Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Helen Takeshita Interview
Narrator: Helen Takeshita
Interviewer: Brian Niiya
Location: Emeryville, California
Date: March 13, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-471

<Begin Segment 1>

BN: Okay, we are here in Emeryville on March 13, 2019, and we're interviewing Sumako Helen Takeshita. My name is Brian Niiya and I'll be doing the interviewing, and Dana Hoshide is doing the videography. So thank you, Mrs. Takeshita, for joining us and for talking about your experiences. And as we often do, I wanted to start by asking you about your parents, and in particular, since your father was the one who came from Japan, if you could start by talking about him. Tell us his name and what you know about...

HT: My father, Denichi Akashi, and he was... what was it now? What's the name of it, I can't even remember it now. (Narr. note: Printer.) But then he was, his father and parents, I think, died early, and he was living with his older brother or something like that, he didn't get along, and he ran away from the thing, and he got onto a boat, one of those ships in those olden days, and he got on there, and it's a... not American, I don't know what it was, American, but it was on a ship and they used him to work on the ship, and he went here and there and everywhere. And what happened was, when he was on the ship, and they said that the war was going to start, so you have to get off the ship and get off at San Francisco, says, "There are Japanese, and then you could just get off," and that's how my father stopped in San Francisco, and he never returned to Japan, he never did. So that was his life.

BN: Now, with the war, was this World War I?

HT: Yeah, was it World War I? Maybe it's World War II, huh?

BN: What year was he born?

HT: Gee, I don't even know, because I'm eighty-four. (10/22/1901). But that's what I remember, and he came to San Francisco and he was doing sumo and wrestling and all that kind of stuff, but then he got married to my mother in San Francisco and were active in the Konko church.

BN: Do you know what he did to make a living?

HT: Yeah, he worked for a Japanese... what was he doing? What was it, one of those, not a store or anything, it was... gee, I can't identify it. But it was a Japanese company that he worked for. That's how little, I'm getting forgetful about... but it was always in Japantown. (Printer at Nichi Bei Times.)

BN: Then you mentioned, I know he was very active with the Konko church, was that something from Japan?

HT: No, Fukuda-sensei came from Japan, him and his wife came from Japan, and at first he had a little house and then he had, he was doing all that, but he became really good friends with my father. And as the church became bigger and bigger, my father was very active in helping him physically. He was very handy, handyman, and he was always very close to the Fukuda-sensei there, that built the church, which is really, really nice right now, to this day, Fukuda-sensei.

BN: But it's something that he, they met here, he didn't know them before?

HT: No, they met in San Francisco. We were very active in the Konko church, even to this day.

BN: And then you mentioned your mother was actually Nisei?

HT: Yes, she was Nisei.

BN: How did they meet?

HT: I sort of wonder, you know, because he didn't have a real job, kind of stuff, because he's an "illegal," right? And then my mother is a Nisei, I think her father was a farmer or something like that, and she was born here.

BN: Do you know where she was from?

HT: I thought she was more southern, not real south, but then he was... what was it? Not Sacramento, but he was lower than San Francisco.

BN: Kind of a farm, rural?

HT: Or something like that, yeah. I forget what it was. Those are the things I'm really forgetful now.

BN: You mentioned your father was, came over illegally, but was that, did he freely talk about that? I mean, that was something that everyone, I mean, he told the kids and so forth?

HT: Yeah, we all knew about it.

BN: Did that affect him in any way that you know of?

HT: He never wanted to go to Japan even as we got older, and (my) sisters were going to go to Japan and wanted to know if my father wanted, he never wanted to return to Japan. I think he had bad memories of Japan.

BN: So later on, I mean, after the war, Issei could become citizens and so forth. Did he...

HT: He never did.

BN: He probably would have, might have had a hard time.

HT: Yeah, but he never, I don't know.

BN: Interesting.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

BN: So somehow, your mom and dad got married, and then they lived in San Francisco Japantown.

HT: Yeah, all the time.

BN: And then where were you in the order of your siblings?

HT: Okay, let's see. I think I'm not the oldest one. (Number three.) I think my mother was married before, and she had my older sister. And then I think, I don't know if her husband died or something like that, but then my mother married my father. So I had an older brother, I had an older brother who passed away when he was relatively young, and he did get married and all that, and I was the next one. But we were always in Japantown, very active in the Konko church.

