Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Marion Tsutakawa Kanemoto Interview
Narrator: Marion Tsutakawa Kanemoto
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: SeaTac, Washington and Seattle, Washington
Date: August 3 & 4, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-kmarion-01-0001

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AI: Okay, today is August 3, 2003 and we're here at the SeaTac Doubletree Hotel during the Minidoka reunion. And Marion Tsutakawa Kanemoto is here. I'm Alice Ito with Densho and Dana Hoshide, also from Densho, is doing videography. So, Marion, thanks very much for coming and taking your time to be interviewed today.

MK: Thank you for inviting me.

AI: Well, as I had mentioned earlier, we wanted to start with your family background to -- because you have quite an interesting family story, starting with the beginnings of family members coming to the U.S. So, could you tell a little bit about the Tsutakawa family and how, how they came from Japan to the U.S.?

MK: Okay, it starts, I think, from about the early, very early 1900s. My father is the sixth son in the family. So he was the last of the boys to come, one-by-one. Out of the six boys, five of them had come to the United States. And so, we have quite a connection with the Seattle area.

AI: What were the Tsutakawas doing in Japan? What was their family livelihood?

MK: Oh, okay. Well, Grandfather (Kiichi) was the master of the tea ceremony, Ikenobo School and Tea. And he was a landowner, (...) from what I have heard. And they have even said that as far as you can see, (...) it all belonged to the Tsutakawas. Well, this is, to me, it sounds like a fantasy. But grandfather had a big, large family and (...) his flower instructions didn't bring in enough income so he did sell the land bit by bit. And by the time it came down to my father's generation, it wasn't very much.

AI: And so, then the oldest son in the family first came to the United States?

MK: Right. And I can't say exactly when. But my father, being the sixth son, (...) the year that he came (...) was 1921. And...

AI: So, what was it that, what was it that the first son did after coming to the United States?

MK: Okay, he apparently joined an export/import company. And when (...) the partner and he separated (circa 1942), the partner took the money and my Uncle Shozo continued on with the business. And that's when, as far as I can remember, the Uncle Jin, who's (...) the fifth son, came and then my father came in 1921. And that's the part that, (...) that's about all I know. Beyond that I really don't know the details.

AI: Where in Japan did the family come from?

MK: Okay, (...) both my parents (came) from Okayama-ken, but actually not the city proper because they were landowners. This is called the Ibara, (and) currently, Ibara area which (...) runs right alongside Hiroshima-ken.

AI: So, in those days, it was quite a countryside?

MK: Right. It was... I'm sure it was. [Laughs]

AI: Well, tell me a little bit about what the business was, the export/import business. What type of goods did they trade in?

MK: Okay, what my uncle did, I don't really remember, but from what I understand and the pictures that were left, it was primarily exporting of lumber, and then, at the store, when I was in my early teens I remember there were the Japanese food items and chinaware. And, of course, a lot of it included the California rice, well, being they were... this is not importing from Japan, but then, they did bring in a lot of California rice for the Northwest Japanese. And they called it the export/import company. I saw a lot of umeboshi and rakkyo and things like that, senbeis. [Laughs]

AI: Right. Well, and when your father came, let's see, you said about 1921?

MK: Uh-huh.

AI: Did he immediately get involved in the family business, do you know?

MK: Oh, he came directly to help out with the business.

AI: And that was here in Seattle?

MK: Here in Seattle, right, uh-huh.

AI: Right.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.