Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Ben Takeshita Interview
Narrator: Ben Takeshita
Interviewer: Virginia Yamada
Location: Emeryville, California
Date: March 11, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-467-1

<Begin Segment 1>

VY: Okay. Today is Monday, March 11, 2019, and we are here in Emeryville, California, with Ben Takeshita. Dana Hoshide is our videographer, and my name is Virginia Yamada. So, Ben, thank you for joining us for this interview today.

BT: Thank you very much for having me.

VY: Let's get started with you telling us where you were born and when you were born, and the name that was given to you at birth.

BT: Okay. I was born on August 2, 1930. My name was Ben Takeshita. "Ben" is, the character used for that means to "study hard." My parents wanted me to study hard. It didn't work, but that was a character that was used to make my name. And it's a Japanese name, not Benjamin, it's a Japanese name, Ben.

VY: I see, that's interesting. How many siblings do you have?

BT: Actually, there were nine altogether, but my understanding is that the second son died in infancy, so I have no idea who he was or what it was, but that's my understanding. So I ended up with two older brothers, two older sisters, myself, two younger brothers, and one younger sister, so eight all together, plus my parents, father and mother. So we had a family of ten when the war started, World War II.

VY: So what's the age range? Like what's the first year, what year was the youngest person born and what year was the oldest person born?

BT: That gets pretty technical. [Laughs] I have a hard time to remember my birthday. But the youngest one was, I think, born about 1936 or so, before the war started. And my oldest brother was born in 1921, '22 or something like that, because he was twenty-two, and I didn't figure this out, but he was twenty-two in 1943, so about that age, anyway.

VY: Do any of them still live in the Bay Area?

BT: Actually, out of the eight siblings that I had, there are only three of us left. My older sister, not the oldest, but the older sister lives in San Mateo, and then my younger sister lives in Foster City near San Mateo, and then myself, only three remaining out of eight that were living during World War II.

VY: Well, what about your parents? What were their names and when and where were they born?

BT: Okay. My father's name was Manzo and my mother's name was Hatsumi, but they were both born in the southern part of Japan in Kyushu, the island of Kyushu, and the prefecture of Fukuoka. And so my father came to the United States probably in the early 1900s, and then my mother came to get married to my husband -- to my father, because my grandfather, who was on my mother's side, he had come to the United States about 1890 or somewhere in there, working as a farmer. And he met my father and felt that my mother might be a good match for him, who was the daughter of him, so that's why he called my mother over, and she got here about 1914, somewhere in there, and they got married soon thereafter as farmers in the San Leandro area of East Bay.

VY: I see, so they hadn't actually met before they got married?

BT: No. They were from the same prefecture and same area in the farm country, but they didn't know each other before.

VY: Do you know how old they were when they got married?

BT: How old? [Shakes head]

VY: That's okay. So what kind of work then, did your father do?

BT: So at the beginning, then, when he came, he was working as a farmer. But all our kids, siblings and so on were born either in San Leandro or Alameda, somewhere in there. And in 1934, my grandfather had moved to San Mateo to start a landscape gardening business, and so he wanted to go back to Japan in 1934. So he asked my father to take over his gardening business in San Mateo, so all of us left Alameda and moved to San Mateo to take over my grandfather's landscape business. So that's why we moved to San Mateo.

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