BN: Did you have to go to Japanese school?

HT: I don't remember going to Japanese school, but I learned (how to speak), because who I married was a Kibei, so I learned Japanese more so because he's a Kibei. But my Japanese isn't really good, it's what I learned from going to church and things like that.

BN: What kinds of things did you do with the church in terms of, you said they were pretty active.

HT: Well, I was, Fukuda-sensei, Fukuda-sensei, the Fukuda family is very big, to this day, they're very active. And I used to be, I was a good friend with one of the daughter, the one daughter, so we were always at church, and we were active doing everything, helping. Because the Konko church was right there on Bush Street, and then the Konko church owned a couple of the homes. And then in the backyard, we always played, all the kids from the church would come and play, and we had a basketball court, so it was a place where kids used to hang out. And they weren't necessarily members of our church, but they would hang out just to play basketball or things like that.

BN: How big was the Konko church community? Was it a fairly large...

HT: When it first started, it was very small. It was like a house, but then later on, they bought the whole corner of the Bush Street and Laguna, they bought that whole area. When we were growing up, it was a very small place.

BN: Was there... because most of the other Japanese were Buddhist and some were Christian, did you feel differently from the other kids, or did the other kids who weren't Konko, was it something that was...

HT: No, I know the Buddhist and the Christian church were the real rich people, kind of stuff, and I think the Konko church, like our family, we were very poor, because my father just had a job, Japanese thing and things like that. So when we were growing up, we were not really rich. And so all of us were, even like when I was a kid, like you were saying, we were in Hunters Point, and I used to deliver newspaper from when we were early kids. But we always worked, all of us worked.

BN: Was it your sense then that the other Konko families tended to be also sort of poorer?

HT: Yeah, I don't think they were really, really... but then they became, Fukuda-sensei was very smart, and then he became adventurous and he bought property. And he was very, you know how Japanese people, when the war started, and they went to camp, and then a lot of, Fukuda-sensei went to the camp and then a lot of, what is it, they were from, what is it, South America, there were Japanese that were sent to the camps, too. And then when they would not accept them back into camp, so Fukuda-sensei brought them to San Francisco, and we lived in a house, one house, Victorian house, we lived in a downstairs one, and it was just a living room and kitchen and a dining room, we were on the first floor, and upstairs it was a gentleman from South America who was just by himself, and he wanted to go back and he couldn't. And there was another family with children that lived in... three of us lived in that one, and then they were from Peru, too. And Fukuda-sensei brought him back because they had nowhere else to go, and he brought him back. He was that type of a person.

BN: We'll get to that in a little bit. Do you remember where you went to elementary school before the war?

HT: It was the one on... let's see now, up on the hill, it's on Fillmore Street, and it's way up past Sacramento, I forget. Where we were, there was a school there. I went to grammar school, and after that, I went to Marina. And then I went to the one on... what is it? I'm terrible. (Narr. note: George Washington High.)

BN: With names, huh?

HT: Yeah.

BN: That's okay. Later on you can add in the details later. Living in Japantown, I assume that most of your friends are also Japanese.

HT: Japanese, right, right.

BN: And then in your household, did you speak Japanese? Because your mom's Nisei.

HT: Yeah, but my father was Kibei. No, my father was --

BN: Issei.

HT: Issei.

BN: So did you speak Japanese?

HT: Little bit, yeah, a little bit.

BN: Did your mother, I assume your mother spoke Japanese well?

HT: Yeah, because her father was from Japan. I don't know if she could write or anything like that, but she could verbalize.

BN: What were the earliest things you remember growing up in Japantown? What were your first conscious memories?

HT: We used to... I used to go with my friends and we used to walk to the beach. We would have roller skates and we would do things like that. I'm trying to think, because Konko church was there, and then the Buddhist church was really big, and the Christian church was really big in comparison. But as the Konko church got bigger and bigger, it is one of the most beautiful ones right now, in existence. But the Fukuda-sensei family is very supportive, even now.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

BN: Going to the wartime, do you remember December 7th, the attack on Pearl Harbor, and do you remember what you were doing or what your family was doing?

HT: I'm trying to remember.

BN: You were only, like, six or something like that.

