Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: James "Turk" Suzuki Interview
Narrator: James "Turk" Suzuki
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Date: November 7, 2007
Densho ID: denshovh-sjames_2-01-0002

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: Okay. So going back to your, your father.

JS: Yes.

TI: His family in Japan, what kind of work or business did they do?

JS: Well, he came from a farming community and his parents were farmers.

TI: And then do you know why your father came to the United States?

JS: Yes, I do. Well, initially, my father was the youngest of, I believe, eight or nine children. And he was really spoiled by his siblings and, because he was the youngest. And when he was a young man, he was sent to Tokyo to go to the university, and he went to Waseda University, and he graduated there.

TI: So that, Waseda's one of the more prestigious.

JS: Well, I don't know that it's prestigious as such, but it's well-known.

TI: Okay, so he was -- and then his other siblings, were they also college-educated?

JS: No, although I've heard that there were, his, there was a doctor in his family, but I don't know if it was his brother or who. But I believe that he was the -- because he was the youngest, he was given the opportunity to go to college, university.

TI: Okay, so the youngest, kind of -- lots of extra privileges as being the youngest, went off, got a college degree at Waseda, and then what happened?

JS: Well, then he served in the, the navy, Japanese navy during the Russian-Japanese war.

TI: And do you know anything about that?

JS: No, very little about that, except that he was in the navy. And I don't even know whether he was an enlisted man or what.

TI: And then what happened?

JS: Well, shortly, he was still, of course, a single man at that time, and he became very ill with either typhoid fever or something of that nature, and he was almost given up for lost. He was, he lost a lot of weight, and they called his family to Tokyo because they thought that he would not survive. But he did survive, and I recall that he did have a, an experience. And later on I've read about it, and it's called the, an out-of-body experience, and it's a near-death syndrome. And, but the fact that he was so ill and was given up as a lost cause --

TI: Can, can you describe that out-of-body experience? What happened?

JS: Well, I don't exactly know, but what he related to us when we were children was that it was a very peaceful experience for him. And he had the classic experiences like going through a tunnel and seeing a bright light, being in a very green and lush meadow, but everything about that experience was very calm and not frightening to him at all. So, but that did change his life. He decided then, at that point, to go into the ministry, and so... and I don't know whether it was at Waseda or whatever, but he met my mother there because she was working with the American Presbyterian ministry over there. And that was his denomination as well, so he was, he was, his ambition was to become a minister.

TI: Before this experience, this out-of-body experience, was he a Christian before that, was he exposed to Christianity?

JS: I'm not sure, but I have the feeling that he probably was. He was exposed to Christianity.

TI: So, this is fascinating. So he then meets your, your mother.

JS: Yes.

TI: With the Presbyterian, sort of, group. And so, so keep going, this is fascinating.

JS: Oh, well, the, then they got married, of course, and my father being the youngest in his family was quite spoiled in terms of money and so forth. They had given him essentially a free reign while he was a student. And so when he got married, he wrote -- incidentally, by then he had lost his parents, his own parents -- so the oldest brother was the head of the family, so to speak. And so when he got married, he wrote to his oldest brother, who I'm guessing must have been at least fifteen years older than he was. And he requested some money to go on his honeymoon. [Laughs] And so the older brother asked, "Well, what sort of a honeymoon are you expecting?" He says, "Well, maybe a year or so." [Laughs] So you can see that he was quite spoiled, if you will.

TI: Well, was your father's family, were they wealthy?

JS: No, they weren't wealthy as such, but they were landowners. And so, and I don't know if they had other farmers, tenement farmers or what, but anyway, they had enough money apparently in this farming community. And my father, of course, when he got married, he had two children.

TI: Before you go there, I'm curious, did your father ever tell you the response from his oldest brother when, when he said he wanted to take a year honeymoon?

JS: [Laughs] Yeah, and so the brother wrote back and said, "Wouldn't six months do?" [Laughs]

TI: [Laughs] That's still pretty...

JS: Yeah. And so they did have an extended honeymoon, but I don't really know how long it was. But...

TI: Where would they, for a honeymoon during that era for six months, where would they go?

JS: Well, they would go wherever in Japan, to the resorts and so forth, the mountain resorts and so forth, Hakone or whatever. But I don't recall their ever saying where they actually went, but they did have an extended honeymoon, by certainly our standards.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.