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-1000-465-4

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

<Begin Segment 4>

BN: Yeah, and I'm going to get back to that in a minute, but before we do, I wanted to ask you a little more about before the war, Alameda. So you mentioned it was kind of a mixed, it was Japanese families and German and other families.

CT: Yes, in our block, particularly.

BN: Did you play with all the kids? All the kids kind of played together?

CT: Yes, we did. We played out in the street, and we did. But yes, at that time, I didn't realize that they too were from the old country.

BN: So you were all kind of Nisei in some ways.

CT: Yes, so we played. And at that time, I did not realize that there were certain areas Japanese couldn't get into. And so we didn't, those fifty blocks or whatever, twenty-five blocks, that's where the Japanese lived, and there was only one Chinese family, and there were no black families. There was only one year that this black family moved in, we used to call them Negroes, and there was a little boy and a little girl, young couple, and they went into this house across the street, well, they were our favorites, we never saw black children. And so they started grammar school, they were in grammar school, but they were not there more than maybe six months and they moved again. We did not have one black family in Alameda, so we were not acquainted. But we called them "colored people."

BN: At that time.

CT: At that time. And then there were two Chinese families, but all the rest were Japanese. There was a big colony of Japanese families. And we had a Japanese Methodist church and a Japanese Buddhist church, they were right across the street from each other.

BN: And did you go to the Japanese language schools?

CT: Japanese school, yes.

BN: Was there more than one?

CT: You mean the Japanese school?

BN: Yeah, language school.

CT: There was, the Christian church, they used to come to us, but they started their own later, so they had their Japanese school and we had Enbun, which was right across the street from each other.

BN: And this was the Buddhist...

CT: Buddhist church, yes, and the Methodist church started theirs. I remember that we started ours first, and then so the man from the Methodist church came over and he said, "May we be allowed to have our children come?" And my father said, "Anybody, it's not who... in fact, we have one Caucasian boy who wants to learn." So then the Methodist church, about maybe two years later, started it. And so there was only one Methodist family that came to our Japanese school, but they stayed with us. They said, "We started with you so we're going to stay." But both the Methodist church and the Buddhist church had Japanese school.

BN: And then it sounds like your dad was active in the church?

CT: Yes, he was active in a Japanese Association, and then the Buddhist church, and then the Fukuoka-ken, whatever. So yes, he was pretty much active in the Japanese school, especially. We had Japanese school every day.

BN: Did you go, did you have to Japanese school continuously?

CT: Every day, even summertime.

BN: Did you enjoy it?

CT: You know, yeah, I loved Japanese school. Yes, we got out of grammar school at three-thirty, we would go straight to Japanese school every day. And even in the summer, they gave us maybe a month off, but then they gave us homework. But yes, my father had us speak Japanese at home because he said rather than, they would speak improper English, and we would then speak improper English, so he said, "We won't speak English at home, we'll speak perfect Japanese." He said, "We'll teach you Japanese," but he said, "We would be speaking improper English and you would copy us, so we're not going to speak English." So we spoke Japanese fluently, and that's how me and my brothers, they just, when we went to camp, we spoke fluent Japanese as well as English. But most families, we spoke English, even if it was not proper English with the parents, and my father didn't think that was going to be too good for us, so we had to learn Japanese. So consequently, we could speak Japanese fluently.

BN: You were pretty good.

CT: Yeah, even has kids...

BN: And it's fairly unusual, it seems, that many Nisei did not like Japanese language school. What did you like about it?

CT: I loved it. We went straight from grammar school to our Japanese school.

BN: How far apart?

CT: Well, we could walk from our, maybe about four blocks from our grammar school, and the Japanese school was like two blocks, I mean, it was all in this one area.

BN: What grammar school was it?

CT: My school was called Porter, P-O-R-T-E-R, and then about five families were on the other side, and they went to what they call Haight school, and we used to say "Porter hates Haight." But basically two schools where the Japanese went. But amazingly, when my sister went to high school, Alameda High School did not have a swimming pool, but they had to learn to swim, so they went to this famous place called Neptune Beach in Alameda, that's where they learned to swim. But the Japanese were not allowed in Neptune Beach, so my sister and them, when they finally got into high school, my parents said, "That's wonderful, you're more at an advantage than the others. It's not so important you have to learn to swim, because you could take another course for college." That was the thinking of the Issei. Amazing to me when I think about it, oh, you get to take an extra course for college.

BN: Putting a positive spin on it.

CT: Yes. And anybody could learn to, we lived in Alameda, it was water all around us. They said, "You don't have to go to Neptune Beach to learn to swim, you could take another class instead," and they did. So that was the Issei thinking.

BN: Did you also go to, I mean, were there Sunday services at the Buddhist church?

CT: Oh, yeah, the Methodist church had theirs, and right across the street was the Buddhist church, and every Sunday both churches were full. And we looked forward to it, we loved it. And when I think of it, we really did have an active... because we went to regular school and then we went straight to Japanese school in the summertime when we had summer vacation, public schools, we still had Japanese school. But then my father went one more, he wanted us to learn calligraphy, shodo, and so at nighttime, he would take us to Oakland, there was a really famous calligrapher, woman, very famous. And so he had my sister and me, and there was another family that sent their daughter. And at night we went there, I think twice a week, and we learned calligraphy. Although we learned it in Japanese school, basic Japanese school, but this was much more intensive.

BN: Boy, you had all kinds of activities.

CT: And we had piano lessons. [Laughs]

BN: Did you do things like Japanese dance?

CT: You know, I did learn, we did. But my father... I know, after the war they wanted, and my brother says no. When you learn Japanese, that was just part of it, but not as a living, he says no. So after eighteen, just stopped.

BN: And then what about things like sports?

CT: Well, after college, well, before that, I learned to bowl. No, I guess it was during that time, and I did bowl. I bowled for about thirty years, and my father couldn't understand why.

BN: Yeah, I know your husband was a big bowler later on.

CT: Yeah, he was a bowler. He was very athletic even while he was in the army, I didn't know him then.

BN: We'll get to that later.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.