Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Michiko Frances Chikahisa Interview
Narrator: Michiko Frances Chikahisa
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Skokie, Illinois
Date: June 17, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-cmichiko-01-0009

<Begin Segment 9>

FC: So then we go to Japan and we were supposed to spend the summer in Fukuoka.

TI: And this is the whole family, so your parents and both sisters and you were there?

FC: The three, the family of five. And we went, in those days it was all ship so we went on the Japanese ship line, NYK line, and my father was able to arrange second class passage for us, so we sat in this lovely dining room with waiters serving us. It was quite elegant. And most of the people in second class were Caucasians going on tour to Japan, so there weren't too many children and so we sort of got a lot of attention from the stewards because they knew that we were children that didn't have playmates. And it took two weeks to get to Japan. We stopped in San Francisco, then we went to Honolulu and we stopped in Honolulu, and then we proceed to Yokohama. And when I was in San Francisco I got really homesick. It was the first time I'd been away from home and I just bawled and bawled, and my poor mother didn't know what to do because I was crying 'cause we left our dog behind, and I kept saying, "Poor Jackie, he must be so sad." [Laughs] And I just, I was inconsolable for overnight anyway, and then when we got to Hawaii my father had a couple of employees that were from Hawaii, and so he introduced us to his relatives, so we went and sat there, had my first taste of papaya. And then we went from there over to Yokohama, and his, her youngest brother, who had left Fukuoka and was working in Tokyo, came to meet us. And then we went from there to Fukuoka. We didn't visit, we didn't do much sightseeing in Honshu at that point, and we stayed with a family that had been living in Santa Barbara and the husband had made a lot of money so he returned to Japan as an expat and built this nice, nice home.

TI: And how did you know this family?

FC: My father somehow knew him.

TI: Okay.

FC: I don't know what the connection was, but I think maybe through the market.

TI: And by chance do you know this person's name?

FC: Akiyama.

TI: Akiyama, okay.

FC: I don't know their first name. He had one son, Hajime, and they had this very nice home, but he was really struggling because he couldn't find a way to make money. They were not those, expats at that time were not too well received because they went home showing off their wealth and their American behavior and they were not given many opportunities, so he was struggling. And I guess us staying there helped him because my folks gave him money for the time we lived with him. And so it was in Fukuoka; my mother's family was in Hakata, which is a suburb of Fukuoka city, so we spent time at the Akiyamas', but also spent a lot of time with my grandparents.

TI: So what was the reaction of your mother's family meeting your father for the first time?

FC: Yeah, well, it was amazing because my father and my grandfather just struck it up famously, and he was so proud of the fact that my mother married this wealthy man. From his point of view my father was very wealthy, and so he would parade him around town. My grandfather was quite a man. We went there also because it was his, they were celebrating his seventy-seventh birthday.

TI: So quite, quite elderly for that time.

FC: Yeah, and he was, he would get up at five o'clock every morning and cast his net in the river to catch little trout that they ate. And he also had a little rice field, and he would tend his rice field. The family owned a little cigarette, convenience store. They sold cigarettes, stamps, and a little bit of postcards and something like that, and they lived in the back. So he was living with his eldest son, and they had a family, I think, of five. Yeah, two sons and three daughters, and there were two cousins that were roughly my age and my sister's age. The four of us sort of hung out together.

TI: And what about the dynamics between your mother and her parents? Because they did not want her to go and she went against their will, and now she's coming back, so how was that?

FC: My mother, in preparation for the trip, spent a lot of time getting us clothes that looked nice and she had a wardrobe of her own, so you could tell, and then she wasn't wearing a ring, but she got a diamond ring to wear for this occasion. My father gave her the ring. So we went and they could tell that we were, we looked like we were quite wealthy, and I guess over the years she must have written to him and sent packages home, so they had some sense that we were not struggling. So they were very welcoming, very, very welcoming, and she was very happy. And of course, he had that seventy-seventh birthday celebration in which all the relatives came, so we were all paraded in front of everybody.

TI: So you were kind of the rich family from America and came all the way for the birthday party.

FC: Yeah. And cousins that my mother had not seen in years were there, so it was quite a, quite a big celebration.

TI: But in some ways it was kind of a facade.

FC: Yes. Yes.

TI: I mean, here you kind of portrayed this wealth, which, your father was doing well in the business, but in some ways during this time your mother wasn't particularly happy. I mean, it was kind of a hard situation at that time.

FC: I think the fact that when she got home and the parents, my father and her father got along so well and genuinely, and so whatever suspicions they had about how things really were kind laid to rest and so she felt a lot better. And I think when we got back she was not quite as tormented by...

TI: Okay.

FC: So it was a certain amount of healing that occurred.

TI: But she had to kind of, I guess, complete some things with her parents by going back.

FC: Parents, yeah.

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