Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga Interview II
Narrator: Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Torrance, California
Date: July 7, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-haiko-03-0003

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TI: Your mother, what was her name and where was she from?

AH: Oh, she had an unusual name. During those days, even women were given men's name, maybe in anticipation by the parents that a boy would be born. Her name was Shigeru Kinuwaki. And my mother was very happy to be able to say, "I come from a line of samurai retainers." There was a well-known daimyo in Kumamoto called Hosokawa, and apparently, my mother's grandfather was a retainer for the Hosokawa daimyo. And I know that to be a fact because when I visited Japan, oh, 1992, I think, I went to the gravesite of that Kinuwaki family, and the gravestones had the Hosokawa crest, the mon. So apparently, that was not one of the stories a lot of people like to say, "We come from a samurai warrior clan," but in my mother's case, it apparently was true.

TI: Well, and so how did your mother and father meet?

AH: I never knew that. I asked my father one time, and he said, "I called over the mountain and she came." [Laughs] That's the only thing I know. And it was, my mother apparently had been married before. And it was probably hard for a woman who had been married once before to be remarried. But it was interesting that when I was divorced, my mother chastised me for bringing embarrassment to the family. And then, many years later, I found out she too had been married before. So I confronted my mother, who was a sweet, gentle soul, one of the sweetest women I ever knew. And I said, "How come you got on my case for having been divorced?" And as little Japanese as I understood, I was able to understand this much from her. She said, "Well, in those days, way back in the end of the 19th century, we didn't have things called divorce. So my then-husband didn't get along with my mother. And so he just walked off into the sunset and I never saw him again. That's the same as a divorce, but we didn't have to go through this messy court stuff. So it's not the same as you divorcing." [Laughs] "Okay, okay, Mom, I got it." That was so funny.

TI: That's interesting that you didn't know, and I'm guessing the community didn't know that she had a previous husband?

AH: I think they didn't. I don't think anybody did. 'Cause apparently, that marriage didn't last very long. There were no children. And I guess my mother's mother was pretty tough. It was a yoshi case, what is it, when a man comes and marries into the woman's family instead of vice-versa and takes the family name, that woman's family name and drops his own last name, right?

TI: Right, and that was the second husband or the first husband that was yoshi?

AH: My mother's first husband.

TI: First husband.

AH: Right, yeah.

TI: And what was... oh, that's right. Going back to your mother's family, what kind of work did her family do?

AH: I think they had a tea farm. I don't know what my father's side was doing, but I recall my mother said something about having a tea farm. She loved working with the earth, 'cause I know she liked growing things when we were living in Los Angeles.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.