Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Kazue Yamamoto Interview
Narrator: Kazue Yamamoto
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Spokane, Washington
Date: June 8, 2006
Densho ID: denshovh-ykazue-01

<Begin Segment 1>

MA: Okay, today is June 8, 2006, and we're here in the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture in Spokane, Washington. And today I'll be interviewing Kaz Yamamoto, and Dana Hoshide is the cameraperson. So Kaz, I wanted to start off by asking you where and when you were born.

KY: When and where?

MA: Uh-huh.

KY: When, I was born on January 14, 1927, in Wapato, Washington.

MA: And what was your name when you were born?

KY: Kazue Nabata.

MA: Where were your parents from in Japan?

KY: They are from Niigata-ken, but it's the island off of the main Honshu island, it's called Sado Island.

MA: And do you know which year they came to the United States?

KY: Well, according to some of the paperwork I have, it seems like my dad came here in 1920, that was his first trip. And then he went back and came back in 1923, so he's back in the States in '23. But I think he went back after that to marry my mother, so it's, so I don't know what year that was.

MA: So your father came first and then...

KY: Came first, yeah. And I don't know, I think he was going to, they sent him to come to school, but he just didn't finish school, so they called him back to Sado. And then they figured maybe he should get married and then come back to the States again.

MA: So your parents actually met and married in Sado.

KY: In, in Sado, uh-huh.

MA: And you said that he came to the U.S. to go to school?

KY: The original, in 1920, yeah.

MA: Was that like a college, or, do you know what kind of school?

KY: It sounded like it was just high school, 1920. Could that be high school? Let's see... well, that doesn't sound right, because I think he finished high school in Japan, and so I think he came here to go further his education. I'm not, some of the paperwork I have, it sounded like they sent him to the States to go to a dental school. But I don't think he stayed in the school too long, because maybe it didn't work out, or maybe they called him back to Sado.

MA: And when he, and when he came over to the U.S., he's, did he go to Seattle, or did he...

KY: Uh-huh, Seattle.

MA: And then when did he end up in Wapato?

KY: After he went back to get my mother, and then I think they came back to, to Seattle first, and then to Wapato.

MA: Did they have a friend or a relative in Wapato, is that how they made it out there?

KY: We don't know that. I asked my sister and she didn't know. I asked her why we ever ended up in Wapato, she didn't seem to know.

MA: And how many siblings do you have?

KY: Living?

MA: When, when you were growing up.

KY: Well, there's just three of us left now, but I'm, I think we had two plus one, so a total of six. But the oldest one, I think she had in Japan. Could that be right? When she went back to Japan, so it was born in Japan, and then my older sister was born in the States, and then we had two in between, because there's two cemetery markers in Wapato named "Baby Nabata," so they weren't even named, so they must have just died in infancy.

MA: Oh, I see.

KY: Because when I visited there last year, there was two markers that said, "Baby Nabata." And then my younger sister, who is still living in California. So total of six, but there's only three of us remaining.

MA: And what are your sisters' names, your two...

KY: Oldest one is Yae, Y-A-E, and me, and then my younger sister is Pat Kawamoto. Yae Minami and Pat Kawamoto.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

MA: And what type of work did your father do when you were growing up in Wapato?

KY: Farming. Farming, but originally, when he came to Seattle, he was in the produce business, buying and selling produce. That's what, 'cause on my birth certificate, it's, the father's occupation, it said "produce buyer."

MA: So he was involved in the produce industry in Seattle, and then...

KY: Uh-huh, not actually farming, but maybe buying and selling, I don't know, taking orders and things, I'm assuming.

MA: And then what, what did you grow on the farm? What type of farm was it, in Wapato?

KY: Mainly tomatoes. It's truck farming, you know, tomatoes, cantaloupe, beans, pepper, just regular... but we didn't grow any corn or wheat or anything like that, just truck farming.

MA: So how did that work, then? You would grow the vegetables, and then someone would pick them up and sell them at the market?

KY: Safeway used to come and pick it up, Safeway truck used to come and pick it up, yeah.

MA: And how, how big was the farm?

KY: We didn't, we didn't have a large farm because there's just three of us. I would say, I don't think it's even 10 acres, less than 10 acres. Some farmers were huge, but ours was not that large.

MA: And was that the main industry in Wapato for Japanese Americans?

KY: Mostly, mostly, uh-huh. Yeah, mostly.

MA: And so you had two sisters.

KY: Two sisters.

MA: Did you all work on the farm together with your parents?

KY: Yes, yes.

MA: And I guess, what was a typical day like for you working on the farm? What types of jobs did you do?

KY: Well, we worked like boys. I mean, there was just three girls, we had to, you know. So during school years we'd get up, go to school, the regular American school, and then we would go to the Japanese school, come home around maybe say five o'clock, then we'd change our clothes, we'd go out in the field, and work 'til it got dark, seven, eight o'clock. We would come in and have our dinner, and then we would study. By that time it's bedtime, so that was our whole life. It was just no time for play, just schoolwork and study and work, study, play, I mean, no play. But in the wintertime we did. We went to a friend's place, or we, we played games during the wintertime. But also in the wintertime, though, we had to make crates and things that worked for the next season.

MA: So you had to prepare for the next season?

KY: Prepare, uh-huh.

MA: But mostly in the wintertime, you were able to relax a little bit?

KY: More or less, uh-huh.

MA: Did your father hire anyone else to help you, or was it just the five of you working?

KY: Well, during the busy season, we did, we hired, I think it was Filipinos. I thought it was Mexican, but it was Filipinos. I remember they came and helped pick some peas and things, yeah.

MA: Oh, so there was Filipinos in --

KY: So we did have help, but not on a steady basis, whenever we were real, real busy. But it was mostly family-run.

MA: And what months were you sort of the most busy?

