Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Diana Morita Cole Interview
Narrator: Diana Morita Cole
Interviewer: Virginia Yamada
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: September 30, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-483-1

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VY: Okay. Today is Monday, September 30, 2019, and we are here in the Densho studio in Seattle, Washington, with Diana Morita Cole. Dana Hoshide is our videographer and my name is Virginia Yamada. So, Diana, thank you so much for joining us today for this interview.

DC: Well, thank you for having me, this is quite the privilege.

VY: Thank you very much. Let's just start with the basics and begin by having you tell us when you were born and what name you were given at birth.

DC: I was born on May 26, 1944, in Minidoka, Idaho, which was a concentration camps in the badlands of Idaho. And the name I was given was Diana Lynn Reiko Morita, and I was named for the movie star that was popular at that time. And talk has it that it was my sister, Ruth, that made the suggestion. So I have quite a number of names to have to deal with, so I like to say I was conceived in Tule Lake and born in Minidoka because my family was incarcerated in two camps and was also at the assembly center at Pinedale.

VY: Okay. So that's good information to have. Let's back up a little bit and talk about your parents and what their names were and when they were born and where they were born.

DC: So my father, Mototsugu Morita, was born in 1893 in Mazoroi, which is a tiny little rural town in Okayama, Japan. My mother, Masano Sakakiyama, was born in Okayama city in 1900, and her birthdate is very easy to remember because it's 1900. And they were sort of related to one another, they were sort of like second cousins, and they knew each other. And so it was really not an arranged marriage because they knew one another.

VY: So did they kind of grow up together?

DC: My father used to often go to Okayama city and take the young girls, which, I think there were five Sakakiyama sisters, and take them for walks, so they got to know each other in that way.

VY: And did they come from similar families, like the same kind of status?

DC: No. My mother's family was, I would say, upper middle class, and she didn't know how to cook because they had a family cook and there were servants there. So she had a life of ease before she came to America. My father, on the other hand, I think he went through a period where he suffered from malnutrition, I believe. So things were difficult in the Morita family, and there were some debts that the grandfather had incurred, so there was quite a difference in socioeconomic status.

VY: So do you think he suffered from malnutrition because his family couldn't afford food?

DC: I think there was... and, in fact, I believe Japan was going through economic hard times at that period, so I think, yes, that was true. And also probably because they were Buddhist and he probably didn't eat meat and so on, and he had to work very hard, I think. I don't know that much about his childhood, except that he was a very good student, he said, and the teacher never called on him because he always had the right answer. This is what he told me, I don't know how true it was. And he also said that he always stuck up for the kids that were being bullied by other students. So he had a, kind of a warm nature, and looked out sort of for the underdog.

VY: That's interesting. Do you feel like that's a side of him that you saw as you were growing up?

DC: That's an interesting question. He always loved children, I mean, obviously, he had so many. And so he also surrounded himself with his own progeny, right? And I think he was lonely in America, so what better thing than to build a nation of your own? And so he was... and then he loved his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren, and he loved everyone going over to visit them. And so he never, as I recall, when I was growing up, ever spent a great deal of time in isolation or quietude, he really enjoyed having people over, and they were well-integrated into the Japanese American community in Chicago. And so I do feel he was a rather gregarious individual, and so it would make sense that he would relate easily to children that were being mistreated.

VY: That's interesting.

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