Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Hannah Lai Interview
Narrator: Hannah Lai
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Emeryville, California
Date: March 14, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-lhannah-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Okay. So the way I start these is always with the date and where we are, so today's Monday, (March) 14, 2011. We're in Emeryville, and we're interviewing Hannah Ikeda Lai. And on camera is Tani Ikeda, and I'm the interviewer, Tom Ikeda. And so I'm just gonna start from the beginning for you, and just can you tell me when you were born?

HL: Yeah, April 11, 1923. I was born in Seattle.

TI: And where in Seattle were you born?

HL: I was born on, let's see, that would be on, would it be Spruce or Fir? It's right across the street from where Harborview Hospital is now.

TI: Oh, interesting, so there was a medical facility there?

HL: No.

TI: Oh, this was a house.

HL: Yeah. Well, all of us were born in the house.

TI: And so a midwife?

HL: Uh-huh.

TI: Do you, by any chance, know who the midwife was?

HL: If I looked on my birth certificate I'd find it. I used to know her name, but then names escape me now.

TI: Okay. No, that's okay. But you said April 11, 1923, so you're coming up to your eighty-eighth birthday. And I should probably do full disclosure to mention that you're my aunt, and so I just want to mention that. Your name given to you at birth, what was your name?

HL: Hanako.

TI: Hanako. And any middle name?

HL: Yeah, Hannah.

TI: Okay. So let me talk about your father first, so tell me your father's name and where he was from.

HL: He is, his name is Taijiro Ikeda and he's from Kagawa, Kagawa-ken in Shikoku in Japan. Let's see, he was born in Ono-mura, and his, basically they were farmers and then they, his father started a little grocery store on the cross section where the bus stops, and so it was just a little bitty store, but that's what they had. And, let's see, what else can I tell you about that? Then my dad came over.

TI: And do you know why he came? Why did he leave Japan?

HL: He came over because he didn't want to be conscripted into the army, and so he came over as a student, and then he was over, I can't remember what year he came, but he came over and then he worked for a while, and then he went back to Japan and then met my mother, you know, nakoudo and they got married.

TI: So, like same village or nearby?

HL: Yeah, it's just on the other, just the other side of the road there from, let's see, they were from, the Mukais are from Asano-mura and then Ono-mura is just right next door to each other. I mean, you could practically see each other's houses, so probably a mile away.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: So tell me about your mother. What was her name and who, what about her family?

HL: Her name was Tsuru Mukai, was her maiden name. And then let's see, what can I tell about? Well, her, their family is kind of interesting because my mother has a full blooded sister, but she is not part of the Mukai family. You know, Japanese families back then were very complicated because my, that would be my grandmother, got married and then she had two girls, did not produce a son, so at that point they just tell her to go home, and they, when she did she took the youngest daughter with her and left my mother with the Mukais because, the reason for that is because the Mukai had put her into the town register, registry as a Mukai, but her younger sister was never entered into the town registry. So as far as the Mukai family goes she doesn't exist.

TI: And so, I'm not clear, so explain why that happened, so why did they not register her sister?

HL: Well, they, that was just one of the things that they did or they didn't kind of thing, and just like her mother was never entered into the town registry and therefore it was very simple for them to say, "We're dissolving this marriage," 'cause it's not a matter of getting a divorce or anything like that. They go through the marriage ceremony, but legally they were not married, let's put it that way.

TI: Does it have anything to do with, like, lineage or anything? Is that part of it, or is it not even that?

HL: No, it's not that. Lot of times in the old days they did this to make sure they would have a son. And in that she had two girls they decided she wasn't gonna have a boy, and so, and so my mother has, let's see, two half brothers and two half sisters and they're part of the Mukai family, and as far as they're concerned my mother's the oldest and she, but they will never, they don't, they don't consider her other sister as part of the family.

TI: And so what happened to her?

HL: Well, she went back to her family and she grew up with them and she, and so she grew up with my real grandmother. And one of the interesting things was when I went back the first time, and I was, a ferry came in and all these people are at, on the platform, and there was one couple that I knew from Seattle, they were my Japanese school teacher and they were good friends of ours and I recognized them right away. And I said to her, "Who are all these people?" She said, "They're all your relatives." And I recognized my grandfather 'cause he looked like my father, and the other one I recognized was this Obika no obasan, which was my mother's sister. She looked spitting image of my mother. And then I recognized a Nanba no ojisan, which is, was my other uncle.

TI: So in terms of blood relatives, that's, your blood relatives, the Mukai was an adopted, your mother was adopted into this --

HL: No. My mother is a full Mukai. Her father was a Mukai and so are her half sisters and brothers. Her sister is a Mukai except she was never put into the town registry, so she took on the mother's name.

TI: Oh, that's, and then your grandmother...

HL: Went back to her --

TI: Went back to her --

HL: And took her youngest daughter with her.

TI: But your mother stayed with the Mukai family.

HL: Uh-huh.

TI: Okay. That's, okay good. [Laughs] No, I'm, I'm glad we documented, no, tell me more.

HL: I can confuse you more on my mother's side of the family. [Laughs] Because my grandfather had two brothers, and the one next to him was adopted into the Nanba family, and the one, the youngest one was adopted into the Takeda family. The Nanba's, the Takedas had kids and so we won't go into that one, but the Nanba family didn't have any children and so my uncle married one of the Nanba girls, from one of the Nanba. They didn't have any kids, so then they adopted my brother, my mother's brother. [Laughs]

TI: Half brother. Was it half?

HL: Yeah, half brother, and then he became a Nanba.

TI: So not only was a half brother, but then a cousin, I guess, also. Would that be a cousin?

HL: No, no. Just a half brother. See, but he was adopted by his uncle into the Nanba family. And fortunately they had children. [Laughs]

TI: Okay, but then, so the Takedas had kids, then the Nanbas now, through this adoption, they had kids, and the Mukais kept at least one of her stepbrothers.

HL: Yes. Yeah, my mother's youngest brother, the Mukai, he was, kept the family name and so he had plenty of kids.

TI: And what kind of work did the Mukai family do?

HL: They were farmers, too, basically.

TI: Were they landowners? Were they...

HL: Oh yeah. You know, small land. And of course, the Nanba family is interesting because when he, when my great uncle was first adopted they were a big rice, let's see, what do you call them, warehouse, and they were big rice warehousing and dealer. And then when my uncle was adopted into the family my great uncle said, "You know, times are getting so that the rice business is not much, is not very good, so we should, I think you should go into the automobile business." He says, "I'll buy you a franchise for Chevrolet," 'cause at that time Japan wasn't producing it, so he was a Chevrolet, and then right before the war started, back in about, I think it was 1937, this other, my great uncle said, get out of the Chevrolet and buy, and get a franchise for the Toyota, and so that's the way he got into the Toyota and now the family is the dealership for the whole four provinces of Shikoku.

TI: So your grandfather was pretty savvy when it came to business, it sounds like.

HL: My, no my uncle, my great uncle.

TI: Uncle, great uncle, okay yeah, on Nanba.

HL: Yeah, he was a very, the Nanba family. But see, it gets real complicated on my mother's side, 'cause you could have full lineage, but then the name is different and it's a different family.

TI: Okay. No, I think I have it now.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: So, so back to your father and mother, so through arranged marriage they got together. What was the age difference between your father and mother?

HL: Six or seven years.

TI: Okay, so your father was older by six or seven years. So let's, so they, they get married.

HL: And then they came over.

TI: They came over. And what did they do when they came over?

HL: I know during the, every other summer my dad would work at the salmon cannery in Friday Harbor, but the salmon run was only good every other year, and the rest of the time he worked at this, it's a card, what do they, card parlor, I guess they'd call it. And he cooked and he did dishwashing, all that kind of thing. And then when I was about seven they bought a little hotel, housekeeping hotel, the Sprague Hotel, and then so they ran that --

TI: Okay, so before we go there, let's go back to Friday Harbor. So this is in the San Juan Islands.

HL: That's right.

TI: It's on, it's on San Juan Island.

HL: It's on the San Juan Island.

TI: Friday Harbor, and he worked there in a fish cannery?

HL: Yeah, salmon cannery.

TI: Salmon cannery. So what kind of work did he do there?

HL: Oh, they did, they filleted the salmon, and I used to go down and watch them. The salmon would come in and they would take the heads off. They would gut it and then they'd, it'd go down the, they'd skin it and all that and then they put it in the can and the cans would go into the oven. And that's one place where I learned that it doesn't make any difference what the brand is, the stuff inside's the same.

TI: Oh, so whatever label they put on doesn't really matter. [Laughs]

HL: Yeah, I remember because they would say, oh, we have so many cans of, that we have to put the Libby, so they kept, and they slapped the Libby... and then somebody else would order some other, they'd take the same salmon, put the different name on it. So when I go to the store I don't bother worrying about labels 'cause I figure it's the same thing inside.

TI: That's funny. What about your mother? What did she do in Friday Harbor?

HL: She cooked. She cooked for all the workers that were there. And so she cooked and my dad worked at the, down at the salmon cannery, and they did all kinds, everybody did all kinds of things down at the cannery. It wasn't a huge cannery. There were probably, I would say, I would say about thirty people working down there, thirty, forty people.

