Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Wakako Yamauchi Interview
Narrator: Wakako Yamauchi
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Torrance, California
Date: July 8, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-ywakako-01-0001

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TI: So today is Wednesday, July 8, 2009. We're at the Torrance Holiday Inn. And then running the camera is Dana Hoshide, and then I'm the interviewer, Tom Ikeda.

WY: I do remember your name. Dana, I'll remember your name. Hoshide.

TI: So, Wakako, I'm going to start at the beginning. Can you tell me when and where you were born?

WY: When? In 1924, October 25, that's my recorded birthday. But my mother said that I was actually born on the 23rd. But after three kids, they didn't know what to name me. [Laughs] Real imaginative people, huh? So they called me Wakako, the "youngest kid."

TI: Oh, so that's what "Wakako" means?

WY: "Wakako" means. It doesn't mean... you could write it in a form like poetry or something like that, but that's not what they meant. They meant I was the youngest kid. [Laughs]

TI: And so it took them a couple days or so to figure --

WY: Yeah, to name me that.

TI: And then they could do the birth certificate.

WY: Yeah. So the midwife said, "Well, you better not give her real birthday," so they made it on the 25th instead of the 23rd. But I always look at my horoscope, and I look for the 23rd.

TI: Well, so when you celebrate your birthday, what day do you use?

WY: I don't use any of 'em, but my daughter remembers the 23rd.

TI: And where were you born?

WY: Where? I think I was born in Westmorland, Imperial County. Westmorland, California.

TI: And you mentioned a midwife. So did the midwife come to your home?

WY: Yes, and she stayed overnight, so it was a Japanese midwife, Kaniye-san. And she did all the births and the deaths, too, I think.

TI: And so you mentioned you were the third. Can you just tell me your siblings, when we're talking about your birth order?

WY: My oldest sister's name is Yuki, and she is born in 1921. My brother's name is Isamu, we call him Sam, and he was born in 1922, I believe. And then I was born in 1924. Then we had a little baby brother who tragically died in an accident, and my mother was having a postpartum depression and she was very, very, she felt very responsible for his death. So she consulted a psychic and he told her to have another child, and that's how we have the little girl whose name was Kiyoko, and we called her Kibo. But she passed away... I can't remember the year, in 1983 or something like that. It was a leap year.

TI: I'm curious, you mentioned your mother consulting a psychic. Was that like a Japanese?

WY: Japanese.

TI: And was that common? I've never heard of a psychic...

WY: I don't know. I think she, they subscribed to this Kashu Mainichi, which is the more liberal of the two newspapers. And I guess there was an ad in the paper for a psychic. But he just advised her, very common sense, that she should have another child. And to let you know the kind of psychic it was, if it's a girl, name her Kiyoko, Kiyo. And if it's a boy, name him... gosh, I can't remember the name, 'cause it was a girl.

TI: That's interesting.

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