Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: PJ Hirabayashi Interview
Narrator: PJ Hirabayashi
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda, Tom Izu
Location: San Jose, California
Date: January 27, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-hpj-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Okay, so today's January 27, 2011. We're in San Jose at the Japanese Museum of San Jose. Helping with the interview is Tom Izu, on camera is Dana Hoshide, and I'm Tom Ikeda. We're here today with PJ. So PJ, I'm just gonna start with you at your beginning. Can you tell me where and when you were born?

PJH: I was born in 1950, May 18th, in San Rafael, California. It's a area north of San Francisco and it was basically non Japanese community.

TI: Okay, let's talk about, a little bit about your family, and let me start with your father's family. So tell me how your father's family got to the United States.

PJH: My father's family, I believe my... well, for sure on my father's side my grandfather actually came from Kumamoto and his family was involved in making sweets, and I think he just wanted to leave and escape. [Laughs]

TI: So like a confection?

PJH: Confection, yes, a confection store.

TI: And he wanted to escape. Was he like the, did he have siblings, your grandfather?

PJH: He had, yes, he did, but I never met that side of the family at all. He immigrated to California and ended up in San Luis Obispo area and worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad. And my grandmother was a "picture bride," and she too was from Kumamoto.

TI: Do you have any stories about the two of them and how they got along, or how them met or the first meeting, things like that?

PJH: I don't know how they met, actually. I've not really perused that part of my history. I'll have to go back and talk to my auntie, how they met, but I do remember as a child that my grandmother was kind of like my guardian angel. She, she was always taking care of me. My, both my parents were working during the day. On occasion my mother would take me to work with her, when she would be cleaning homes or shops, but most of the time Grandma took care of me. Grandpa was already retired and he was always putzin' around in the garden, always watering and growing things, and because the memories that I have of Grandpa is that he was very hunched, and that had to do a lot with, I think, the type of work he did with the Southern Pacific Railroad as an engine wiper. What I remember growing up, because my grandmother died when I was four years, four years old, and I just remember her being a big lady. I can feel her nurturing qualities and always protecting me, providing me with food. I remember the manju, I remember things like this in the home, really foreign things like the butsudan. Why do they -- cling and then, where do the rice go? Where did the manju go? They made me believe that something always took it away. [Laughs] The other thing about my grandfather, I thought that he was a very, well, at that time I was so young that I couldn't really call him "strange," but he was very different in that his diet was really different. He was really into holistic living, even at that early, those early years. One dollop of yogurt, some miso soup, a few garlic cloves, I just remember things like that. He would ask me to help him at age four, five, six years old, to help him light the mokusa, the moxibustion little things that he said, "Okay, just put it on the little dots on my back," so I would put it on the back and then give me the incense and I would light it up. But these are the memories that kind of like...

TI: Wow, and when you communicated with your grandparents, was it in Japanese or English?

PJH: You know, that's a curious question, because I know there was some kind of, more of a heart to heart connection, but I can't say that I could really understand Japanese, but there was some kind of understanding going on, obviously. I was not really fluent in either, well, Japanese, but even English. [Laughs] My speaking patterns, I think, were really affected having been, grown up, growing up with my grandmother and grandfather taking care of me, so...

TI: Because they would speak Japanese to you?

PJH: Japanese to me.

TI: So you understood at some point or at some level what, what they were...

PJH: There must've been, yeah.

TI: And a feeling, also.

PJH: Right. So I can't say that it was really words. It was just, maybe it was kind of like in with the Japanese and out with the English, but really affected me in school. I had no idea that I could not pronounce certain things. I thought that was just the way things were supposed to be. They put me into speech class at a very early age, like first grade, and they, I remember getting drilled, "Say milkman. Milkman." "Milkman." Very traumatic, like why did I get pulled out of class to be in here with these kids, that I thought were kind of... [laughs]

TI: And that was because, in terms of hearing these words, they were from, with a Japanese accent and that's why you had to do that?

PJH: Yes.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: Talk about your mother's family a little bit.

PJH: Mom's family, oh wow. She was, my, let's see, my mom herself was born in Calexico, California and she came from a huge family of ten kids, nine girls and one boy. My grandfather came from... oh my goodness, it's just left my -- Fukushima. And his family supposedly was connected to samurai, but I'm not sure. I think it was more, more farming, but this is what I heard. And my grandmother also came from Fukushima, and she too was a war, a "picture bride." And they, my grandfather was a foreman for a farm in Calexico that grew, I think it was grapefruits. So considering his position, I think the family was fairly okay. They're not, they weren't rich, they weren't really well off, but they were comfortable, especially with all those kids, and as a family I think they also helped a lot of the other immigrant Japanese that worked on the farm. My grandfather, I understood, had migrated, immigrated to Hawaii first, and I think he worked the sugar cane fields and then he came to California. This is, I don't have this really clear, but I think he came through Mexico, and he settled at a Catholic church and that's where he learned his English, is by reading the Bible.

TI: And do you know about what year, around when?

PJH: Oh gosh, the early 1900s. Yeah.

TI: Okay. And was the sense that he came through Mexico because he couldn't come straight to California? Was that the sense, or do you have any reason why Mexico?

PJH: I really don't know. I don't know if it was work that was taking him that direction or what, but yeah, I don't. That's kind of...

TI: And then, and then, interesting, then he learned English at a Catholic church or Catholic --

PJH: Yes, he was kind of the bell boy and I think that's where he was getting, like, room and board.

TI: And so did he become a Catholic or a Christian?

PJH: Yes, he did. He became a Catholic. That was kind of a --

TI: Was this like a Maryknoll?

PJH: Yes.

TI: Okay. And this was where in California?

PJH: Southern California, I'm not sure.

TI: Yeah, I know a little bit 'cause my mom was a Maryknoll, so I was raised Catholic because of the family connection.

PJH: Really?

TI: So it's always interesting, when people say Catholic, I say, "Well, Maryknoll?"

PJH: That -- oh, never mind. I'm very curious about that.

TI: Yeah. No, I, afterwards we can talk more. So during the, so let me go back, and what was your father's name?

PJH: Joe Nakanishi.

TI: And did he have a Japanese?

PJH: No.

TI: And how many siblings did your dad have?

PJH: Just one sister that was five years younger than he.

TI: Okay. And then your mother's name?

PJH: My mother, Alice. No Japanese middle name either.

TI: And she had nine siblings.

PJH: Yes.

TI: And where was she in the birth order?

PJH: Right, number five, right in the middle.

TI: Okay, so middle child. So you pair a middle child with a oldest or a, almost an only child, almost, in some ways, your dad, 'cause he was so much older than his sister. So during the war, what happened to your father, Joe? What was his experience?

PJH: The family was in San Luis Obispo and they were interned at, in Poston. He actually was able to leave the camp after, I'm not exactly sure, but maybe after a year or so. He was able to get work in Minnesota, kind of doing crop, crops up in Minnesota, Idaho, Wisconsin area.

TI: And he was, about how old was he? Like a, was he through high school at that point?

PJH: Let's see, yeah, he was finished with high school.

TI: Okay. And how about things like, was he ever drafted or anything like that?

PJH: No, but he was asked the question. My mom explains that he was a "No-No Boy," but not in terms of "no-no" of his allegiance, it was that he was the only boy, I think, and he could not automatically be drafted, was my understanding, but he asked, "Can I join the air force?" And he goes, they told him no, so he says, "Well no, I don't want to. I don't want to get drafted." [Laughs]

TI: So what happened to him?

PJH: He was, he stayed in camp until he got, he went out to work.

TI: Okay, so they allowed him to, on a work leave, to leave camp?

PJH: Yes.

TI: And then, and then from there, what, the war ended when he was outside of camp?

PJH: Yes. He was in Minneapolis by the time my mother also left camp.

TI: But, but... it'd be interesting to do more research because, so he didn't want to serve, but you just can't say, "I don't want to serve." There must've been some kind of process that he went through. I'm curious what he did.

PJH: Yeah, my dad passed away in 1975, so that was kind of like, about the time where I was trying to collect information, but my parents were elsewhere.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: Okay, so let's talk about your mother. So what happened to her during the war?