TI: And was it mostly Japanese or different?

HL: Mostly Japanese.

TI: And from Seattle, so people that he knew from Seattle?

HL: Well, see, the man that was the superintendent was a good friend of my dad's that came from the same prefecture, from Kagawa-ken, and so that was the reason my dad went, and I'm, they came into Seattle to recruit the workers and a lot of the men went in there for the summer because it's good money. They used to make good money that way.

TI: It's interesting, you say every other year. I didn't realize the salmon runs were every other year either.

HL: It was, the, no, you would have it every year, but then every other year would be a big run, and then the years that they had small runs, then the local people just took care of it so that they didn't go out and hire a lot of people.

TI: Now, when your parents worked there, do you have any childhood memories of Friday Harbor?

HL: Oh yeah, we used to run all over the island, and we used to go up to my friend's place, and they had, like trees and, fruit trees and all that. We used to climb it, and I remember one time I got up in the tree and, it was a plum tree and I got the plums, then I didn't know what to do with it. I had it in my hand, but I needed my hand to climb down. So finally I decided to take my stockings off and put it in that. And so I brought the plums down in my stocking. Nobody would eat it. [Laugh]

TI: That's a good story. I forgot to ask about siblings, so let's talk about your siblings.

HL: Okay, my, I had an older sister and a younger brother.

TI: And your older sister was how much older?

HL: Well, let's see, she's three years older and my brother was four years younger.

TI: Okay, so, and your older sister's name was?

HL: Martha.

TI: And what was her Japanese name?

HL: Masako.

TI: And so she was born, like, 1920, around 1920?

HL: 1920.

TI: And then your younger brother, who's my father, was Junichi.

HL: [Laughs] Junichi Victor. He was born in 1927. I remember when he was born. He was born at home, and I looked at him, I thought, what an ugly thing a baby is, 'cause they're all red and wrinkly. And of course, I was about four years old and I looked at that thing, I thought, this ugly thing. [Laughs] That's the first thing I remember about your, about my brother, that was, that he was ugly.

TI: [Laughs] Now, what was it like having, I mean, did your parents want a boy? Was it important to have a boy? They had two girls. Did it matter to them whether --

HL: Oh yeah, a boy is always important in a Japanese family 'cause after all carrying on the family name is the important thing, and so they were glad when the boy came along.

TI: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: So when your parents weren't working in Friday Harbor, you mentioned that they were doing things in Seattle?

HL: Yeah, my mother pretty much stayed home, but when my brother was born they couldn't stop the hemorrhaging. She was really quite sick for a long time, so she was, she was not the strongest person, so she stayed home pretty much and took care of the kids. And my dad worked down at the card parlor.

TI: But then eventually they got the Sprague Hotel?

HL: Yes.

TI: Is this the one on Yesler?

HL: That's right.

TI: Okay, that's kind of triangular?

HL: That's right.

TI: So describe where that is.

HL: Well that's right at the top of the hill, Yesler hill when you come up, and we lived there and one corner was City Light, and then the cable car ran right in front, and then when they put up the, what is it, the housing project, they tore the whole thing down, but then across the street from us was a row house and all my friends lived there. I mean, it was, we used to play kick the can in the middle of the street. And, and then there was this one house up on the hill which had a large yard, and during the summer we'd all go up there and there would be close to like twenty, thirty kids up there, and we'd play cards, or one time we decided we'd dig a tunnel and we started digging in their yard, and then we were, they were told us, we were told we can't do that, that it was not our property to dig up, but we had quite a tunnel dug. [Laughs]

TI: Now, when you say thirty kids, were they all Japanese kids?

HL: Uh-huh, yeah. All the neighborhood kids, all the kids in that neighborhood were practically Japanese.

TI: How about other races? Were there any other races that...

HL: Not in our immediate... and then when we went to school we went to Bailey Gatzert, and that was ninety-nine percent Japanese, one percent Chinese, and a fraction, I think there was just a couple of Caucasians.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: Let's talk about Bailey Gatzert. In particular, I'm curious, I hear in particular about the principal.

HL: Oh, Miss Mahon? She was a, she was a wonderful woman, very strict. Oh, and that was, that school, she ran it like a, like everybody marched down one side of the street, side of the hall and all that, but they had a very good educational system as far as I can see. Like the first, kindergarten through third, you were in self contained classrooms, but then starting with fourth grade you had a reading teacher, which took care of the library, and you had a teacher for the fourth and fifth grade, and then you had one for the sixth grade. And then you had an art teacher, you had a science teacher, you had a P.E. teacher, you had a music teacher, and you had a homeroom teacher, and you went from one to the other. And the thing that was great was you had the same music teacher from the time you were in fourth grade through sixth grade. And same with the science, and so you got a very good, solid continuity in all the subject matters, and it was a great school.

TI: That's unusual for elementary school. Usually you always hear your fourth grade teacher and she taught everything, your fifth grade teacher taught everything. This is almost like junior high school or high school.

HL: It was, we called the platoon system, and we, the class moved from one teacher to the other. But it was a great... because I'll tell you one that happened to me was, I'm not very musical at all. I can't carry a tune. I can't, I'm tone deaf practically, but when I went to college one of the things that the, at the college I went to, they gave you a test in music, and I passed it with, like a ninety-five, and so the head of department calls me and says, "I think you should be in the music department." I said oh no, no, no, I don't belong in the music department. I said, "I'm tone deaf." He wouldn't believe me, and I said, "Well, you can test me," and he did. He says, "Where did you learn all this?" I said I learned it all in my elementary school. I said by the time we were in sixth grade we were composing simple tunes. I said we knew all the, we could identify the instruments in the orchestra, we could read music, I mean, it was just fantastic. The same thing with science, like so often in science I've watched over the period, over the time, you go over the same thing over and over every year but with one science. We had astronomy in fourth grade, geology in fifth grade, and it was, we had a wonderful, wonderful elementary education.

TI: It's funny, you're the first one who's really explained this. I didn't realize it was platooned like that at, at Bailey Gatzert.

HL: Oh yeah, it was wonderful.

TI: Now, were the other elementary schools in Seattle doing anything like this?

HL: I don't know.

TI: 'Cause I've never heard this. This is, this is the first time I've heard this.

HL: Yeah, well that's the way.

TI: And you're right, because the science teacher, he would, he knew what you guys learned in fourth grade and so it was like this continuum.

HL: Continue on and, it was a continuum. And the same thing with music, same thing with art.

TI: I suppose that works when your student body is pretty stable and that they, they're there from first through sixth grade. I mean, I think it follows through because if you're plopped into that... well, I guess it still works.

HL: No, it wouldn't, it wouldn't be any different from being plopped in any other school, but I think, as far as I'm concerned, that was the best elementary school system that I have come across.

TI: What did the school do in terms of kids coming in kindergarten or first grade speaking mostly Japanese?

HL: Well, all of us were like that.

TI: So what did they do to, to integrate you or to assist you?

HL: We were all that way. [Laughs] But the thing is in the classroom we were expected to speak English. Out on the playground it was half English, half in Japanese, and then as you went along you'd learn more and more English, spoke more and more English. But I didn't speak English actually until I went to school. I spoke half English, half Japanese. Half the time I don't think I knew which language I was speaking in. [Laughs]

TI: Interesting. Yeah, you hear a lot about Bailey Gatzert, how for so many Niseis in Seattle, most of 'em went through Bailey Gatzert, so it's kind of a shared experience.

HL: Yeah. And then one of the things that used to happen that was great was that when it snowed, Miss Mahon would always take different classes, you'd have certain, and then she'd take 'em out on the hillside. We'd take trays from the cafeteria and we'd slide down that hill. Oh, that was the greatest thing.

TI: This is the hill down towards Dearborn, going down that big hill?

HL: You know that side hill.

TI: Right. [Laughs] Yeah, they couldn't get away with that now, the liability.

HL: No, no. And the thing that was interesting is I ran across this fellow, Chinese fellow, in fact, in Berkeley and somehow we got to talking about where you went to school and all that in Seattle, and he says, "I went to Bailey Gatzert," and I said I did too. And he said, "Do you remember when Miss Mahon would let us ride down the, slide down that hill when it was snowing?" I said yeah, I remember that. So there's shared experience. [Laughs]

TI: That's, that's good. You know, I'm jumping around a little bit, but later on you became an educator, and when you think back to Bailey Gatzert, and you mentioned you thought that platooning was useful, what other things do you take away from Bailey Gatzert in terms of, that was good or bad in terms of education?

HL: Well, it was a very structured school, and so everybody knew exactly what was expected and what, and that you did things a certain way, and I think for kids lots of times that's a good, good feeling for them to, you feel secure that you're doing the right thing 'cause this is the way it's done and this, and everybody does it this way. You always went down the right side of the hall, you never went down the left side kind of thing. [Laughs] And then another thing that was interesting, I think, in that school was you didn't just, when the bell rang you just didn't go out the door. You went by class by class and you just marched yourself out the front door, or the side door, whichever door you were assigned. And then most of us, of course, went to Japanese language school right after that, so we just went down the hill to the Japanese language school.