KY: The whole summer months, June, July, August, with the planting season, too, in the early part of spring.

MA: So how close did your neighbors live to you, in Wapato?

KY: They're not like next-door neighbors, they were maybe, oh, I would say quarter miles apart. There were houses all along, they were all farmers.

MA: So they were mostly farmers? Were they mostly Japanese farmers?

KY: No, there were Caucasians, too. But I don't think they did farming, I don't quite remember. I know there was a neighbor that lived in front of us, and I know they weren't farmers 'cause there wasn't any land there. So evidently, he must have had a job someplace. I used to play with the, one of the kids, but she didn't seem to work out in the field like we did. [Laughs] But they were a German family, and I have no idea what the father did; I have no idea. In those days, we didn't ask.

MA: So it seems like kind of a multi-racial community, there were Japanese, Caucasian families...

KY: Well, yes, more or less.

MA: So was it common --

KY: But there was a lot of Japanese in Wapato. There was a huge population of Wapato people, Japanese people.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

MA: So your group of friends, was it mostly other Niseis?

KY: Mostly, uh-huh, school friends.

MA: And you attended Wapato grade school?

KY: Correct.

MA: Was there only one grade school in Wapato, then?

KY: I can, I think there was just the one, uh-huh.

MA: How far away was the school from your house?

KY: Well, let me see. We moved three times that I can remember.

MA: Within Wapato?

KY: Because we were leasing the land, so we'd lease it and maybe work the land two or three years, and then we would move to another area, work another, so I remember moving three times, but always went to the same school, so that was the only school. But the last one, I remember it was like two miles. Yeah, two miles.

MA: How did you get to school?

KY: We walked. We walked, yeah.

MA: And was that pretty common for the farmers, do you know, to move around a lot?

KY: I, I don't know, because see, we, my dad couldn't own the land, we had to just lease it. And being that there was no boys in the family... well, some, I think some families, probably they had older children that... well, no, that couldn't be right, either, because you had to be twenty-one to own land.

MA: Oh, I see, so maybe --

KY: Niseis, and I don't think there was too many families that had a twenty-one-year-old son. But I do remember we used another family's son's name to lease the land. So I don't know, I don't know. I don't think that we're, I don't think we're the only ones that leased it. I'm sure there was other people.

MA: So you used a...

KY: But I remember moving three times to different areas. I'm going to have to find out more. [Laughs]

MA: But the farms would mainly, the products that you would produce would be the same?

KY: Everybody raised the same thing, uh-huh. They all raised the same thing.

MA: So what are some memories that you have from attending grade school, Wapato grade school?

KY: Well, I remember we just played with the Japanese kids; we didn't play too much with the Caucasians. We would take, you know, my mom would make omusubi bento, you know, rice, and my friend and I, we would just go behind the, the bleachers or someplace and eat our rice ball. We didn't want people to see what we were eating, you know. So we just, we just kind of stuck together, the Japanese kids all stuck together. But we did have some Caucasian friends, but the Japanese just kind of stayed with our own group.

MA: And what types of things would you and your friends do for fun?

KY: At the school? Oh, we, we participated in all school activities, PE, everything.

MA: What, do you remember what, I guess, percentage of the students were, were Japanese American versus Caucasian versus another race?

KY: Percentage, okay.

MA: Or just, you know, approximately.

KY: There was quite a few Japanese in my class. I would say out of the whole class of, say, twenty-five, thirty, there was maybe ten of us. So there was quite a few Japanese in Wapato in those days.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

MA: Did your family celebrate any holidays or have any special traditions, you know, when you were growing up?

KY: When we were growing up? Well, my mother did cook New Year's, celebrate New Year's. We used to play, you know what karuta is? The Japanese cards, we used to do that. And what else?

MA: What types of things would she cook for New Year's celebrations?

KY: Well, you know the red rice, the sekihan red rice, mochi, of course, we had chicken on the farm, so I'm sure we had chicken. [Laughs] And let me see. Well, my mother didn't, she was, she was not a meat eater. In those days, that was unusual, but my mother never ate meat. And I don't think she even ate chicken, so we had a lot of vegetables off of the farm, just go out and pick your vegetable and eat on the farm. But this being New Year's, I don't know, she must have bought the vegetables, but my mother was a vegetarian in those days.

MA: Was there a reason why she didn't eat --

KY: I don't know, never found out. Never found out, but she never ate meat. But she died early, at age fifty. [Laughs] She died when she was fifty years old, so even being a vegetarian, she had high blood pressure. Going back to the New Year's, okay, we did have omochi, sekihan, you know the nishime, the cooked vegetables? I don't remember too much else, but we did celebrate New Year's.

MA: Did you celebrate with just your family, or were there neighbors coming over?

KY: Mainly, mainly, uh-huh. And we did invite a few people, I remember.

MA: But I think the main New Year's celebration is eating that omochi, the New Year's omochi. That, that was the main menu.

MA: And I guess day-to-day dinners and stuff, would you have Japanese food?

KY: Always, always. Japanese food meaning rice and vegetables, tsukemono.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

MA: And then you told me that you were raised Buddhist.

KY: Right.

MA: Was your family pretty active with the Wapato Buddhist Church?

KY: Active meaning did they go to church every Sunday? I think so, uh-huh. They sent us, so I'm assuming they went. My mother was active. I don't know about my dad, though. My mother, my mother was active in the fujinkai.

MA: What types of things would she do with that?

KY: Activities in church?

MA: Or, I mean, like maybe, sort of special festivals or that type of community things? Did they sponsor anything like that?

KY: I don't recall any of those things. My mother liked to do handcraft, you know, the Japanese embroidery. I don't think she did calligraphy, I did calligraphy. Let's see, what else did she do? She was good in art, artwork. So I do, I still have some of her artwork that she did hanging in my home. I think, I think they were just too busy working to do anything else. [Laughs]

MA: Busy working on the farm?