HT: Yeah, I don't know. Because when the war started, then we were sent to camp, and we went Topaz. No, before Topaz it was Tanforan. When we went to Tanforan, I think my mother had some kind of sickness, and Tanforan there were all these horse things, and because my mother had some kind of measles or something like that, they wouldn't put us in those, they put us into a barrack, and after that, we were there for a while.

BN: So that was better that you were in a barrack, probably.

HT: Yeah, we were in a barrack. And I remember this thing, they had guards up there like that. And I remember that there was a guard there that was really good to us, and I was really, really young, and he says that, "If you're really good, I'm going to give you candy." And no one had candies in those days, and this guy decided to give us, he goes, "You behave and you come back here after whatever you do, and I'm going to give you candy," and he would throw candy down to us. It was like really... you know, that's something that I remember, that candy. And then after that, we went to Topaz.

BN: Now, prior to, I know prior to Tanforan, in the period between Pearl Harbor and when people went to camp, the FBI arrested various leaders, and I believe Reverend Fukuda was one of the ones who was arrested.

HT: Oh, yeah, he was.

BN: Do you remember other community leaders and so forth?

HT: Fukuda-sensei was really a very strong person. And I don't know, I remember there was a man that lived within our church, and he was an elderly man, and he was the meanest guy, but then he always did everything for the church. He cleaned everything and threw out trash and everything, but he had nowhere else to go. And Fukuda said that they had a room for him. I remember he was so scary to all of us, all the kids, you know. But then it was always...

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

<Begin Segment 4>

BN: At Tanforan and then at Topaz, did... well, first of all, your family was all, did your family all live in one unit together?

HT: Yeah, one room.

BN: And then there were how many kids now? There would have been...

HT: My sister (Keiko) and then my brother James and me, and then Nancy was there.

BN: She was a baby at that time.

HT: And then my sister Jane was born in camp. And I remember a big stove in the middle, and my father was a cook at the camp. And then one of the things was he used to, my father was, I don't know why, but he was a good cook, he used to make natto, I mean, natto, when we lived in Japantown, people will come from all over, "Is the natto ready?" Because you couldn't, no one sold it, because it was my father made it. I remember people coming just to...

BN: Did he make it --

HT: He made the natto.

BN: Did he make it in camp?

HT: He made it in camp, too.

BN: Also? Wow.

HT: But even when we came out, he made it. It was in this closet, he would make it, and people would come. There was this old, old man that would always come and says, "Akashi-san, is there natto yet?" Those are things you remember.

BN: Did you like natto?

HT: I like natto.

BN: Many, many people don't, including me.

HT: Yeah, but they didn't sell it -- oh, really? But in camp, he made it in camp, so it was popular.

BN: Did he sell it in camp?

HT: No, no, I think they serve it in the...

BN: In the mess hall?

HT: Mess hall, yeah.

BN: Do you remember which block you were in?

HT: I sort of remember Block 10 or something.

BN: We could look that up, actually, too. Now, when you went to Tanforan and Topaz, did your friends and people you knew in San Francisco all kind of go with you?

HT: No, I don't know.

BN: Or were you surrounded by kind of completely different people?

HT: Yeah, different people. Because at Topaz, because eventually we went to Tule. Because Tule, because my father said he was going to go back to Japan, but then we didn't. And I know that what happened was we wanted to come back to San Francisco but we couldn't because there wasn't any housing. So we had to go to Oregon, and there was a group of us all went there, and the people from camp was put there, and they had housing there for us and they all worked there. And my father worked for a railroad, and we stayed there until we were able to come back to San Francisco. And then my father had a friend, Matsuno-san, and then that's when we went to Hunters Point. And then they found a big, what is it, it wasn't a regular apartment or anything, big thing, but we stayed there, and then until later on, they allowed us to go into those regular houses up in the mountains.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

BN: Okay, I'm going to come back to Hunters Point, but before we do, at Topaz, you are school age. Do you remember anything about the schools and teachers that you had there?

HT: No. All I know is that we, used to, had a place to take showers, the public. Because it's just one room you're in. There was a basketball court.

BN: Did you play at that time?

HT: No, I don't think so, but I don't know.

BN: Was there, I know there were Buddhist and Christian churches in camp, was there a Konko?

HT: I don't remember.

BN: Well, because Reverend Fukuda was interned separately.

HT: Yeah, right.

