Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Kay Matsuoka Interview
Narrator: Kay Matsuoka
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 29 & 30, 1999
Densho ID: denshovh-mkay-01-0027

<Begin Segment 27>

AI: For people who don't know, can you explain the custom of return a little bit more, and the kosai, and...?

KM: Oh. Well, the Japanese, especially when they were all immigrants, they had no relatives here. And so like at funerals or weddings, well the people that was neighbor or in that village or in that little village I guess that you would call it, they always, especially like a funeral, everybody would donate one dollar. And then that way, it would help them, burial fee and so forth. And then as they had children and their children grew up and they got married, then we would give them a gift. And then when our children grew up then they would return it. So it was very important to keep a record of who gave what. And we tried to always return what they gave. And in this way it helped each other because they all came, they didn't have anything when they came to America. They were trying to build up their finances. So they were very, very, there was a real closeness there to help one another out. And that's how it all started. To this day it still continues.

AI: So in your case, since you and Jack didn't see what you received, that meant it made it difficult for you?

KM: Yeah, yeah, especially 'cause it was in card and the card had all the names on it. Yeah, so it was very hard. And a couple of days, a couple of weeks, I guess later my cousins who all evacuated with us voluntarily to Fowler, 'cause we wanted to be all in one family, and they gave me a postnuptial shower. And here too, because we didn't, no use buying a gift because we have to take it into camp or leave it, so they gave us monetary. And then that night we were opening that, because I thought that belonged to me, 'cause it was my side of the family. And then again, my stepmother would call my husband's name, and he went and he says, "What is it?" And she said, "Well, whatever you got, you bring it here, because that's going to be our kosai." And Jack said, "That's Kay's. It's Kay's side gave it to you, to us." But anyway she wanted it and she, and Jack, very gently, 'cause he was so, he never was loud or anything, well in Japanese he was sunao. He did exactly what the parents told him to. So they opened it. And then that was the only money that they told us how much it was, but they were gonna keep it. And that was the beginning of our first day of marriage. [Laughs]

AI: Oh dear.

KM: Yeah.

AI: So what did you think?

KM: Well, my parents always said for us to endure. Especially a girl, when you go into a family, you do according to their custom. And then, never talk or repeat it to somebody else. And that's why I kept it so long. And as long as my in-laws were alive, I felt, "Well no, I..." and then, because Jack was so quiet, and I just didn't have a heart, because I didn't want to upset him either. But in his quiet way, he knew what was happening, so he was really seeking to be separated. And finally my side of the baishakunin or nakodo came over and said that, "You know, I hear that Kay and your mother-in-law isn't getting along, your stepmother isn't getting along. So, in case the worst comes to worst, I want to ask you a question as a nakodo, because I'm responsible for your happiness." He said, "Now when that time comes, will you go to your, would you stay with your parents, or would you take Kay and go out and be separated? And Jack, right away said, "Of course I'll never leave Kay, I'll be with her." And so they had the idea that one of these days that we were going to be separated, that is living apart from each other.

AI: Now, you mentioned a couple of times about the nakodo, about the baishakunin. And again, for people who don't understand that, could you explain that a little bit?

KM: Yeah. Well the Japanese custom is even if you fall in love, they always choose a real close friend and then they call them matchmakers. They really didn't do the matchmaking, but for formality they do that. And then the couple must be getting along real well. No divorced family, it has to be they're together, and be example for us to follow. And that's why they do this. They always have one from the girl's side, one from the boy's side. And in case something, some disagreement or something happens, we're to go to them and they're to get us all straightened out.

AI: And so that's why the nakodo...

KM: Yeah, uh-huh.

AI: ...talked to Jack in this way and asked him...

KM: That's right...

AI: ...what he would do?

KM: ...that he felt responsible so he asked him. And then people could see that this was happening too, 'cause we were in close quarters in camp.

AI: Right, right.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.