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-1000-465-15

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

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BN: I want to get back to that later, but before we... I wanted to get to leaving Amache and talking about going back to Alameda, but I know you had a little interlude before that, you mentioned your sister had left camp to go to Cleveland.

CT: Yes.

BN: Was she going to college?

CT: She was going to go to college, but she stayed and decided, well, she wanted to work a little, and she stayed with a Caucasian family, and then my teacher, he wrote, well, not this, but he came to see my mother. And he said, "Cookie, your mother's a lovely..." and very complimentary. And then he came to see my mother and he said, he talked to my mother about something and she didn't quite understand. So he said, "You know what I told your mother? I don't know if you could afford it, but I'd like you to leave this camp. You will finish school at sixteen, and your birthday's April, but if you can get out of here and take one semester in Cleveland, I understand your sister's in Cleveland, you will graduate at sixteen." And I think, at that time, they knew something was going on, and so he said, "The only thing is your sister's in Shaker Heights, but he said, "I investigated, but whatever," he said, "the tuition, you will have to pay tuition," it was thirty-five dollars. Our parents were getting eighteen dollars a month. "And your mother said that she would talk to your father, but he's working outside somewhere," he was taken out somewhere. So my mother wrote to him and he said, "Well, if the teacher said that, send Cookie out." So I left my class and I went to Cleveland. And the only thing was I turned sixteen in April, and by June I graduated, I was sixteen a couple of months. And I graduated, and then the war ended. So they started closing the camps, so my mother wrote and she said to come back. "Your father said they're going to be coming, you come back. But Teri wanted to go out to school, so you leave with her." But when I went to school, a very interesting thing happened to me. The family I stayed with, he was a doctor and my sister was staying there, so they said I could stay there temporarily. I got to Shaker Heights, and when I went in there, there was this little girl came in, and she had a bike. Very nice girl, she introduced herself, and then I told her my name and I said, "Everybody calls me Cookie," real nice looking girl, blond girl. You could tell they were wealthier. And this girl said, "Her name is Cookie, da da da." Then pretty soon all the students came, and finally the door opened. And so I started to follow the girl I met first. And then the blond girl said, "No, you come on this side of the room." And I said, "Oh, all the new people come on this side?" and she didn't answer me. And so this girl, this side, said, "Go ahead." So I didn't know what it was. And when I got in there, she said, "I thought of all the new people coming in here," and this blond girl, beautiful, nice, "all the Jews sit on that side of the room." I said, "The what?" And she said, "The Jews." I didn't know what that was. So when I came home, I said to my sister, "Teri, what's a Jew?" And she said... [pantomimes putting finger to lips]. I said, "Is that a bad word?" and she said, "No, but I don't know, I think it's a religion." In Alameda, we didn't know anything about that. And she said, "But I don't, some people, I think it's a religion, and the people who are Jews and people who aren't, I don't know whether they get along, but I don't think they get along too well. Don't say anything, but yeah, it's a religion." I said, "Oh," I said, "are we staying with the Jews?" and she says, "No, we're not," but that's it. And she said, "But don't use the word 'Jew,' she said, "Kuichi, ku ichi, 'nine' and 'one,'" Japanese kanji, ku ichi, nine and one. We say kuichi, "nine and one," which is "Jewish," we never say "Jew." They had a Japanese word, kuichi, meaning "ten." Juu ichi, "ten and one, ten and one." Excuse me, nine and one, nine and one, ku ichi. So we say, when we refer to them, we say kuichi, nine and one in Japanese, means "Jew." And I said, "I don't get it. You mean it's a religion?" And she said, "I don't know. Some people don't like them, but I don't know what it is." I said, "Did we have them in California?" She said, "I don't know," she said, "I guess so, but I think they have a lot in the East and Midwest." I said, "Oh." So that's the first encounter I ever had. And yet, all of a sudden, I was in the majority, this girl said, "The Jews sit on that side of the room."

BN: So you were, as not a Jew, you were on the...

CT: That's right, on the side with. And I thought, when I got home, I said, "What's a Jew?" And she said, "You could tell by the name now, somebody told me." So you know, I thought back when I was in grammar school, not to be a braggart, but I'm with the brightest. Most of the Japanese in grammar school were the brightest. And yet, the ones that were right with me was Arthur Kahn, K-A-H-N. And we later found, that's a Jewish name, was Fischer, Fischerman, and another was... so then I later found out, being back east, what names were Jewish, and the ones that were right behind me were the three fellows that were Jewish. And coming from Alameda, we didn't have any of that. Anything, the Orientals, we were called, were prejudiced because we didn't have one black family in all of Alameda. And so it was mostly Japanese and maybe two Chinese families.

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