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-01-0005

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TI: Going back to your parents, in terms of how the two communicated with each other, how would you describe that? Was there like signs of affection, did you ever notice that? Or was one more in control of the family than the other? Talk about that a little bit.

YN: It's, again, in the traditional sense of marriage as understood by Western culture, I didn't see any of that type of love and affection. I also saw the role that my mother played was in many ways of the understanding, to be subservient to my father. But today I realized my mother ran the show. She controlled the monies, she controlled the family; in essence, she was the power. But I think it's unique in our culture, but I think it shows up in many other cultures. Where though the male is the figurehead, the strength of the family is the mother. And I think we misinterpret the affection and Hollywood understanding of love. There must have been a deep -- but it's a different... and, and in it, I have the same uncomfortableness of that which was hugging and embracing my own mother. I do not ever remember as a child, the ability to do those things to my mother. And I would have to say that is because that was the atmosphere of the family. And even with my own children today, I had to learn how to hug my own children. It was not normal, because it was something we didn't -- and I also found when I went there, returned to Japan, you don't hug people. So I wasn't wrong, it was nothing to do with affection. It was only my interpretation of that which was Westernization, that I was wrong.

TI: Well, that's interesting. So growing up as a child and not seeing those more overt signs of affection like hugs, how did you know growing up that you were loved by your, your parents?

YN: That again is very... it is not by what was said, it was by what I understood. And it's very contradictory to my growing up, because we are taught to say what you think, express. In our family, many things of respect to your parents, their expectations to what you would do in school, whatever you were to do, there was a prevailing cultural understanding that you did things this way. And also, the community applied the same pressures to you, which then would have been the Japanese community. The understandings of what we get credit for, being good or bad, was more of their culture rather than the understanding of the American way.

TI: So this is interesting. So growing up, through your family and the community, there was these understandings that you developed that weren't necessarily directly told to you, but understood, which ran counter to what you are calling, like, the American way, which is much more direct.

YN: Absolutely.

TI: And you had to kind of, like, figure this all out.

YN: And it's obvious as a child, you don't realize why you, you don't get a high grade. It was very interesting, because I never did understand as a child. I had answers to the question, but I never had the courage to raise my hand, I guess. I expected to be called upon. But the others around me raised their hands, and many times they had the wrong answer. But they got the better grades because they had initiative. That is the difference, and some of my understanding today, the goodness of passiveness against that which is of aggressiveness. There's merits for both. I hope I have learned to utilize both to my well-being as an American. But I no longer look at passiveness as a negative, or as weakness.

TI: Oh, good.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.