TI: Yeah, I want to ask about Japanese language school, but before that, how did Miss Mahon get along with the parents, the Issei parents?

HL: Very good. The Issei parents thought the world of her.

TI: And why was that?

HL: Because I think they felt that she was very interested in their kids, and then, and she didn't, she went to bat for them, for the parents when they needed to, and she was, she took care of the kids that were in her school and she didn't let them get away with anything. The parents knew that their kids were behaving at school.

TI: Okay, good.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: So let's, I want to ask now about Japanese school. So after regular school you said you went down the hill to Japanese school?

HL: Uh-huh. That was down on Rainier, you know.

TI: Rainier and Weller, that one?

HL: Yeah.

TI: Okay. It's still there, same Japanese language school.

HL: Yeah, it's still there.

TI: And so tell me about that. What, like how, did you have, like, a little break between the schools or did you go directly?

HL: Let's see, it was, we went directly. There was, you probably had about a thirty minute to forty-five minute break because I, maybe an hour, because the Japanese school ran from about four to five-thirty. In the winter I think it was five 'cause it would get dark early. And every, we all went, and so --

TI: So first tell me, how large was your class, when you think about your classroom in the Japanese school?

HL: In Japanese school? Oh, I would say there was like, I remember in my class there were like forty kids.

TI: And these were all the same age, same, like grade level?

HL: Yep, you had first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, all the way up to eighth grade.

TI: And were these pretty much all Bailey Gatzert kids, or did they come from other schools, too?

HL: Yeah, I think some came from Pacific and some came from Washington, but the majority was from Bailey Gatzert.

TI: And, and tell me how rigorous Japanese language school was. I get a different, I think, a different story from my father in terms of what Japanese language school, I'm curious what you thought of Japanese language school.

HL: Well, I don't know, I just kind of accepted it as what it was, but it was primarily reading and writing Japanese. And depending on the teacher, some teachers were strict, some teachers we ran all over them. I mean, it's just like any other, but we had some very good teachers at the Japanese language school.

TI: Okay, any, any interesting stories or memories of Japanese language school?

HL: Not really. It was...

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

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: Were there, like, any special events at Japanese language school, like a celebration?

HL: Oh, we always had a graduation at Nippon Kan, and I still have my certificate saying I graduated from such and such a class and so on. But like, there was quite a, it was quite a big, it was quite a big school, because there was, like, for instance, maybe two or three first grades, two or three second grades, and so it...

TI: No, I mean, the building's there and I walk through it and there's so many classrooms and large classrooms.

HL: Yeah, and they were all full.

TI: Yeah, it's hard to imagine just being filled with --

HL: Japanese.

TI: -- Japanese kids learning Japanese, because the community's so much smaller now, it wouldn't support that, so it's interesting. You mentioned the Nippon Kan, so that's another landmark in Seattle.

HL: I have a graffiti on there, you know. [Laughs]

TI: So yeah, explain some of the functions and the...

HL: Well, Nihon Kan, we used to have graduations there. Also, like they would have judo exhibitions and kendo, and then, and different groups would put on, I guess you would call theatrical shows, and that was one way you raised money, to, for whatever thing you wanted to do. And for us it was raising money to go to Japan, so we used to put on these shows every year. I can't remember what we did. All I remember is we did it and then I remember one time we all went in the back and wrote our names on the back, on the wall. [Laughs]

TI: And so people would have to buy tickets and that's how they would raise money, and then from that you were consciously raising money because a group of you wanted to go to Japan?

HL: Uh-huh.

TI: So tell me about that. What was that group?

HL: It was a Taiyo kengakudan, girls kengakudan, and let's see, it ended up with about, how many of us went, about twenty? But that was in 1939 that we went. And my sister was supposed to go, but she didn't go 'cause she was in the middle of going to beauty school, so Mom and she decided that she could wait, and so I went, but she didn't. And that was the most interesting trip because it was right before the war, 1939, went and because we were a girls group we were not a threat to anybody. You know, in Yokosuka we were, we went aboard the Mutsu, which was a huge battleship that they had there, and in Tokyo we met Prince and Princess Takamatsu, which was the younger brother of Hirohito.

TI: Now, how did you get such, how'd you get such access? I mean, that's pretty amazing to have --

HL: I don't know who did, but it was all arranged for us, and I remember we were all given this okashi, which is in the form of a, the chrysanthemum, the mon. I had that for the longest time. I finally, I think it just kind of disintegrated.

TI: So someone in the Seattle community must have had some connections to get you to some of these, onto the battleships and the royal family and things like that.

HL: Yeah, somebody did. Yeah. And then, then at that time we went north to Sendai, to Matsushima, and then we came back down and, oh, we went, actually went all through Tokyo and Nagoya, Kyoto, and then down to Okayama, and then we crossed Okayama over to Shikoku and we went to Kagawa and then to Ehime, and then from there we went to Kyushu and went to, let's see, we never got to Kagoshima, that was too far south. But we went Kumamoto, Nagoya, and then we crossed over to Fukuoka and came up the peninsula, went to Hiroshima and back up to Tokyo, and then we disbanded and we all went our own way.

TI: And so when you're as a group doing a tour, about how long did you do that?

HL: It was about thirty days, little over thirty days it seems to me.

TI: And what was the, the purpose of those, the thirty day tour. I mean, what, was there a, a... yeah.

HL: Sightseeing and, and then to learn things about Japan. And oh, I've got to tell you an interesting thing that happened to me. We were going up to Matsushima and we were on the train. There was this young man sitting, I don't, I can't remember whether it was across or in back of me, all of a sudden he climbed up and climbed into his suitcase and got this bowl, and he told me his brother made it and it's a bowl that was made by taking a cross section of a cherry tree and it's carved out. I still have that bowl. He gave it to me and then I thought, gee, I've got to give him something. You know, you got to always return the, so then I got, got into my suitcase. I said, what do I have? I had a box of Hershey Kisses, so I gave him a box of Hershey Kisses. [Laughs]

TI: Interesting. So I'm curious, did he give it to you, I mean, was he, were people intrigued that you were from America?

HL: Yeah.

TI: And what kind of reaction was it?

HL: Just interested in...

TI: And how would people know that you were American?

HL: Oh, by the way you dressed and the way you talked. It's, our Japanese was not all that great, you know. Like we speak Japanese, but we do not speak... what shall I call it, the best Japanese. We weren't speaking like women's Japanese. We were just speaking ordinary Japanese, which is different. This I learned later on, too. [Laughs]

TI: So people could tell right away that there's something different.

HL: Yeah, that you were different.

TI: Now, you mentioned that, so you had the sort of group tour for thirty days and then you disbanded, so what, what did you do?

HL: I went back to, to Takamatsu actually, and then from there I went to Marugame and went to a girls' high school. And at the girls' high school they had this post graduate class, and so I enrolled in that with the understanding that I could go to the regular girls' history classes in, and the language classes, and in return I would go to their English classes and speak English so they could hear spoken English. And then the rest of the time I spent at what they call Senkoka, and then that's where I learned how to do silk embroidery, calligraphy, and things like that. It was very interesting.

TI: What was the thinking of your parents having you go to school in Japan at this point?

HL: Well, see, I always wanted to be a teacher, and so the idea was that I could go to, go to Japan and go to their teachers' college and could, you know, because at that time getting a teaching credential in the States was iffy, and so they said, well, that was a good place to go. And that's one of the reasons I went to Marugame, because that was known for a good jougakkou to be in, to get into, teachers' college. But of course I didn't stay long enough.

TI: But were, I mean, if the war hadn't broken out, if you received your teaching sort of degree or certificate from the school, would you have stayed then in Japan and taught, or would you have come back to the States?

HL: I probably would have come back to the States and probably I would've taught just like a Japanese school and at the same time gone on and gotten my teaching credential over here, hoping that by that time things would be...

TI: Okay. When you say, so earlier you said iffy, so I'm guessing that because of, I guess, discrimination it was harder to get a teaching job in the States.

HL: Oh yeah. Oh yeah, we weren't even allowed to go into the swimming pools. You know, when they built the Natatorium in Alki Point they wouldn't allow Japanese in there. It was a, we, when we were growing up there was a lot of things that, that just wasn't open to us.

TI: And, like you mentioned swimming pool at Alki Point, how did you know that you weren't allowed in there?

HL: 'Cause they told you.

TI: Oh, so, so...

HL: I mean, it was, it was just for whites kind of thing.

TI: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: So let's continue, so you're in Japan, you're attending...

HL: School there.

TI: School there. You first got there in 1939, and then you mentioned, but then you couldn't stay there --

HL: In December of 1940 we got a letter from the consulate in Kobe saying that our passports would no longer be valid after April of 1941, that would be '41, that if we were gonna stay in Japan or in the Far East we would have to apply for a new passport. And, it went on to say, and if you don't have urgent business in the Far East, get out. And so at that I got myself over into Kobe and I did apply for a new passport, but at the same time I booked passage on the next, next boat that had any vacancy, and that was the, I would be leaving end of April.

