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-03-0007

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TI: In my notes, I have listed that you also spent a lot of time dancing. Can you describe your dancing, what kind of dancing you did?

AH: Oh. Well, of course, there was always the jitterbugging, which was the rage at that time. I loved to do that. But I started to study more formal dancing, ballet, tap dancing, Spanish dancing, starting about the age of nine, ten. My father knew that I just loved music. My family was rather musical starting with my mother. And I don't know how they ever managed to pay for those classes. Because as I recall, we were always very poor, and I'm not sure how easy it was for my father to even come up with the rent for the house. And so when I think back, and they allowed me to take piano lessons and all these dance (classes), I wondered how much sacrifice they made to enable me to do that. I thought, well, during those days, dreaming, maybe I'll be the next Japanese Betty Grable or Eleanor Powell, or Ann Miller. And then I got into singing, which I enjoyed a lot, so I was able to start to learn to play the piano, accompany myself singing, but only at home.

TI: Well, did your other siblings get the same opportunities to do music lessons or dancing lessons?

AH: Yeah. I think my older sisters, they all played the piano. And my, Ei, the second daughter, she had a wonderful voice. And she also, I don't know where she learned it, but she started me on tap dancing. And she loved to do, during those days -- you're too young to know this -- the Charleston, there was a dance step that was very popular. She used to do that. She was very good at it. My brother played, my oldest brother played the violin very well. Aya did the piano, she always played Christian hymns, and Johnny was a good musician. Oh, my sister Ei also played a mean ukulele. She was good. And Johnny, he played the harmonica. [Laughs] And Amy was pretty (...) musical, she took some piano lessons, too. So we were offered the opportunity to enjoy the music. And my father was not musical, but he enjoyed it, and my mother was so, she loved it.

TI: As a family, did you ever play together, music, like around the piano and sing together?

AH: Oh, definitely. Especially we all used to get together, even in New York after the camps. We'd get together for the holidays, especially Christmas and Easter, Thanksgiving. And invariably, we all got around the piano. And because my sisters were good musically, they were able to harmonize. We made a pretty good team. We should have become... during those days, of course, we didn't cut any records, except very amateur things. But we were pretty good.

TI: Now, when you would go to your friends' homes, or other relatives, and they had, on holidays, did you hear the same kind of singing that was in your home, or was your house maybe a little different?

AH: You know, I don't recall ever going to somebody else's home, (...) my relatives' homes, where they did that. And we still do that whenever we do get together. We're still able to relive some of those musical moments in the family.

TI: It sounds like a rich, a rich experience, then.

AH: Yeah. Fortunately, my daughter, Lisa, has married into a family of musicians, so I have not been deprived of the musical background in my life.

TI: Earlier, you mentioned you attended the St. Mary's Episcopal Church.

AH: Right.

TI: How large was the church in your growing up experience? I mean, how important was church to you?

AH: Well, I don't know how much it added to my spiritual life, but it was certainly a social gathering place. And I think it provided a place for Japanese Americans to feel comfortable with each other, and we had a good minister, Yamasaki, who was, John Yamasaki was, followed in the footsteps by his son. John, Jr. followed in his father's footsteps. And then I think they called him Father John, but that was after the camps. So I never got to get to know the younger minister. But it provided a sanctuary for the community, and a place for the Japanese community to meet regularly on Sunday. So I think it was a good thing to have for all of us in the Japanese American community to be able to know that here was one place that was good for us, comfortable for us, where we could keep in touch.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.