Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Sharon Tanagi Aburano Interview I
Narrator: Sharon Tanagi Aburano
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary); Megan Asaka (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: March 25, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-asharon-01-0002

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[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

TI: So, let me ask you, so first, family name for your mother's side was what?

SA: Suzuki.

TI: Suzuki, and what kind of work did her family do, or her father do?

SA: Well, evidently, they were landowners, (farmers, but with hired help), which was pretty good (for) the time. (They) had a (private) big (bathhouse), ofuro, which I guess the local (...) politicians or the ones that were running the village, would (visit), because (...) the public baths were (...) not as good as (the) private ones (...). So she got in on most of what was going on at the time, (locally, regionally and nationally, and) for a woman, I thought (that) was pretty good. So she went on to Tokyo, finished (the) normal school, and so she had quite a few years of education, more than the usual. (...) That's what made her push the (Japanese) culture and the customs so much. (...) The primary language at (our) home was Japanese, as was (with) most (immigrant families).

TI: And you said your father came from the same area?

SA: Yes, but he came out of a family that had a better (genealogic) background (...). Japan, as you know, is very status conscious, (...) on the Tanagi side, I got (the genealogy written) from the eleventh century on (and) because I didn't have much time. I had my cousin, the oldest girl, Chiyo, (translate and) interpret it. We stayed up two nights. I was writing (in) romaji as she read, and then it (became) quite revealing. Evidently, (their ancestors distinguished themselves in battle and were rewarded by the Lord Fujiwara), so that meant they were of samurai descent. I used to question that because everybody seemed to say they were samurai people. [Laughs] But it evidently has some merit because I think that helped. My father, though, did go to a temple school, but unfortunately the Russo-Japanese War came on, (1904), and he was drafted (earlier in 1901). So he had three years in the army, and that is why when evacuation time came, he was taken by the FBI. That was one of the charges against him.

TI: That he, he served in the Japanese Army?

SA: (Yes, in) the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). (Narr. note: He actually was in the army from 1901-1902, discharged with illness. Rejoined the "Home Guard" and served two more years, going into the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905.)

TI: Okay.

SA: He was actually in what they call the "famed battalion," (they took a hill), ni hyaku san juu kochi (230) or something, they call it, but it was the one in which the (battalion) flag was carried through all the (following) wars until they (...) lost at Guadalcanal (...) then they buried it. And because of that, we had a (reporter) from the (Yomiuri) Shinbun, (a Japanese newspaper in Tokyo, who came to interview him). My dad, at ninety-seven, was the last survivor of that famed battalion. And until then, he never even told us anything about (his past life). I was just shocked.

TI: So did he have any stories from that battalion and what it was like?

SA: (...)

TI: No, I don't.

SA: Well, (Mr. Kanno, a local friend) came along with this fellow from Japan, and they asked us if we had any kunshou, which is (army medals), and to my surprise, my father came out with a couple of them. (The reporter from Japan) kept asking (...) him was he beaten and slapped around? Because I guess the Japanese Imperial Army was pretty hard on their recruits. But (my dad) is a quiet, gentle person, and actually, he survived (...) because (he always did what he was told). The reason the battalion's so famous is the Russians had machine guns, I guess, at the top (of the hill), but the Japanese had none, and the hill was bare (with no cover). (...) Evidently, they were ordered to keep going up the hill, and of course they got mowed down, (...) a lot (...) died there. (Luckily) he survived. And I thought it was kind of funny because when my cousin Roy volunteered in World War II, he told him that (the way) to survive is to get in that foxhole and don't look out of it, just keep firing in the air. (...)

TI: [Laughs] That was your father saying?

SA: (Yes, and) I thought it was funny. But he did survive the war. I think he was (...) wounded, but he made it through.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.