TI: But I'm curious, you did both. So you applied for the passport and you booked a --

HL: Yeah, in case I didn't, couldn't get out of the country, I thought, well, you never know whether I could get out before the passport was voided, and so I thought, well, may as well get it and if I could get out before my passport was void, well then that was fine. If it wasn't, then... so I was kind of nip and tuck there.

TI: I see. When you got this information at the end of 1940, early '41 to leave Japan, what was your feeling? I mean, was it kind of ominous, or what was the sense of what was going on?

HL: Well you, well, there was a lot of fighting going over in Manchuria, in China and all that, and feeling that most of us had is if you didn't have to stay there, if the consulate's telling you to get out, the wise thing to do is to get out.

TI: But even when you went there initially, Japan was fighting China.

HL: Yeah, but it was not quite as... it was more in Manchuria when we first went, and then it, then the war just expanded and expanded. See, because when I first went, my mukai no ojisan was living in China. He was, I think he had a Toyota franchise in Tentsing. And was he living in Peking then or in Tentsing, can't remember which, but then I was gonna go visit him that summer, and I thought, oh, well, I can go next summer and I didn't go, and I've always regretted that, that I, and so I always tell people if you've got a chance, do it when you can. Don't put off until next year 'cause next year may never come.

TI: Now, what was the appeal of going to China for you?

HL: Well, I wanted to see what China was like, and I thought as long as I have an uncle there, well, it would have been simple. And I've always regretted I didn't 'cause I always think if I had seen it before the war and then seen it after the war, you'll have a better idea of what's changed.

TI: Yeah. You know, during this time, 1940, 1939, 1940, early parts of '41, did you notice, politically, any tensions increasing between the, Japan and the U.S.?

HL: Oh yeah.

TI: And how did you, how did you see that?

HL: Well, in the papers, you'd get all this propaganda kind of thing, and so, of course, I was pretty young then, so it didn't, it just kind of rolled down my back, but then you couldn't help but feel the war. Like you go to, go to a train station and there would be all these women, and they had these, what do you... senninbari is what they call it. But you're supposed to get one thousand women to make a French knot on it and then you send it to your, the soldier and then he puts it around his, you know, and it's supposed to save him. When you go to, go on any train station and there would be women standing there, asking people to, and so I don't know how many I, French knots I made, but you saw more and more and more of this.

TI: Which got you a sense that the military effort was growing and growing, more people, and probably more fighting because they're more concerned about that.

HL: Yeah.

TI: You mentioned the papers started having propaganda. Did you hear, like, comments about the United States that you knew were false? I mean, people would say something about Americans or the United States and you --

HL: Oh, well sure. The family, that's to be expected.

TI: What were some of those things, the ideas that the Japanese had about the United States that you thought were false?

HL: Well, they were all rich people that, and all they wanted was to get rich off you, the basic kind of thing that... but when you're sixteen, seventeen, things like that don't make that much impact on it as it would if you were older.

TI: No, I'm, I'm amazed at how much you know about what was going on. Often times I interview people who are similar age, sort of fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, and they're pretty oblivious to a lot of what's going on in Japan during this time, because a lot of it had to do with language. I mean, it's really hard to, to delve into political issues because of language.

HL: Yeah. I'm sure if I hadn't gone to Japan I wouldn't, wouldn't have been nearly as aware.

TI: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: Any other stories about Japan before we, we go back to Seattle? Anything else? Anything about the family in Japan that was interesting during this trip?

HL: Oh, I've got to tell you about my grandfather's brother. He was, he died when he was, what, eighty, eighty-two or eighty-three, but at eighty-one -- well, I got to go back. He was married and, and he and his wife were married for twenty-some years. She was in her fifties when she died. They had no children. And she had a sister who, they thought, well, she's been married and she hasn't had any children, so she's not gonna have any children so it would be a good match. And he was a Buddhist priest, and so they got married. Lo and behold, they had four kids.

TI: And how old were they then?

HL: She was, he was in his sixties, I think it was. She was still younger. She was probably in her forties or so. So she, and so what happened, she dies, and then there's another younger sister who's crippled, and they say, well, she's not gonna be able to get married and all that, so, so lo and behold, what happens? She's got kids and the youngest one was born when he was eighty-one years old.

TI: [Laughs] This was your grandfather's brother?

HL: Yeah.

TI: Who was a Buddhist priest?

HL: Priest, yeah. And his son is, is a Buddhist priest too, and he has the same temple.

TI: And what was the name of, of the grandfather's brother?

HL: I don't remember.

TI: This is on your mother's side or father's side?

HL: No, father's side. The Ikeda side.

TI: The Ikeda side. That's a good story. And when you were in Takamatsu, were you living with your dad's side or your mother's side?

HL: I was living with my cousin on my, no, when I was in Takamatsu I was living with my father, mother's side, with the Nambas. But when I was going to school in Marugame I was living with my cousin on my father's side.

TI: Okay. And how did they treat you? What did they think about --

HL: Oh, they were all real great to me. They were real good to me. I can't complain. They were all really nice, wonderful people.

TI: Okay, so let's get you back to Seattle. So when did you return to Seattle?

HL: I got back to Seattle in May of 1941.

TI: And having been away from Seattle for a while, what did you think of coming back to Seattle? What did Seattle seem like to you?

HL: Well it was, it was kind of different from, for me, 'cause I had left from Sprague, then while I was gone that was all demolished and they had moved to the Ritz apartment, so when I came back they were at, at the Ritz and my sister had a shop, a beauty shop on 12th Avenue. And so when I got back my mother said, well, I knew wanted to go to a college and she said, "Well, why don't you go to beauty school so that you have a trade and that you can earn your money?" And my mother's thing was always every girl has to have something she can fall back on because you never know when you're gonna have to make your own way, so I started beauty school, which I did not like, but then who am I to argue with the family? [Laughs] But I never got beyond, I never did take my state exam because the war broke out and we were evacuated and so on.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: So let's, let's talk about December 7, 1941, so describe that day for me. Where were you?

HL: We were, I was, a friend of mine was, she was, we did things on Sunday quite a bit and she was gonna come over and we were gonna go to the movies. Didn't think anything much, so was waiting for her to come. She comes barreling in and she says, "Have you heard, have you heard?" And I said, "What are you talking about?" Says, "Turn the radio on," and that's when we found out that Pearl Harbor had been bombed and the war had started. And then the next day I found out --

TI: So what did you think? You had just been in Japan just a few months earlier, and now Japan had just attacked --

HL: All I could think is I'm glad I'm back here, that I'm with my family and that I'm, that I'm not... 'cause there's some people that I know that was, see, what happened is we were one of the last ships that got across because couple of people I know was on the ship that was on the way to the States, but the United States froze Japanese assets in July of 1941, and so all the ships at that time were Japanese ships, except the President line. Of course, the President line didn't come into Seattle, so it was the Hikawa, the Hie-maru, you know. And so those ships just turned right around, went back to Japan, and those people were stuck in Japan. Some of them that were lucky, they, the ships went on into Vancouver and they disembarked in Vancouver and then were able to get back, but then they were the few lucky ones. But most of them just turned around, went right back to Japan.

TI: Do you have a sense of how many Niseis were, were in Japan during the war?

HL: I don't have any idea, but then I have a book that was written by a, a lady that was in Japan during the war. She was a Nisei and it's this, she calls it Letters to Miye. It's, she apparently wrote letters to her friend in, in the States and then she chronicled it. I have the book if you'd like to read it.

TI: Yeah, no, I'm really interested more and more in the stories of the Niseis who were in Japan during the war, so I'm curious. Yeah, so I'll...

HL: Yeah, I'm sorry she passed away last year. But she was a very interesting person.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: Okay, so let's start the second part. We had just, where we left off was December 7, 1941, and you talked about your friend coming and, and turning, having you turn the radio on. I asked about were you surprised or your thoughts and you're glad that you got, you actually got back and how so many Niseis didn't make it back. But let's go back, did you ever get a chance to talk to your mom and dad about this? Did they have any thoughts about Japan going to war against the United States?

HL: I think it's just so much of the Issei is, well, you take things as they come. What are you gonna do about it? There's not much you can do. Doesn't... the Japanese, very many Japanese Isseis particularly, I think, are basically very fatalistic in terms of what will be will be and you make the best of it.

TI: And yet there are, when I think of the Isseis, there's a lot of pride in being Japanese also.

HL: Oh yeah, they're very, yeah, there's pride. But then the thing is, you know, what are you gonna do about it? Their, I think their feeling was, sure, you're proud to be a Japanese and you're always proud to be, they were always very proud of Japan, but on the other hand, if the war breaks out, what are they gonna do?

TI: How would you characterize in terms of, would you say your dad was, like, pro Japan? Was he hoping that the war would end but that Japan would win, or did you have any talk about that?

HL: No. And I don't think, I think they were very ambivalent. All the, I think, Isseis were very ambivalent in terms of, in some ways this was where they had made their life and this is where their children were, this is, the children were gonna be Americans, and, but then, but they, yet they felt they couldn't -- this is why the, when they had that, that twenty-seven and twenty-eighth questions on that, it was so difficult for them, because they said, "What are we gonna do? We don't have citizenship here, but then our kids our here." And I think that was the way they felt. I think, let's see, when I think back to it, I think there was resentment at the way we were treated because the minute the war started, the prejudice, you couldn't go here, they had, they had set up zones where you could not go and they had curfew, and so there was a lot of resentment.