PJH: She was also in Poston with her family. At that time, let's see, one, two, three, yeah, all the kids were in Poston with, with the family, and she was one of the oldest ones that, that was in camp. The others were already married and out. One auntie was able to completely miss the camp experience because this auntie had gone to UCLA and was directed by one of, a lady that, she had a Jewish family, that said, "You're gonna go and stay with my brother in Minneapolis and you're not going to go to camp." So that's my aunt got to Minneapolis. And when my mom was writing to my auntie in Minneapolis, "I got to get out of here," [laughs] and so my aunt found a sponsor for her, another Jewish family, and she was able to go to Minneapolis and do housework.

TI: That's an interesting story, so a Jewish woman helped, I guess, your aunt to relocate in Minneapolis to avoid the camp situation?

PJH: Yes.

TI: And is there any more to that story, anything in terms of why this woman did this or this relationship with your aunt that you've heard over the years?

PJH: I think she was, like, a schoolgirl and living in the home of this Jewish family so that she can go to UCLA and of course they, they bonded very closely and when the camp experience came up, yeah, the family really wanted to help her.

TI: Do you know if there were any discussions about, you know, World War II, the Holocaust or anything between the families, in terms of a reason to help Japanese Americans?

PJH: I never asked my auntie that, but that's a really great question.

TI: I was just curious because of the timing and everything. So your, your mother goes to Minneapolis, and what does she do in Minneapolis?

PJH: Actually was, she was trying to finish up her last year in high school.

TI: High school or college? I thought she was --

PJH: High school.

TI: So I thought she was UCLA?

PJH: That was my auntie. My auntie, yeah.

TI: Oh, your auntie. Okay. I'm sorry. That's right, your mother now, so high school.

PJH: So she had just one more year to finish high school before she went into camp, and so she finished high school and she was also helping as a maid and doing house, housework.

TI: Did she have any stories about what it was like in Minneapolis for her?

PJH: Cold. [Laughs] That's where she met my dad. She would, the explanation was that, "Oh, there was this kind of funny guy that would come by and he always wanted to take me out and he, oh," was her explanation. [Laughs] And then one day this guy brought my dad with him and after that they, they got together.

TI: Oh, so initially she was, this other guy was interested?

PJH: She was with the other guy.

TI: But then, and then your dad was brought into the picture.

PJH: Yes.

TI: And she was more interested in your, in your dad than --

PJH: Well I don't know. She didn't, didn't really go into detail about that. "How did that happen?" "Oh, I don't know." [Laughs]

TI: Interesting. Okay, and so did they get married in Minneapolis?

PJH: They did. And my brother was born in Minneapolis, so my understanding, they had to get married. [Laughs] So yeah, my brother was born in 1945, September 1945, they were married in February of 1945.

TI: And, and so when the war was over, what happened next with your...

PJH: Oh dear, from there they went down to Arizona where my grandparents, her parents were, and they were staying there for a while and my mom, I think that the plan was to go back up to Minnesota, but my mom refused. "I'm not going to go back." So my father left her there for maybe a month or two and then he went and kind of cleaned up what was happening in Minnesota, came back down from Arizona, I believe they tried to, I think, I'm sorry, between Minneapolis and Arizona I think they tried to go outside in the Midwest a bit, but it didn't work out. She wanted to join her older sister whose husband was also farming in, it was either Idaho or Wisconsin, and then that didn't really fare out too well. That's how they went, ended up going to Arizona. From Arizona, then they went to Santa Barbara where my father's parents were living, and then from there my father got a job in San Francisco, so went up to San Francisco to repair cameras. I understand that he was even repairing Ansel Adams' cameras. He also, I guess my grandfather gave my parents some money to buy a home in San Rafael, and so that's how they got to San Rafael.

TI: And why San Rafael and not San Francisco?

PJH: Oh, I forgot, let's see, when he got the job in San Francisco he did, they did find a home through the Buddhist church. They had an apartment on Pine Street, so they lived there for a couple years and then from there they went to San Rafael.

TI: And so did he work in San Francisco, but they commuted from San Rafael? Or did he just start working in San Rafael?

PJH: Okay, I don't know how long he was doing the camera. I think maybe the camera repair was when they were in, in just San Francisco. They lived there until 1948 or so. 1948, '49 they bought the home in San Rafael. Then my father became a carpenter, and so he was, was just very, very talented with his, with his hands. I don't know if he actually went through carpentry school, but he was immediately on the line and building homes, and from there he was doing that for a number of years and then got work at the, the rad lab, the radiation laboratory in Livermore.

TI: Okay, that's a pretty long drive.

PJH: Yes, it was. [Laughs] It, let's see, that was probably about 1956 to 1958, he was, for a long time he was a carpenter and then the last two years in San Rafael he was commuting to Livermore, taking the ferry from Tiburan, I believe, to get over to East Bay and then drive to Livermore and come back, so he would have, like, fifteen hour days.

TI: Wow. Yeah, that's a long drive.

PJH: So that's why they decided, let's move. [Laughs] After two years of that, then they moved to Fremont.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: So let's, let's talk about you, because you came along in 1950, so this is when, San Rafael, but you have an older brother. And what's your older brother's name, the one born --

PJH: Larry.

TI: Larry?

PJH: Uh-huh.

TI: And any other siblings?

PJH: No.

TI: Okay, so Larry was '45 and then you were in 1950.

PJH: Five years' difference, yeah.

TI: And, and in terms of what people called you, was it always PJ?

PJH: No. You know, I can't remember what they because I think I had a number of nicknames, like Jojo, Stinky... I'm sure there was a Patti Jo. I was supposed to be Patricia, but my grandma could not pronounce that, so it went to Patti Jo. No, I don't really remember what my name was. [Laughs]

TI: Did, like your friends and things, you don't remember once you started school?

PJH: Well, from school I know it became Patti. Yeah.

TI: And, and do you know what, so when did it change to PJ?

PJH: Oh, that was after high school.

TI: So you can always, it's always interesting when I do this because when I was younger people always called me Tommy, my, my friends, but then at some point it just went to Tom. But you can always, my kids can always tell, when I'm out --

PJH: When your friends are?

TI: My friends, at what era these different, how they, they, what they call me. So probably same with you, there're people that will call you Patti and some PJ, and they can quickly know what era they came from.

PJH: Yeah. Same with me. I do recall having quite an identity problem with my name, because that was my given name. I didn't have a middle name. Patti Jo was my first name, so there weren't too many people that had, like, two names for the first name. And filling out, when you were able to fill out first name, middle name, it's like, where do I put the space, you know? [Laughs] I really had a hard time, and then I didn't have a middle name, I kind of felt left out, so there was kind of like this angst just being in my name.

TI: Well, so I should ask this, so legally, what was the name given to you at birth?

PJH: Patti Jo.

TI: So, and it was all together, Patti Jo or was it Patricia?

PJH: It's P-A-T-T-I space capital J-O. Patti Jo is my first name.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: So I want to go back to San Rafael and what it was like growing up in San Rafael for you, 'cause I think you mentioned earlier there was no Japanese up there, so what, who were your playmates growing up?

PJH: My playmates, my cats and dog. [Laughs] We lived on about, about two acres of property up in the hills in San Rafael. Very modest home, but a lot of trees. I remember growing up being a tomboy, climbing the trees, being like my brother, who would refuse to have anything to do with me. He would have friends that would come over, if I would tag along they would be really mean to me, try to get rid of me. So I was pretty much to myself, until about maybe four years old, there was another family next door to me that moved in. It was a Air Force man and his war bride from Japan and they had two children, and so the two children became my friends. Judy Flannery, Judy was blonde and blue eyes when she was little and she came knocking at the door -- and this is my mom answering the door -- and here's Japanese just comin' out of her mouth. She's kind of like startled, blonde, blue eyes. But Judy and I became really good friends.

TI: So your neighbor, Air Force, Japanese wife?

PJH: Japanese wife?

TI: And the children, blonde, blue eyes, so not hapa?

PJH: They were hapa, yeah. Her features started to change, because as she got a little bit older her eyes turned light brown and her hair turned light brown.

TI: So now you had playmates, then.

PJH: I had playmates.

TI: And they spoke Japanese.

PJH: The, I think there was that going on in the very beginning, but because she had, she was one year ahead of me she had to be immersed into school, so she had to learn English very rapidly. She was exposed to hearing English because of her father, but, yeah, her English developed very quickly when she was in public school. I never thought about that. We just seemed to just get along and, and play.

TI: Well that's why I'm curious, at what point did you become aware of your, that you were Japanese, or I mean, you looked different than others?

