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Densho Visual History Collection
Title: David Sakura Interview I
Narrator: David Sakura
Interviewer: Virginia Yamada
Location: Thornton, New Hampshire
Date: March 25, 2022
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-498-1

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VY: Okay. Today is Friday, March 25, 2022. And today we are conducting a Densho remote interview with David Sakura, who is located in Thornton, New Hampshire. Running the video production from Seattle, Washington, is Dana Hoshide, and my name is Virginia Yamada and I'm also in Seattle. So, David, thank you for joining us online today in our Densho remote studio.

DS: Well, I'm pleased to be here. I'm looking forward to our discussion.

VY: Thank you. Well, let's get started by having you tell us when and where you were born, and what was the full name you were given at birth.

DS: Well, I was born in 1936 at Swedish Memorial Hospital on the hill in Seattle, Washington. And that was in March 28, 1936.

VY: And generationally, how do you identify?

DS: I identify myself as a Sansei. I portray myself as one of the oldest Sanseis in the community.

VY: Let's see. And how about your family? Like how many kids do you have, grandchildren?

DS: My family consists of two boys, a daughter that we adopted from Korea, and I have quite a few grandchildren, six grandchildren, as well as three or four step-grandchildren. So we have a fairly extensive family.

VY: Oh, that's great, that's so nice. So I would really love to talk to you about your childhood and where you grew up. But before we get to that point, I understand you've done a lot of family history research, and so I think it would be great to talk about that first. So what can you tell us about your grandparents? What were their names and when and where were they born, and what have you learned about their immigration story?

DS: I'd be happy to do that. My grandfather Toyozo Sakura was born in 1869 in a small village on the western side of the main island of Japan. The village is called Tsuwano in the prefecture, in a prefecture on the Western side of Japan. And my grandmother was born in 1880 in Akita Prefecture. My grandfather was born into a family of several boys and three or four girls, and unfortunately the younger girls, most of them had passed away during an epidemic when they were quite young, leaving my grandfather and his parents living in Tsuwano. Unfortunately, his parents, my great-great grandparents, passed away also in a pandemic, and so, leaving him as an orphan who was then living with his uncle who ran a sake factory. And the sake factory in Tsuwano, in Shimane-ken prefecture, is actually still there. And several years ago, we visited the sake factory and got to meet some of my great-great uncles and aunts in the original home. Getting back to my grandfather, he worked in the sake factory for quite a few years, and was in line to inherit the family business. But because of some internal difficulties, he was not given the inheritance. And as a young person working in the sake factory, he decided that he wanted to leave and come to the United States. Because of the conditions, his living conditions, his work conditions, his familial conditions were very unpleasant. In the meantime, he had met an itinerant Christian missionary who gave him a bible. And as a teenager, he converted to Christianity, continued to read and study the bible, and at the age of nineteen, he left his home village of Tsuwano and made his way to Tokyo with a dream of coming to the States. He was nineteen at the time, walked the almost 600 miles to Tokyo, was able to take a job as a policeman in one of the police boxes in Tokyo, and earned enough money to pay for his passage to Seattle in 1898.

He arrived in Seattle in 1898, and within a few, within a year or so, he got a job at a grocery store, or actually it's an upscale grocery store called Augustine and Kyer, it was on Queen Anne Boulevard. It was sort of like the Whole Foods of the time. In 1900 he had earned enough money to pay for passage for a "picture bride," so through an arranger, he identified two young women as candidates, as "picture brides." One was a Christian, and the story goes that it met his criterion of someone who believed in Christianity but also had, she was not very attractive. The other woman was extremely attractive coming from Akita Prefecture, and so he had to make a choice between his religious beliefs or his love of beauty. And of course he chose the love of beauty. So he met his wife Misa Terada as she was coming down the gangplank on the ship in 1900 in Seattle, and the family lore says that when their eyes met, love blossomed. And within a year, my uncle (Kenny) was born. And in the subsequent years, there was a child born almost every year or two years. So by 1919, there were nine children in the family.

So early on, my grandfather, being a Christian, joined the local Baptist church in Seattle and befriended a man, a Mr. Black, who supported him in his early days as an immigrant in Seattle. And I believe -- and this is only hearsay -- that Mr. Black was the founder of Black Bear Clothing in Seattle. And even to this day, even though the original Black Bear company has gone out of business, you can still find Black Bear outdoorwear, for sale. But it was Mr. Black who befriended him and supported my grandfather's early days while living in Seattle. Within a year or two, my grandfather, with a group of other members of the Baptist church, started the Japanese Baptist Church, which is still in existence today, I believe it's near Jackson. And on the headstone is my grandfather's name as one of the cofounders of the Japanese Baptist Church. So it's been a longstanding institution in the Japanese community, and our family has had many weddings and funerals at the Japanese Baptist Church, cofounded by my grandfather.

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