TI: So how about the Niseis? Did you ever talk with your sister, your brother, your friends about, about what this meant to you or the community?

HL: I think we all felt a lot of resentment because we were treated as second class citizens. And I think, the one thing I remember so vividly about the whole evacuation and all that was when we went to Puyallup, we were the last group that went in, we were in Camp D, but I remember the buses rolling into, up to the camp and I saw all these people I knew standing on the other side of the barbed wire fence and then the machine guns were pointed at them, not out. And I thought, but we're American citizens. Why are we being treated this way? And then, of course, when you saw the accommodations, I mean, that was just... [laughs]

TI: And what were your expectations? When you saw the machine guns pointing inwards, I mean, what were you expecting?

HL: It wasn't so much expectation as it, I think it really hit you then that this is really something very serious and that they don't trust us.

TI: Before you left, you were the last group to go, what did your parents do with the Ritz apartments? What happened to that?

HL: We just left it. Because, see, we didn't actually own it. We were leasing it to rent, and so we sold what we could and what we couldn't sell we just left. I mean, there was nothing else. But the thing that's very interesting is one thing my mother took along that I don't think anybody else in the whole world would've thought to take along. She took along wallpaper. She said, "You know," she says, "I don't know where we're gonna be, but," she said, "if you put wallpaper on the wall it feels more like home." And the first thing she did when we got out to Puyallup and we were in these, it was really nothing more than a chicken coop kind thing, she slapped on that wallpaper, and I think we're the only people in the whole camp that had wallpaper on their walls, but to her that was something that was important to her.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: Tell me about your grandmother. What was she like? What kind of person was she? It is interesting because you're right, this is the first time I've heard of someone bringing wallpaper, so I'm just curious about her.

HL: My mother?

TI: Yeah, your mother.

HL: She was a very interesting person. She, I think, in her lifetime went to every different kinds of, different denomination churches, and she said it doesn't matter which church you go to or what religion you believe in. They're all telling you to live better with your fellow beings. And then my dad, he said, "Well, I was born a Buddhist. I'm gonna die a Buddhist." And so my mother says, "Well, I guess I better join the Buddhist church then." [Laughs] But she was, I mean, she went to the Christian Science church, she went to the Buddhist church, she went to the Methodist church. I think she even went to the Catholic church, just to see what they were teaching. She was a very open-minded person.

TI: That is unusual. I've never heard of an Issei woman doing that.

HL: Yeah, she just, she said it doesn't matter. She says it's all getting down to you live better with other people. She was a wonderful person.

TI: How about childrearing? Was there anything she did in terms of childrearing that may have been different than other families?

HL: Well I'll tell you, in our family nobody was ever spanked or anything like that. And it was more "this is our expectation if you," and just like they never put pressure on you to get A's, but they said, "We expect the best from you, and if that's the best you can do, so be it." But so it was more "we expect you to be this way" or "we expect you to be that way."

TI: Tell me about your father. What was he like?

HL: [Laughs] He was, let's see, he didn't say much. He just kind of... he was a very nice person, but then he wasn't, I don't think he was as interesting person as my mother was. To me my mother was a very interesting person and quite different from a lot of the Issei women, or any woman at that, during that time period. But my dad pretty much...

TI: Now, did your mother have very much education in Japan?

HL: Yeah, she graduated from high school, so for her age and for her era that was, she was well, and she had trained to be a nurse.

TI: Okay. Yeah, I'm always curious about, about my grandparents, essentially, and what they were like. 'Cause I, because of the language I didn't really ever get a chance to know them, and you would just get a sense of them but not really know them, so I'm always curious.

HL: Yeah, it's too bad, 'cause you would've loved my mother. My mother was really quite a person. She was an interesting person. And then as far as, like cooking, she'll say if you use the best ingredients you'll always turn out well. She says if you don't use the good ingredients, she says, "I don't care what you do, it's not gonna turn out very good." She says life's like that: you put in the best and you'll get out the best.

TI: And she'd use a cooking metaphor for --

HL: Yeah.

TI: Interesting.

HL: And she was a good cook, too.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: So let's, let's go back to Puyallup. Memories of Puyallup, what did you do when you got there? You talked about going in there and seeing machine guns.

HL: We weren't there too long. It was, well, there wasn't too much to do. I know we, most of the, like I did a lot of knitting and stuff like that 'cause there was not much else to do, but we were there for a couple of months, then we were, we were one of the first groups that left to go to Minidoka.

TI: Okay, but so I'm curious, you're, you're older than you brother by, you said three, four years?

HL: Four years.

TI: Four years. What was the influence of camp on teenage boys?

HL: I think it was quite different than what it was for us because one thing I know that happened is that the family no longer had as great an influence on him as friends, because you no longer ate at home, you all ate at the mess hall, all you did was go back home to sleep kind of thing. And so, like my brother, his experience in camp was quite different than what my sister and mine would be, and I think my sister probably was the one that was the most bitter of the whole, of the three of us because she had the most to lose.

TI: She had her business so it's up and running.

HL: And it was all interrupted and this kind of thing. I hadn't started on anything much yet and I was hoping to go on to school, so it wasn't that great. My brother was still in high school, and so you know how high school kids are.

TI: Well, so that's why I'm curious, because you're probably in that position where you could see your younger brother now running around with his friends and then you had your parents, and was there tension because of that?

HL: No, there wasn't tension, but then you could see that there was not the influence that, that should've been. And what surprises me is that whole group of kids turned out as well as they did. [Laughs]

TI: So your observations, were you concerned about, about your brother?

HL: Yeah, I wondered what would happen. But then the thing is I knew most of the boys he was running around with, and he was running around with older kids than he was and there were kids that, well, they were people I went to high school with so I knew them pretty well and I knew which were the good ones and he ran with the good group, so that was okay as far as I was concerned.

TI: Now, if he were running around with, maybe the bad group, would you have done something?

HL: I would've tried to do something, because I would've felt that you're putting your whole life in jeopardy if you ran around with the wrong group. And of course, not that they didn't get into a lot of mischief. They did. But we all did. [Laughs]

TI: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: So you said you weren't at Puyallup very long and then you went to Minidoka, so let's talk about Minidoka, and how did life change when you got to Minidoka?

HL: Well, it was much more settled. I mean, we were there for, we knew we were gonna, there for indefinitely, and so the first thing we did was try to get yourself a job. And so I applied to be assistant teacher 'cause I thought, well, if I want to go into teacher it would be good to, so Stella Yorozu was the one that had this fourth grade class and I was to be her assistant. The first week of school she got sick and so they said, "Okay, you take over." And so here I am with thirty-four fourth graders sitting on picnic benches. We didn't have desks or anything like that. We didn't have blackboards or anything, we didn't have books. Here's these kids and there's me, and I'm looking at them, they're looking at me, and we...

TI: Well, before you even go to that first day, so before the first day of school, what kind of training, expectations, curriculum, program, what kind of discussion was there about --

HL: There was just a little bit of in-service, but not much. It was most, it was basically getting the thing started. You had to get the kids in school and, or else they were running wild kind of thing, and so they decided you got to start school right away. [Laughs] And so there, we didn't have, maybe there would be probably six or seven teachers that had certificates. All the rest were just college graduates.

TI: So Stella Yorozu, she was a teacher or a --

HL: No, she was just a college graduate. She had a college degree, and so if you had a college degree you got to be a teacher. If you didn't then you were assistant teacher. That was fine with me.

TI: Okay, but in your case you got pushed up because Stella got sick.

HL: Sick and then there's nobody else to take it.

TI: Okay, so tell me about that, what happened with thirty-four...

HL: It was real interesting. I think I learned more about how to teach there than in anything else, because when you're sitting, you got thirty-four kids sitting in front of you, wiggling on the picnic benches and you don't have any books, there is no blackboard and just like, I started to teach them how to do borrowing and subtraction, and in that, my elementary school in the first three grades were kind of iffy, 'cause I skipped grades, and so I pretty much taught myself how to do a lot of things, and so I had figured out this way of doing subtraction and it worked for me, so I didn't think anything of it. So I'm up there teaching this, one of the kids raises their hand, says, "That's not the way we learned it in Seattle," and I said, "Oh, okay, come on up and show me how you learned it in Seattle." And then they show me how, they borrowed and I thought, oh, that makes good sense. [Laughs] But we used, like, I used my gardening for teaching math because we'd dig up a little plot in the front of the school and plant a few things. And then reading we just kind of gathered up books we could in the neighborhood, and it wasn't until we were, had been in school for about, I'd say a good three months before we started getting books, and we started getting books from California, the books that they had discontinued. And so we got something like five hundred fourth grade readers, but we didn't have need for five hundred fourth grade readers. We needed a lot of different readers. And then about that time we started getting certified teachers, so there was a teacher that came in, so she took my fourth grade and then I was asked to take the fourth grade down -- see, we had two elementary schools, Stafford and Huntsville -- and so they said, would I go down to Huntsville because the teacher down there was having a lot of trouble with this group of kids. I tell you, I walked in there and you wouldn't have believed it. They were throwing spitballs and everything, and I thought that's not gonna go with me. [Laughs] But the trouble was that was a very, very bright group of kids and she wasn't keeping them busy enough. And by that time we had enough books and so on, so that, but we were still on picnic benches, which was really hard on kids 'cause you can't put your feet down and you're, somebody's sitting right next to you, you poke 'em, and...