PJH: It wasn't until kindergarten. First day of kindergarten. So I have to say that before kindergarten I was a really confident kid, just full of myself. [Laughs] But once I went to school it, all of a sudden, the fingers started to be pointed at me and the "Ching Chong Chinaman," slant eyes, "Why is your nose flat?" That, actually, "why is your nose flat?" was the first day of school, and it really hurt me. Like, what do you mean? I can't remember being in an accident or anything. So going home that evening I, it was very hard for me, I think, to articulate what I was feeling, but my mom could obviously see I was, you know, not a, not happy camper, so I go, "My nose flat, my nose flat. Why is my nose flat?" She, then she said, "Well, you are of a different nationality." I can't understand this. "You're Japanese." And I remember at that time, "I don't want to be Japanese. I want to be like all the other kids." 'Cause I'm already getting taunted, so I want to just blend. I want to be accepted. Those are, yeah, some of the...

TI: And describe, so your classmates, what kind of community was San Rafael in terms of the families?

PJH: Oh, I was the only Asian in school, I believe.

TI: Were there other non whites in San Rafael?

PJH: Not to my recollection. In my class absolutely no color. I was the only one, but then my first "friend" was a Polish girl and, again, I think because other classmates would consider her different because she couldn't speak English very well, we became friends. So I can remember that pain of not being accepted.

TI: Were the families, like the occupations of the parents, was it more working class or middle class? What's your sense of San Rafael?

PJH: I think it was a combination working class and middle class. Yeah, San Rafael at that, it's known now as being kind of like a fairly affluent area, but the neighborhood that I grew up and I think it was a lot of working class.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: Okay, and so in terms of hobbies and things you liked to do with your friends, what, what were those things?

PJH: It was around the house, playing in the mud, making mud pies, playing Indians, just doing things very simply with what we had. There weren't the, a lot of toys. I didn't know, I didn't even have a bicycle, so we were just running around, climbing trees. But as I was growing up, of course the school experience really traumatized me and I think my mom knew that it really dashed my self confidence and my self esteem that she said she wanted to have me have more poise and confidence, so "Why don't you go to dance class?" So I went to, I took dance classes from age five to age fourteen, tap, ballet, acrobatics. So it was, my mom really revolved her life around that part of my recreation, making costumes and everything, taking me to...

TI: And during performances, what kind of roles did you play during dance performances?

PJH: You know, line dance with all the little, other little kids in the same costume. I was usually the, the littlest, and I just remember my first picture taking of being in a line of like maybe fourteen kids and the photographer always getting mad at me and telling me -- I had a parasol and it kept on going... and he said, "Get that thing up." And he would do that, like, half a dozen times and I just remember him being so irritated with me and, again, I was like... "I can't do anything right."

TI: But during this time did you start getting, did you enjoy performing?

PJH: I did, yeah. My, I remember my dance teacher thinking that I was fairly gifted in dancing, and she would put me in the front and other kids would have to follow me. Like I said, I can kind of still feel a sense of, it's like two different people, outside school and inside school, 'cause the dancing is like, here I'm, not on a pedestal, but like all of a sudden I can just be myself or find a potential of just having creativity come out of my body. I didn't feel that at all in school, so I did feel like I had two different lives.

TI: And what was it about school that you felt so, I guess, limited or constrained? What was it... what was it?

PJH: I think a combination of, again, being not accepted but also my parents are, I remember my parents always talking about manners, but in talking about manners they would say, "Never brag, don't bring attention to yourself, don't rock the boat," so of course I became the quiet, silent Asian in class, formulating my own opinions and sharing was, I think I was all, kind of shy still, even though my body was like very confident.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: Well, in terms of, how about, like, academically, grades, how would you do in school?

PJH: I was okay. I think I was above average, but I knew that we were tracked. I could see the, at least at grade, third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade, that the tracking, and I saw that I was in the lower track. And then by fifth grade, fourth grade I went into the middle track, and then by sixth and seventh grade I went into the upper track. That's all I remember.

TI: Any, like, extracurricular activities at school?

PJH: Let's see. Along with the dancing, my mom also, not decided, but I think, like, one of the neighborhood girls also wanted to learn how to roller skate, so she and I went to the roller rink and maybe about two, two and a half years I took roller skating lessons at the rink, how to dance the waltz and the cha cha, on skates, and do a little bit of figure skating on roller skates. So my mom had me do that. Those are the two things that I remember up through eighth grade, seventh, eighth grade. High school became a different thing. It became more school activities. I think I was still dancing just for a couple years, and then a letter girl with marching band. Irvington, I was the "I." And imagine trying to stay in line with a long line of girls. [Laughs] That was kind of a time where I still felt very shy and, but that kind of got me to interact with a large number of other schoolkids. I would say that that was considered like the nerds, the marching band, music kids along with the letter kids, as opposed to the cheerleaders and the jocks. So this was, like, in my sophomore year or so. And then I became a cheerleader. [Laughs] And that was kind of like this new opening of confidence that I did not seek to go and become a cheerleader, just one of the cheerleaders was a very good friend of mine, who did not have an attitude. But she taught me how to jump, and she goes, "Wow, you can jump high. Wow, that's really wide. I think you should try out for being a cheerleader." And I go, "Oh," in back of my head, "they'll never pick me 'cause I'm Japanese." And I remember going through my brother's old school, annual school books and, were there any Japanese? Were there any? No, none, none. They'll never take me. They'll never take me. Well, during the tryouts I guess I wowed them over with my jumps. Not that I could really project, but I must've been jumping, had a lot of energy, so I became the VJ, or not the varsity, but the younger...

TI: The junior varsity?

PJH: The junior varsity, yeah, cheerleader, and so that was my junior year. Senior year I became a varsity cheerleader, so in a way it's kind of like this little increment of acceptance that I started to feel like, oh, I'm feeling better. I'm feeling better about myself.

TI: So by the time you were a senior in high school you're now a cheerleader.

PJH: Right.

TI: Do you, do you feel like you're, so how do you feel about being Japanese at this point?

PJH: I didn't, I didn't know. I still didn't know. I didn't have a boyfriend, so all along that time, again, "Oh, nobody will like me. I'm having all these crushes on other guys, oh, they'll never look at me." So there was kind of that hesitancy to be really social. Even in my junior year I remember my mother taking me out for Chinese food because that was the night that they were having the junior prom and I wasn't going, and she was just trying to console me. She knew my spirits were dashed, so that was something that, again, didn't make me feel confident. Yeah.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: So I'm gonna switch gears a little bit. How about Japanese culture? Did you, were you exposed to any of that growing up?

PJH: It would be intermittent, and that would be whenever we got together with my family in Los Angeles. I would see a little snippet of Japanese culture here and there. Of course we would see snippets of Japanese culture in our home, like the classical Japanese dolls in glass cases, chopsticks, of course, eating Japanese food, but I really didn't have that many Japanese friends. They might have been through when I was little, when we lived in Marin county, there was, like, a whole Japanese association in Mill Valley area that my parents would go and do activities with them there, so this is kind of like, that kind of introduction. We would even go to San Francisco Japantown. My brother went to Japanese language class, but that didn't last more than a year. He hated it, dropped out. [Laughs]

Tom Izu: Where was that at?

PJH: That was in San Francisco. Yeah, so it would be every weekend and I remember going with my parents, family, drive my brother to Japantown, Nihonmachi, drop him off. But you know, it's really weird that I could not fathom what it was, what this community was, because it was all turned over because it was the redevelopment area. Of course, I didn't know that. I just thought Japanese, I remember seeing on movies and... war. I thought redevelopment and all these buildings that were torn down were a result of war. Yeah, it's kind of...

TI: Interesting.

PJH: Yeah.

TI: And did you ever go to, like, I'm thinking especially with your background, like Bon Odori, the Obon dances, did you ever see that?

PJH: No. Maybe I saw maybe once or twice in, where was it, in Mill Valley area. It, it was really foreign to me. It was, I didn't feel comfortable. I remember not feeling comfortable, and also hearing a lot of Japanese. It's like, where am, what is this?

TI: Now, you went when you, you mentioned sometimes you'd go down to Los Angeles, and when, there were, like, cousins down there or your family's down there?

PJH: Right.

TI: When you came across relatives kind of your age, how was that for you? So here are Japanese Americans, they're related, how did you feel about, about that?

