Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Hatsuko Mary Higuchi Interview
Narrator: Hatsuko Mary Higuchi
Interviewer: Virginia Yamada
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: February 4, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-456-13

<Begin Segment 13>

VY: How about... let's talk about your mom, because she was with you for a long time, and it sounds like she also influenced your art in a different way.

HH: Mainly through encouragement and giving me feedback.

VY: Was she very supportive of your artwork?

HH: Definitely. She enjoyed them so much, to see the process, which is going to the places, because she loved traveling, visiting and seeing what becomes of what's out there. Unfortunately she wouldn't try, but I would really have loved to have seen her, but she just had a hard time with it.

VY: What kind of places did you take her to, to paint with, to have her be with you when you were painting?

HH: All over Santa Monica, to the mountains, to the beaches, inland. Santa Monica, even along Redondo Beach, Pomona, just everywhere. We would go just everywhere.

VY: And she would sit with you while you were painting?

HH: Yes, or she would just watch others, she would go to Manzanar, too.

VY: To the Paint Outs?

HH: Uh-huh, Paint Outs, and she just enjoyed sitting there, just observing how everyone approaches their artwork. Just enjoying being out there, just falling asleep in the sun, and finding everyone had dispersed and gone someplace, she's still sitting there. And people would come say, "Mary, your mom is sitting out there alone in the sun." [Laughs] I go, "Oh, okay."

VY: And she went with you, too, to some of the camps as well, right? Did you go visit?

HH: Yes, when they had their pilgrimage to Manzanar, I would take her whenever they had their pilgrimage, when she was alive.

VY: Did you go to any of the other camps?

HH: Yes. Not with her, because she was gone, but after we went to Heart Mountain several times, to Minidoka, to Tule Lake, Amache, and we went to Poston.

VY: Was your mom still around?

HH: No, she was gone by this time. And those, pretty much all of them except for Rohwer and... what's the other one? Rohwer and... my mind just...

VY: Yeah, it just went out of my head, too. Jerome.

HH: Jerome, yes. Thank you. [Laughs]

VY: Well, why do you think you went to visit all these camps and to paint? What was kind of driving you to do that?

HH: Yeah, the connection, what I experienced, but they were all the same, in desolate, faraway places, not really that different, same barracks.

VY: I feel like you were trying to maybe understand where you came from a little bit, or your childhood a little bit more?

HH: Yeah, just trying to understand that period, and where we were sent and why were we sent there? Just making a connection, connecting the dots.

VY: It seems like that work inspired you to do a lot of paintings related to that time in history, and you have a whole series about it. Can you talk a little bit that, the EO 9066 series of your paintings?

HH: I know the first one I did... I'd like to get the painting if you don't mind, or can we do it later?

VY: Yeah, we'll do that later. So, okay, we'll save that for later, because it would be great to talk about that. So, okay, getting back to your mom, she would come with you to travel and to paint, and she went with you to Manzanar. Did that ever cause her to talk about anything in that time, or did she just never want to talk about it?

HH: Just little bits here and there, but not anything really substantial. When I did do a painting and ask her, she would just tighten up. I mean, the look on her face and the anguish, it was just like, "I don't want to talk about it, hanashitakunai." And she just didn't want to talk about it. But if I asked her about different things about the camp, the mess hall, I'm sure she would have freely talked about things. But I don't know, there's a lot of regrets in my life where I wish I would have asked her and spent more time with her asking her those questions. But you get so busy in your life raising those (two) kids, because my husband wasn't around, so I was raising those kids myself. He was really sick. And I wish I would have spent more time just holding her hand, say, "Okaasan, let's go. Tell me about this." I wish I would have done that, so that's a big regret on my part.

VY: It sounds, though, like you did spend a lot of time with her, though, just being with her and traveling with her.

HH: Yeah, and she was just always so appreciative. Always, "Arigatai," she would just say, "Arigato," this is all she would say. She was just, loved traveling and seeing new things, and to continue to learn about the American Indians, she was just so fascinated with everything, even the different scenery, the different lakes, it doesn't matter, the Blowhole, or whatever it was, she was always amazed.

VY: Do you think she was proud of you?

HH: I think she was, but she was one never to express that. But I'm sure she was.

VY: I'm sure she was, too.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.