KY: Trying to make a living, yeah.

MA: Was there like a, I guess, a downtown area of Wapato, or maybe a commercial center?

KY: There was, there was. Mainly that, the Buddhist Church area, and there was a... what is that main, I think it's Wapato Avenue, they had a tofu-ya, they had a, they had couple of, several businesses there. But Wapato is not a big town, you know. So maybe one main drag and couple side streets, that's about it.

MA: Did they have, like, a movie theater or some sort of...

KY: I remember one movie theater. I think it was called the Liberty, and the only movie we could go to was the Shirley Temple movie, so I think we went to every Shirley Temple movie. [Laughs] That was back in the '40s, but she wouldn't let us go see anything else, that was it; Shirley Temple movie.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

MA: And you mentioned that you went to Japanese language school?

KY: I did, after the regular school.

MA: So you went, then, every day after school?

KY: Every day, uh-huh.

MA: And what sorts of things did you learn? I mean, did you learn kanji and writing?

KY: We didn't get as far as kanji. The basic... well, maybe we did a little, few kanjis, but we weren't old enough to do the real hard kanji. And not so much conversation, it was mainly writing. But, you know, I was only, like, through the ninth grade, so it wasn't the hard kanji schooling. But I do remember we had to write letters, you know, write it in the hiragana and put in as much kanji as we know. But I didn't learn too much kanji at all.

MA: Who were the teachers at the school when you were there?

KY: Well, this Mr. Matsumoto. Wait a minute, now, he was -- no, sorry, that's not right. Mr. Matsumoto was the reverend, he was the Buddhist reverend. Mr. Fukuda, that was, Mr. Fukuda.

MA: What was the atmosphere like in the classroom? Was it pretty strict and quiet?

KY: It was. I mean, he was strict. He was strict, you know, like Japanese school.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

MA: So I guess I wanted to ask you about Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. You were fourteen?

KY: Fifteen.

MA: Fifteen. Do you recall anything about that time, when Pearl Harbor was bombed?

KY: It was on a Sunday, and I think, being a Sunday, I wonder if we were at church, and we came home, and we heard about it, it was over the radio. I don't, what time did it happen Sunday?

MA: Morning.

KY: I have no, I don't know, but I, all we had was the radio, so we heard it over the radio.

MA: Do you remember having any particular feelings about, about it?

KY: Not us, but I'm sure our parents did. We, we just didn't think. I mean, it just happened. I didn't even know where Pearl Harbor was at that time. [Laughs]

MA: Did your parents ever mention it to you, or did you ever overhear them maybe talking about what had happened, anything like that?

KY: I'm sure they were concerned. I know my dad sent a telegram to Japan right away, and I think I still have that telegram. I have, I have seen it, that you could only write a one-liner or something, and I think it said, "Family safe, all together," or something like that. I do remember he sent a telegram to Japan.

MA: To his family in Japan?

KY: Uh-huh.

MA: Did you notice any change in the way people in Wapato treated you or your family at all?

KY: No, they -- no, they didn't... you mean the Caucasians? No, they didn't treat us any different, but I know there was one kid that always used to tease us. He would call us "slant-eye" and all that thing, you know. But he was, he was a bad kid anyway, and he lived just down the street from us, so we see him every day. But he's just one of those radicals that liked to tease Japanese. I don't think he even knew we were Japanese, he just liked to tease kids. But I, I didn't come across any discrimination or anything.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

MA: Do you remember hearing, I guess, for the first time, that you were going to have to leave and go to camp, and about the evacuation period?

KY: It's all a blur to me. But I do remember we did sell most of our things. We had a, kind of a packing shed, and we would bring all our things out to the shed, line 'em up, and people would come and buy. And what, what didn't sell, I really don't know what happened. We didn't store anything, we didn't take anything, so whatever happened, I don't know.

MA: So you had kind of a garage sale?

KY: Something like that, uh-huh. Right.

MA: So you, did you sell, like, your furniture and did you have a car?

KY: I don't think we had much furniture. We, we did have a nice Dodge pickup that we had just boughten, and I don't, I'm sure they sold it, but for a minimal, you know. And then, like I say, we didn't have much of a furniture, but we did have a lot of dishes, and they were just sold. Sold or given away, I don't recall. You know, like our refrigerator, we, it was just one of those icebox, it wasn't a regular refrigerator, it was just icebox. So as far as furniture, we didn't have much furniture. So I don't think there was that much to sell. But I know some of the people stored their things in, Wapato had this nice building right next to the Buddhist Church, it was called Kaikan, that was the name of the building, and they had just built that before evacuation. And I know some of the people stored their things in there, and that building is still standing. Yeah, it's a huge building, and they call that the Wapato Community Center now. And when I was there last year, I don't know how they can keep it up, but they were having a garage sale, so they must be raising funds to keep that building going. But we didn't, we didn't take anything to camp, you know, we just went with what, what we were allowed, one suitcase.

MA: What did your father do with the farm during that time? Did he continue to work, or just, did he leave it?

KY: I think we just left it. We couldn't sell it or anything, it was just leased, so we couldn't sell it. I think we just left it there. And I have no idea what happened after that. We didn't even go back.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

MA: How well do you remember the day that you left for, was it Portland Assembly Center?

KY: To Portland?

MA: Do you remember the day that you left?

KY: I do, well, I vaguely remember -- I wrote to my sister a couple weeks ago, I said, "How did we get from Wapato to Portland?" and she thinks we went by bus, but I don't recall that. So from Portland, Wapato to Portland, I think we probably went on a bus, and we stayed there three months. And then from Portland to Heart Mountain, I remember that one, we rode on a train. And we, we came through Spokane, and of course, you had to have the shades drawn, so we didn't know what town we were in. But Butch Yamada recalls seeing a trainload of Japanese, and I betcha that was our train. 'Cause, you know, at that time, he was working down at the railroad. But I don't, I don't recall how we got from Wapato to Portland, I'm sure it was by bus. Couldn't be by train just to go to Portland.