PJH: I think we just played whenever we got together. Ate a lot of food. Of course, there's Grandma and Grandpa who spoke Japanese, very limited, it's like, "Uh-huh, uh-huh. What did she say?"

TI: So would your cousins be able to understand that?

PJH: No. So there was kind of this absence of real, real communication.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: Good, so let's move on after high school. So what happened after high school?

PJH: After high school, okay, well, during high school, of course, it was Vietnam War. I would say that even in my junior, senior year I was really questioning a lot about the war.

TI: 'Cause this is around 1967, '68?

PJH: Yes, uh-huh. My, I think, '68 for sure, I think I would've a been a hawk, if you, instead of a dove, in that I remember asking my, my teacher, 'cause I had heard this before, had we bombed China during World War II or whatever -- I can't even remember the, how I was thinking -- maybe we wouldn't have problems with Communism. So Communism was the, the fear. You know, fight Communism. But it wasn't until I went to Cal State Hayward that I befriended some other people that were more peace activists and they were into anti war movement, and they were white. So because they were friends of mine, I, of course, joined in with them. They kind of pulled me over to being a part of, an anti war activist.

TI: I think about 1968 in, like, race relationships, so you had the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968, what did you think of that, when that happened?

PJH: I remember being in chemistry class and the teacher coming in and announcing that. The first thing, I have to say, am very embarrassed to say, is that, "Oh, we don't have to have our test today." That's the first thing that went through my head, but seeing, seeing how my teacher was responding, all of a sudden there was a sense of emotion, of, that suddenly penetrated me. It's like, oh, something really, really big happened. I think I was apathetic, politically. Growing up, my parents were Republicans and they would always tell my brother and me, "Don't talk about what we are to your friends, because we don't want to cause any problems."

TI: The fact that they're Republican, don't tell your friends?

PJH: Right, just in case, so they never would want to openly reveal the, what party they belonged to.

TI: This is really interesting, PJ, your, your background. This is so different than, say, Roy's background. [Laughs]

PJH: Oh yeah. [Laughs] How did we get together?

TI: So let's get to Cal State Hayward, and so you, your friends are anti war and so you start to go to meetings?

PJH: Anti war meetings and doing a lot of protests, and even going to where my dad worked at Lawrence Radiation Laboratory and demonstrating out there and just gettin' my butt whipped. You know, going "What are you trying to do? You know you're gonna try to get your dad lose his job?" And they're going, oh. And by accident I would like, oh, but don't you get it? They're apathetic. My parents are apathetic. But it was during that year, it was my first year in, in college, that here we were all anti war, there were other anti war groups on campus as well, and that was the Asian contingent. So here I remember, I remember walking in protests with a group of white students going this way and Asian students -- it was against the war -- they were coming from, like, a different direction, and it was like, those are, that's my face over there, but I'm over here. It's kind of like, again, weird feeling. And it was also kind of timely, too, that one of the real, real active students on campus that was Asian happened to be a girl that I was doing judo with. We were taking judo as one of our PE courses. And her name is Julie Sumida and Julie would tell me -- and we were judo partners -- "Oh, can you help me with my homework? Meet me at the Asian Studies Center." "Okay, I'll meet you at the Asian Studies Center." We were taking some, like some geography class or something and she wanted me to help her with her homework. "Meet me over there." I go in there and it's like, what is this? And it was in a mobile unit, and I just remember going in and plopping myself down there and kind of waiting for her to show up, but in the meantime there's other people, "Oh hi, what are you doing here?" "I'm waiting for Julie." "Oh, could you file this for me?" I go, "Uh, well, sure," so here I'm starting to file, file for, I don't know what this is all about. I know...

TI: But I sense, I mean, you were, you were a little uncomfortable being there.

PJH: I was uncomfortable because, yeah --

TI: Was it, was it because it was an Asian American --

PJH: Well, that was part of it. That was part of it, plus I'm not, I wasn't really good about feeling comfortable making new friends, so strangers, like, kind of quiet. But here, "Do this." "Oh, I'll do that." "Okay, do this." Julie never came. So she did that again to me, you know, "Meet me at Asian American Studies." "Okay. Done." Then I would help her with her homework or we would get together and then we start eating lunch and then all of a sudden this new circle of friends developed. Louie Lee, who was the Asian American Center Director, he was a big Chinese guy with this huge "Fu Manchu" beard and always smoking, and he'd be going barefoot, smash out his cigarettes with his feet. That's just the character he was and he was very intimidating, but he was just a real soft hearted guy. That I knew. Then he goes, one day, maybe several months into this me being at the center, Louie says, "Hey, can you come with me?" I was known as Patti still, but still converting to PJ, so that was the time. "Come with me to the president's office. We have to kind of talk with him." So just me and him, we go to the president's office and he starts talkin' up a storm and starts swearing, and I'm going, what am I doing here? I just felt like kind of melting. And he says, "I'm getting really mad now. I'm gonna pick up this chair, I'm gonna throw it, so be careful." He's telling the president this. [Laughs] And he throws the chair. I'm going, oh my god, what am I doing here? But that was kind of like my indoctrination.

TI: And why do you think he picked you? Why were you there?

PJH: I was the only one that was in the center that day. [Laughs] And I think he had an appointment. Oh, that was kind of like starting to harden me, and by that time I started to hear a lot of the, like being politicized a lot more. It was, rallied a lot around Asian, the Vietnam War.

TI: Well, going back to that incident, you said it hardened you, so after going through that experience, was that something that said, "Okay, so this is something I believe in and want to support"? Or when you --

PJH: Yes. Yes, because, but it was kind of the means to the end, I didn't feel comfortable with the means. The end was, like, Asian Studies, Asian Studies, give us more resources. And that I believed in. But I was also starting to be more active with the Asian contingent of anti Vietnam War.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: Now, in those early days, I mean, how would you describe your feeling when you were around other Asian Americans versus your white friends? Was there a difference in how you felt?

PJH: Yes. I think there was a mild transformation and then a very cathartic transformation, because I knew when I was little that I did not want to marry a Japanese guy. And that's what I believed in, but when I started to march with all these other Asians, I'm going, hmm, Asian guy, they're not bad. They're not bad. [Laughs] So I think sexuality for men and women, looking at myself and also being interested in Asian men was kind of in the same time as getting involved with Asian American Studies.

TI: And how about you in terms of your personality? Were there any changes during this time?

PJH: Oh, very much so. Because one of the classes that I had taken that was offered through the center was Japanese American experience and of course the internment experience, these were all new to me, but it, or it became, it kind of fell into place, like now I understood what "camp" meant, as opposed to my parents' reference to camp very subtly as we were growing up. I would remember hearing my father talk about cooking lots of food and I would go, "How come, Dad, you don't cook for, for the house, for the family?" He goes, "I know only how to make a lot of food for a lot of people." [Laughs] But I could never understand why, but he always would reference that to camp. Of course, in my mind I'd think maybe it's summer camp. And other parts of camp, like my mother said, "That's where I lost a lot of weight. It was so hot and dusty and this," but they never talked anything specific. So not, for the first time hearing about the camp as a freshman in college, nineteen years old, it was like, wow, how is that I never heard about this tragic incident? It's not written in the book. We never heard about it as I was growing up. That's, I became incensed, all of a sudden it was more like American government, government and looking at it in terms of the "establishment" and being denied of our rights. So that was kind of like the coming of age of my politics.

TI: Well, and it was also during the Vietnam War, kind of protests, the Civil Rights Movement, a lot of things were happening right, right at that time.

Tom Izu: I wanted to ask what, did you talk to your parents much during this, all these changes going on, and what kind of relationship did you have with them?

PJH: Actually, they moved away. That's the other traumatic experience. My, my father got a job from the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory and he left in 1972 and my mother and he moved to Saipan. He got a job as a kind of mechanical engineer out there. It was a civil service job. But when they moved there they sold their house in Fremont and once they left it was like, where's home? So there was a sense of angst there, too. There was no real physical home. I always related home to being something geographic and now that my parents were in this foreign place, I never went to Saipan, never related to it, so there was that happening, too. So yeah, they weren't there from about, I'm sorry, about 1971, '71, '72.

Tom Izu: Did they have expectations of you when you were going to college and what to major in and all that?

