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-01-0002

<Begin Segment 2gt;

AI: Well, now then, how did your parents come to be married and how did your mother happen to come to the United States?

MK: Okay, it was, they did the usual thing, which was the matchmaking. And so, Uncle Jin, who was already in Seattle, probably about two years before my father, was married, and (his wife) had a cousin, well, actually a family that had several attractive girls, from what I understand. And so, this is why the pre-arrangement was made (...). My father wanted to go and meet my mother before. Actually, (...) arrangement was made with another sister, her older sister. But she was not as adventuresome as my mother, who had just graduated from (...), the Japanese high school. And in those days, I mean, it was, that was quite an education. It was almost equivalent to a university education, so...

AI: Yes, that would have been unusual for a girl in Japan at that time.

MK: Yes it was, because the compulsory, if you even finished eighth grade that was an achievement, right. You would call them highly educated, so...

AI: So, your father, then, did return to Japan to meet your mother?

MK: Yes, he did. And it was funny. The funny story I heard was that my father -- my mother's family was a samurai family. And apparently after the samurai era, her father opened a Western clothier. And, of course, it was family-run, so the girls were in the back. And from, through the noren, (...)she was waiting to see what my father looked like. And apparently -- my father was 5'10", which is quite tall for a Japanese man. So, as they saw the sight of him, and his yukata that he was wearing was way up, up his legs, the sisters all giggled and said, "Oh, look at that funny man with the short yukata on." And so I remember she chuckled and mentioned that story. And I thought, now that I understand what the proper length is, I can understand why it was funny.

AI: Right. Usually, it should go down to...

MK: Right, a little longer.

AI: Well, so then they were married in Japan.

MK: Right.

AI: And when was it that they came to the United States?

MK: Okay, they married and came in 1925, and this is after the 1924 when the doors were closed to the Japanese --

AI: Right.

MK: -- aliens.

AI: The exclusion act was passed by Congress.

MK: Right, exclusion act, and so my mother had to come in a different status, which was called the treaty merchants. And from what I understand, to be a treaty merchant that had to mean that you were fairly comfortable. And so, though my father, being a young man, didn't have the funds, they had to pretend that they were wealthy enough and signed up for the first-class and my mother was told that she had to behave very properly, and that's how they came.

AI: So, they disguised themselves as wealthy merchants --

MK: Right.

AI: -- they traveled first-class to America.

MK: Right. He was only twenty-seven. So, to travel first-class, that was quite something. I guess you can call that a honeymoon. [Laughs]

AI: Well, so then they arrived in Seattle, and I'm wondering, did either of your parents ever tell you, or perhaps your mother, did she ever tell you what her first impressions of America were?

MK: Well, being that she was educated (...) -- and very adventuresome, (...) what do you call it, social. She really was enthused, and she knew that, well, she can always go back to Japan and it would always have this connection. And she was very literate, so she could write. So she was very enthused about it.

AI: And so they settled here in Seattle, then?

MK: They settled in Seattle. And of course she had Uncle Jin's wife, who was her distant cousin, so she wasn't, what you call quite alone, alone, you know.

AI: Well, then, you had a couple of -- you had an older brother, is that right? Who was born first, before you?

MK: 1926. Uh-huh. His name is James.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.