Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Cookie Takeshita Interview
Narrator: Cookie Takeshita
Interviewer: Brian Niiya
Location: Emeryville, California
Date: March 11, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-465-1

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

BN: Okay, we are here on March 11, 2019, in Emeryville, California, and we're interviewing Mr. Ikuko "Cookie" Takeshita today. Dana Hoshide is the videographer, and Mrs. Takeshita's brother, Mas Takano, is also with us observing. So, good morning, and thank you so much for joining us today.

CT: Thank you.

BN: So as I mentioned, I think what I'd like to do is to start the interview by asking you about your parents and what you know of their life in Japan and reasons for coming to the U.S., maybe starting with your father. And then also mention his name.

CT: Yes. My father was from a family of about five or six children, and he was the youngest, and it was in Fukuoka city, actually, Hakata. But he came to America because his sister owned the movie theaters in Japan, and I think they were kind of getting interested into some movies from the United States. So he said initially he came here to buy some film, but after coming here, he realized his non-knowledge of English didn't get him very far. So he was about to return to go back, although he did contact some people here. But he met some people and they said, "Well, you can always go back to Japan, so why don't you stay here and just see, you may want to go into something. But he was the youngest of the family, so he met some very nice people. And one man said, "Why don't you come and help me? Don't you need some money?" He said, "Well, I have enough to keep me going, and when I run out, I'll go back to Japan." He said, "Well, why don't you come and help me?" And he went into this big hothouse, and there was this gentleman that had little plants, he had hundreds of little plants and said "You can help me with these." And my father said, "What are those little plants for?" And he said, "Well, the Japanese people here found that it's not like Japan, you can't just get a job, and most of us are doing gardening." So my father said, "What do you mean by gardening?" He said, "They work for Caucasian people, hakujin. And so I make all these bedding plants, and then they buy these plants from me," and that's how my father first learned about gardening.

BN: And was this in Alameda?

CT: That was in Alameda.

BN: And what was his name?

CT: Yasutaro Takano.

BN: And then do you know about when he first came over?

CT: Let me see, it must have been around 19... around 1921, 1921, '22. And he was supposed to go back, but he decided, well, he can always go back. So he decided he'll stay here, and because he was the youngest of several children, that he certainly wouldn't be missed, it was an adventure for him.

BN: Did he ever go back?

CT: He never went back, never went back. But on top of that, after he learned about all these little gardens, these little pots of plants, and that the Japanese were gardeners, then someone took him under his arms and he says, "Oh, if you're going to stay here, you might as well come and help me. And she says, "I'll teach you gardening." So that's how my father learned the, if you want to call it professional gardening, he became a gardener.

BN: Did he have any background in that at all?

CT: None at all. And all his life, he never told his family, he never went back to Japan. We went back a couple times, but he never did, and he never told his family he went into gardening. But apparently, he did very well. He was a hard worker, he did very, very well. But he did send us back to Japan to visit, but he never went back.

BN: When you went, was this before the war or this is later?

CT: Before the war, when I was a year old. My father eventually got married, because he was a bachelor, and rather than go back, people were fixing, you know, women, and he finally ended up marrying my mother, but she had come here to go to school. And then she had a sister and brother-in-law, and they didn't have any children, and they were quite wealthy themselves. So they were living in San Francisco, and they knew many Caucasian people. And this one Caucasian couple said, they were in the movie industry somehow, they said, "We have to go down to Los Angeles, can you hold onto our house for us? You live here free, just take care of the house." So my mother's sister and brother-in-law lived in this big house, which now is called Haight-Ashbury. So my mother went to live with them, and after a while, they said they came here to learn English, "You're certainly not going to learn English from us, because all we do is speak Japanese," and they put her in a Caucasian home. And she said she felt terrible, because she said she was like a little maid. And so she decided, well, she started to learn English, she wanted to go back to teach English, but she realized that this was a hopeless case, so she came back to her sister's house and she lived with them for a while. And in the meanwhile, they apparently did very, very well in what they were doing. Oh, I know what it was, the people they were holding the house for, this gentleman was connected with some Hollywood movie stars and movies, and he had some kind of a cleaning business on the side. And so it would come from Hollywood, these feathers, big feathers on the hats, in the times of the early '20s. And so he had that cleaning business. And so they took it over, and then they see it about one or two years, I guess, and they eventually went back to Japan and they amassed a fortune. They didn't have children and they decided to go back to Japan.

BN: This is your...

CT: Mother's sister.

BN: ...mother's sister.

CT: Older sister, and she stayed with them, and they said, "Well, you're not going to learn English being here," they put her in the Caucasian home. And then it turned out that it was horrible for her because she didn't speak English at all, so eventually she came back, six months or so, and she stayed with them. And they said, "Well, while you're here, stay a year."

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.