MA: What were your thoughts when you first arrived at the Portland Assembly Center?

KY: [Laughs] It was kind of a trip for us, 'cause, you know, we never went anyplace when we were in Wapato. We did go Seattle several times as a family, but it was one big building. It was that horse stable in Portland, the Portland... I don't know what they called that, livestock something. And we were, all of us, we only had room like 15' x 15', all five of us were in the one room, and there was no door, it was just cloth hanging, no door. And the, there's no ceiling, it was all one building, so you could hear the babies crying, you could smell everything, and it was just, it was like whole, whole families all living under one roof. And the mess hall was... you know, I don't recall that mess hall there, but I'm sure that we ate, so there must have been a mess hall. And I don't recall the bathroom, 'cause we had no bathroom. It was at the end of the building or someplace. You know, I don't remember any of that. I was fifteen and I really should, but I really don't remember any of that. I don't, I don't recall, but I do, I do remember I had to babysit couple of my friends', friends' children, and, you know, everything, like I said, there was no ceiling, so you had to keep the baby quiet, and I had to take care of this two-month-old or something, 'cause her mother went to work in the cafeteria, and I had to kind of keep her quiet. So it was, it was kind of a chore to keep that little baby quiet. I, that's all I remember, I don't remember too much about Portland.

MA: And you were in Portland for...

KY: Three months, only three months.

MA: Three months.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

MA: And you said you, you had talked about going from Portland to Heart Mountain...

KY: Heart Mountain.

MA: train.

KY: I'm sure it was by train, had to be by train.

MA: When you were in Portland and preparing to go to Heart Mountain, how aware were you and your family about where you were headed, or your, kind of, future?

KY: We didn't know where we were going. My parents might have known, but I had no idea where we were going. I knew we were just going someplace. They might have told our parents, but we didn't know. But, you know, from Portland, they split. Some people went to Minidoka, some went to Heart Mountain, and some went to Tule Lake, so the whole Portland group was split. We didn't all go to one, one camp. I don't know how they separated, but they did separate the group.

MA: Did most of the Wapato people go, they all went to Portland?

KY: They all went to Heart Mountain.

MA: So Portland and then Heart Mountain?

KY: Yeah. So the Portland people, I think, were, went to Minidoka. Maybe that's how it was separated.

MA: What were the living conditions like in Heart Mountain?

KY: Well, that's another 15' x 15' room, it was small. And five of us were in there, there was one potbelly stove, and straw beds. And... did we have a table? We didn't have a table because we went to the mess hall to eat. That was it; bed and a potbelly stove. And several chairs, I don't know where we got the chairs, but I remember there was a couple chairs. And I knew we had to study, so there must have been a table or desk to study on, and that's all I can remember about camp.

MA: So it was all five of you again under...

KY: Under one roof, one...

MA: One room.

KY: One room.

MA: Did your parents work at camp? At Heart Mountain?

KY: Uh-huh. My mother worked in the mess hall, and my dad was... what was he doing? They had a block manager, but he wasn't a block manager. He, he did work, I don't recall what it was, but he did. They got paid sixteen dollars a month. Maybe my mother's was eight dollars a month. You know, the medics, the doctors got sixteen dollars a month. I think the mess hall people only got, like, eight dollars a month. And my dad, I don't know, he got, he was doing something, I don't remember.

MA: What were the weather conditions like? I mean, you must have arrived to Heart Mountain in the summer, right?

KY: Right, it was hot.

MA: '42?

KY: Uh-huh. It was, it was blazing hot, but we're used to the hot weather. Let's see, we got there in, I don't know, I think it was in the summertime. It was, all I can remember is it was hot. And the sand or the dirt just blows, you know, 'cause there's no protection, there's no trees out there, no mountains, it was just flat, and the dust would just blow. In the wintertime, the snow would blow almost sideways; it just didn't fall, it was blowing sideways. It was cold, and it was hot.

MA: What was your experience like at, at Heart Mountain High School?

KY: Well, my mother didn't believe in me joining any clubs. So there was girls club, there was pep club, there was campfire, there was all kinds of sports club. I didn't join any of those, 'cause my mother said you had to come home and study. So right after school, we'd come home and study, and so I didn't join any organizations. She said I didn't need to, she said, "You come home and study," so that's all I did, came home and studied. [Laughs]

MA: Was your sister also in Heart Mountain High School with you? Your older sister?

KY: She went one year, 'cause she was a senior when we left, so she went one year of high school and then she went, relocated to Chicago, went to a sewing, I think dressmaking school in Chicago.

MA: She left camp early?

KY: She left, after one year, she left early, uh-huh. And then I finished in Heart Mountain. And my younger sister, being five years (younger) than me, was still grade school. So when we came to Spokane, she finished her school at Lewis & Clark High School in Spokane.

MA: At Heart Mountain, did, did people from Wapato hang out together?

KY: More or less we did, 'cause we knew each other. But, you know, you had school friends, too, so we knew some California people.

MA: So there was some mixing in terms of, like, where you were from?

KY: Oh, sure, uh-huh.

MA: Were you aware at that time of, I guess, how your parents were coping with the, living in camp and this transition that they went through?

KY: Well, you know the Japanese term shikata ga nai? I, I think they just took it like, you know, there's nothing you could do, we're in there. So I think they adjusted quite well, there was no choice.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

MA: What about as, I guess, in 1945, as people started maybe leaving or talking about leaving camp? Do you remember how your parents decided where they would go? I mean, was there discussion about, oh, we'll go back to Wapato, we'll go here?

