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Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Miyoko Tsuboi Nakagawa Interview
Narrator: Miyoko Tsuboi Nakagawa
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: South Bend, Washington
Date: April 30, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-nmiyoko_2-01-0005

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TI: Earlier, you mentioned when you started school, that the only language you knew was Japanese. So tell me how, was it difficult for you to go to school?

MN: Well, yes. When I went to first grade, I got all U's, "unsatisfactory," since I didn't know, I spoke Japanese at home all that time. And so going to grade school, having no knowledge, really, of English, it was kind of difficult, but that's all right. They used to have, like, "A for Apple," you know, have a picture of an apple with an A and that sort of thing. And I think my class, I think, had... oh, my grade school, yeah, it was like a platoon system. But anyway, there was a lot of Chinese and Japanese in this school, it seems like. And yes, I had "Unsatisfactory," which was not a very good report card. But second grade, everything just came, just flying colors, just great. But during the summer, for my, after my first grade, during the summer for my entertainment or my, whatever you want to call it, I used to take the first grade books out and practice writing and everything.

TI: Well, that's pretty impressive. Did you do that on your own or did your father tell you do this?

MN: No, no. My father was busy at work, so I would, in the summertime I would be home all by myself in the house.

TI: And you would study?

MN: And so I have to find out... I used to go out and mark the sidewalk and play hopscotch by myself, you know, you could draw with the chalk. And I used to go across the street, which was the men's... well, there was the men's park and children's park. Children's park was another block away. But since this park was right across the street, I could just go out the front door and go down and swing on the bars. So I used to be pretty good at swinging on the bars, I'd climb up those bars like ladders, you know, that horizontal thing, and I would go back and forth, and so I got my exercise there.

TI: And how about lunchtime? Did you make your own food, or what did you do for lunch?

MN: I must have had something to eat, otherwise I wouldn't have survived. [Laughs] I think there were things there that... well, you could always survive on crackers and... not cheese, but peanut butter or whatever. You wouldn't have to eat much. I was little, I didn't eat that much.

TI: Now, growing up, did you have any other families that you were close with, I mean that, like, go visit during the holidays?

MN: No, we didn't... the only thing I recall, one of the things, is... well, holidays, too. But the people, when we lost our mother, they were very supportive, you know. We were given, like, for Christmas or whatever, nice dresses. I remember... so I can't recall who these people were, which is unfortunate. But they did try to help out, because my father, of course... I thought he sewed me a polka dot, a red and white polka dot dress, but then I don't know, in my mind. But anyway, we had really very nice friends that would give us, sort of like party dresses. So when you had dress-up time or something, if there was some kind of entertainment that we went to or whatever, we would be properly clothed.

TI: Now how long did your sister stay with that Swedish family?

MN: Well, my sister was there from two years old through eight years old. So she was gone for six years. In the summertime, she would come... summertime we would have her home. That was after she got, when she was five or four, I don't know, we would have her home off and on, but not a long time, maybe bring her home for a visit and so forth. So she would be familiar with the place.

TI: But after she turned eight years old, she came back to the house?

MN: She did.

TI: And what was that like? Did it change your routine, because you were thirteen years old. So what was that like?

MN: Well, it was nice to have someone else there besides myself. And, of course, I don't know... I hope I treated her well. [Laughs]

TI: Well, did it seem different? Did she seem different because she was raised by kind of a Swedish family rather than a Japanese family? Did she do things differently?

MN: Oh, I would say she had a marvelous... her English was perfect, marvelous, probably vocabulary and everything. And, but, I guess just being sisters, you just, you don't think about things like that. But I did notice that she did have a wonderful vocabulary, English, spoken English. Of course, everything about her was more Americanized. But she got used to being around Japanese community because of where she was, of course, it was totally Caucasian.

TI: Now, did you ever sense any, maybe, resentment from her, that she had to go live with another family? Or was she confused or anything about living with the family?

MN: I don't think she voiced anything like that. Since we've been going to visit every... keeping in touch closely, I don't think, I don't know how she felt, but I thought it was great having a little sister.

TI: So what are some of the fond memories you have before the war of, for you, just playing and things like that? Is there anything that you remember that was fun?

MN: My fond memories of...

TI: Of growing up. Of anything that, like what would you do for fun?

MN: What did I do for fun? Well, for fun, well, I loved to read, so I used to always go to the library. And that was quite a way, we walked, everywhere I went, I walked. But I was trying to think of what did I do? Oh, I had some great friends, girlfriends, they were very nice.

TI: Now were your friends Japanese, or were they Caucasian?

MN: Japanese.

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