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-1000-465-2

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

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BN: Just to go back, what was your mother's name?

CT: I-N-E, Ine. Ineko or Ine.

BN: And then what was her maiden name?

CT: Ando.

BN: And were they from the same part of Japan?

CT: They were from Kyushu. My father was from Fukuoka, the city, and she was from Oika in Kyushu.

BN: So then how did they meet? She was already here.

CT: Well, my father had been here for some time, I guess it would be four years by then, and my mother had come. And then her sister said, "We're not going to stay here, and the people are giving up the business, and we're just going to go back to Japan. So if you want to go back, you can come back with us." But in the meanwhile, I guess there were many single Japanese men from Japan, and she had met a lot of women friends and families, and they arranged for her to get married to my father. And she said, oh my gosh, she didn't intend to get married, she was supposed to learn English here and go back. But she never did learn to speak English enough to teach back home in Japan. So she married my father.

BN: Was it purely arranged, or did they know each other?

CT: No, they didn't.

BN: It was purely arranged.

CT: Purely her sister-in-law and some friends, and he was living in Alameda, my mother was living in San Francisco. And they arranged for them to meet, and my mother knew it was the hottest day of the year, and she was living with her sister and brother-in-law, they said, "We're going to go to Alameda, they have a famous beach called Neptune Beach, and it's much cooler now in Alameda." And so they put my mother, and they drove over to Alameda, and they stopped at this house. And my mother said, "Uh-oh, this is funny," and they said, "Look who's going to go in, and we have a friend here and he invited us to come over." And she thought, "Uh-oh," she said, "I'll wait out here, I'll wait 'til we go to Neptune Beach." And she sat in the car, and her sister and brother-in-law went in, and they came out and they said, "No, come in, the person here wants to meet you," and they were trying to fix him up. And my mother knew something was funny, she said, "No, I'm not going in." And then she said, "I'll wait 'til we're ready to go to Neptune Beach in Alameda," that was famous then. Surprisingly, the Japanese in Alameda did go to Neptune Beach, they had a beautiful swimming pool that everybody swam in except the Japanese, they were not allowed even then, that many years ago. So finally, my father came out, and he introduced himself, and she was sweltering, and she thought, well, how rude, so she went into the house and met him for the first time. And I guess they were trying to raise some kind of thing at the time, and my mother was not interested at all, but he was. [Laughs] And that's how my mother and father got together eventually, I think, a year or so later, they did manage to get married.

BN: And then by the time, he was in, was he already in business at that time?

CT: He was doing the... I know, he was helping with those little plants, and then this man said, "You should learn gardening. People here don't know how to do gardening, but the business is wide open." And so he met some people who were gardeners, and my father said he had never cut the lawn or anything in Japan, but he learned from the others. And he said, "My gosh, you're your own boss? You make your own time?" And so he just thought this is what he wants, his own business. So he said before he knew it, everybody who was Japanese was either a gardener or working in a restaurant or something, a Japanese restaurant, because they couldn't speak English. So my father said he learned gardening from some others and went into gardening, but he never told his family.

BN: In Japan?

CT: In Japan.

BN: And then did he do that...

CT: He continued to do that, and you know, I guess he must have been good, but somebody said to me, "Oh, Cookie, your family was rich before the war." I said, "Rich?" I said, "Why would they be rich? My father was a gardener just like our father." "Oh, no, no, your family was rich." And I said, "Why do you say that?" She said, "You had two cars." She said, "You have a brand new big Dodge, and another car that your father drove around for his work." And you know, it never dawned on me. And then I got to thinking back, and this is after the war, well after the war, she said, "You used to go on vacation," and we did. On Fourth of July weekend, I remember my father taking, he had a fellow who worked for him as a gardener, and he would take him and he would do the driving. And I remember we went to Lake Tahoe for a vacation, we went to Yosemite, we went to Santa Cruz, and we stayed. And it didn't dawn on me that we were doing that and nobody else was, but this was after the war, someone tells me, "You people were rich," I said, "No, we weren't rich." My mother couldn't work, she was not well, she wasn't healthy, and so my father was by himself.

BN: And you mentioned you had gone to Japan, too?

CT: Yes.

BN: Which not everyone could afford to do.

CT: When we were little, yes. I was a year old, and my sister was not quite one. My sister was going to be four, my father sent them to Japan. He said my sister will be starting kindergarten, and so, "Why don't you go to Japan?" So he sent them and they were there, my mother was there nine or ten months. And my father, for a minute, he thought she wasn't going to come back. Because a month later, my sister started kindergarten.

BN: And then can you talk about where you were in the order of the siblings?

CT: Oh, yes. I had one older sister, she's four years older, and her name is Teruko, we called her Teri in later years. And I came four years after my sister and my brother Mas, we called him Mas, Masaki, came three years after. And that was just it, three children, but my father was overwhelmed when he had my brother, they had my brother, because he was the only boy, and that was all. And other families had so many children, and we were so envious. Down the street they had brothers and sisters, and we thought, "How come we don't have any brothers and sisters?" And we were so, age-wise, three years apart, four years apart. But somehow or other it worked out. And I always wondered why my father never went back to Japan. He said he wouldn't go back unless my mother would go with him. But she had poor health, she came down with arthritis, and I can remember my mother, most of our lives, she was not physically well, she came down with crippling arthritis. So my father, you know the Isseis, the women did all domestic, in towns and cities, and the fathers did gardening, most of it was like that. But in San Francisco where people had little shops, and there were some proprietors, Japanese, otherwise they were doing gardening, too. I guess that was the only thing the Japanese Americans, because of lack of the knowledge of English, for one thing. And then the florists started up, so connected with the gardeners and the flower growing business, I think the Japanese Issei men went into gardening.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.