Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Hisaji Q. Sakai Interview
Narrator: Hisaji Q. Sakai
Interviewer: Patricia Wakida
Location: Walnut Creek, California
Date: April 12, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-475-1

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

<Begin Segment 1>

PW: My name is Patricia Wakida, and today is April 12, 2019. I'm interviewing Hisaji Sakai in Walnut Creek, California. First of all, thank you so much, so much, for agreeing to this.

HS: You're welcome.

PW: So my first question is, when and where were you born?

HS: I was born in San Francisco.

PW: And what year?

HS: Oh, February 28, 1925.

PW: Where in San Francisco? Which neighborhood?

HS: Actually, we had a, they call 'em doulas now, but she was a midwife, and her name was Matsumoto, and her daughter was a pediatrician, became a pediatrician. But I was born at home. We were all born at home.

PW: And you told me you were the youngest of your siblings?

HS: Yes, there were nine children, five boys and four girls.

PW: Can you tell me everyone's names?

HS: [Laughs] Yeah. Tamotsu... okay, we'll start with the girls. Shizu was the oldest, Tamotsu was next, and Eiji was third. Fusako was fourth, and Iku was (sixth), Yozo was sixth... I'm missing one. And Katsu was seventh, eighth, and I was ninth. Did I miss one somewhere? (Asako, the fifth.)

Off camera: Your favorite, Asako.

HS: Oh, Asako was fourth and Iku was fifth.

PW: So tell me the names of your parents.

HS: My father's name was Kitaichi, and my mother's name was Tei, T-E-I, and her maiden name was Imai.

PW: Do you know which prefecture they came from?

HS: Yes, they were both born in Matsumoto-shi in Nagano-ken. He was born in (1879), and she was born seven years later, can't add anymore. And actually, my father had, according to my sisters, a very hard childhood. His mother died when he was quite young, and his father remarried. And by the laws of primogeniture, a male would inherit the farm, they were born on the farm. And, of course, the mother understandably, the second mother, or the father remarried, was going to protect her children, she had three daughters and a son. So my father left to go to live with the neighbors, the Imais, so he stayed there and actually lived in the storage house part where they kept the family goods and treasures. So he left early, my father left early for the United States because at that time, they were having unemployment in Japan, and he had worked for the Imais, they had a fish store, and that store still, I believe, still exists. And he earned enough to make his fifty dollars, so they needed fifty dollars to come into the United States. And the oft-told story was that fifty dollars was always passed to the next person so they would reuse it. I don't know how true that is. But he came into San Francisco.

PW: How old was he?

HS: He was probably sixteen or eighteen, so he came in the early (1890s).

PW: And did he know your mother before, or did they meet here in the United States?

HS: I'm sorry?

PW: Did he meet your mother in the United States or did they know each other in Japan?

HS: Oh, yes. When he was assigned to the Imai family, my mother was an Imai. So she was the oldest daughter of the Imais, so she was not a "picture bride," and she was seven years younger. And he called for her as soon as he had enough money to support a bride.

PW: Did he come straight to San Francisco?

HS: To San Francisco, yes. And my mother did, too, apparently, not Seattle.

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