Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Nancy K. Araki Interview I
Narrator: Nancy K. Araki
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: September 3, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-anancy-01-0002

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TI: Tell me about your father. What was, what was he like, growing up as a kid? How would you, how would people describe him in terms of, of personality, character?

NA: Very friendly, I guess. I think people would think about as a very thoughtful person. It's just very, there's a lot to say about him if you really want to know, but partly during his funeral I know Steve Nakajo from Kimochi just ended up sharing with us that "that was a man," because he would -- and this was when he was in his late eighties and nineties -- he took upon himself to help those in the senior center who were just recovering or coming out of their hospital stay, and he would just kind of help them walk the streets of Nihonmachi and he would have the person's arm and then would on the other hand have kind of like one of those cane seats, and so if the person got tired, opened the chair and let them sit. But he was really kind of like trying to get people thinking about getting better and healthy and all that.

TI: And do you think comes, in some ways, from... you talked about your grandfather and even though, you mentioned even though he had wealth he got very involved in community affairs. You mentioned the patronage at the orphanage. I mean, there was almost this family history of community service?

NA: I think so. There's always, even within the family, and I think my father must've inherited a lot of that. I know that he has stories of being very young and accompanying his father to the orphanage and, and other places, including geisha houses and going up for matsutake hunts with his grandfather and his father, and things like that. There was a lot of, full of story, but I know he was exposed to a lot, I'm sure, the adult going on. But he's also an entertainer. And one time I had said, because the grandfather eventually brought six of his nine sons to the United States as soon as they became old enough at the age of, my dad came over when he was twelve. Others came over when they were fifteen or thirteen, but soon as they were old enough he'd bring 'em over, or he'd call 'em over. Therefore my dad was a yobiyose.

TI: Well, so explain, so your grandfather emigrated from Japan to the United States? Or what was, what...

NA: Yeah. Well, as I was saying, that he was kind of an entrepreneur gambler type in that sense, and so, but as I said, dairy farm, how far do you go when nobody drinks milk and all of that, and eventually he, with all the land holdings and all he found himself in debt. And so there was some kind of scaling down of his property and in a way it's kind of like saving face now, and in order to do that he was trying to figure out, okay, where could he go? Some, my, my older uncle had told us that, well, the grandfather was thinking maybe about places like some southeastern, south Asian country, or maybe going to Brazil and all that. But at that time his second, second oldest son was asked by the somen association of the area, the Ibo No Ito association to go and to represent at them at the World's Fair and, and that was the first World's Fair, I think in San Francisco area. But he was to also go up to Seattle and check into the Fujiya because they have not paid for their somen shipment, saying that it was, had bugs and stuff. So in that process of coming to the United States, that son, Kinjiro, said, "Hey, you might like to think about the U.S., 'cause it might be a place." So that's how Grandfather came over, at the recommendation of this, his number two son who was here.

TI: So tell me, what did your grandfather do with his sons? What kind of business or work did he find?

NA: Well, as all immigrants or people who come over find, I mean, it isn't as easy and, and you can never really achieve what you could be or was in the old country, and so he ended up working, doing farm work. Now, back in his own property he had land, he had farming, he had, but he had workers doing it, but he certainly knew what to do, so I think looking at his records, he did do a typical Issei type of checking out and working at different farms and areas because shows that he was coming not quite down to Southern California, but in Monterey area, Merced area and Central Valley area and in the Delta.

TI: And when he came, did he come with your grandmother?

NA: No.

TI: So it was him and the six boys.

NA: No, not the six boys. He's all by himself. He just had that one son over here, and my grandfather didn't come on a immigration or, or... he came on a special visa and he came as a representative of Hyogo-ken to check up on the immigrants from Hyogo. Now, Hyogo-ken has very little immigrants because it's always had good weather and never had to face drought or any of that, so basically it was a political pass to come over and that's how he came, checking out, also laboring at the same time.

TI: And what year was this roughly?

NA: Oh, good grief.

TI: When he first came.

NA: Early 1900s, I guess.

TI: Okay, so early 1900s.

NA: Yeah.

TI: And what was the advantages of coming --

NA: No, no, it can't be. It can't be because my father would've been -- I mean, all the boys wouldn't have been born, 'cause he would've had to have been there to father the kids, right.

TI: So how, when was your father born? Let's try to figure out the math here.

NA: Yeah. Good grief.

TI: So he was --

NA: '08.

TI: '08?

NA: Yeah, I think it's '08. I should've brought all that with me. I didn't, I didn't even think about --

TI: No, that's okay. Well, it's part of why, you mentioned the, I wanted to kind of get into, he came over with a, kind of a more, a different type of visa, not, or, not to come as a laborer, so I was curious if he came after the Gentlemen's Agreement and that's why he had to come across, and that's why I was just curious about the date, in terms of in 1908 or so. So can you --

NA: No, he was here way before 1924 because by that time he had five of his sons and two of them went back to get brides before the close of the '25.

TI: But then you had also the Gentlemen's Agreement in 1907, 1908, 1907, and then it was hard to come over as a laborer, and so that's why I was wondering if that's why this particular relationship, political sort of thing, was important for him to come over, 'cause otherwise it'd have been difficult to come over.

NA: No doubt. Yeah, I mean, I'm sure all of that plays in there, but just having access, too.

TI: So your grandfather is over. He checks it out.

NA: Yeah, and he says, "Well, this is a possibility." So he starts to bring his sons over. The one is here, Kinjiro's here. Next two sons he brought over was, it was Satoji and Torao, the next two sons, and then, then came Tatsumi and then came my father. The last son, the number nine son came over after the Gentlemen's Agreement and came over for, in, as a worker in, I guess, it was a trade company, but he came there, so over here he has six sons. And the grandmother came only... so the thing goes, the boys get established and all and the father goes back to Japan. The, I guess, my father and the youngest son, Hideichi, they were gonna get married or were gonna announce the engagement. They all chipped in, brought the father and mother back to the United States for about a year, almost two year visit so that they could spend time with each of the families, and then that was the first and only time the grandmother came.

TI: Interesting.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.