Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Jim Akutsu Interview
Narrator: Jim Akutsu
Interviewer: Art Hansen
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: June 9 and 12, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-ajim-01-0022

<Begin Segment 22>

AH: Now I know from reading a number of things that after the war, your mother took her own life. And some of the discussion about that fact had to do with the way in which she was ostracized by the community here. Now, were some of the roots of this, though, even going back into this period during the time when your father was gone? I mean, was there an awful lot of stress showing on her where you saw her crying a lot or becoming sometimes irrational?

JA: Well, she was not irrational, but she was getting bitter about the whole thing. "How come so-and-so's husband gets to come back? Why not mine?" And what was holding him back? All of that, was getting her quite bitter about what was going on. And what the Japanese were talking about her. And many of the Japanese, you know, many of them couldn't even read or write Japanese. And she used to do the writing or if there's any complaints, she would talk on their behalf. And then they'll turn around and say, "Hey, we didn't ask you to do this, this, this," and then start to turn against her. And therefore, she got this... it's very hard to say.

AH: You actually, from hearing what you've been saying in the interview on both of these days, and then actually talking to you off camera and reading things about you and then hearing about your mother and everything, it sounds like there's a close affinity between you and your mom. I mean, she was quite well-educated and educated in what amounts to the math, which is close to science, and you certainly use a lot of math in engineering and everything. But she was also a person who took on the mantle of leading, standing up for her rights and the rights of others and it seems like you're doing this not only in the incident that you're talking about of starting the tray service, but in a lot of the other things that you rated earlier, and continuing right down to today. I mean, we left off on Monday and you were going off to intervene in a case against the city and everything. So this behavior is still going on. So, is that a fair sense? That there is a close identity between you and your mom?

JA: Well, to being honest, to being fair -- that, yes.

AH: Differences...

JA: And, helping people, she used to help people. There was a family, the mother passed away and she'd cook extra, and I'd be the one to take the dinner to them and they lived three or four blocks away. But she was that kind of person.

AH: Do you also feel that you're a person, like your mom, who when you do intervene and do some good for other people oftentimes they don't thank you for it, and instead give you hell for it? [Laughs]

JA: Well, yes, that's a funny thing. You do things for them and it's taken for granted. And they'll just keep taking, taking, taking and as though that's the way it's supposed to be. But she just went ahead to help, and like in my case, I go out to help people because they gotta need help.

AH: What are the biggest differences between you and your mother, aside from the fact that of course she was a woman and you're a man, in terms of personality and the way in which you approach problems of the world?

JA: We were both very strong. In her way she was strong, I'm strong in my way. I'm very competitive. And I like to get involved and my father would say, "Okay you're a good athlete, go out there turn out for football." He'll buy me football shoes so he was pushing me along that line. And my mother was pushing me along, more or less, on the academic side.

AH: Is your brother's personality similar to your mother or closer to your father?

JA: Well, I don't think either. He was quite spoiled, and he used to get his own way, you know. But like me, I never did that. If I had to do it, I didn't ask Mother to do anything, I'd do it and I'd get it myself. That's the difference between my brother and me.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.