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Title: Tokio Hirotaka - Toshio Ito - Joe Matsuzawa Interview
Narrators: Tokio Hirotaka, Toshio Ito, Joe Matsuzawa
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Bellevue, Washington
Date: May 21, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-htokio_g-01-0001

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AI: Okay, so I think we'll get started here, and Mr. Matsuzawa, can you tell me where and when you were born?

JM: Well, I was born in Bellevue, not far from where the present Bellevue Square is located, and in 1913, January 26th, which is my birthday. But at that time transportation wasn't very good so my birth couldn't be recorded. And so, the doctor suggested that after I go to Seattle to get it registered, why, make it the official, on my birthday, birth certificate, 7 February, which is my official. But actually I was born on the 26th.

AI: I see.

JM: Well, that's when I was born, but the very first things, time in my life that I can recall is when we lived in Yarrow Point. And I remember the big snow of 1916. We moved from this Yarrow Point area to another house, oh, half a mile or so towards the, which is now I-520 on Ninety-second Street. And that's where I have my memories of my childhood, when I first started school. Then --

AI: Excuse me, before we get into that period of your life, can you give me some family background? What was your father's name, and your mother's name?

JM: My father... well, their family came from Niigata Prefecture. And they were married in Niigata and had one son, who stayed there, well, all his life. But my dad, he was one of the very few that were able to go to college. And so he went to college in Tokyo, Aoyama Gakuin is where he graduated from. Then he got a job with the government as a inspector for, I guess the tobacco. But he didn't like it because he was a real honest, conscientious person, and the people, farmers would raise tobacco and they would slip in some money for him to have (...) their tobacco graded to the highest price. So he didn't like that, and all the while he had intentions of coming to the United States. I think, he told me one time, he wanted to go to Louisiana, because that was a place where they grew rice.

Well, he came to the United States about 1906, if I remember right. And he worked here and there, and I think he worked at a dairy farm in Snoqualmie while he was here by himself. He left my mother in Japan, and the son there. But while he was working in the dairy, why, he was feeding a bull in a bullpen. And the bull got him down, he was kind of a mean animal, and he got him down and he crushed his chest, broke some ribs, and I guess punctured his lung. But he finally got a hold of the ring in the bull's nose and got out. But from then on, that was the beginning of his health... the rest of his life. So anyway, he suffered for a couple of years and he decided he'd go back to Japan, and see if he could get better medical attention. In the meantime, my mother had come over to be with him, but he had already scheduled to go back, so she stayed here. That was about a year or so later, that she came over.

Well, she had to stay here and he went back, and you can imagine what it was like for her, because (...) it was a social shock to anybody come over, didn't know the language, know the customs, didn't know anything. But she left this boy over in Japan, and she got herself a job as a housemaid. Then, during the time that she was off, the people at the Japanese Baptist Church, they had this thing called Fujin Home, I think it was. And she stayed there, and these ladies, they were Caucasian but they helped a lot, for her welfare. And I have to really admire my mother because she went through so much. But she decided that if she's gonna stay here, she has to learn a little bit of English, and other things. So she went to night school, and she learned some English, enough to read and write. She was able to -- while I was in the service -- she was able to write letters to me in English. And there's very few ladies that were able to do that in Bellevue, speak English. I think there was maybe two or three that could.

AI: Now how did your parents get reunited, and how did they end up here on the Bellevue eastside?

JM: Well, he eventually came back. He stayed there two years, and he came back. At that time, why, there were a few Japanese, but all they could do was farm, gardening, or that kind of thing. Everybody else was doing it, so that's how we got started down at Yarrow Point. The reason I think we started at Yarrow Point is because when my mother was, had her housework, why, she was working for a person down there -- he was a navy admiral or something -- and she was doing the housework. And she was familiar with that area at Yarrow Point, and had a little garden there. And that's where I was, have memories of my youngest time. And that is when we moved to this other place that I started school from.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.