Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Eugene Tatsuru Kimura Interview
Narrator: Eugene Tatsuru Kimura
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: September 5, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-keugene-01-0007

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: And how about your mother?

EK: Mother started teaching.

TI: So at the, the Japanese language school, Nihongakko?

EK: Japanese language school, yeah.

TI: And do you know which, which language school she taught at?

EK: That was the largest one, Nihongakko, Japanese language school.

TI: So the one on Weller Street?

EK: That's right.

TI: That's interesting. So this would be the first time I can talk to someone about the language school before the war like this. Do you remember, can you describe kind of what she did, what, like, grade level and as much as you can remember about the language school?

EK: Probably she taught, maybe third, fourth, fifth grade and so forth. Then they, there were a sufficient number of students so that each grade had about, oh, three classrooms. To make sure that I would not be her student, they made sure that my teacher for a particular grade would be somebody else.

TI: So there were enough students --

EK: There were.

TI: -- that you could have multiple classes for each grade.

EK: Apparently. Probably more for the lower grades than upper grades.

TI: And so for one, one class, how many students would, would be in a class?

EK: Oh, I'd say maybe -- this is just a guess here, I'd say about forty or so, plus or minus.

TI: So you had hundreds of kids.

EK: Oh, you betcha.

TI: And, and when would, what time would you do Japanese school? Because you would have your regular school.

EK: Yeah. And then after regular school, we'd, many of us would walk to the Nihongakko and then the school started from four until five in the wintertime, and four until five-thirty in the wintertime. And sometimes we had summer school, but it was, learning the Japanese language after we were loaded down with homework from our regular school. So that we had, what shall I say, we had enough work to keep us busy.

TI: So every, every day, an hour to an hour and a half of extra school.

EK: That's right.

TI: That you would have to do.

EK: Yeah, and then my mother, like most Japanese women were very competitive, so that she said that, "You better do a lot of good work and be a yuutousei," in other words, and honor student, because, "You will bring shame upon me," or something of that nature. So I was so busy that I didn't have very much time to hit the streets, I had to hit the books.

TI: And so do you think you studied at Japanese school more than the normal Nisei?

EK: I think so, because of the pressure that was put upon us, both my brother and me. Whether my brother experienced that same sort of pressure, I do not know. But I do know that I kept on being pressurized to study.

TI: And so you attended Japanese school from when you were six or seven all the way through high school?

EK: Almost all the way through high school.

TI: And at the end of that training, I'm curious, how good was your Japanese?

EK: I was able to speak quite fluently with the Isseis and so forth. In terms of reading kanji, well, that's a heck of a difficult language. So if you don't use it, you forget it. So that I was able to read simple portions of a newspaper with the aid of a dictionary and so forth. But once you get away from the language, if you don't use it, you lose it.

TI: So, so you were fluent enough to talk with Isseis, you could read the simple parts of newspapers. Was that, was that a pretty common level for your other classmates to be that fluent?

EK: I don't know because I don't know to what extent my classmates were pressurized by their parents.

TI: But then could you just tell in your classroom in terms of how your Japanese compared with, say, your classmates', if it was better or worse or about the same?

EK: Well, maybe it was slightly above average.

TI: Okay, yeah. I mean, for the people I have talked to, it sounds like your Japanese was much, you got more Japanese training than a lot of other Niseis who were, many Niseis would say they went through Japanese school but they didn't really learn that much. That's interesting.

EK: Well, my mother made sure that I did. [Laughs]

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.