BN: So do you remember, did your family have an altar or anything?

HT: No, nothing.

BN: So it kind of died for the moment while you were in camp.

HT: Yeah, I don't remember. They used to bring food over from the mess hall and eat at home.

BN: Do you remember any kinds of, what you did in terms of recreation, playing with friends and so forth?

HT: I thought there was a volleyball kind of stuff. And you see all the guards, you know, it was sort of scary. But I think some people went out of camp to work, I sort of remember something like that. But I don't think it was my father, because he was good at cooking.

BN: So he cooked in the camp mess hall?

HT: Mess hall, yeah, mess hall.

BN: In your block, I assume?

HT: Yeah, I think a lot of people just... but when you get things like natto where you don't, because he used to make that.

BN: That probably made him a popular chef. Did your mother do any, also work at the camp?

HT: No, because she has all the kids.

BN: Right, that's true, and little, they're small kids, she has a baby. And I guess you mentioned the youngest sister was born in camp?

HT: In camp, yeah.

BN: Do you remember that?

HT: Yeah, I remember her, because when we came out of camp, then one of my sisters was born.

BN: Wait, was she born out of camp?

HT: No, one, (Jane) was born in camp, (Masa, Pat), but then the other one, when we came back, she was more like, I can't remember if she was born in Japantown.

BN: Oh, this is another sister, this would be number six.

HT: Yeah. So it's a big family.

BN: Right, right. Yeah, so she would have had two really little ones in camp, and then another one later. Anything else you remember notable about Topaz?

HT: It's just, it's a different kind of weather. Like you live in San Francisco, go to the, like Topaz is hot, hot, hot.

BN: Now you mentioned that your father intended to go back to Japan?

HT: That's why they sent us to Tule Lake.

BN: Right. So do you remember having to move then to Tule Lake?

HT: Yeah, I remember we had to go to Tule Lake, and then I guess he must have changed his mind or something like that when they sent us to Oregon.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

BN: Do you remember what the differences were between Tule Lake and Topaz? I mean, did it feel the same?

HT: It felt the same. But then when we had to get out of camp and go up into Oregon, it was really different. Because some of them were homes, and then for us, living in camp, it's a little different. But we had, the place that we slept at, they had outhouse, it wasn't toilets, you had to go around the corner.

BN: This is after you'd left and were in Oregon?

HT: Yeah, we were in Oregon.

BN: Sprague River.

HT: Yeah, Sprague River, it was like that, they were Indians. And when we came back to San Francisco, one of the Indian boys came, went to the military and he came to visit my older brother, I remember that.

BN: Now, at Sprague River, what was the living situation like? Was it barracks similar to like in camp?

HT: No, no, I know there were some houses. There was this one couple that was from Sacramento or something like that, and one time they invited a couple of us kids to eat food there. The only thing was it had an outhouse, but it was a bigger one. She had a kitchen and a living room and a bedroom. The one that we had was, that was it, too, but then ours, the bedroom was so cold, because they don't have anything like that, and there were other, like wildlife. Yeah, it was sort of... and it was all dirt and everything. But there must have been about, maybe about eight families around there.

BN: Did you have multiple rooms or was it like camp where it was one big...

HT: I think the one where we were staying, there was like four units or something like that, and they had an outhouse on the side, and then a couple of blocks away, they had another one, they had a couple of them. I know that, as I recall, they were not from San Francisco, they were from Sacramento or something like that, and they were there long enough to, they were wanting to go back. And then when my father was finally able to find a place to come back to the city, he brought me to find a place.

BN: And then when you were there at Sprague River, he was, you mentioned he was working on a, doing railroad work?

HT: Yeah, railroad tracks, I think all the workers, I think.

BN: But then did you go to school and stuff there?

HT: Yeah, I think so, because I played with the Indian kids and all that, so it must have been the Indian kids. Because my brother had a guy that was Indian and I had an Indian girl that I was friends with. So I think it must have been grammar school or whatever.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

BN: And then from there, your father, you mentioned, went back to find a place in San Francisco.

HT: San Francisco, yeah.

BN: Did he always want to come back to San Francisco eventually?

HT: Oh, yeah, sure, but we came back, and then he had a friend, and they said there were housing available.

BN: This was at Hunters Point?

HT: Yeah.