TI: So these were, like, in the mess halls or kind of modified mess hall type of places?

HL: No, they were, what they did is, they had barracks and the barracks were divided into...

TI: Apartments?

HL: Apartments. Like the middle ones were the biggest and the ones on the ends were small, but then you could divide it into three and get a pretty much, a even kind of a, and so that's where we were, in one of the modified barracks. And it wasn't until, oh, the following, let's see, fourth grade, then I taught sixth grade, and then I taught second grade. When I taught second grade we had tables and chairs, and it looked like school then.

TI: So it sounded like you got, you were almost like a substitute teacher, I mean, you had to fill in where needed, 'cause you got from fourth to sixth to second. Or was that kind of common for all teachers, they were kind of moved around?

HL: No, it was just, they kind of put me where they felt that I could do the best. And I just, like when I taught second grade I taught with George Tanabe's sister, Kim. Kim and I taught in the second grade together. We were co-teachers. We didn't, neither one of us knew too much about second grade. Like I said, only thing I knew about fourth grade was I was in fourth grade once. Only thing I knew about sixth grade, I was in sixth grade once.

TI: Did you ever get help from, you said certified teachers started, were also there.

HL: After, after things got settled we started having in-service training. Every week we'd have teachers' meetings and so you started getting more help.

TI: So it really is learning how to teach by fire. I mean, you're really just thrown in there and doing that.

HL: Oh yeah.

TI: What did you think about, when they brought in these outside teachers, Caucasians, that they were paid a lot more than you and the other teachers who were coming from the camp? Was that ever an issue?

HL: No. I mean, it, the thing is we accepted the fact that that was the way it was gonna be.

TI: And was there, like a division between, say, the white teachers and the Japanese teachers, or was it pretty much viewed as peers and professionalism, or peer professionals, or how did that go?

HL: Most of the teachers that came to camp were very dedicated people that were, they were willing to... they had to be willing to put up with a lot or else they wouldn't have come to a camp way, way out in the middle of nowhere. But we didn't really have any friction that I could, that I felt that we had. And it was, pretty much worked together the best we could.

TI: How would you say the education was for kids who went to school in camp?

HL: I think they got shortchanged. I really do.

TI: And why was that? Just because the, the lack of books and...

HL: The lack of books, lack of experiences and things. After all, they lived in a very circumscribed kind of environment.

TI: Did, and because of that, did you ever see any emotional issues or problems with kids?

HL: No. But some of the, one, one of the interesting things is some of the kids I had in fourth grade later on, when I was at the University of Illinois, they came up from Navy Pier and they were doing quite well, so I figure we must've done all right. [Laughs]

TI: I'm curious, when you had a classroom, there were some families who came from, from outside the Japanese American community and places like Seattle. They might have been from Alaska or something.

HL: Actually, Minidoka was made up primarily of people from Portland and Seattle, so we were a pretty homogenous group, so we didn't have the kind of stress that some of the other camps had.

TI: So because it was so dominant Seattle, Portland, then...

HL: It was just, you know. And then we knew people in Portland, Portland knew people in Seattle, so it was not, it was a Northwest group.

TI: So it wasn't, you didn't see the insider/outsider type of friction as much?

HL: No.

TI: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: So you're at Minidoka doing the teaching. You mentioned for at least a couple years you did this?

HL: Let's see, about a year, little over a year.

TI: Okay, and then you mentioned college.

HL: See, from there I went to Utica, New York, to teach in a Catholic infants' home.

TI: Oh, to teach. Not to go to school, but to teach.

HL: No, I went out to teach. Actually, I wanted to go to Wichita, Wichita, Kansas, but then I decided, no, I'd just as soon go to Utica and teach, work for a year, and then from there I went to Milwaukee and went to college in Milwaukee.

TI: Now, when you left camp, do you recall your parents saying anything to you as you left?

HL: No. That was an interesting thing. My sister wanted to leave and they said, she wanted to go to Chicago and they said, "No, that's too far for you to go." So then a couple months later I said I'm gonna go to Utica, New York, and they said fine. But see, all my life I'd gone places on my own, and so they just thought that I could, I mean, I'd been to Japan and even before then when we used to go to Friday Harbor they'd put me on the ferry and I'd go to Friday Harbor with my sister and I, and we'd get there and we'd walk up to our friend's house, and so I was pretty independent. So when I said I was going to Utica they said, "Fine."

TI: So even though you were a younger sister to Martha, your parents --

HL: I'd been away from home a lot more.

TI: And so they said it was fine, but do you recall any words of wisdom as you went to Utica or anything to...

HL: No. No, it was just, they expected you to do your best and, it was no different from when I went to Japan.

TI: There was another woman I interviewed who also resettled in Utica. She was a, she was with Maryknoll, so I'm not sure, what was her name? I can't remember it, but she told me a story that in Utica there was a hospital.

HL: Uh-huh, it was a veterans' hospital.

TI: Yeah, did you have any experience with that?

HL: Yeah. We, Kimi and, what's her name, I can see her as clear as day, can't remember her name now. We found out that there was this captain from Honolulu that was there, so we went to see him. But we weren't, we weren't at Utica really that long.

TI: So you visited him because he was wounded?

HL: He was wounded.

TI: And was he a family friend, or how did you know him?

HL: No. We just found out that there was a Japanese captain from Honolulu there and so we decided we'd go visit him.

TI: Okay. Any, any memories or thoughts from the hospital or anything that stood out?

HL: No. We just went a couple of times and then about that time I left and went to Milwaukee.

TI: And in Utica, in terms of just being accepted as a Japanese American, was there any issues about that?

HL: Well, we pretty much stayed at the infants' home, and it, let's see, it was, we got there in the fall and then the winters in Utica is not that pleasant, so we pretty much stayed. [Laughs] And then I left in the spring.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: Okay, so let's go there, Milwaukee to go to college. And this is, which college did you go to?

HL: I went to, at that time it was a state teachers' college, Milwaukee State Teachers' College.

TI: And how did you find out about this place?

HL: I think it was through the American Friends.

TI: And how would you, how would they contact you or let you know about these things?

HL: What they used to, what, they would have, when we were in camp they would give you places, like when I was thinking of going to Wichita, I was thinking of going there because I wanted to be an engineer. But then I got to thinking, what do I want to be an engineer for? And so, and then at that time I found out about Milwaukee State, and so I thought, well, I'll go there and that's as good as anywhere else.

TI: Okay. And so it's kind of interesting, here you actually had quite a bit of teaching experience by the time you got there. Did you find yourself a lot more experienced than, say, your classmates when you first got there?

HL: Well, I wouldn't, I don't know, I really, it never occurred to me. Let's put it that way. See, when I first went there I was gonna go into elementary school teaching, but then when I got there I worked for my room and board with this family and she was head of the Head Start program for Milwaukee, and so she said to me, "You know, Hannah, with your background, why don't you go into special education?" And I said okay, I'll go and talk to whoever's in charge and see what they have to say, and when I went to talk to him I thought, oh, that's kind of interesting, maybe I'll go into special ed.

TI: Now, what was it about your background that she said you'd be a good match for special education?

HL: Because I had already been to camp and had been teaching and taught under weird circumstances kind of thing. It wasn't just a plain classroom teaching, but she felt that with my past experience that I would make a good special class teacher, so I said okay, I'll give it a try. And I found that I liked it.

TI: Now, were there any other Japanese in Milwaukee during this time?

HL: There was two other people, two other girls that were in college with me, Betty and Amy. And then there was, I think, oh, I'd say probably about ten or so Japanese outside of college that was living in Milwaukee at that time.

TI: So did you ever get together as a group to do anything?

HL: Not too much. We pretty much stayed on campus. I did stuff with the two girls that were there. And then

TI: In Milwaukee were there any issues about being Japanese with whites or anything like that?

HL: No, but the thing is if you're different and if you make a good reputation your first year in college, boy, you got it made. [Laughs] Like I said, if you establish yourself as a good student, that stays with you so that even if you're not that good they give you the benefit of the doubt.

TI: So first impressions are really important. [Laughs]

HL: Yep.

TI: Yeah, that's, who's told me, I think my dad says the same thing. Okay. So how long were you in Milwaukee before you finished?

HL: Well, I graduated college in three years and then I taught in Milwaukee for, let's see, just for a year, no, two years, two years. And then I went down to University of Illinois.

TI: Now, was, were you in Milwaukee when the war ended or was it later on?

HL: Yeah. No, war ended when I was in Milwaukee. When I got there, see, I started school in '44, that's when, shortly after that.

TI: Okay, so this is, most of the time is then postwar.

