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Title: Mas Akiyama Interview
Narrator: Mas Akiyama
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Spokane, Washington
Date: March 15, 2006
Densho ID: denshovh-amas-01-0004

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TI: So it sounds like the Japanese community in Spokane was pretty, pretty close-knit.

MA: Close-knit, yes, it is very close-knit.

TI: Now, if someone, if someone in the community had difficulties, like an illness, or someone perhaps died, did the community come together to help that person?

MA: Oh yes, yes. We, especially at funerals, we'd all get together. Of course, the tradition is to have, you know this stuff called koden, where you put money in to help pay for the funeral expenses, you know. Years ago when the Isseis first started that, they didn't make much money, and a lot of 'em didn't have funeral expenses, so they all, all pooled their money and helped pay for the funeral expenses and burial expenses. And the Isseis, they gathered enough money to start their own cemetery area at Greenwood Cemetery, and we always go there for memorial service once a year.

TI: So the Issei started that, in terms of that, that cemetery area?

MA: Yes, they started that back in about 1904 is what I hear.

TI: So are all the Japanese buried in that one place?

MA: Yes, they're all buried there. All the people, there were a lot of railroad workers that, they were bachelors that, you know, have died, and they had nothing to leave, so we provide stones for them.

TI: Oh, so if someone couldn't afford to be buried there, the community would pay for it and put a stone there for them?

MA: Oh, yes, uh-huh. Those that can't afford it, we had a cemetery association that accumulated funds to help pay for that, for the poor people.

TI: So I'm curious, today, are Japanese still being buried there, or is it now being moved around more?

MA: Yes, they're still buried there, but it's almost filled up now. So about ten years ago, we bought a new plot and this is a little bit further away from it, not too far, two blocks, and we call it the Cherry Blossom Lane. And the people are being buried there, and even I have my plot already bought there.

TI: But when you say "we," so the community buys a whole area, or reserves a whole space so that they're always together?

MA: The community buys that whole space, uh-huh.

TI: Interesting, okay.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.