BN: Can you describe what the housing was like at Hunters Point?

HT: Well, I think at the beginning part it was like a big building like that, I think people got rooms or something. But after that, on the hilltop, they had apartments, and they were like military, American soldiers that were coming back from the war. And they had places, and we had one that was kitchen and, what is it, a bedroom, two bedrooms, like a living room. And they had a lot of it, and it was way up on the hill, and there were a lot of Japanese.

BN: Was there kind of a Japanese area, or was everybody all mixed together?

HT: It was all mixed together, and I knew there was one down the hill that was, my friend that eventually we all came back to Japantown.

BN: But you said there were quite a few Japanese families there.

HT: There were some, yeah. I don't know how many, but I know there was one girl that was my friend, so I don't know.

BN: Was there, did you have friends interact with, kind of, all the other, the various people that went there?

HT: At school, they took us to school somewhere far away, not right there.

BN: Then what did your parents do in terms of work while you were living there?

HT: I know that my father had two jobs, I think, I think two jobs. I don't know what, but I know he had two jobs, one that he would go, like a janitor or something like that, I don't know what the other one was, but I know he had two different ones. And then I think he would go on the weekends and then another time he would, I don't know what the other one was. I should ask my older sister, maybe she remembers. (He was a houseboy, live-in.)

BN: And then these were, like, apartments you mentioned? So it wasn't like you had... the bathrooms and stuff were separate, it was all...

HT: I wonder if they had a bathroom. I can't remember.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

BN: And then after you were at Hunters Point...

HT: We came back to Japantown. Yeah, Japantown, because it was, Fukuda-sensei had three houses. And then I think later on, he bought others. And there was, next door was a local that lived, and one next to them, they were Peruvians.

BN: So this was housing owned by the church?

HT: Church, yes, it was by the church. So they were, it was connected up to the Konko church, to the backyard, it was connected.

BN: And then how long did you live in...

HT: I lived there until... let's see now. Then I moved to a place across the street, there was a small, two-bedroom place when I got married. And a lot of the people moved out, because right next door was Japanese people that bought the property, there were three families that had that. But it was Japantown, and everyone started getting organized there.

BN: So you lived there for, it sounds like, a long time.

HT: Yeah. And eventually, I moved to the Sunset area.

BN: So earlier you had mentioned that, while you were living in the houses owned by the church, that that's kind of where you started playing basketball?

HT: Yeah, and the backyard was basketball, and then they had ping pong tables and the kids would come and we would play basketball with them. And even the girls there, there was a Peruvian girl, she used to play basketball. When they see you there playing basketball, they come out and play with you. She was from Peru.

BN: And then did you eventually play in the Japanese leagues?

HT: Yeah, the Arbees, we played.

BN: Was that through your team game?

HT: Yeah, it's in that booklet. All of us played because all of us, I was the oldest, my oldest sister never played, and I played, then my sister Nancy, and then Janie and Pat, we all played basketball.

BN: And then Arbees is how spelled hot?

HT: A-R-B-E-E-S, Arbees.

BN: Was there a reason for that?

HT: I don't know. They have that picture in there, you know, Arbees.

BN: Yeah, I remember that.

HT: Yeah, there's still one lady that lives out of town that's still around. I think most of them are all gone.

BN: What did you enjoy about playing?

HT: But see, when we were playing, when we were learning how to play in the backyard, we played like boys. So when we first started playing the league, we got kicked out of the games, and Nancy, my younger sister Nancy, she used to tell, yeah, we got kicked out all the time, because we played like boys.

BN: Meaning you were too aggressive?

HT: Rough, aggressive. And at the beginning there were so many people, you played half a court. And after a while it gets to be different, and then we were, when you get used to playing with boys, you play like boys. You don't play like girls. And we used to play like boys, all of my sisters. We were sort of tough.

BN: Were people scared of you?

HT: I don't know. We were just like that, when you grow up like that... my younger sister was really good, too. Really good, because that's how you do. And then the Konko church had a television set, we never had a television set. We didn't even have radio kind of stuff. So when you grow up that way, you play things that are... but that's how you grow up.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

BN: Which high school did you go to?

HT: I think George Washington. Yeah, I went to George Washington. And then afterwards, when I got a job and everything, and a place where I worked for, they had a college thing, so I got my college degree, too, after that, University of San Francisco.