HL: Yeah. That's when all the vets started coming in. When I started there was eight hundred girls and four boys. By the time I was graduating it was a good half and half.

TI: Oh, interesting. Even, I wouldn't have guessed such high numbers of men going into teaching back then. I still think of it more as a woman's occupation during that period.

HL: No, there was quite a few, in your secondary schools, of course, and then in special ed there was quite a few.

TI: Before we continue with your career, your parents. So the war ended, what happened to youf parents?

HL: They were in camp until the camp closed and they went to Spokane, 'cause my sister was in Spokane. And so they went into Spokane and then they stayed there, and I'm not too sure exactly what they were doing, what they did, and then they went back to Seattle. When they went back to Seattle they bought the Evergreen and then they were there until they retired.

TI: Do you have a sense of how hard it was to sort of restart a business in Seattle after the war for your parents?

HL: Well, the times were good. Times were booming at that time, so it wasn't too bad, but it was starting from scratch.

TI: And so this is the hotel on Maynard and Jackson, right, right there. That's the one I remember growing up as a, as a kid, because of the Chinatown parade right, right in front.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: Okay, so they're back in Seattle, you're in Milwaukee, you finish, and then where'd you go after Milwaukee?

HL: I went down to Champaign-Urbana.

TI: Okay, that's right.

HL: I went to University of Illinois.

TI: And this is a graduate degree at this point?

HL: Yeah, I went down there, I was offered an assistantship down there, and then they started an experimental preschool for mentally retarded children, and so I taught there for three, five years. And then in the, in the meantime I finished up my coursework and I got my Master's, and I was working on my Doctor's degree, and then I thought, "Why am I doing this?" [Laughs] And then while I was there, one day I was reading the Daily Illini during lunch hour and I said, oh, they're offering a Fulbright in Japan. They were just opening. And somebody says, "Why don't you apply for it?" And I said okay. Only thing they can say is no and I haven't lost anything, and so I applied and I got the Fulbright and so I went to Japan for a...

TI: And how many got the Fulbright to Japan that year?

HL: Of the students there must've been, I think there must've been about thirty of us, and then there was a lot of professors that would, went there to teach, and then there was some English teachers that got the Fulbright to teach English.

TI: Were there any other Japanese Americans in the group?

HL: Uh-huh. My roommate, Flora, she was, well, she's half Japanese. Her father was Japanese, her mother was Caucasian. And then there was this fellow from Hawaii who was in geology and volcanoes, and that was his thing. And I think they were the only ones that were Japanese Americans.

TI: Now, when I think of Fulbright these days, you get a fairly large stipend to live in a country and study.

HL: Oh, I was a million yen, million, I said that's the only time I ever earned a million yen. [Laughs]

TI: So you actually, so the stipend was pretty good for you?

HL: Yeah. You could, you could travel out of the country on that, you could live well on it, and then you also got travel expenses and you got some stipend for books and stuff. It was, it was very well...

TI: And so tell me about your experience. So this is now your second time there, what was, how had Japan changed?

HL: A lot. I think the, the thing that hit me most was how Westernized Japan had gotten. And of course, by that time the occupation forces has been there for a while, but some of the most interesting experiences I had was when, like I was up in Hokkaido, and I used to travel alone 'cause I was the only one in my field and so I went to the schools I went to, and I was eating dinner at this hotel in Noboribetsu in Hokkaido, and there's an Air Force base right outside of Noboribetsu. There were these two young airmen sitting at the table next to me, and all of a sudden I realized they're talking about me. I don't think they realized I understood English, but they said, "You know, her clothes are such that they're American," but they had a term then called pom pom, you know "pom pom girl," and "pom pom girl" meant that you were a prostitute that catered to Americans. And they said, "But she's not a 'pom pom girl,' but" they said, "you know, even the 'pom pom girls' don't travel by themselves in Japan. I wonder who she is." And I almost turned around and said, "I know exactly what you're saying," but I thought that would embarrass them too much, so I pretended I did not hear. [Laughs]

TI: That's funny. That's a good story.

HL: But I had quite a few experiences like that where people couldn't quite figure out who I was. My clothing wasn't Japanese. It was definitely American, yet I spoke Japanese, and if I didn't have to speak -- this is when I found out that my Japanese was fine for, like for, let's see, how should I put it? For, for my field and talking to people in my field and in business, but it was a complete dud when it came to using the Japanese that Japanese ladies spoke, 'cause they said to me, "You know, if you're speaking in a group where it's strictly professional, nobody could tell the difference that you're not, but the minute you're put into a situation where you're supposed to be a woman, you're no good. You just keep right on talking the same way." [Laughs] That was kind of interesting to me.

TI: So what are some other experiences? So what, what was your purpose as a Fulbright? What did you do?

HL: I went there to see what they did for their mentally retarded, and so I did a, went to a lot of different facilities they had, but one of the things I found out was the Japanese university system is completely different than ours. I was gonna take this course from this, with the professor, special ed, because I thought, well, I know the field, but then I would like to hear it in Japanese and get the, you know, so they said, well, it starts at nine o'clock. So I get there at nine o'clock, there's nobody there. It's just the janitor and me, so I said to the janitor, where's... oh, she says, they don't start class until nine-thirty and probably the professor won't come until almost ten o'clock. But people just kind of wandered in. He came in and he lectured and in the process people wandered out, and later on I said to them, "Why do you do that? What's the point?" They said in Japan getting into the university is the important thing. Once you get there you're not gonna flunk out.

TI: So, so in other words they're learning the...

HL: They said, "This is the easiest part of our life, as far as being in school goes, because until now we have to study and study and compete and compete to get into the best universities, the best colleges and all that." But once you get there you're not gonna, you're not gonna flunk out, so you can take it easy.

TI: That's interesting. I would not have guessed that about the Japanese. I always think of the Japanese as being efficient at every stage, and even though it might be hard to get into university they would still try to utilize that time to take it to the next level.

HL: No. Because by that time it's, see, if you wanted to go into foreign, like become a diplomat or a foreign anything, you went to Todai. If you wanted to be in business you went to either Meiji or, or what's that, starts with a K, but you picked the university you were gonna go to in terms of what career because it was who you know. It's the old school tie that made the big difference. It's not what you could do. It's who you knew and what high, what college you went to. And if you wanted to go into foreign service, if you didn't come out of Todai, forget it, and so getting to the right university was an important thing and once you got there you had it made.

TI: Interesting.

HL: So the whole system is quite different. And then their, the concept of time is some, interesting too, because we, you would have, like, they'd tell me we're having a meeting or a seminar on such and such a time. The first few times I would get there on time. You get places on time. And the only person that would be there would be, like I said, the janitor, and he'd always say, oh, they don't come until such and such a time. [Laughs] But everybody's very relaxed about the whole thing.

TI: But that, again, isn't typical of the Japanese. I mean, when I travel in Japan people are always on time.

HL: But see, that's something that's, that's postwar, I think, and something that they've learned from the Americans. Before that it was very laid back. And then if you, like if I wanted to visit a class, first thing I'd have to do is I'd go there and then they'd always take you to the reception room. You'd sit there and you'd drink tea and all that, and you'd pass the time away, and then you had to stay there for lunch and so on. Then they would want you to give a little talk to their faculty, and it wasn't until the next day that I could actually go and, and... but there was a way of doing things that was very slow and laid back, and it was not this... if I make an appointment I expect to be there and I expect to be able to do it. No way. It wasn't that way at all when I was there.

TI: It's almost like they were checking you out or there's a protocol, I guess.

HL: There's a protocol, there's a certain thing that you do that this is the way you do things, and so, so once I caught onto that I just went along with them, had a good time doing it.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: So when you, when you got through all that, what did you learn about special education in Japan?

HL: It was, that's another thing that's interesting is education kind of reflects the society. Okay, here we have to get our kids ready to go out and apply for a job and so on and all that. There they usually place them in jobs, so they don't have to hassle this getting the kids ready to, to fill out a form and how to do interviews and all that because what they will do is they will find a place and they will place them, and then they would be expected to function there. And so their whole emphasis would be different, and the one thing I found out in Japan was semantics. When you say something, make sure the other person and you are on the same wavelength, because if you say, well, we do it differently, their back went up just so fast 'cause they felt I was criticizing. And I would always have to backtrack and say, now look, this is the way we do it because this is why we have to do. You don't have this problem. You have a different problem and so you have to teach to that, and that's what you're doing, so we do it differently, but we're getting to the same place. And another thing that was interesting was you talked to these teachers and they could not understand what coeducation was. To them coeducation meant you had to have the same number of men and same number of women, same number of boys, same number of girls. And I said no, no, no. I said I went to a college that was eight hundred girls and five boys, and it was still coeducational. [Laughs] And they could not understand that. And another thing they had difficulty with was the concept of democracy, because they could not, they could not distinguish between anarchy and democracy, and so I spent more time going over, well, you know it means there's responsibilities, there's this and that and that this is privilege, with that it's responsibility, and that it isn't that you do what you feel like doing. But, but so one thing I learned in Japan is when you're talking to somebody make sure they know what you're talking about.