KY: Okay... we had nothing to go back to in Wapato. You know, we never had, we never owned the land anyway. So my dad knew this Mr. Otsuki from, I don't know, I think he probably knew him from the time he came to Seattle from Japan. And so Mr. Otsuki was here in Spokane, and I think he invited my dad to come to Spokane. We had no place else, nothing left in Wapato, so I think that's how we landed in Spokane, just through that one man.

MA: When did your family actually arrive in Spokane?

KY: September of 1945.

MA: So September of '45...

KY: There was, we were one of the last ones to leave camp. That was almost closing time, we were there 'til the very end. I remember half of our barracks were empty when we left. So the other people had places to go, we didn't have anyplace to go except to come here.

MA: So where did you and your family stay when you first arrived in Spokane, like your first nights here?

KY: Well, Mr. Otsuki knew Mr. Hirata, who owned the Clem Hotel, so we stayed there three months. And that's another one-room, five of us in one room.

MA: Were there other Japanese American families staying there, too?

KY: Quite a few, quite a few. Most of the camp people all stayed at Clem Hotel.

MA: Was there a reason why they, most people went to the Clem Hotel? Was it big?

KY: Well... I don't know why most of 'em went to Clem Hotel. Maybe Mr. Hirata knew a lot of people, I don't know. It wasn't a nice hotel, that's for sure.

MA: What was the hotel like?

KY: It was another one-room with, I think there was three stories. Maybe there was more, I don't know, but I remember it wasn't a very clean place. I hate to say this, but it wasn't nice. But that's another no-choice, we had to stay there. So after three months, we moved to another apartment house. Now, that one had two rooms. Actually, a little kitchen and living room and the bedroom, so that one had three-unit apartment, and that was owned by the Mukai family, and it was called the Insley Apartment. So we stayed there for a while, and then I went to do housework, and my sister went to, you know, to go over to high school. And my older sister moved to Seattle, and from Seattle she took a test and went to Japan in 1951.

MA: Where was the apartment located that you moved to after living in the hotel?

KY: Insley? Okay, that was on East Pacific. It was on Washington and Pacific.

MA: Was that close to downtown area?

KY: It is, uh-huh. So, like, six blocks from downtown, from the Clem Hotel. Clem Hotel was like smack downtown, and this apartment was, like, maybe six or eight blocks south of the hotel.

MA: And you said the Clem Hotel was run by the Hirata family.

KY: Hirata family, uh-huh.

MA: Do you have memories of that family? Were they around...

KY: Oh, we knew, we knew 'em all. The Hirata family? Yeah, Shingo, well, Michi was the oldest, Shingo, and Sammy, three, they had three children. But the mother was, she ran the whole business. 'Cause the father, Mr. Hirata, went into one of those, what do you call that, the camp that they sent the --

MA: Department of Justice camp.

KY: Uh-huh, yeah. But all those three, the three are gone now, they passed away.

MA: So you said the, Mrs. Hirata ended up running the hotel when her husband was gone.

KY: She did, uh-huh. And Shingo, the oldest son's wife, Motoko, is from Japan, he went to Japan. Oh, this is not my family, this Hirata family, Shingo went to Japan to get a wife, Motoko, and she came back with him, and she kind of helped run the hotel. But we were out of there by then.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

MA: What were your first impressions of, of Spokane, when you first arrived? I guess especially at the --

KY: It was a big city for me, being from Wapato to Spokane, it was a, it was a big city for me. So I kind of liked it.

MA: What about the Japanese American community here in Spokane?

KY: The original Japanese... you know, I didn't know too many until a few years after we came here. They were nice, you know, and there wasn't too many other Japanese families here before the camp people came. The originals, I don't know if there's any record of it, but I don't think there was any more than fifty Japanese families in Spokane before the camp people all resettled here.

MA: I see, so by the time you were in Spokane, there was a lot of Japanese Americans who had come from camp.

KY: From camp, uh-huh, yeah.

MA: And what type of work did your father do, right when you arrived in Spokane?

KY: He, he ran a pool hall. He started the business down by Bernard and right off of Trent, he had a pool hall. And my mother worked for, she went to work on a farm, Mr. Suzuki's farm. But, you know, we came here in 1945, and she had died in 1950, so she was only here, like, four-and-a-half years, and she passed away in 1950, 1950.

MA: Who, so your father ran a pool hall, you said?

KY: Pool hall, uh-huh.

MA: Who were the customers that would go to the pool hall?

KY: It was mostly the service people, the...

MA: Like the military?

KY: Like people stationed at Fairchild... no, we didn't have Fairchild in those days, or did we? Anyway, there was a lot of service people in those days mingling down there. There was some Japanese that came in, young people, you know, but I think there was mainly Caucasians and the service people. (Narr. note: Issei men came to play go. My father was an expert go player.)

MA: Did you help out at the pool hall ever?

KY: I did, for a while, uh-huh. I ran the desk.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

MA: And you said, you mentioned earlier that you also did housework.

KY: I did. When we lived at Insley, my mother said, "You can't just do nothing," I mean, we had to do something. So most of us, my older sister and I, went to do housework, and my younger sister was still going to school, so we did, we did go up and work for the... the people that I worked for, there was only Mr. and Mrs., the older couple, but the family that my sister went, there was a couple children, so she had to kind of watch, take care of the children. But I had it a little easier 'cause there was no children involved, it was just older couple. And I, I did some of the cooking, but she did most of the cooking, but I did the cleaning, and, and then from there, I went to school. I went to beauty school from there. From doing, I would come, I would stay there at night, go to school, and come back in the evening and do some of the cleaning. But you know, I didn't like it at the time, but this lady is the one that taught me everything about etiquette. You know, being a south side society family...

MA: So it was kind of a wealthy area?

