Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Frank Miyamoto Interview IV
Narrator: Frank Miyamoto
Interviewers: Alice Ito (primary), Tatsuya Fukunaga (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: July 7, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-mfrank-04-0033

<Begin Segment 33>

AI: Excuse me. I was wondering about the kind of the organization, if you will, of the recreational activities, if there were some differences by ethnicity or by generation, you know, the older generation or the younger generation?

FM: Yes, there were. Issei didn't play basketball. [Laughs] In fact, I should comment about the age distribution of the workers, which you asked about legitimately. With regard to the Japanese workers, there were two sets, the Issei and the Nisei. And if you say, "How old were the Issei?" No, three sets, four sets of Japanese, let me put it that way. There were the Nisei and Issei but also among the Nisei there were the Kibei. And among the Issei there were a few young Issei, although most of them were the older, but there were some young Issei and I should not forget them. Now, what's the age range? Of the Nisei, when I went, as I say, I was fourteen years of age. I think that was kind of a little on the young, very young side, but let's say the age range of the Nisei was anywhere from fifteen to thirty years of age, more like most of us were fifteen to twenty-two, school-aged. But a few Nisei could be the older ones. I almost can't remember anyone who was much over that, over twenty-two or so. The Kibei were somewhat of the older group and they included some Kibei who were perhaps twenty-five, even up to thirty. And I'll talk about relationships in a moment. Then of the Issei, most of them were the older Issei and the age, I imagine, went up to above sixty. Although cannery work at times is heavy physical work and so if you get very much into the older age, why, it's an impossible thing, and yet, there were some who were over sixty, I would guess, and most were around fifty, seems to me. But some Issei, that is to say, young immigrant Issei from Japan were somewhat younger, and I just don't recall why they were there or how they figured as a part of the working population, but I do remember that there were some young Issei, maybe forty years of age or even thirty-five, that were in that population. You know, they could have been those who had been called over from Japan by families who were here and they needed work and fitted in that way.

Now as for the relationship between the Issei and Nisei, Kibei: Nisei and Kibei were almost, necessarily separate. They... no, I shouldn't say necessarily. They were, they tended to be separate because somehow there was, there was a difference in background. For example, Kibei, I don't rem-, recall any Kibei who played basketball, and they didn't play football. They didn't simply associate naturally, easily, with the Nisei in that regard. On the other hand, fellows like Dick Yoshimura and his brother, name slips me at the moment, whom I knew even better than Dick, they were young enough and attitudinally close enough in our, to us so that we... and as we worked together, why, we just became very good friends, and so they were part of the Nisei group in a sense. I don't know that Dick Yoshimura remem-, thinks of himself, even, as a Kibei, but by background he was in the sense that at that time he was one of those who had come back from Japan and didn't easily fit into the Nisei group in the sense that Nisei grew up feeling and thinking a certain way, different from those who were trained in Japan.

With regard to relations with the Issei, there was simply a sharp break between Nisei, Issei and Nisei in terms of social relationships. But on the other hand, as I say, with regard to go and shogi, some Nisei would become interested in these games and the ones who were skilled at it were the Issei, so you play with them. And, if it came to gambling, I don't remember Nisei being involved in the gambling tables, but the Issei were. The Issei were playing with Filipinos. They were close friends in that setting, but outside of these work relationships and so on, there tended to be ethnic separation simply because the Filipinos talked Philippines language, Japanese Issei talked Nihongo, and Nisei talked their own lingo, and just separation among these categories of people.

And then I should mention the relationship with the Native Americans. Almost no contact between Asians and Native Americans except at work and except at the dances which were occasionally held. The dances were put on by the Filipinos particularly. I think they were mainly the organizers of the dances, although, maybe the Japanese were involved in it, I think it must've been... well the, I think it was the Filipinos, because they were the guitar players and the musicians, so to speak. I don't remember any Nisei having skills of that kind that would lend themselves to organizing the dances. Anyway, at these dances then, the only females around were the Native American girls, or women. And so then, as far as Nisei went, I think, imaginatively, a lot of Nisei spent quite a bit of time thinking about these Native American girls, they're the only female figures one could see in this area at that time. And, but, even at the dances, the Filipino fellows would go and ask the girls to dance and so on, but on the whole, Nisei would go to see the dances and attend and occasionally one of the more daring ones would ask a Native American girl to dance, but by and large, here are these Nisei fellows rubbernecking, so to speak. They're standing on the sideline watching it as to what's going on and kind of enjoying thinking about, maybe I should ask the girl to dance or not. And there was a lot of joshing around and so on, but the number of people who dared to ask a Native American girl to dance, remarkably, relatively few, at least in our setting. And the question arises, what's wrong here? I mean, why weren't they asking the girls to dance? It wasn't as if they didn't know how to dance. I think it was simply that there's a feeling of, about the Native Americans that, that I find a little difficult to put into words, but let me express it this way: you would express a little surprise that Japanese ever married, for example, a Native American, stayed in Alaska. I mean, it seems, why would any Japanese want to do that? And yet there were some. And they were the ones who were bold enough to engage themselves in a relationship with... well, the attitude that leads you to raise the question: why, why would you have Japanese relating themselves to Native American women in this fashion is precisely the attitude that set the barrier, I think, about even dancing with them. There's a kind of a fear of establishing a relationship that, you know, would go over the bounds of what people would think of as normal or not strange, and I think this is the kind of a barrier that the Nisei youngsters, who were high school age mainly, or even college age, however, a kind of barrier that Nisei felt about relating themselves to Native American girls, some of whom were quite attractive, really, but you didn't, you had the feelings, you know, you talk about them and josh with them occasionally, and have a fair amount of interest in girls, but to really get related to them, that was a dangerous, threatening thing in a sense and you had this barrier of not getting involved that much on the part of Nisei.

AI: May I ask you --

FM: Yes.

AI: -- for yourself, being that age yourself, did, you probably weren't consciously aware of this type of situation when you were at high school or early college, but I'm wondering if you, if it, if you ever thought yourself of asking one of the girls to dance or, if you just... or if it really never crossed your mind like, oh, no, I'd never consider --

FM: Oh, no, no. I think, for all of us. It was obvious. Were talking about it, you know, "Shall we ask 'em?" "No, no, no." "Why don't you?" You know, "Why don't you?" But, so, there's a general atmosphere of yeah, let's, let's, are you, you know, "double dare you" kind of thing. Well, why did these Nisei hold back? Well, in the first place, Nisei of that time, back in the 1930s, were scared of girls anyway, so to speak. I mean, the idea of Nisei dancing with girls was a little strange even among Nisei, Nisei male, Nisei female. To ask for a dance is a little... so there's that kind of barrier, and then on top of that, the kind of thing I was talking about. And so, there's this kind of attitude of, you know, do you dare to do so? And something that interested, so to speak, all the guys, but it was a dare, and end up not, not doing it. That's my answer to you. Yeah. Well, let me see, I was talking about what was bad.

<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.