Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Betty Tanakatsubo Interview
Narrator: Betty Tanakatsubo
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Skokie, Illinois
Date: June 15, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-tbetty-01-0005

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: How about things like Japanese school, did you have to --

BT: Oh, yes, after school, after the public school we had to go to Japanese school on the weekend and then half a day on a Saturday.

TI: Okay, so on the weekday, every day after regular school you would go for about how long?

BT: About no more than hour and then on a Saturday you had to go half a day. So I would say maybe four hours.

TI: And did all your siblings go, so your brothers and sisters?

BT: Well, no, just one of my brother, they're the last, let's see now, he would be number, Tom would be four and five and six, three of us had to go to Japanese school and I hated it. [Laughs]

TI: Why did you hate Japanese school?

BT: Because after you get through you had to go home and you have to study and you have to write the Japanese word all the way down and then the next word all the way down. And my father would stand over us and he would tell my oldest sister, we were two years older, two years older than me, and say, "Oh, she writes so daintily like she should," and he said, "You do not write like that." He said something about I was like a tomboy and I would just try to get it out of the way, so he would criticize the way I wrote Japanese. So this is one of the reason why I didn't... I wasn't that keen about Japanese writing or speaking.

TI: That's interesting that your father was the one who would kind of watch over.

BT: Oh, yes, not my mother but my dad being an educator, scholar.

TI: And did he help you with your Japanese lessons, too?

BT: Yes, would look... in fact, when we had problems all we had to do is ask him or he would correct us.

TI: How about church? Did you attend church on Sundays?

BT: Yes, Buddhist church in Sacramento.

TI: And tell me about some of the Japanese community events over the course of the year like picnics or Obon.

BT: Oh, yes, we... I think we used to go to Kumamoto picnic.

TI: So kenjinkai?

BT: Yes, kenjinkai type of thing, 'cause my dad and my mom being from Kumamoto. And other than that I don't recall too many activities. I'm trying to think back. I know my uncle, who had the restaurant, after the picnic I remember distinctly going... my dad says we're going to uncle's for a snack. And I had a balloon that was passed out in the picnic and the balloon fell under the table, so I went to retrieve it and it popped and scared my auntie. Since then I never like her for some reason, I guess because she really reprimanded me.

TI: Oh, interesting and you were just retrieving your balloon but she thought you did it on purpose or something.

BT: I don't know what her reasoning, but since then I was never that keen about my uncle's wife. [Laughs]

TI: And this was the one who owned the restaurant?

BT: Restaurant, right. So there's a few little things that when it came to the children, the activity of my activity when we were young I don't think we did much. We did the family type of thing where you went with the parents to the movies, the Japanese movies, that type of thing. We were very connected with the parents, but not old enough to go on your own.

TI: Now with your father being home, did he ever tell stories about Japan or Japanese stories?

BT: Yes.

TI: What would be some of the stories?

BT: Well, offhand I'm trying to think. He talked about Japan and I remember one of his friends, the lady friend, family friend, she said my father's family was considered very prominent. And their home was right in the center and then the outer center was others who had the home. So evidently my dad's side of the family was, I get the impression that they were considered well to do or whatever.

TI: It sounds like they were almost the land owners and the surrounding home were like tenants or workers.

BT: I'm not sure in terms of workers, all I remember was this lady telling us that my dad's home was right in the center and then surrounded by other homes.

TI: But did your father talk about his childhood memories with you?

BT: Not too much I don't recall. I mean, he talked about the present, that we have to study and etcetera, but other than that he didn't say too much about his life in Japan unfortunately. But of course sometimes they do talk about it and we wouldn't be interested. We were too young, goes in one ear and out the other and say alright, you know.

TI: How about like just Japanese folktales like Momotaro and things like that?

BT: Yeah, well, you learn that in Japanese school.

TI: Okay, that makes sense.

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