KY: It was, the South Hill was all wealthy area, and there was, every other home back in the '45 and '50 area, there was a girl in every, Japanese girl doing housework in every other home up there. You can't believe the, that's all we, that's all we could do is do housework after we came out of camp, there was no jobs. So I remember ten kids that were working up there doing housework. And going back to my lady that I worked for, I didn't like the housework, but, you know, she's the one that taught me everything about how to set the table -- you know, back on the farm, we just sat down and ate. We didn't have manners, we didn't have placemats, we didn't have napkins, we just, you know, we were farmers. But this lady, she taught me how to set the table, how to set your forks, how to eat, you know, starting from the left, 'cause she was a society lady, and she told me how to serve, you serve from the right and remove from the left. Or was it the other way around? I forgot now, but she taught me all that. And to this day, I really give credit to that lady for teaching me all that. Because my parents didn't know anything about etiquette, kind of Emily Post etiquette. So I was kind of glad I did housework at that time, although I didn't like it, but I didn't mind, I learned all that.

MA: What was the name of this family you worked for?

KY: Lammers, L-A-M-M-E-R-S. And they owned the Long Lake Lumber Company, so they were pretty wealthy people.

MA: Did you live at their house?

KY: I lived there, uh-huh. I had a room, I lived there. And then from there, my mother said I should do something besides doing the housework the rest of my life, so from there, I went to the beauty school for, it was a one-year course. And I do have a diploma and I still keep up my license. But she, she didn't tell me to quit, she says, "You could go from here, go to school, come back in the evening and still help out. And I got my board and room, and I got -- I don't know how much it was -- I got paid so much a month. So that's what I did for the last, for that time, I went to school.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

MA: And how long did you do the housework job?

KY: I think maybe three years, two years. No, I would say two years. And out of the two years, I went one year to this school, beauty school. Then, then I... what did I do after that? Then I went back to Insley, I think.

MA: You moved back in with your family?

KY: I think I moved back, 'cause my sister was, my older sister was gone by then. And my younger sister was gone, too, but by then, 'cause that's when she finished high school, and she went to the U, and she was over there, so yeah, so there was nobody at home, so I went back and lived at Insley.

MA: So your sister, your younger sister ended up going to college?

KY: She went to University of Washington, uh-huh. So she's, see, I graduated in '45, she graduated in '50, from Lewis & Clark, and so from 1950 to a four-year college, that was '50, '54, she, uh-huh, so that was about the time... well, no, actually, no, 'cause I got married in '52, so that doesn't come out right, does it? [Laughs] So I went to, I went to do housework for two years, that was '45, '46. And I graduated beauty school in '46, I went back home at '47, and there was '48, '49, so the three years I worked. I worked in the beauty school, I worked at Washington Photo, and I worked at the bank. I had three different jobs. Then I got married, so I didn't work at all after that.

MA: Going back a little bit, you said that your older sister had left camp early and moved to Chicago. So, did she join you in Spokane?

KY: Uh-huh, uh-huh. After we moved to Spokane. But she didn't stay in Spokane too long, because she got a job in Seattle, so she went to work for, I don't know, you know Toru Sakahara, the lawyer? She worked for him. And then she took a civil service test and got a job in Japan.

MA: So your family was, was Buddhist?

KY: Right.

MA: And when you moved to Spokane in 1945, had the Buddhist Church in Spokane been established yet? It got established in '45. The minister, I think, Reverend Terao, must have been in camp because he's the one that organized that church in his home. It was on Sixth and Cowley, and we had our services in his home. But... you know, at that time, I don't know if, if there was too many Buddhist people, locals, you know. Maybe there was, but there was no church, so I think they all went to the Methodist Church. But when the Buddhist Church was formed, there was quite a few, the membership was quite a large congregation, uh-huh.

MA: So it was mostly people, then, who had come from camp?

KY: Come from camp, uh-huh, right.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

MA: And I wanted to ask you how you met your husband, Dick.

KY: Well, we didn't just, we, in those days, we, we played in, like, groups. I mean, women, the girls would have their own group, the men would have their own group, we just kind of do things together. There was a club called Amicas, and I was in that girls group. And I don't know if the men had a group, but we would do things as a group, and there's where we met. And we did, we had bowling, the men and the women had bowling leagues, so that's probably where we met. I don't know. [Laughs] Then we would all go out (to the) lakes as a group, as a group. There were several, there was Amicas group, I think they called it Regina, and then there was a (Jugs), there was like three different groups of women.

MA: And these are all just women's groups?

KY: Just women, uh-huh.

MA: Like social groups?

KY: Uh-huh. They were like teenager groups. But I was in the older group, one out of the high school. And if you were in the high school, you were in that teenager group, and there was another younger group, too, and my sister was in that younger group.

MA: Oh, that's interesting. So there were actually organized groups?

KY: Well, I don't know if they were organized, but they had a name, and they, they met. It was just a social group, I think, it was just a social group.

MA: And then what year did you marry Dick?

KY: '52.

MA: Now, your husband, Dick, was, is Methodist, right? And you're Buddhist?

KY: Right, the whole, yeah, from the family, they're Methodist, uh-huh, and I was a Buddhist.

MA: So how did that work?

KY: It didn't work. [Laughs] It didn't work. That's why I had to come -- I wouldn't say had to -- but you know, I couldn't send my kids to the Methodist Church and he goes to the Methodist and I couldn't go to the Buddhist Church, so I got baptized in the Methodist Church in 1964. Then I've been active in that church for many, many years. But I did like my Buddhist friends, too, though. We used to go to conferences, to these Tacoma, Seattle, Ontario, I had a lot of fun. That was before I was married, so that's why I had fun. [Laughs]

MA: So you went to these conferences...

KY: I went to all the Buddhist conferences, yes. They were nice, they were fun.

MA: Was it like a week-long thing?