BN: Was your family supportive of that?

HT: Yeah. And then when I graduated, all my kids came, and they already graduated from college.

BN: Oh, this is later.

HT: Yeah, later. Oh, yeah, later, years and years later.

BN: In terms of where you lived growing up in Japantown, can you tell me a little more about other things about it? You know, going to the movies or restaurants or Bon dance?

HT: Yeah, we used to go see... because the Bukkyokai was up there, we used to go for Bon odori, too.

BN: Even though you're Konkokyo?

HT: Yeah, yeah. And then there was a restaurant, I guess it's a Chinese restaurant, on Post Street, a small one. I remember once in a while we would go eat, and that was like a really, bargain.

BN: Is it one of those restaurants that serves the Japanese-style Chinese food that Nisei eat?

HT: Yeah, it was on Post Street between Buchanan and Laguna. But yeah, if we could eat, we never...

BN: Did you go to Japanese movies and so forth?

HT: We used to go, there was, what is right now, Kokoro, what is Kokoro right now, there used to be a shrine. And they used to have programs there, Japanese, and they used to have stuff there. And I don't know, now it's Kokoro right now. But they had things like that.

BN: But then growing up, did you do any of the things like Japanese dance or any of that kind of cultural stuff?

HT: Not me, we played basketball.

BN: Right, which is kind of a cultural thing, too. What position did you play?

HT: I played any position.

BN: Were your parents involved in things like kenjinkai or that kind of thing?

HT: No, but my father, when he was doing, he did sumo, I think. Way back when, in the L.A. area, they had one of these big pictures, and I think there was a picture of my dad in there. That's when, once I went there to... but my father was really, because he was so close to Fukuda-sensei, he was always there helping. When there was something wrong with one of the apartments or the houses, my father and Fukuda-sensei would go there and fix it and everything. My father was very handy with stuff like that, so he was really good about that.

BN: Now, when you were in high school and so on, did you have an idea of what you wanted to do?

HT: No. I know that when I was going to high school and I always worked, I always had a job. I had a job in the marina, and I would go there five days a week. This guy, I would serve food and wash dishes and everything else, but the guy was really mean. And one time I said, they started charging us bus fare, and I said to the owner, "You have to pay me if I have to take the bus and come here all the time." And he goes, "Okay, you don't have to, you could quit." I said, "Okay, I'm quitting, I'm not coming back, so I'm going. And so I started leaving, then the wife comes over. "I'm going to pay you, don't tell him, it's a secret," and she would pay me. And then another time I was working up at, you know, at the George Washington house there, there's nice areas there, and I went to work there, live-in kind of stuff, and they said, okay, they're going to pay me that month, and the lady says she's going to pay me. And she goes, "Here's the money," and I said, "No, you said to my mother this is how much you're going to pay me per month." And she goes, "Oh, no, your mother does not understand English, so she doesn't know." "My mother was born in San Francisco, she's American, and we're quitting," and we all walked out, I walked out. Because people are like that.


BN: And then when you were working these jobs, was that for your money, or did you contribute it to...

HT: My kozukai for me? My mother and father, because my father didn't make any money, so we had to, everything we did, we took care of everything. My oldest sister, too, she lived-in and did things, I did that, my younger sister Nancy, my youngest sister Janie, we all worked every single...

BN: To kind of support yourself from a young age.

HT: You're lucky, you do that. It was a tough time, but then it makes you stronger. So that's how we grew up.

BN: So growing up in Japantown, did you, were most or all of your friends also Japanese, or did you have friends who were white or other races?

HT: I had mostly Japanese, but then I went to Marina, and then the kids there were a lot of black kids, I used to play basketball with them, because they came from Japantown, and they sort of made... because there was a couple of black girls that I knew that lived on Fillmore. And then when they go to junior high school, they sort of know who you are, and you say, "I'm going to play basketball with you." I used to play with black kids growing up there. But they accept you because you're local.

BN: Well, then you must have been pretty good.

HT: No, it's just that you grow up like that. So if they make friends with you, I knew one of the girls' brother, and so it was good. I got along more with black than whites, because the white people are richer, you know what I mean? Growing up. Because I used to walk through Marina every day to go to school. It's something that... but then all my sisters, they all worked, all of us.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

BN: What did you do after high school?