PJH: Hmm. [Laughs] First year in college, I wanted to be a computer analyst, but we're talking about punch cards and my programs would never come out. Error, error, error. I knew that I wasn't really in the right field. So I remember the first, after knowing that math was not gonna be my major, I would just take a catalog and go... Journalism. Oh cool, journalism. And it was in journalism class that I was able to write about the camp experience. And I remember my teacher going, "Dark moment in history. This is a fine paper. You did a really great job," because I also, for the first time, wrote, asked my mother, "What was that like?" That got into the paper. So yeah, it was the first time for me to uncover a lot of my cultural past and, and there was anger, but also the critical mass of students also coming to terms with the same things that I was. I, going to rallies, going to community events, okay, this is the turn around. Protesting for the war, there was a platform within the Asian American community that, you know, all fine and dandy, but it's got to stop. We have to realize that the war is happening here on our own turf, here in our own communities. Our seniors are not being serviced, da da da. And I was involved in Asian American, well, the center, and then I transferred to Berkeley, UC Berkeley after my second year and I got involved with Asian American Studies there, took classes with Harry Edwards, and again, a lot more to be learned about third world people.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: So as all this is going on, it's almost like this transformation. It's interesting that you change your name about this time, too, from Patti Jo to PJ.

PJH: Yes.

TI: Did you consciously change your name? I mean, was this something as part of your transformation?

PJH: Yes.

TI: Do you consciously remember, "I'm gonna change my name to PJ"?

PJH: Uh-huh.

TI: And, okay.

PJH: It just felt, well, there were a number of things that went into that. It's kind of like discarding that past that was painful and not being into my, my name to begin with. PJ was also something that could not, I could not be distinguished either male or female, so I liked that. Yeah.

TI: And personality-wise, what, how, what did you transform... I have a sense of where you were before, but what, how would describe your transformation?

PJH: Transformation, becoming a lot more verbal. I would say confident. Main thing is, like, I didn't get on the track of the expectation of my parents. I wanted to go into social science, I wanted to become social worker, and my father would say, "Don't be a social worker. That's the system that's gonna rip all the taxpayers off." [Laughs] And anything that was kind of like into community or social service, it was not going to pay the bills. That was the fear. I had also taken some art classes and some music classes when I was at Cal State Hayward, in between that math and where am I gonna go next, and I would hear, get an earful from my parents, "Well, that's not gonna pay the bills. Get something that you can fall back on." Once I transferred to Berkeley there was --

TI: And before we go there, I just want to touch on, just so that, 'cause I asked Roy the same question, but in that punch card class was the first time you met Roy?

PJH: Yes.

TI: So tell me about that in terms of your first impressions of Roy.

PJH: [Laughs]

TI: [Laughs] Now this is recorded. Could be edited, though.

PJH: Hi, Roy. No, let's see, it was a summer school class and I just remember, I think there was just, he and I were the only Asians in the class. I just remember him being kind of a skinny Asian boy and I, to this day I do remember his watch being, being worn up his forearm, so I go, he's pretty skinny. [Laughs] Just a really nice guy, helped me out in the class, no, no romantic interest at all.

TI: But you approached him, you asked him to help you?

PJH: No, we were always sitting at the table and trying to do our, our programs. He did ask me to go out and it's like, I don't know if I really want to go out, but, oh, I do like Blood, Sweat & Tears. [Laughs] So he got tickets to go see Blood, Sweat & Tears, and he had to come to our home in Fremont, pick me up, and my mom, I think both my parents met him and they go, "Oh, what a nice boy. What a nice boy." I think they just trying to get me to go date somebody, another Asian boy. I said, "Yeah, he's a nice guy," but that's it.

TI: Okay, good story. I, yeah, I just wanted to, to get your side of the story. Roy tells it a little bit differently, so... he doesn't give as many details.

PJH: Oh, okay, okay. [Laughs]

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: So let's go to Cal, I'm sorry, to Berkeley now.

PJH: Berkeley. Okay, transferred to Berkeley, it's the first time that I am living away from home 'cause I was commuting to Hayward, Cal State Hayward, and so I was living in an apartment. I didn't do the route of living in the dorms. This is my junior year, trying to determine, again, what my major would be, so it was social science field major. I understand that they no longer have it because it's probably too easy to graduate out of, but I was able to select different social science classes or departments. Sociology, ethnic studies, and I believe, not anthropology... see, I can't even remember.

TI: And did you get very involved in the politics while you're at Berkeley?

PJH: Actually, it was after a lot of the strikes. Asian American Studies was already established. At that time it was the push, in Asian American Studies is not, there wasn't all that much information to be gained from books 'cause the books weren't written. A lot of speakers coming in to speak about certain experiences, but the whole platform for Asian American Studies was community work. So community work I got very much involved in. Again, it was kind of like the ripple effect from the Third World Strike, anti war service to community, so I was very interested with working with Issei and I felt that that would be a good place to be because I knew that I never knew my grandparents and I thought that would be a good way to reconnect. And at that time it was San Francisco State, Berkeley, San Jose, East Bay all together, students from all these campuses were working on the Issei Project, and that, again, kind of gained momentum, like wow, this network of people's just getting bigger and bigger. And so what we started off with, and I was getting credit for through Asian American Studies, was to service the Issei, and the first thing that we were thinking to do was to do, take them onto field trips, like maybe twice a month. And after twice a month, like maybe through the summer, the students would say, wait a minute, are we gonna be doing this forever, just taking them on field trips where their needs, there's definitely other needs, there're social services that are not being met. They don't even know what their rights are. They're not even receiving benefits. We have to also kind of erase their own perceptions of not wanting to receive benefits. So that was how, I think, the senior service projects started, with East Bay Japanese for Action, and that's where Roy and I reconnected after that computer class. And also at Hayward State his brother who had just come out of the army was also going to the center and that's how we started to get back to, well, actually, introduced into Roy's family, because his family became involved with the East Bay Japanese for Action, too.

TI: So during this time, who were your role models? Were there any role models that you saw as strong women in terms of, that you looked up to?

PJH: You know, I have to say that, I know these two incidences, well, there's Pat Sumi. Of course she was like really heavy, politically involved with being Maoist. These women that could articulate and kind of like walk the line, kind of, I thought, yeah, those were kind of role models. But it was actually seeing taiko by San Francisco Taiko Dojo and it was during these community get-togethers, like revolving, not only the Issei Project, but there was like, because of the network that we created, there were other community events happening all around the Bay Area. And San Francisco Nihonmachi, there was a cultural evening community gathering, San Francisco Taiko Dojo was playing on stage at the Buddhist temple, at the church, and that was the first time I felt the drums right there. People were just sitting in, at tables at this potluck and they're watching the program. You see mother and a daughter on stage playing taiko and all of a sudden it's like, wow, they're just playing as equals on that stage, and that was very empowering for me to see that. It's kind of like gender difference got totally erased and I could see myself, being a tomboy, that's what I want to do. I feel that. I feel that. I connect with that. So to see these women on stage kind of like, really was very empowering. That's one.

Another thing during that whole period was Chris and Joanne, Chris Iijima and Joanne Miyamoto, they were going through all these different communities and singing at events, and it was, it was the songs that they were singing that all of a sudden, they're singing my song. They're singing about me. They're talkin' about my Asian identity. I'd never heard this before, and I, I do remember feeling like, wow, this is a completely different medium to really call people together, bring people together. It's like, this is more powerful than any political rhetoric, 'cause I can feel that goin' through my body. The one thing that really hit me was their final dance and song, and they started to play Tanko Bushi on a guitar, but just whaling on the guitar with English phrases and had the entire audience get up in a circle and, and dance. It was really different. [Laughs] A different Tanko Bushi than I thought that I knew. But it was like, I looked around and I just remember feeling totally immersed and no timeframe at all, but just seeing people connecting in the circle, just dancing. And I go, wow, this really hit me. I remember, I can still feel the sweat comin' down, it lasted a good fifteen minutes or so, just dancing, and I was like, what was that all about? But those two, those two episodes kind of like informed me, something that needed to come out.

TI: And so how did you let that come out? What, did you actively do anything to start making that happen?

PJH: No. [Laughs] 'Cause all that was happening just, just right before graduating from Berkeley and when I graduated from Berkeley some other friends decided, two other women from other schools, decided to go to Japan and we decided to go to Japan. So this is the pre Alex Haley journey to discover roots, and also because my parents were in Saipan, I thought that would be a good way for me to check out what was happening in Saipan and then going to Japan.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

PJH: So never having traveled outside the U.S. ever before, after I graduated I went to Hawaii first. I had friends that I met as students at Berkeley and told me, "Just stay with us," so I stayed there for, like, maybe about a week before going to see my parents in Saipan. But it was kind of like this cultural shock just going to Hawaii.

