Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Yosh Nakagawa Interview
Narrator: Yosh Nakagawa
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 7, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-nyosh-01-0004

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TI: So I'm curious; this is, oh, 1936 or so, so a family of four. How would you describe sort of the relationship of the family? In particular, looking at your mother and father, how would you describe their relationship?

YN: That's interesting. When you look in the tradition of the days, I'm certain it was normal, because I knew no other family. As I grew up and saw the, the other cultural marriages, especially the Caucasian, I noticed there was a difference. So I always in my mind was somewhat embarrassed that my parents were not like my friends'. It is something that is a part of the culture of not being accepted for who you are.

TI: Well, how would you describe those differences? You say it was "different," something, that you grew up and it seemed normal, because that's what you knew. I mean, what, what were some examples of that?

YN: The two most obvious in my growing up, my parents did not speak fluent English. Number two, the food I ate was different. As a child, even as a child, I preferred that I bring sandwiches, not rice balls or anything else to school.

TI: Okay, so food and language.

YN: Were the most obvious.

TI: Growing up, did you speak -- before you went to school -- did you speak Japanese or English?

YN: Again, I went to school, and that's before we were incarcerated, it was from kindergarten through the fourth, fourth grade. And in that period of time, I went to Japanese school along with going to the regular English school. So yes, I spoke Japanese in the sense of learning.

TI: But I was thinking about even in the home environment, like, did your mother speak to you in Japanese or English?

YN: No, we spoke pidgin; around English with idioms of Japanese. If it was the toilet, it might have been the benjo or whatever. They were more slang or pidgin than either/or. But I think, in honesty, the effort of speaking English in my family was a greater intentionality than speaking Japanese in the family, because my mother, at that time, had a grocery store, and much of her trade didn't speak Japanese, I'm certain.

TI: This is interesting. Something you said earlier, how originally your father came to, you said, make his fortune, and then the thinking would be to return to Japan. At some point, that thinking shifted, that he realized that America was going to be the home for his family. Do you have a sense of when that shift may have happened?

YN: I think the process started on the 7th of December, because my father was not sophisticated enough to know that everything was stacked against him before the 7th of December.

TI: Oh, so that's interesting. So growing up, even with the store and having children, growing up, there was still a sense that, that the family may go back to Japan.

YN: I'm certain.

TI: Okay, that's good. Okay, that's interesting.

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