KY: Just a weekend, just a weekend, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

MA: And then you have four children, is that right?

KY: Right.

MA: And what are their names?

KY: Oldest one is Dale, he's fifty-four right now, he's an actuary, lives in Chicago. And the second one is Karen. Oh, going back, Dale, he went to Washington State University, and after two years he, oh, he went to University of Nebraska, so he graduated from the University of Nebraska in actuary. Then my second one is a daughter, Karen, she attended Washington State, WSU, and she's a veterinarian, and she's married to another veterinarian. And my third son, Clyde, went to, couple years at Shoreline Community College in Seattle, but now he has his own business in (...) Everett. (Narr. note: Near Boeing's Paine Field, employs thirty workers.) And my youngest is DeAnn, she went, also went to WSU, she's a, she works for the King County Sexual (Assault) Resource Center in Renton, she's been there eighteen years now. That's it, the four kids. And I have six grandkids.

MA: Six grandkids?

KY: Six grandkids.

MA: Are they all, what's the age range of your grandkids?

KY: The oldest is sixteen, and the youngest is eleven. So they're not quite adults yet.

MA: So then your kids kind of moved all over, then, from Spokane? No one stayed in Spokane?

KY: Well, they all left Spokane to go to school, but luckily the second one came back to, she has a home in Liberty Lake, and she has her business in Liberty Lake. But she was, she had her business in Seattle, and the whole family moved back to Spokane, and she has three boys. So that's, that's the family I have here in town.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

MA: So you had told me that you visited Wapato recently.

KY: Last year I did, uh-huh.

MA: Is there still a Japanese American community there?

KY: Not much, uh-uh. I did go to the church there, and Mas Wada was there, luckily he let us in the church. So mainly why we went was to visit our cemetery that was in Yakima, but we had a few, time to spare, so we went into Wapato. And went to the church, and he, luckily somebody was there, he let us in, and we toured the church. It looks the same, it hasn't changed at all. It's just a small, small town. And he was telling, I don't know how many Japanese went back. I don't think there's too many. I would say a dozen families, that's, I wouldn't even, I don't know if there's even a dozen families there now.

MA: Did many Wapato people go from camp to Spokane that you recall?

KY: There's quite a few. Yeah, there is. I don't know how they ended up in Spokane, but there is, from camp to Spokane.

MA: But you definitely notice, then, that not very many people went back to Wapato after the war?

KY: No, not many. Not many. Most of them probably didn't have anything to go back to. And I don't think they would have wanted to do farming again, anyway, there's all, nothing but farm there.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

MA: So you've lived in Spokane for...

KY: Sixty years.

MA: ...sixty years now.

KY: Sixty years.

MA: So you've seen it change quite a bit.

KY: Oh, definitely, oh, it's changed.

MA: What are some ways that you've seen it changing?

KY: Well, there's, I don't know what the population was back in the '40s, but it's, it's up quite a bit. And there's some parts in Spokane I don't even know. They give me the address, and I don't even know where it is anymore. Before, I used to know. If they gave me an address, I could just find the place. But now it's grown so much. But as far as industry, I don't see any big industries here in town. We don't have Boeing, we don't have big business, but people are coming in. They must have jobs someplace in town. But it is growing, Spokane's growing.

MA: What about the Japanese American community?

KY: It's growing, it's growing, but, you know, the Niseis are dying. I tell you, we had twenty deaths last year, twenty. There were (not all) Niseis, but we had, just among the Japanese community, we had twenty deaths. We just had Bosankai, which is our annual cemetery event that we do every year, and we honor all these people that passed away, and there was twenty people that passed away this past year, twenty. So it's, it's a pretty big community. I don't know, maybe Ed knows the census of the Japanese population, I don't know what it is, but it's quite large. And more and more young people are coming in. Of course, there's no older ones, but the professionals are coming in, and I notice there's several doctors in town.

MA: Japanese American?

KY: Yeah, they work at Sacred Heart, yeah. But I don't, we don't know them, they just came in. The reason I know is I'm making this Japanese community phone book, I update it, I've been doing this for the past (...) twenty years, and I'm just doing one now. And there's a lot of names in there, I don't know who they are, but they give me all these names, and some of them are doctors and there's three or four doctors working at Sacred Heart, and I don't even know who they are, never heard of them. So I guess they're coming in town.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

MA: And what, what are some, I guess, special holidays that you continue to celebrate? Like you were telling me about New Year's.

KY: New Year's, I've been doing that for as long as I remember. And last year -- all these years I've been doing it at my place in Spokane, but last year we had it in, in (Edmonds) where my son is. So now we decided, let's do it here, let's do it there, we're kind of moving around now, but all these years up to last year, it was always at my place. And I have a menu that I follow every year, and I think I have maybe twenty items, maybe more, each item I've listed, you know. So when we're ready to cook, you know how much, what to buy and all that. So we celebrate, that's the only tradition that my kids want to keep, is that New Year's tradition. And my daughter said... you know, I told her, "I'm getting too old to do this," and she says, "Don't ever quit." I said, "Well, I've got to quit, I'm getting too old." So she says, "Okay, then we'll take over," meaning the kids will take over. But they don't know how to flavor. When they come, I have everything all ready, all they do is help me cook. Well, you know, that isn't the whole part of this. You need the flavoring part, and that's the part I have to teach 'em yet. I haven't gotten to that yet but I'll do that, so I won't have to do it anymore. [Laughs] They're gonna take over. They're gonna take over, that's what she said.

MA: That's great.

KY: Uh-huh, but she wants to keep it up. I said, "Let's quit," and she said, "No, we're gonna keep it up," she said.

MA: So when you have these New Year's celebrations, is it your whole family that gets together?

KY: Everybody comes, yeah. Then we invite a few other people, too.

MA: How long does it take you to prepare the meal?