TI: So Honolulu?

PJH: Yeah, look at all those Asians. I never saw that ever before, all these Asians.

TI: And how did that feel for you, seeing all those Asians?

PJH: Strange. It was really strange. But there was something very comforting, like wanting to identify, 'cause I already got my feet wet. Yeah, but then there was, like, a really different sense of Asian culture that it, wow, this is really different. I remember my Hawaii friends would say at Berkeley, "What are you guys always talkin' about identity, community?" I says, "Don't you get it?" So I go there and I go, oh, that's why they're asking, asking me that. [Laughs] Then from there, going to Saipan was like a whole, another... Saipan just pocked with all these, from bombs and artillery against the mountains and even seeing tanks immersed in the ocean. This is where "paradise" was, where people from Japan were coming as their holidays, and I just thought, wow, this is such a, a weird juxtaposition of things. Swimming in the ocean and still feeling, like, artillery shells in the sand. It's just weird. Coming out of being anti war, going, wow, that's amazing. That's where all the Japanese prisoners, I mean, Japanese, when they knew that they could not hold out the island, they, they committed suicide by jumping off the cliff, they had a suicide cliff. So there, there's all these things that kind of like started to come in, really flash, flashback, a flash of historical information for me to process.

TI: And when you're there and your parents are there, did you ever have any conversations about war with your father during this time?

PJH: No. No, I was just too hot. It was really, extremely hot. I mean, just breathing, I would be sweating. I was miserable. I was there for about a week.

TI: Did your parents give you any advice or thoughts during this week? Here you had just graduated from college, what were their, their hopes for you?

PJH: They were, they were actually looking more forward to my going to Japan, 'cause they knew that they would have to support me some way and, and help me, so they were a little bit concerned about where I was gonna be going, what I would be doing, so there was more of that kind of concern. Not so much about... what kind of job. [Laughs]

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: So tell me about your experiences in Japan. What was that like?

PJH: Oh jeez, I think I really thought that I was going back to my roots to say this is motherland, you know. I would figure it out, like this is my people, for the first time understanding that I can kind of blend. It was not the case. It was not the case. Over time, like within a few months I had to look for, for work and ended up teaching English, and I did try to get a job at, like, either a Burlett school or something, but they told me right out, "Oh, our students wouldn't accept you because you're not blonde and blue eyed. They won't think that you're speaking real English, so they would prefer to have, like, the King's English over American English and a Japanese face." So I said, oh my god, dashed again. Not accepted here either. Go in, try to find my own apartment, of course my Japanese language was very, very poor and next to nil, but trying to find apartment and the realtor would say, "Oh, are you from the country?" [Laughs] Well, that was kind of like a compliment. At least he thought I was Japanese.

TI: Well, you never know about the Japanese, what they were thinking, right? [Laughs]

PJH: "From the country?" [Laughs] So yeah, I just felt, again, ambivalent and marginalized. Could not fit in in America, could not fit in Japan, so, 'cause I did not pursue doing anything cultural there. I was teaching English and just kind of getting immersed into survival techniques, how to live on my own.

TI: And how long were you in Japan?

PJH: About a year, one year. I wanted to stay longer. I can feel my Japanese starting to kind of kick in, but my grandmother in Los Angeles had a series of strokes, and so I heard that the family had to take turns to take care of her when she got out of the hospital, and I thought to myself, oh my god, I don't want to lose this time to -- I can communicate with her, for the first time. I'll go back home. I was really thinking about staying longer and I was actually thinking about going by way of, like, Russia, Trans-Siberian Railroad and going through Europe and coming back home, but that wasn't the case. I ended up going straight to Los Angeles and thinking, "Yay, I can communicate with Grandma." Started talking Japanese and she'd just laugh at me 'cause it was "modern," modern Toyko-ben. And she was still Meiji, so she would just laugh, and still there were moments that kind of missed in communication, but it was the first time that I was communicating with my grandma.

TI: That's special.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: And then what happened after Los Angeles?

PJH: After Los Angeles? So I came back home in July of 1973... correct, '73, so from '73, July to the fall, I stay with my, to take care of my grandma, and for last two months of the year I went to Santa Barbara to live with my, my brother. And I worked with him at Straw Hat Pizza. [Laughs] And that was just to reestablish myself, try to get some money and try to determine where I was gonna go again, but that was like, I'm gonna go back to Berkeley, I'm going to major in social welfare and maybe law combined, or social policy. That was something that was, I was gravitating towards. And then, before the end of the year, Roy told me, "Hey, there's a job here in San Jose and they're looking for an Asian woman." I'm thinking, Asian woman. [Laughs] And it was with the planning department, and I thought, well, I do want to get back up to the Bay Area and I do want to make some more money before I really get into school, so I put a resume together and applied for this position. I got, I got through the screening and they told me that, "We really like your resume, your experiences, but this is a job for being an intern as a student at San Jose State, so for you to get this job you have to be a student at San Jose State with the planning department." What the heck is the planning department? And I really wanted it bad enough that, okay, and it said, "Well, do you think you would want to..." they encouraged me, actually, to apply to get in the school and it was like already, just about, they had already cut off applications, but they let my application slide through. Mike Honda, who was the ombudsman at that time and had helped me get in, he was actually on the committee to screen who would be selected on this program, and yeah, people bent over backwards, I got in as a grad student.

TI: But it was kind of in a different area than you originally were thinking of doing.

PJH: Totally, 'cause I was just like one track mind, job, job. And what is planning? Still asking, what is planning?

TI: [Laughs] But it got you a job.

PJH: It got me the job and Asian American Studies, Roy had just graduated from San Jose State and I wanted to get involved with Asian American Studies again as a grad student.

TI: And he was also starting up this new thing at the Buddhist church with taiko also.

PJH: Yeah, that had already started by the time I had come. Yeah, just started. In fact, I was in Los Angeles, coming, having come back from Japan, with my grandma when Roy and Reverend Abiko and Dean Miyakusu actually were coming down to Los Angeles to pick up the first drums and then, before going back to San Jose, dropped by to see me. And so in a way it was like I saw the beginning of San Jose Taiko with the first drums.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: Now, were you interested, because I, going back to those, to the, to that moment when you first saw San Francisco Taiko...

PJH: Absolutely. Yeah, I thought, yay. But at that time I didn't have any plans of moving back to San Jose. It was like, Berkeley. So, oh, by coincidence, now that I'm gonna get this job, oh, taiko's going on.

TI: Now, so what came first, taiko or Roy?

PJH: Taiko or Roy?

TI: [Laughs] I mean, not first terms of your emotions, but in terms of, sequentially, were you, were you becoming involved with Roy or... [PJH shakes head] okay, so it was...

PJH: No, but he helped me a lot. I would, I regarded him as a brother, you know.

TI: 'Cause here he gets you a job and --

PJH: He helps me with the job, he also helped a lot in Japan. This is one thing I also, want to go back to Japan, I, in teaching in English there was one student that worked for a TV company and he was a leftist during his years as a student, and so I didn't have anything, no English manuals to refer to, but I took Yellow Pearl, the first creative edition of Asian American poetry and music, and I took that to Japan. And I referred that, I referred to that as my English lessons, and I happened to meet one gentleman, Matsunaka-san, who became very intrigued about learning English, but his, but he wanted to know more about the Asian American experience. And I said, and I just said one time during the lesson, I said, "I wish more people could know more about this." Next week he comes, he goes, "You want to be on TV?" [Laughs] "How about, how about we present the Asian American experience?"

TI: And you would be the spokesperson? [Laughs]

PJH: Yes. Yeah. And so I go, "Great," but of course I thought I couldn't do this by myself, so I, I contacted two other "sisters" who were in Japan at that time, Maryann Okumura, I don't know if you know Maryann, and Yuki Shiroma who's an artist in Hawaii now. But they were activists also in the time that we were all here in Bay Area, so anyway, I said, "You want to tell the story? Let's get together." So we actually wrote to all kinds of people here, Belva Davis, Jen Yanahiro, all kinds of, Roy, people from Asian American studies, "Can you send us resources 'cause we're gonna, we got a chunk of time on TV, national TV in Japan?" It was called the Morning Show, The Morning Show, seven o'clock in the morning, but we really pulled together a program where we can kind of share our personal experiences and it was really phenomenal. Here are all these housewives that are sitting behind us and we're sitting at a table with an interpreter and the host of the program, and they start off like, "Ohayo gozaimasu," and it was planned. "Good morning." They wanted us to... "Ara? You speak English." [Laughs] So that's how it kind of like was the opening and...

