Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Roger Shimomura Interview
Narrator: Roger Shimomura
Interviewers: Alice Ito (primary); Mayumi Tsutakawa (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: March 18 & 20, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-sroger-01-0015

<Begin Segment 15>

AI: I'm also interested about things that your parents might have emphasized to you as you were growing up. And you've talked some already about some of your father's hopes for you going into medicine or becoming a doctor. I'm wondering what other kinds of values or principles that your father, or your mother, or grandparents, other relatives --

RS: Well, I've always said that I think one of the, I call it a curse in some ways, that my grandmother put on me, was she always used to tell me, and she told me so frequently that everything I did, good or bad in life, would reflect upon the entire Japanese race. And I think I bought that. I was not the sort of questioning person. When my parents or grandparents said something to me I just sort of accepted it. Not that I liked it, but I accepted it. And I think I bought that. And that was reinforced all through high school, junior high school where I saw the community sort of gather together to protect a particular family in the JA community that might have "sinned" socially. And they didn't want people to think that this was normal behavior for Japanese Americans. And so they would essentially cover-up. And I remember, especially in high school, and in college where sex started to become a little bit more open and, and young women were getting pregnant, you know, out of wedlock, and my God, how that would just like spread through the community. And again, people would draw their wagons and protect the family and all that, but at the same time would be saying very bad things about them, behind your back. So there was a clear double standard. And that used to really bother me. And I think it really bothered people of my generation. We recognized that double standard whereas the Niseis just felt like, well this is, this is the way things were done and you don't question it. And of course, the Isseis were the ones that brought that over with them. So I think the Nisei were, were probably, later on in their lives, at least, were as troubled as the Sanseis were in their very early life.

There was a tremendous amount of hypocrisy. I mean, my parents would tell me, "Only date Japanese women. Don't date Chinese. And don't date Filipinos and above all don't date white people." And I remember in college, as late as college, and I was dating this person, who shall remain nameless, but Japanese American girl. And she had quite a reputation at Garfield. Everybody knew her. And, in fact, she had this reputation of "making men out of boys." Back then that was a pretty heavy reputation to carry around. And when we started dating my parents found out and my dad went ballistic. And he said, "Are you aware that she's working at Bush Gardens as a cocktail waitress?" And so what, you know. And he said, "I understand," he said that, "She's reputed to be able to tell what you've been drinking by smelling your breath." And, and he was being very sincere. And she was surviving. She was, her single mother is the one that raised her, and she had to work, and I understood that. And she made good money working at Bush as a waitress, but that was the hidoi thing to do.

And so I remember having these big arguments with my father. I said, "I'm dating a Japanese American girl and that doesn't please you, now you take it to this next level and you start criticizing what her social value is to people." And he says, "Well, of all the people out there you pick one that," blah, blah, blah, you know, kind of thing. And then there became a point where I just simply rebelled and pretty much ignored, you know. And I started dating this other girl that was mixed, from Hawaii. But her, her uncle was the governor of Hawaii, which I thought... so I was impressed by that. And she was this beautiful, absolutely beautiful person and all my parents heard was that her uncle was the governor of Hawaii. And I think they assumed -- because they used to go to Hawaii every year to golf -- that if you're Hawaiian, you're Japanese. And so I said I was gonna bring her home for dinner. And so my mom said, "Fine, bring her over." And so I brought her over and the minute they looked at her they knew she was mixed. And they didn't say anything, but when dinner was ready my mom, like, got two TV trays and brought them downstairs and put them in the basement, and essentially said, "You guys can eat down there." And that's when I realized just how impossible this situation was. And I was in college. So that was the sort of general... I mean, they, they obviously grew out of that because as it turns out my sister married a Caucasian right in the middle of all this. And then I dated a lot of Caucasian women that they met and I got, actually ended up living with an Iranian woman. They had to put up with all of this and soon, in their older age, like a lot of older people do as they get older, become a little bit more liberal in their values. And so, by the time, before they passed away, I mean they're, it really didn't matter.

AI: But at the time that you were growing up, they still had some very firm beliefs and --

RS: Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.