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Title: Toshi Nagamori Ito Interview
Narrator: Toshi Nagamori Ito
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Laguna Woods, California
Date: November 9, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-itoshi-01-0002

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MN: Now, while your mother was working at the Ei Jogakkou, your mother was offered a job by the Methodist Foreign Missionary Society to go to Los Angeles to be a director at the Jane Couch Home.

TI: Right.

MN: This is a big decision. Do you know how she came to accept this offer?

TI: Well, I think she just thought it was a good opportunity for her because she didn't want to marry at the time. Because they had picked out a husband for her that she didn't want to marry. So I think this was a good escape.

MN: Did she ever share with you how she felt coming here by herself? Was she excited, was she scared?

TI: Well, the only thing she shared with me was that they gave her fifty dollars to outfit herself in American clothes. And she told me that she had two pairs of custom-made high-top shoes made in Japan for six dollars a pair each. And then the rest of the money was spent on buying underwear and dresses and a coat.

MN: Now, can you share with us, what was the Jane Couch Home?

TI: The Jane Couch Home was a shelter for the Japanese "picture brides." If their marriages didn't succeed or, you know, these "picture brides" came without knowing (...) about their husbands. And sometimes there were personality clashes, and sometimes these women were lied to, and sometimes these men were much older than they said they were. And so there was many obstacles for them. And so they, some of them came to the shelter to get away from their husbands, and they brought their children with them. And there were also orphaned children in this home that she took care of.

MN: Do you know how many children and women were at the shelter?

TI: No, I don't, but there must have been quite a few going and coming, you know. Some of them went back to Japan if their family was able to afford them going back. Others married other men. And so... but then when the Gentleman's Agreement came into effect, the Japanese brides stopped coming. And so finally the home closed.

MN: Now, at this shelter, what did your mother do? What were her responsibilities?

TI: She ran it like a co-op. All the women had chores, duties to do. They had to cook their meals and clean their rooms (...). And then they were encouraged to go to the Methodist church, which was in the neighborhood. The Japanese Methodist Episcopal Church. It became Centenary Church now, and it's down in Little Tokyo. (...)

MN: But at that time...

TI: At that time, it was on Normandie and Thirty-fifth Street.

MN: So the Jane Couch Home, was it connected to the church?

TI: No, no. They lived several blocks away.

MN: So this, this home was not in Little Tokyo, it was a little south of Little Tokyo.

TI: It was in the west side of Los Angeles.

MN: Do you know who Jane Couch was?

TI: No, I don't. I should look that up.

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