TI: 'Cause you look Japanese, but you speak English. I see. Got it.

PJH: Exactly. So I think that was the beginning. I think that might have been, perhaps, the first televised sharing of the Asian American experience. I wanted to have a Chris and Joanne song being sung by a group in Japan and I approached them because I love their music. It reminded me of that Tanko Bushi, and I asked them if they could sing a Chris and Joanne song and they go, "Oh, we don't want to be waving a yellow banner." I was like, my goodness, dashed again. But anyway, we had, like, their recorded music in the background. It was maybe about a twelve minute show, fifteen minute show.

TI: And what was the, the impact afterwards? I mean, did you hear much about that show?

PJH: Well, it was funny because I, after leaving the stage and going to the coffee shop, somebody from the TV station comes up and says, "You have a telephone call." Who could it be? "Hey PJ, this is Yuji." It's my Japanese language teacher from Cal State Hayward. "I'm at home and I was eating my breakfast and I'm reading the paper and I hear something that sounds really familiar and I look up and I see you." [Laughs] So that was a response.

TI: Was this like a NHK?

PJH: It was not, it was NET. Nihon Educational Television, I think. So that, okay, that chapter, so anyway.

TI: So that was another example where Roy helped you out a little by, by sending...

PJH: Yes, thank you. Thank you for getting back on track. Yeah, so he sent resources over. So this is how the blossoming, like, the, between PJ and Roy. It's like, I always like, oh Roy, not interested in that, but because he really helped me, it's like, that guy is so nice, but this other little voice in my brain going, give the guy a chance. Be nice to him. [Laughs] So I was already prepared to be nice to him, when I came back.

TI: But then, so it sounds like you got involved with San Jose Taiko first before a relationship started?

PJH: No, kind of both. I started in January of 1974 at Cal, at San Jose State under urban planning program, as a grad student, and I was taking Japanese classes, like, I can get serious now about my Japanese class. Not like Yuji who called on the phone, not like his class and laugh through his classes, but I was really earnest about understanding Japanese and learning. So there were those classes along with urban planning and volunteering to help out with the resource center at the Asian American studies program on campus. So because of that, Roy was there, we still, we were hanging out with same people in Japantown, lived across the street from, apartments on Third Street, and yeah, we'd see each other a lot. Then, like the invitation would, "Come check out taiko." "Oh, sure. I'm gonna check it out." So I, that's how I started to do that. It was all at the same time, Asian American Studies and taiko.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: Okay, so talk about those early days with San Jose Taiko. What was, I mean, when you got involved, so you go to the first practice or meeting, what was that like?

PJH: Frustrating. [Laughs] Because there was no teacher and people would just kind of jam. Some of the guys that were great musicians would be coming loaded. [Laughs] And we went, oh jeez, is this really that productive? But what was great was, like, I feel like expression is comin' through me, you know? There was a sense of, like, this unabashed expression, can be loud for the first time and doing, starting something and creating something with a group of people, I think that was an affinity for me, too, like a sense of community. It's not about just finding my own, my own place, but like how can we build together, so there was that adventure that I felt. And over time I still would place, play in taiko over taking classes, my urban planning classes. I was out of the door, going to practice, and then about a, after a year's time of just jamming we were invited by San Francisco Taiko Dojo to study with Tanaka-sensei, so yeah, that really kind of opened up another opportunity for unabashed expression. Felt good.

TI: And, I was, when you mentioned that first meeting, you came in there, I just wanted to ask you about almost this, this culture of Sanseis who grew up in the inner city and, and how you felt about that and when you kind of... because your background was so different, growing up in Marin County.

PJH: It seemed like that past kind of like melted away because I was already immersed in a different bubble of more, more conscious of my identity, so it's, and knowing, being so marginal all my life, feeling that taiko was allowing me to explore the cultural element, but it was also addressing bringing people together. That was like a club, a feeling, but seeing how it would touch people when we started, even in our most miserable playing, we would play for, like the Issei at a, at a picnic, and after playing, having a Issei lady come up and tearfully saying, "I am so proud. I'm so happy because you, you are making good feeling." And then it's like, I can just feel myself getting choked up, even now. Yeah. I have to play taiko.

Tom Izu: When you started, first joined taiko, where there other women that you kind of bonded with in the group and...

PJH: Yeah, actually these were friends already playing, so it was kind of like, oh, come join, come join and play. So it's not really them mentoring, it was more like we were jointly exploring. That was exciting.

TI: When I noticed in having the opportunity to interview Roy and then you, when Roy talks about taiko, I won't say it's cerebral, but it's, but he talks about it in, from a musician's perspective.

PJH: Right.

TI: And you talk about it from a very emotional...

PJH: [Laughs] Yes.

TI: Anyway, so there's a, yeah, there's a, it's interesting to see this, this difference.

PJH: Yeah.

TI: Talk about that. I mean, the importance of that, of this, this feeling, because really Roy talked about, "Wow, we had these different layers that we can play that was different from the traditional," and you're just talking about from the pure power of it and of the feeling, how it impacted the audiences.

PJH: I guess what my recall was, like my body had already experienced that Chris and Joanne feeling, that's what it was. I could feel that come through my body. And again, it was like, there was no way to explain how to do it; you just had to do it. Again, it's not like being able to, yeah, the rhetoric, it wasn't there. You just have to experience it.

TI: What was your sense about the, the importance of Japan and Japanese culture for San Jose Taiko? You had lived in Japan for about a year. Roy and others didn't have as much exposure to Japan and Japanese culture. What was your, did you think that was something that was needed for San Jose Taiko in terms of a stronger Japanese component?

PJH: For taiko?

TI: For San Jose Taiko.

PJH: Yeah, for San Jose Taiko, because, yeah, we modeled ourselves after Kinnara Taiko in Los Angeles and so, of course, we would never be playing on Japanese drums. They would be the wine barrel. So that was, we had to accept that. Then we had all these other instruments that could, we would go to Cost Plus and buy ashtrays to be our kane. It, yeah, so literally I think there was an excitement, knowing that we had to rely on our own resources, and then what we would turn to would be Japanese records, whatever we can get our hands on, and see, wow, they play like that, they wear this and that. That's not us. So it was like the musical element of creativity and expression, we knew that it had to come from us. We knew that we could not copy, or we wanted to honor the root source of what that was about and not understanding, easy to just listen and play the same rhythm patterns, but I think in that way we were being politically correct at that time, not just to appropriate ideas. There was a huge question after playing with San Francisco Taiko Dojo, is this authentic? What are we doing? That was going through my head. Are we bastardizing taiko? There would, I would say for a few years as we started, this is something that I was just thinking in my head, but I was never a purist.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: But then both you and Roy spent some time in Japan training. I think, Roy trained, I think you went also.

PJH: Right.

TI: And, and so what was the impact of that?

PJH: The impact was, I think more of the impact was not to become authentic like what we were experiencing, it was just being completely open to what is possible. To be in a commune of, of musicians, to have to live daily -- this is with Kodo -- live by preparing meals for each other, practicing together. We did this for, I experienced it for, like only about six weeks or so, but that was enough for me to understand, wow, yes, music and your environment inform each other and there would be no way that I could really just kind of, just take and bring it home, so how do I feel about my experiences in Japan? I knew that there would be no way that we would ever become Japanese taiko.

TI: How about issues when you're in Japan, that the taiko groups generally didn't allow women to do the drums, so San Jose Taiko was very different in that way. Was there some resistance from the Japanese about having you as a drummer?

PJH: No, because the groups that we were in contact with already had women in their groups, so again, I might be kind of gender blind, that never was ever the case for me, to see that women are doing this.

TI: So when you guys came back from Japan, how did San Jose Taiko change? What were some of the changes that happened after Japan?

