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Title: Floyd Shimomura Interview
Narrator: Floyd Shimomura
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Emeryville, California
Date: March 11, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-466-3

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TI: Before we go to your parents, I want to just touch a little bit upon your grandmother. So how did, on the Shimomura side, how did your grandfather meet your grandmother, and tell me a little bit about her.

FS: Well, I said my grandfather came in 1906, but my grandmother's family was already in Winters way before that, was part of that first wave. And my grandmother's father came in 1899 or '98, about that period of time, and established himself in Winters. And by 1912 or so, he was running a little boarding house there. And then he brought his wife and daughter to Winters to help run it.

TI: Oh, so they were in Japan?

FS: They were in Japan and they came, and then I don't know exactly how they met, but Winters is a small town, so he probably saw her at the boarding house, even though he was living on the Horseshoe at that time. But the thing was that her family was a samurai family, too, and so in those days, that made a difference, even though it had been abolished in Japan as a formal category. But the samurai families liked to still marry within other samurai families.

TI: And what was her family name, do you remember?

FS: Her family name is Uenishi. And I think her grandfather's name was Moemon Uenishi, so it had the E-M-O-N on it, which is a telltale sign. Because what it actually tells me is not only were they samurai, but they were of the same rank, because samurai had, like, six or seven different ranks.

TI: So have you ever done... boy, with that kind of heritage, have you done much family research back in Japan? It seemed like you can go back many generations and maybe understand the family tree.

FS: Yeah, I have, and I have a family koseki.

TI: That's what I was going to ask.

FS: Then I was able to get my grandmother's side, their koseki, and it has family members all the way back 'til 1815 was the earliest birthday. And then there's a list of that person's father, so we have the name, but we don't have exactly when he was born, but it was probably, maybe thirty years before that.

TI: And where in Japan was your grandmother's family from?

FS: From Wakayama.

TI: Okay, so they were both...

FS: And their villages are only about five miles apart.

TI: Okay, so I'm sure the families back then knew each other.

FS: Right. And I'm pretty sure that there was an arranged marriage at the time that went on.

TI: And so they met around 1912, I think, around 1912?

FS: It's when the women came from Japan to work on this boarding house. And the boarding house was right across the street from the train station, right near Main Street, but it's right on what they called Railroad Avenue. But there was a section of town, also near the railroad track, right where there's a railroad bridge that goes across Putah Creek. But my grandparents' boarding house was just outside of that area, about a block away, outside of that section, that block. And in 1915, the city of Winters passed an ordinance that made it a nuisance for any Oriental to live anyplace in the city of Winters except for Section 4. And there was a fine of fifty dollars a day for every day that this, quote, "nuisance" is not abated. It's a real interesting twist on the property law concept. Because it's kind of like if you have chickens or a real noisy thing, it creates a nuisance in the neighborhood, you can get it abated. But the obligation is on the property owner. So all of a sudden, this boarding house, which was, they were renting, boarding house, the property owner had to get rid of them to abate, quote, the "nuisance." And so that operation got shut down.

TI: Do you think that was specifically targeted towards your grandmother's family? Or were there others that were doing similar types of things?

FS: Well, you have to speculate on that, but I did look to see who the city councilman was who made the ordinance, and he owned a lumber company that was kind of across the street and across the railroad tracks on the other side, about a block and a half away. So I don't know if that had anything to do with it, and I don't know if they were targeting my grandparents' boarding house, or if it was a more general thing. But the fact of the matter is that most of the Japanese in that area didn't live in town, they lived out on the farms except for Section 4, which was part of town that was started by the Chinese immigrants before. But then after the exclusion act and everything, the Japanese kind of became the new labor force, and then ended up taking over the same buildings. And they had a general store there, and the Buddhist church had kind of a little temple. It wasn't the main one, the main temple was in Vacaville, but the Buddhist priest would come out once a week and have services and everything.

TI: And back then, did they have a Japanese school also?

FS: Well, they did in 1930, they built one. And there was also a fish market there, and then some boarding houses for the more transient workers who would just come in for the harvest season and things like that.

TI: Fascinating. I love stories like this about these prewar towns and how they were set up.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.