Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Gordon Hirabayashi Interview I
Narrator: Gordon Hirabayashi
Interviewers: Becky Fukuda (primary), Tom Ikeda (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: April 26, 1999
Densho ID: denshovh-hgordon-01-0006

<Begin Segment 6>

BF: I'm sorry. They were married during World War II or World War I?

GH: World War I.

BF: Yeah, uh-huh.

GH: Yeah. And so when it became time for marriage, they realized, "Hey, we should be getting married." You know, they're getting to be twenty-five and that sort of thing. And in exchanges, letters with their families, they got the family involved. That's what would've been done if they lived in Japan, except more, more would've come in, "Hey, how 'bout that -- ?" "Hey, did you notice that daughter that lives over there? What do you think?" [Laughs] Well, that sort of conversation came up. And in my own parents, my mother was selected, not accidentally. I mean it came through relations. My father's older sister -- my father was second in rank, sibling rank -- the older sister was married to someone who was my mother's uncle. Matsuoka family had a number of kids, daughters mainly, and finally got a son on his seventh kid or something like that. So he was relatively young for being an uncle. They were only seven years apart, so he was like an older brother to... and my mother, after she was born, her younger brother was born, gee, almost eight or nine years later.

BF: Wow.

GH: And she died as a result of complications from childbirth.

BF: Oh, your mother's mother.

GH: Yeah.

BF: Your grandmother?

GH: Yeah, she died. And I don't know what all the situation was but when she died there was her who was about nine, and the new baby. And her father didn't stay around and I don't know if he didn't want the responsibility, or, or the mother's maternal grandparents strongly put their hands in and said, "These are our kids and we're gonna take care of 'em." I don't know what the situation was. It had an impact. My mother doesn't have good memories of the father. Well, she was nine, so she remembers him.

BF: Right.

GH: And she feels abandoned. She, not that she wasn't well taken care of. She was taken care of and raised as a member of the family of the grandparents. So this person who was like an older brother -- you know when it was cold and wintry, he would carry her on the back, on the way to school. So she was well taken care of. And he was like an older brother. And when he became of a marriageable age, the two families, Mother's family and Dad's family arranged for the marriage of this older brother, older brother/uncle, with Dad's older sister. So they were married. And so, somebody that would come to mind would be this younger sister [Laughs] that grew up in the family.

BF: Yeah.

GH: And, what about her? Well, she happened to be already a bright, attractive person. So she would be -- questions would come up, "How 'bout her?" -- sort of questions would come up anyway. But it came up, and pictures were exchanged and all that sort of thing. So all the relationship that would've happened were in process. And, except physically meeting at some point, or taking a peek or something while they're exchanging pictures. And if you read some of the early reports by some of the researchers in Southern California about Issei's history and marriage and so on, funny things took place. I mean they weren't the norm, but funny things occurred. Like a person who had a handsome guy in the group frequently sent the handsome guy's picture as his own. And the picture of, you know I'm doing pretty well and so on, inflated picture. So lot of the wives started their marriage in tears. Disappointment, you know, "Oh, is this the house?" "No, no, no it's further in." "This house?" Finally getting down to the shack that was their home. And with all the involvement of the families she couldn't face the shame of not standing up, not doing her share, she spoiled this and that and couldn't do her duty as a mother, or a wife. So that would be a failure. So they just had to stay. You know, they were really stuck.

BF: What was, did your mother have an unpleasant...

GH: I didn't hear that part.

BF: ...surprise? [Laughs]

GH: I never had the insight to ask those questions. I had lots of questions later that I could've asked, but I never got to that point. I think, questions, you know questions would've arisen. Not as many as would be raised by the Sanseis and the current crop of marital partners. They're more critical and they wouldn't take things. There would be more divorces and so on.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.