Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Mas Akiyama Interview
Narrator: Mas Akiyama
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Spokane, Washington
Date: March 15, 2006
Densho ID: denshovh-amas-01-0008

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: Okay, so let's now go to Japan, and tell me what happened in Japan.

MA: Well, I went to school there. [Laughs] But you know, my poor Japanese, I had quite a time. And so I decided I'd better learn Japanese, and I went to Japanese grade school. Of course, I had a, I had a suit on, and the kids looked at me and they all started bowing, saying, "Oh, Sensei, Sensei, oyaho." That means, "Teacher, Teacher, good morning." [Laughs] And then I had to sit next to them, and they were really surprised. [Laughs] But I learned Japanese pretty fast. In a year's time, I gradually got out of grade school and into high school. And I attended high school there two years. And one thing I majored in was calligraphy, Japanese writing. And of course, being, being like, I love art, so I enjoyed that. And I achieved, I achieved a pretty good ranking in that, and before I left Japan, they did give me a certificate of teaching. Imagine that, at my age?

TI: For calligraphy?

MA: Yeah. I was surprised. Oh, I should have shown you that picture, but I didn't.

TI: When you were in Japan also, your father became ill? Can you tell me what happened to your father in Japan?

MA: Well, my father got ill in Kobe, and we had quite a time because he couldn't move. He was paralyzed from a stroke, and we had to carry him to the train station, we had to carry him from, well, take care of him all the way to Okayama, and then in those days, they didn't have many cars, so we had to carry him, oh, a good three, four miles to the village where my grandfather was. And in about two years, he passed away, and that's when I decided to come back to Japan -- America.

TI: Okay, and before we go there, I just want to know, what was your father's name?

MA: Manjiro. Manjiro Akiyama.

TI: And do you know about when he was born or how old he was when he died? I'm just, like, how old was he when he died?

MA: He was fifty. Fifty years old, and he died at fifty-two.

TI: Okay. And your mother, what was your mother's name?

MA: My mother's name was Rin, R-I-N Akiyama.

TI: And how did your mother and father meet?

MA: It was an arranged marriage, Japan had arranged marriages, and she was a very kind person; I loved my mother. Strict in a way, but my father wasn't very strict. He never said very much.

TI: So it must have been very difficult for your mother when your father got ill and then died in Japan.

MA: Oh, yes.

TI: Do you remember anything about what she said to you or any, any memories of that time, about your mother?

MA: No, no, not much. I don't know how she got along, but we were able to get along. Of course, we had a grandfather there, so she was able to get along with what little savings she had, I guess. Then we had a little farm, a rice farm.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.