Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Chizuko Judy Sugita de Quieiroz Interview
Narrator: Chizuko Judy Sugita de Quieiroz
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Torrance, California
Date: July 8, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-qchizuko-01-0001

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MA: So today is Wednesday, July 8, 2009, and Densho is here in Torrance, California. I am Megan Asaka, the interviewer, and I will be interviewing Chizuko Judy Sugita de Quieiroz. Dana Hoshide is the cameraperson. So thank you so much for doing this interview.

CQ: Well, thank you.

MA: I wanted to start by asking just some basic questions. When were you born?

CQ: I was born September 15, 1932.

MA: And where you born?

CQ: Near Lodi, California, that's near Stockton in northern California.

MA: And what was the name given to you at birth?

CQ: The name was Shizu, but my dad got it wrong. 'Cause my mother wanted "Chizuko," but I was the ninth child and the last child to be born. And there was a lot of problems because my mother was very sick after I was born. And so I was registered late. And so when... because I've always been called Chizuko. And then my dad said, well, my mother had named me Chizuko, but he had put on, by mistake, Shizu, and so we had it changed.

MA: And tell me a little bit about your father. What was his name and where was he from in Japan?

CQ: His name was Yutaka Sugita, and he took on the name of Joe when he came to this country in 1902. And he came from Hiroshima, and he was the third son. Sort of a change of life baby, because he had two brothers, and his dad was a lawyer, and his oldest brother was a doctor, and his middle brother ran the business, which was the transportation business in Hiroshima at that time. So he would only have a small little house and a small little piece of property that he would inherit, and therefore he came with his uncle who was a second son -- no, a fourth son, sorry. Yeah, he was a fourth son who took on the name of the woman he married, 'cause they had only women in their family. So that was Tamura. And so he came with his uncle, who was a few years older and was married, to make their fortune in this country because he, his uncle sort of was in the same position that my dad was in. They were not going to inherit the land and things like that, and would then just have a small piece of property. And so they came to the United States to open a hotel for Japanese immigrants. And they opened it in San Francisco and were very successful. And my dad's... I don't know who else came, but my dad said that his parents and his oldest brother and wife came to see how they were doing, and they were very happy. This was about, this was about two years later, so it must have been in 1904. And so they thought, "Oh, they're really going to make their fortune and come home." And so this really... and the United States at that time was considered a place where you could make a fortune, and a land of opportunity. And so they continued to do this, and they processed the Japanese that came through, came to America, and found them jobs and places to work and live. And so the hotel was the first, sort of a clearing house kind of a thing. And so my dad did arrange for them to work for different people. They basically were working, they were basically working on farms, the people who came through.

MA: Okay, so your father would arrange where they would go, where the laborers would go, and find them work.

CQ: Uh-huh, yes. And housing, and it usually was all together, the labor and housing was, you know, all together at that time.

MA: Did they, you said that they kind of thought they were going to make their fortune and go back to Japan?

CQ: Oh, of course. This was, you know, every immigrant's dream is to come to the United States, whether it's from any country, not just Japan, and make their fortune and then go back very rich and successful. And that's everyone's dream, I think, 'cause that was my father's dream and I thought that was almost everybody's dream. And then the earthquake happened in 1906, and it just devastated all of San Francisco. And at that juncture, his uncle and his wife went back to Japan. And he was supposed to go back also, but he said he's not going to go back, and he's going to make his fortune, and then he'll go back. And his parents and his siblings urged him to come home many, many times. And he just said, no, he's going to make his fortune, and they'll hear from him when he's very rich and famous, and he'll come home. And so that was it.

MA: And then how did he end up meeting your mother? Do you know that story at all?

CQ: Well, yeah. He did all kinds of things. He, of course, was sort of in charge of farm laborers, because that's sort of what he did with the hotel, so he arranged for... so he sort of became sort of like the head of farm laborers on different farms, and tended to their needs. He even treated them for illnesses and things like that, because he had picked up things from his oldest brother. And so a lot of people, especially the workers, depended on him for help shopping, things like that, and also for, when they got sick. And then he met, there were some people in Fresno, he was in... they had a community, and these people in Fresno were the Okadas, and they had quite a few brothers and one sister. And they were getting, they were sending, the parents were sending for the oldest that was born in Hiroshima, and then the parents left her with her grandparents, and they came to this country to make their fortune. [Laughs] And they had all their other children, which were, let's see, five other children. And then they sent for my mother, whose name was Tsugiko Okada. And she arrived when she was fifteen. And I think she came... I don't know exactly when she came. But then, so my father knew the brothers, of course, and the oldest girl, I mean, the next to the oldest girl, I guess. And then they, you know, everything went along. And as he saw that my mother was growing up, and that was a baishakunin, or he asked for her hand in marriage, and so they got married in northern California.

MA: Okay. And I know you had mentioned to me earlier that your mother had passed away when you were very young.

CQ: Yeah. Well, they had nine children, and so I was the ninth child, and it just so happened that she had some problems. And so she passed away within the year, I guess. They said I was still a baby. And so...

MA: And then you actually spent the first few years of your life, right, with another family?

CQ: Oh, yes. My mother's sister and her husband took me in, and my husband's -- I mean, my mother's sister wanted to adopt me, but after keeping me for two and a half years, she said that I was just too much of a crybaby and I hung on her skirts, and she didn't get anything done. So then, at that time, my oldest sister got married, and she took me with her new husband.

MA: So you, then, spent time with them.

CQ: I was there for another two and a half years. And so I came home when I was about five and a half or six, my dad brought me home to start school. And so that's the first time I really met my three brothers and three sisters. Well, I had been with my oldest sister, so there were just three brothers and two sisters, and I joined the family at that time.

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