Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Chizuko Omori Interview II
Narrator: Chizuko Omori
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Emeryville, California
Date: May 25, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-ochizuko-02-0001

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MN: Okay. Today is Wednesday, May 25, 2011. We are at the Woodfin Hotel in Emeryville, California. We will be doing a second interview with Chizu Omori, and Dana Hoshide is on the video and I will be interviewing, and my name is Martha Nakagawa. So, Chizu, tell me which grammar school you went to.

CO: Well, I went to a bunch of them. Like I said, the families moved around some. The one I remember, the earliest one was Costa Mesa grammar school. And then from there, went, I think at that point we moved to Oceanside and went to grammar school in Oceanside.

MN: What was the grammar school in Oceanside called?

CO: Man, I don't remember. [Laughs] It was just probably Oceanside grammar school. I don't know that they had a whole bunch of grammar schools there. Because it was a small town at that time.

MN: What was the ethnic makeup of the grammar school?

CO: Well, again, it was mostly white, and really a real sprinkling of Japanese Americans. And then there might have been maybe... I don't know what kind of proportion, but there were Mexican American kids going to that school. So they were segregated in the earlier grades. If they didn't speak English, they would be put into what we called the "Mexican school" where they would go through a transition of learning English and then go back into the regular school. But a lot of them dropped out and all that, so I really didn't know very many of those kids. So you might just call it a relatively "white" school.

MN: Now, the non-Nikkei students and the teachers there, how did they treat you?

CO: Just like everybody else, you know. It was kind of a small town atmosphere, and there just weren't very many of us, so we were just accepted as students. And really, we were not discriminated against. I mean, the scapegoats there were the Hispanic kids, if you want to go into some kind of a hierarchy there.

MN: Now at Oceanside, were your parents involved with the Kumamoto Kenjinkai?

CO: Yeah. All the people... we must have covered that whole business about the cooperative, farm cooperative that was formed or does that come later? Well, anyway, in Oceanside --

MN: Tell us about it again.

CO: Yeah, that there was a group of farmers who knew each other, I guess. They were all from Kumamoto, and so the Oceanside Farmers Cooperative Association was really all people from Kumamoto. So that was kind of built in, that the kenjinkai things would happen. And I just have memories of, like, once a year, a real big picnic, probably at the beach or someplace like that, there the Kumamoto-ken people would get together.

MN: Now, this big picnic, were these people just from the Oceanside Kumamoto-ken people, or did they come from San Diego, L.A.?

CO: Not that far away, but there weren't just us, our group, there were others, too. There's other small towns in that area, so it was a regional kind of thing, I guess. I don't remember ever going to anything like that in L.A. or San Diego.

MN: Now, when you say you have these memories of these picnics, how many people attended?

CO: Gee, maybe several hundred or so. You know, it's very vague. The one thing I remember is they would have raffles. And I won, as a little kid, I won a case of four gallons of shoyu once, and that was very impressive because I'd never won anything before. [Laughs] And it lasted a long time, so I remember that case of shoyu.

MN: Was it Kikkoman? Just out of curiosity.

CO: I don't remember. I really don't remember. But they had things like races, sack races, I don't know. I think there was like eggs in a spoon race, and just things like that. They were very fun as I recall. And back in those days, things like soda pop were a big treat. We didn't have soda pop in the refrigerator all the time. We didn't even have a refrigerator part of the time. But at any rate, so having as much soda as you liked was something that was for special occasions. And I remember that. And we would have all these nigiri and chicken teriyaki, and oh, all those things, the picnic foods, sushi and kamaboko. Anyway, I guess the women had to work hard for those things, 'cause they did all that cooking. [Laughs]

MN: Yeah, did your mother spend days making the obento?

CO: Oh, I suppose, I don't know. And you know, they would be in these juubako kinds of things with the furoshiki or whatever, yeah, tying everything up. So those were the kinds of things that I associate with picnics.

MN: What did your mother make and put into the juubako?

CO: Well, the nigirizushi with the stuff either inside them or on top of them. And of course, when we used to have the foods that came from, like, L.A. and such, maybe you guys have never heard of these things, but gobo maki I remember, and kinpira gobo... gee, I'm stuck on gobo, huh? Tempura vegetables, all those finger foods. Well, but then, of course, some American-style things were creeping in, fried chicken, potato salad maybe. You know, it got so that it was sort of a mixture.

MN: You mentioned gobo. Did your parents raise those kind of vegetables?

CO: No, uh-uh. Not gobo anyway. What I do remember is daikon, they raised daikon. And one of the big treats that I remember is my mother would thin out the daikon rows, the baby daikon, and she would make tsukemono with this baby daikon. I remember that, 'cause I especially liked that. And I can't remember how it was made, it's too bad. I guess I'll have to grow my own if I want baby daikon now. [Laughs]

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