viewpoint, and I can remember my father say, "Well, everything is not black and white. There are various shades of gray." And the other thing I can remember him saying -- when we said, "Well, you don't know. You just speak Japanese," he said, "Well, you don't always think in English. You can always think in other languages." These are the kinds of things that I recall. And they would discuss literature and I can remember my father reading rather heavy books and heavy subject books and my mother would read light subject books and I can remember him saying very proudly, "Oh, she's reading Anna Karenina," and he felt that was quite a progress, and here she was reading all these fiction in Japanese.

GN: Well, the Yakima valley, actually, the Japanese community was well-known for its senryu club?

KK: I think so.

GN: And it's supposed to be the origination...

KK: Is that right?

GN: Did you know of the Isseis writing poetry?

KK: No. I knew Mrs. Tomita, but she didn't live here that much longer, either. She stayed for a while because she, she and her husband worked for my parents. But I know that her writings are very well-known. But they moved to the Seattle area, I imagine about in the mid-'20s because, during the anti-alien land law, quite a number of the Japanese were displaced. Some of them went to Oregon, and some of the families returned to the area, but, until things were a little more clear.

But there was a lot of, prior to, prior to World War II and our evacuation, in the '30s, when there was, some of the farms were bombed, and our place was, had arson. But it was not necessarily directed at the Japanese, although I'm sure it was, part of it was. But all the ones that were targeted were, had hired the Filipino workers, and they were the target at the time. But that must have been about the third wave of anti-Japanese feeling. But it was very frightening at the time, I think it was because we were older and could understand that. But as far as the life in the community, we were a very close-knit family of Japanese, both Isseis and Niseis. And so it was, I think that we never felt deprived, although we realized that life existed around us.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.