KY: The whole... well, I have a shopping list, and I start, I buy it and put it in the freezer, you know, so it takes two or three weeks. I buy it, put it in the freezer, then I keep a list of what I need at the last minute. I mean, it's not every day for three weeks, but you know, I buy my things ahead of time and put it in the freezer. And the actual cooking day, we start about eight o'clock in the morning and we usually have our dinner at two o'clock. So during that time, we're busy, but most of the things, I have it all organized, so the cooking part doesn't take too long, you know. But I'm the only one that knows how to make sushi, and I'm gonna have to teach one of my girls how to roll that sushi.

MA: Is that the plan for next New Year's?

KY: Yeah, I'm going to. I'll have everything ready, but I have to teach 'em how to roll it. You know, now there's so many different places you could buy sushi, but I still like my own flavoring.

MA: That's great, so that's something you kind of celebrated when you were little, growing up, and then you continue to do it?

KY: Yeah, my mother, yeah. I remember New Year's, it wasn't as elaborate in the old days, you know, but now we got kind of carried away. [Laughs] Because the kids like to eat different things, but I don't mind. But I am gonna quit, and they're gonna have to take over. [Laughs]

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

MA: Well, is there anything else you'd like to say or talk about?

KY: No, it doesn't concern this, but you know, it's too bad the... I don't know if this is just local Sanseis, but the Sanseis are all -- I wouldn't say all -- eighty percent of 'em are married to Caucasians. And I just wonder how much of the Japanese culture, the Japanese heritage, these Sansei kids are gonna carry on, and that's my concern. I mean, you don't want to lose your Japanese heritage, and all my four children are married to Caucasians. And they, they know certain things about their heritage, but do they even care, I wonder? And when I was growing up, we went to Japanese school, my mother was so strict about Japanese, we had to talk Japanese at home, I think we're losing all that. And so what you're doing, this Densho project, I think is very important, it's very important. And I only wish the Sanseis are more interested in this. And I keep telling my kids, I say, "You look in the mirror, do you see a hakujin or a Japanese? You're still Japanese."

MA: Well, it sounds like your kids are, are pretty interested in passing on New Year's and that type of thing.

KY: They want, they want to do it, but they don't want their, it isn't that... they come to eat the dinner, but are they going to do the whole, carry on the tradition? I don't know. My youngest daughter probably will, but the rest of 'em, I don't know. Their spouses, whether they want to carry on the Japanese tradition, I don't know. And then from there on, their children are just quarter Japanese, you know, so are they still gonna carry on? I think we're gonna lose all these... it's too bad.

MA: Is that something that is talked about among your, your Nisei friends?

KY: We talk about it. That's what's wrong with our church right now. We have, our church is all Niseis, and the Niseis are just going left and right. We have absolutely, maybe a few, handful of Sanseis. So what's gonna happen to our church? It's just downhill for us, and I don't know if there's a solution or what. Maybe the Sansei children don't need a Japanese church. They're, they could mingle with their neighborhood churches, so why do they all have to come to the Japanese church? But for us, that was our, our center of our religion, is going to church. But I know my four kids, they don't go to Japanese church, they go to their community church. So to me, it's too bad we're losing all this Japanese heritage, culture.

MA: Well, I, just from talking with you, it seems like you're doing a lot to try to preserve that and pass it on.

KY: Well, that's, you know, we have a Japanese, we have a JACL group, and we had this -- I don't know if you've heard of the Hifumi En?

MA: What was that?

KY: Hifumi En, the senior housing project. And it was a, that was supposed to have been our Nisei legacy to leave to our children. But four years ago or five years ago, the Sansei kids just, just sold the place. So now we don't even own that building, and we have no, we have no building called Japanese cultural center, Japanese community center, we have nothing. So that's what I was trying to work on, but it's just getting too late for me. We needed to do this ten years ago. So we have no, except for the two churches, which our church is going downhill, the Buddhist Church is already going down, and that's overtaken by -- I wouldn't say overtaken -- that, the congregation, they're all Caucasians now. Very few Japanese (attend) that church anymore. And our church is still surviving, but half of the congregation is Caucasian, so you know ten years from now, there's no Japanese. So we're losing the two churches, and we have no community, single community Japanese centers, so where does that leave us? This is just speaking for our town only.

MA: So if you had a message or something you wanted to get across to younger generations who maybe will watch your interview, what would that be, what message would you like to give?

KY: To the, to the... who am I speaking to?

MA: Oh, just, just all kind of younger students.

KY: Caucasian students or Japanese students?

MA: Yeah, I guess, everyone.

KY: Well, to the Japanese Sanseis I would say, "Try to keep up your culture, heritage." And I don't know if they even care to, you know, that's the sad part. They'll say, "Well, why should I? We're in America, we're married to Caucasians, why should we?" But you know, you're Japanese, you should. Your parents, your grandparents, are all part of who you are. But if there's not enough of them, one person can't run the whole thing. You have to have a strong leadership, and you have to follow your inner, you know, you have to want to do this. But unless we have a resource and the leadership, I think it's, it's a lost, losing cause. But I wish somebody would take hold and continue our Japanese culture, Japanese heritage, our Japanese community. But to the Caucasians, I don't know if the... my in-laws, my children's spouses are all, like I say, Caucasians. They're not too interested in the Japanese culture. So, so my kids, how can they if you don't have the support? But if my younger daughter was here -- she lives in Seattle -- she's a strong leader, and if she was in Spokane, she would try to continue this. So maybe eventually if she moves back, there might, we might continue. But you know, like I say, one person can't do it. It has to be the whole community. But that's what I would wish, the Sanseis would continue their heritage.

MA: Well, I want thank you for coming in and talking with me.

KY: Thank you.

MA: Quite interesting stories to tell, so thanks a lot for the interview.

KY: Thank you.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.