TI: Because you may assume they, they know, but they really may be on a whole different wavelength in terms of what --

HL: Yeah, and just like the same word, like when we say sekinin it means a certain thing, but to them it's a different meaning because they grew up in a different culture. And our sense of responsibility, we think of it in a certain way because this is the culture we grew up in. And so I found that the only thing you can do is keep on saying, "What do you mean by that? Give me an example." I'll give example about what I mean and sometimes we've been arguing and arguing and find out we're talking about the same thing except that the words meant different things.

TI: I know from a business context, early on American businesspeople would have a hard time working with Japanese businesses, I think for the same thing, these communication where American would say one thing and they would think that, because the Japanese would nod their heads, that they understood, but they're thinking something totally different.

HL: Yeah, you have to, I found that you always had to go back and say, "Now what do you mean? Give me an example. I'll give you an example." And then when you did that you finally came to a point where you knew what each other was talking about.

TI: Well, and you had the advantage of speaking Japanese. At least you could speak in Japanese and get that hammered out.

HL: Yeah.

TI: I mean, oftentimes you have most Americans speaking English and then they're speaking Japanese with an interpreter going back and forth and losing things back and forth, and that's even much harder.

HL: Oh yeah.

TI: Interesting. But, but going back, so was there anything that you brought back to the United States in terms of learning from Japan about special education, or anything else from Japan in terms of education?

HL: Yeah, there was a lot of things they did that was interesting. You couldn't, I can't say that you could use it directly, but you can take off on it. And one of the things I thought that was kind of interesting was that it's, they always balanced physical exercise with learning. I mean, first thing you did when, in the morning, everybody got out on the playground and you went through these calisthenics, but it was a matter of you get your body ready kind of thing, which I thought was kind of interesting that we don't do that here, which we could do a lot more of.

TI: Just to get the blood flowing.

HL: Yeah. And then there's togetherness about doing things together out on the playground. You get a, get a sense of cohesiveness.

TI: So these are things that you observed, but, but it was hard to really bring back and utilize 'cause it'd be so radical in terms of if you all of a sudden in the morning had everyone out there on the...

HL: Can't you just see how that would've gone over, particularly in the '50s and '60s? [Laughs]

TI: Yeah. No I know. Or even, but then I think back to Bailey Gatzert, Miss Mahon and in elementary school having this kind of platoon, this was pretty radical, pretty different.

HL: Yeah. But then it was, but that was very disciplined, too. I think that's the thing that you get more from, like in Japan it's the sense of discipline, self discipline as well as...

TI: What was Miss Mahon's background? When you say discipline, so it's almost like she created something that was very disciplined that, and ordered, that a Japanese population would lend itself. I'm curious where she picked that up.

HL: I don't know. She was there forever.

TI: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: So, so after Japan what did you do? How did you get to Oakland?

HL: Well, I was in Japan, I decided I would apply for a special ed class, and I applied in, I decided I wanted to be where the weather was good, so it was a matter of the Bay Area or San Diego area, and then in that, Merv was supervisor of special ed here and I knew what his philosophy was, so I decided I'd apply in Oakland. And so that's how I got to Oakland.

TI: And before we talk about Oakland, why not Seattle? You were born and raised there. Why not go back to Seattle? Your family's there.

HL: Lousy weather up there. Why would I want to go up there?

TI: You sound like my camera person back here. I think she's, she says... [Laughs] So the weather.

HL: Yeah, and, and I didn't want to be, go back home. I'd been on my own too long. I wanted to be my own person.

TI: Yeah, so I want to talk about that because you, you are such an independent person, and was that part of your thinking, that you went back to Seattle you would have to be, you'd come under the confines of the community, the family, certain expectations of --

HL: Yeah, and then the Japanese community in Seattle was pretty provincial at that time, and I didn't want to be boxed in like that. I wanted, I wanted to live, and so I was not going back there.

TI: Okay. So you, you come to Oakland, so what do you do in Oakland?

HL: I taught. I taught school. And then, and then I met Ed through one of the teachers. One of the teachers I taught with, her husband and Ed worked together, and so she invited me over for a Christmas party over there and I met him and, next thing we know, got married.

TI: So Ed is Chinese American. Tell me what it was like, having grown up more in the Japanese community when you're younger, and now all of a sudden being introduced to the Chinese community.

HL: They're not that different.

TI: So tell me, so how are they similar when you say they're not that different?

HL: Well basically, the, some of the customs are different, but then when you get right down to it, you know, it's, I can't say that they're that different. I mean, I never found it that... of course, they had, they're more superstitious. Oh, they've got more superstitions than, you don't sweep on New Year's Day because you're gonna sweep all your good luck out and that kind of thing. [Laughs] And especially my, Ed's sister, Elma, nicest person, but superstitious. She was a gambler, and you know gamblers usually are superstitious anyway. But they're all good cooks. They're wonderful cooks.

TI: But going back to superstitions, that's funny because I think of, of these Japanese superstitions in terms of, after a funeral with salt over your shoulder and things like that.

HL: Well, the Chinese, when you go to a Chinese funeral you come out, they give you a white paper and a red paper. The white paper has a, usually used to have a nickel in it and a piece of candy. You eat the candy and you threw the white paper away. The red paper had a dime in it. Now, you could keep the, the red paper or you could throw it away. Most people do. But the nickel you were supposed to spend before you went home.

TI: Oh, so you had to go someplace and spend the nickel. [Laughs]

HL: Yep. And so I remember we would all put our nickels together 'cause what could you buy for a nickel, you know? [Laughs]

TI: And someone'd just buy a candy bar or something, or something.

HL: And then, of course, the Chinese will not go directly from the funeral home, from the funeral to their own home. Usually they'll go to, they'll usually have a luncheon or dinner or something right after the funeral, and you go there, you eat, and then you go home.

TI: So again, it was like bad luck to go directly from the funeral to home.

HL: Yeah, and then another thing they do is they, they take this funeral parade all over. You start at the funeral home, you go down to, usually if they had a business they'd go by their business, you go by their home, and then to the cemetery, so sometimes it takes you an hour to get from the... and then God forbid if you get, go to a funeral in San Francisco, and they're usually buried out in Colma. You start out in Chinatown, and then they usually live way out on the Avenue, so you go out on the Avenue and then you go all the way out, by the time you get out there you're just exhausted from driving all this distance in San Francisco traffic.

TI: And it's all, like in a procession, too, back and forth and so, the whole thing? I'm curious, do the Chinese have something similar to koden, the, like how the Japanese always bring this, those little envelopes with money to help the family? Do they do similar things in the Chinese community?

HL: No, what you, you usually take either card or you, the Chinese are great at flowers. You send flowers, but it's getting now so that they don't do that as much 'cause most people are saying, well, you're just wasting your money on the flowers that that could be better spent, so it's come a long way from that.

TI: I was just curious because the koden is, always struck me as, because families are so poor and they just need help with the, the funeral expenses.

HL: It's, you helped each other.

TI: Helped each other with that.

HL: That's what the koden was all about.

TI: And so I was curious, because the Chinese were immigrants also, if they had similar mechanisms to help each other out when, so like when someone struggles in the Chinese community, how do they --

HL: Well, see, they had their tongs, their family associations, and the family associations took care of people.

TI: And how were you accepted as Japanese into the Chinese community? Were there, like any tensions from World War II or anything like that?

HL: They, no, no. People just thought, "This poor person doesn't speak Chinese." [Laughs]

TI: Okay. Good.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: I want to kind of jump to a recent event. This is May 14th, just days after a horrendous earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and as we were walking up we were chatting about the images on, on TV and things like that. Did this bring back any memories of Japan for you when you start seeing all the coverage of Japan and the earthquake and tsunami?

HL: Yeah, it brought back a lot of memories, but then the thing is it just, it was, it was just heart wrenching to see it 'cause you see all these homes just, I mean, just plastered down and cars tossed around and, oh, it was bad enough having the earthquake, but the earthquake would've been okay. They would've come through and it wouldn't have been too bad. I'm sure some of the roads would've cracked and that kind of thing, but then I think that tsunami is the thing that really did them in. And when you see that water, wall of water coming in it just, it's frightening.

TI: The remarkable thing to me is watching the, how the Japanese are dealing with this catastrophe. And you've been there a couple times, you've lived there, in comparison --

HL: But it's this whole thing, sense of, of discipline and whole sense of community, whole sense of pride. It's an ingrained kind of thing that you don't act like animals.

TI: Yeah, I noticed that. I mean, it's kind of interesting in this weird way, but there's almost, even though I'm third generation Japanese American, there's a sense of, of how they're dealing with this that just strikes me as just incredible, remarkable. And so as I watch, so there's a sense of, of pride, I guess, of Japanese ancestry.

HL: Oh yeah, Japanese have a lot of pride.

TI: Interesting. Okay, I'm done with my questions. Is there anything else that we should cover or talk about?

HL: I don't know. [Laughs] I think I've talked enough.

TI: No, this is, this is interesting. I'm glad we did this, and I'm glad that Tani was on camera to hear a lot of this in terms of the family structure, so, so thank you.

HL: You're welcome.

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