PJH: Well, because Roy stayed with the group for a longer period of time all of a sudden it's like, we had determined just a couple of years before that that San Jose Taiko was not just gonna be a recreational group, that we would be a performance group, but after coming back we thought, well, as a performance group let's try to strive to become the best that we can. And so that was 1982, '83, and then we had another opportunity to go to Japan again in 1987. Between '82, '82 and '87, five years, we also saw Ondekoza, a group, come through America and during that span is kind of, a kind of a illuminating time, too, because the leader of that group saw San Jose Taiko play and, but one of the things he did say, "Sunshine taiko. You guys are, like, really happy when you play. I want you to show this in Japan." And that's how we were invited to go to Japan in '87. Now, it was '87, after that, that point of time, coming back it's like, what was that all about? What was that experience all about? Of course, we came back all rich with ideas, but it was like, we definitely are not Japanese taiko. [Laughs] We played before a Japanese audience and, and people could see that we were not Japanese taiko, but it was kind of interesting, again, our faces, our bodies are Japanese, but they heard the difference and they were very pleased, and they would give us feedback, "Wow, subarashii, beautiful." Come back home and go, yes, what was that all about? I think that kind of was a moment of empowerment for the group to say, we have something to say that needs to be shared through general public, here in America, 'cause we're not gonna be Japanese taiko, but we're homegrown. And it put us on the course to say, "Let's create a professional group." So yeah, the Japanese experience is definitely what were kind of like this path where we would be going.

TI: That's good.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: Your role, in terms of, when you think of your role in the evolution and development of San Jose Taiko, how, how would you describe it?

PJH: Cheerleader, mom. [Laughs] I mean, that's just kind of like on the side. Again, probably the spirit, emotion... movement.

Tom Izu: The happy taiko part, do you, did that really resonate with you?

PJH: Oh, yes.

Tom Izu: The impact it has on people?

PJH: I think so, yeah. I don't think so; I believe so. [Laughs]

Tom Izu: You, you added a lot, do you think? In terms of movement and present, presentation, that's what I'm trying to say.

PJH: Yes. I --

TI: The choreography is almost, when I think of San Jose Taiko...

PJH: Yeah, I definitely that that has been kind of one of my focuses, because I just don't want to be static drummer, and it's not just like being in a symphony orchestra, playing your music statically. Yeah. Your body, my realization is like your body is an instrument as well, and it's not the person and the taiko instrument, but this is the taiko instrument, your body and the drum is taiko. So how to optimize the possibilities of, and potential of, like, expression through understanding the body was, has been kind of like my focus. Introduction of dance has definitely been something that I've been advocating. Creating a dance almost to reflect that feeling of Chris and Joanne, back in the mid '90s I created a dance called Eijinaika and it included drumming and a dance. Over time I've increased more through collaborating and networking out to expand the possibility of, like, this dance becoming more embodied, not only for repertoire for San Jose Taiko, but how to use it for other taiko goups. We were the first taiko group to create public domain material and Eijinaika was the first one to be shared with any group that wanted to learn it and play.

Also, I wanted to layer it, but it was, like, a matter of years later, I had another collaboration with Joanne Miyamoto who's now Nobuko and another friend from Kodo, Yoko Fujimoto, and we created a collaboration called the Triangle Project back in 2000. And it's kind of on hiatus now, but our last program or performances ended in 2006, but when we got together we wanted to create more dance, like for the community. I wanted Yoko to create a song to accompany, to accompany my dance, so she created Eijinaika song. And then from about 2004, '05, Reiko Iwanaga, the dance teacher for San Jose Obon, just asked out of the clear blue, "Does San Jose Taiko have anything you might want to dance?" And I showed her a couple dances. "I want that one." So Eijinaika has been danced for the last six years or so, and it's just amazing to see how, because I love chidoriban, but chidoriban, there's no taiko presence. Taiko for Eijinaika, that's all there is, and song, singing. So seeing people just dance and seeing little kids just really get into, I mean everybody, it's just, like, really overpowering. I go, now this is community building, and that's what I feel that is kind of like my, my mission, my personal mission, and San Jose Taiko mission too, like how to create a sense of community and building community, how to extend through the ripple effect through music, through the taiko. And I think this is just one way to do it.

Tom Izu: Through your, the song that you put together with the dance part is now an official Obon dance, right?

PJH: Yes, and now it's like about five other temples.

Tom Izu: Spreading all over.

PJH: Yeah, it's starting, too.

TI: Well, and this, and this concept for taiko of sunshine and movement, I see this in the other taiko groups in the United States, in how it's evolved over time. I think it does come from you and San Jose Taiko. I mean, it's a very powerful, again, the sense of community is so powerful, so, so one, thank you for that. That's, it's pretty amazing. And what about the impact in Japan? Do you see some of this sunshine and movement happening --

PJH: Absolutely. It's crazy. Yeah, kind of like this parallel evolution and thinking that it's, everything's coming from Japan for inspiration, so wow, they're making drums now, you know. It's very interesting. 1999, at the Museum of Ethnology in Osaka, Professor Tanada who actually is a ethnomusicologist, he got his degree -- oh, do, do you know him? He was living in Seattle.

TI: No, I...

PJH: Yeah, and anyway, he is a curator at the, at the museum and he was the first to curate a North American taiko exhibit. And actually I was able to see that in 1999 and Yumi Ishihara, another member, and I went there and we did a presentation in English and terrible Japanese and a little performance with the opening of the exhibit. But then the exhibit here at JANM in 2005 is kind of like now starting to grow, that... really interesting. From that, even in '99 there was some small groups that wanted to make their own drum. We gave them, like the recipe of how to make our wine barrel taiko.

TI: So that must be really rewarding to, I mean, I know we talked about the early days you felt like maybe you were just taking and maybe even was that even appropriate, to the point where you're helping to evolve the whole art on, on both sides of the Pacific. And so, I'm not sure if that was an original plan or vision, but it must be really rewarding.

PJH: It's rewarding in that coming as a community organizer, builder, there's kind of a sense of recognition that it's not just about one aspect moving forward. It's just the dynamics of how things come together to make things happen, and yeah, it, but my ego would say, yeah, that's San Jose Taiko right there. Or to see humor in, in a performance, it's like, wow, you never would've seen that before.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: So now going forward, what's gonna be the future of San Jose Taiko, because Roy and you are gonna start pulling back, so what do you see happening?

PJH: Well, I think that's very, it was all in a plan, that we never regarded San Jose Taiko as a PJ and Roy group, that there was always a need to develop leadership. We constantly develop leadership within the group, but it was not our company. So having to understand let go at the same time to allow for the next generation to come, but I think that our training and the way we, we work and live, the culture of San Jose Taiko really embraces all these qualities that I don't really have to worry about it, 'cause each of our members get, have it embedded in themselves.

TI: Even though you, you joke about it a little bit, but your, the role that you played in terms of nurturing and being kind of the mother of it, it's, is it ready for it be without Roy and PJ?

PJH: Well, I won't say that it's, we're gonna be gone, that we're still a resource. I still will teach a lot of, like the incoming group of people, but I want to explore myself. I think I have to now really...

TI: Yeah, so talk about that. What, what's next for PJ? That's okay.

PJH: [Laughs] Well, I do have a, a project called Taiko Peace. It's P-E-A-C-E, not, yeah. And it can go, it can mean several things, and also piece, like a song, but I'm revolving my activities around doing collaboration, doing speaking engagements also, but I'm using a document called the "Charter for Compassion." I don't know if you have heard of this, but it came out about two years ago -- not even two years, a year ago -- and an author by the name of Karen Armstrong, who has written a lot about religions, she is, she left the order of Catholic Church long ago, just looking at the world and thinking, you know, peace will never happen in this world, the way we're going, but she says, "I put before you," and she was selected as a TED, Technology, you know, TED speaker, and she received an award to actually implement her idea. And this was, like, "I believe at the base of all traditions and faiths is compassion. Now, if we can bring all these ideas, I mean all these faiths and traditions to come to the source, if we were to use compassion as the place to start from, what would we need to do to put into a charter for compassion?" So it went viral, people from all over the world would respond and a lot of these ingredients became the "Charter for Compassion." And I said holy smokes, when I first read it, this is San Jose Taiko. This is what I think, is something that I've not really articulated but we've practiced. I can refer to something...

TI: So it's very powerful for you.

PJH: Yeah.

TI: Well I, knowing you, I, this is gonna be another amazing kind of path, journey for you.

PJH: Yes.

TI: And, and I'm gonna look forward to interviewing you in about another twenty years to talk about this, 'cause I think, I do want to follow you and what you do. So thank you so much for, for taking the time to do this.

PJH: Thank you.

TI: Thank you.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.