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Title: Toshikazu "Tosh" Okamoto Interview I
Narrator: Toshikazu "Tosh" Okamoto
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: April 30, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-otoshikazu-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: So, today is Thursday, May 21, 2009. Running the camera is Dana Hoshide, and I'm the interviewer, Tom Ikeda. So let's start the interview with a really basic question. So where and when were you born?

TO: I was born here in Seattle, October 8, 1926. I think my birth certificate says 600 block of Dearborn Street. I can't imagine what's there, but I think there's some city, city facilities there, I think is what's there. It must have been... I think, if I recall, when I was kid, there was some old buildings there, hotels and stuff. I think Mits Abe had a grocery store down there somewhere.

TI: So is your sense that you were born in a medical facility?

TO: No, no, absolutely not. No, I'm sure that... I think my birth certificate says... what do you call those people that, Issei ladies that used to go around and help with the birthing?

TI: Like a midwife?

TO: Midwife, exactly. So I assume that's where I was born, in a hotel or apartment or something down there.

TI: Okay. And we'll get into this a little bit later, but what was the name given to you at birth?

TO: Toshikazu Okamoto. Toshikazu.

TI: And did you have, like, a middle name?

TO: No. I don't think the Issei gave middle names in those days. In Japan, that's kind of, you know, not very common that they have a middle name. 'Cause I know... at least none of my peers have it.

TI: When you were born, where was the family living at the time when you were born?

TO: I assume at that same, same address, six-something Dearborn Street.

TI: Okay, interesting. I have to go down there. They're, right now it's all kind of industrial.

TO: Right, right.

TI: Let's talk a little bit about your parents first. So tell me, what was your father's name?

TO: My father's name was Juhei, Juhei Okamoto.

TI: And do you know where he was born?

TO: In Kumamoto-ken, Japan. Other than that, I don't... I have very little knowledge about my father's life in Japan. I don't know why. Mothers seem to have a tendency to tell you about their childhood, but my dad, he never said too much about it.

TI: Do you have a sense of why he came the United States?

TO: Definitely. I think he, there were about three or four sons in the family and he was one of the younger ones. So of course there was nothing for him to do. I'm sure that... I'm not really sure exactly how old he was but I imagine it was sixteen or seventeen at the time he came. I'm sure any kid that was that age, that's a real draw, to go someplace else. Just like the college kids today, they all want to leave the city to go to college somewhere else. I assume that sense of adventure, and then he had nothing but work for his brothers in Japan. That's my assumption, the reason he came.

TI: And do you know about what year he came over?

TO: Boy, I'm sorry, I don't. I have all that information at home, so I should have.

TI: Okay, yeah. But around when he was sixteen or seventeen. Yeah, but still, I think about how... when I think of, say, my kids or when I was that age, it's still a big step to go to a different country.

TO: Oh, absolutely. I think for some reason he was in California for a while, in Florence, around Florence, somewhere around there. Central California anyway. I don't really know what he was doing. I assume it was doing the farm. I don't know how he, why he ended up here in Seattle, but I imagine because of his friends or something. But all I can remember him saying, telling us, in the town of Renton, for some reason, him and some of the other friends were in Renton and they were wanting to go buy some eggs in this butcher shop. I don't know if it was eggs or chicken, but they couldn't understand English well enough to tell the salesperson there. And so they waved their hands like this and that's how they communicated with the guys, the butcher there. As well as he was saying that they threw rocks at him in Renton. There were some, the natives that threw rocks at him. He don't know who they were or anything, other than they were white. He distinctly told me about that. And I don't know what they were doing in Renton at that time to be quite frank, but those two things I do recall him telling me.

TI: That's a good story.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.