HT: After high school I got jobs here and there and everywhere, and I'm always that type. One time I got a job, and there was a Japanese lady that was a college grad, and there was a Caucasian, another lady, and we were working, and we were the fastest workers. We did this, whatever we were doing with paperwork and other, we would go. And so we were the fastest, they had a lot workers, maybe ten or more, then three of us, we did the most. And so I told the manager, "You know, we do more than what any of them do, so you should give us a pay raise." So I quit and I left. And I told the other two girls to quit and leave, too, but they never did. I guess I was... and then I got a job at a Japanese bank, and I was working. And a lot of people take advantage of you if you're a minority, and if they could get away with giving you a lot less, they don't.

BN: Was it better or worse working for a Japanese bank, though? Because sometimes they take more advantage of you because...

HT: No, they didn't. It was okay, it was okay, and then if they appreciate how good a worker you are, and I was a good worker, it was a challenge, but it didn't bother me. So I think a lot of the Japanese are real good workers, and when they work really good and they treat you that way, I know the guy that was in charge of us was very accepting of my ability to do the work. But I don't know, I was always sort of aggressive.

BN: From basketball.

HT: No, it's just... growing up, I guess I was sort of mean. [Laughs]

BN: How did you meet your husband?

HT: He used to come to our church. He was our church, and was very active in our church.

BN: And you mentioned he was Kibei.

HT: Kibei, he was Kibei, came from Japan. And a lot of our church members, there were a lot of Kibei guys there.

BN: What did he do for a living?

HT: My husband? Let's see now. He worked for the printing company. He went to work for a guy in Marin, and he was a worker and then there was this other guy that we knew, he was Caucasian, and he lived in Marina, and he was a worker, too, and he worked with my husband and then they were really good, hard workers. But then the boss guy, they always said they were gonna show appreciation, they never did, and they both quit. The say they're gonna do this, but then my husband always, was really always a good worker and he worked there for the longest time. Where did he go to work afterwards? I don't know. I can't remember, but maybe Japantown or something like that.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

BN: And you continued to live in Japantown after you married?

HT: Yeah, until the kids, yeah. We bought a house out in Sunset, and we were really lucky looking for it, I said, "We got to buy a house because we have kids." We went there and we tried to get a Japanese guy (realtor) to buy a house for us so we could, you know, and he says, "You don't make enough money," Japanese guy, and he was in real estate. He says, "You don't make enough money, so I can't help you." So I said, okay. So I went to look, my husband and I went to look around, and in Sunset we saw a nice house. And there was a Caucasian guy there selling it. And I said, "We're looking, but I don't know if we could, this is how much money we make." He says, "That's not very much. But if I could get the money for you, you going to buy this house from me?" I said, "If you could get the money for me, I'll buy it." And he found money for us, he went to a bank and got financed for me, and then we bought the house. And after that, I bought another one, too. Also, this same guy, he says, "Okay," then the duplex, we were able to buy a house because he was able to find money for us. When they could go a bank and say, "She's going to pay you this much," so I was able to buy two units because of this guy that was... and we were able to afford it. Because this guy was really, he says, "This is how you buy a house." Then once I bought the second one, he goes, "We refi and we get the down, and then you get the second one." And it was because of this white guy. Because you never know, you hustle, and they really... some people are smart, some people are kind, and they help you. I couldn't believe it because I was, in my family, I was the first one to buy a house, and I wanted the younger ones, but you never know.

BN: No one ever went broke buying real estate in California, especially San Francisco.

HT: Sure, San Francisco is good. Because after that, I sold my place in Sunset and I bought a place in Mill Valley, a big Victorian house. So all my kids had property.

BN: Was it hard, though, to move out of Japantown now? Because now you're in a different area.

HT: No, I live in Japantown.

BN: Well, now, but when you bought your house earlier?

HT: No, it's good because the schools are better. Like where they went it was really good, and then they went to the different schools, yeah, it was a good location. So we were lucky, we were lucky. And it was the schools that were, even the other schools that I went to, they were better schools than, at the time here. Now it's better, but then in those days, I really lucked out. I don't know how I lucked out, but then we had a lucky time.

BN: Once you had your children, I know the answer, but can you tell us how many children you had?

HT: I had four children. My oldest one is Akiko, you know her.

BN: Yes.

HT: Akiko, and then Tomio, and then Toshio is down in the L.A. area, and Dori, she is Burlingame.

BN: And then once you had the children, did you still remain active with the Konko church?

HT: Yeah. I just live right next door to Konko church.

BN: I know with many of my peers, the story is that their parents never told them about camp and about the history. Did you tell your children about being in Topaz and Tanforan and that history?

HT: Well, I think, like Akiko is very knowledgeable about stuff like that, I think. Well, I don't know, I wonder if I did it, but I'm sure I must have mentioned it, but I don't know.

BN: You didn't consciously not tell them.

HT: Yeah, not not tell them, yeah. Well, I guess maybe they talked more about it.

BN: And then I always wondered this, I know the youngest was in Farewell to Manzanar.

HT: Yeah.

BN: How did that come about?

HT: Oh, what was it? She was... someone we knew got her involved in that. Before she even got into that one, I can't... see, those things have, I'm getting forgetful about it. You got to ask Dori.

BN: Yeah, I will. And then what were your feelings in the '70s and into the '80s, you had the beginning of redress, the whole redress movement. What did you think about that, and did you get involved in that at all?

HT: Redress? What do you mean?

BN: For the camps, the eventual apology and the reparations, the $20,000. How did you feel about that?

HT: I thought it was good. When we got that, all the sisters went to Japan. We all just went to check it out. And I thought that was good. It's not much, but then, it's worth it.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

BN: Looking back now, how do you feel about your family's experience in camp today, looking back?

HT: Well, I think it's what happened, so you got to appreciate it and remember it, what the family had to go through, your grandpa and all that kind of stuff, and you have to appreciate it. And then everything we did, that we've done, we try to endure it. And even all the kids, I think you don't realize how rough it was for the parents.

BN: What did happen after the war to your parents?

HT: Well, my parents, after camp and all that, I don't know, I think my older sister never got married, so she was always around with my father. But then our family, they're really close, so it's really good. And then my kids, they're always there for me, always, if I need anything, they're there. And my daughter-in-law and my daughter Dori and everything, they're out there, you need something, you got to do something. All my siblings are like that, too, it's really good. And it's like I'm getting older, and my siblings and my sister, they're always saying, "You got to do this, enjoy yourself," try to make sure you could, if you have to go to Kokoro, come, don't feel bad about it. If you don't like it, don't go. Even my daughter-in-law said, "If you don't like going to Kokoro like that because you have to, don't go." "If you have to, go." Either way, they're all like that. I have to say, all my kids are like that, they're very supportive. And I can't, I have to be really grateful, they're always checking up on me, make sure I'm okay, my son, even from L.A. he's always calling, "Okay, now what are you doing today?" It's really nice.

BN: How long did you keep playing basketball?

HT: Well, I think until... I don't know, until I could, I guess. I got married so early.

BN: But you kept playing even after that, or not after that?

HT: No, no, no.

BN: Okay. I mean, today, many play into their forties and fifties and so on. But I heard stories that you used to play with your grandchildren and so forth?

HT: Yeah, one time I slipped and fell. [Laughs] Yeah, that's why sometimes, even the youngest was, I used to just feed 'em, you know what I mean? But my grandson's a really good basketball player. He loves playing basketball.

BN: That's good. Yeah, it's a big, many of the Japanese Americans with the leagues and so forth, it's a big part of the community.

HT: Yeah, and I loved to go watch 'em play.

BN: Do you travel with them? Because they go to tournaments.

HT: Yeah, I do, I do. And I'll check, "Okay, where are they playing this time?" The other times, they play at George Washington High School, sometimes at City College sometimes, JCCNC, if I can go, I'm there. I enjoy it, and they're really good. They have a five, we went to see two games, and they had only five people, five, that's it, and they played, they won both of them, so it's good.

BN: And you're completely objective, of course. [Laughs]

HT: They were good, they were good.

BN: Okay, I don't have any, much else.

HT: Okay, that's okay. Well, I don't know if I was any good, but okay.

BN: No, it's good because, especially the stuff on Hunters Point and Sprague River, I don't think we've had people who had that particular experience. That's an interesting part of the history.

HT: Yeah, it was rough for my father to have to go through all that, it's rough. But we managed. Okay, thank you.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.