Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Frank Miyamoto Interview I
Narrator: Frank Miyamoto
Interviewer: Stephen Fugita
Location: Bellevue, Washington
Date: February 26, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-mfrank-01

<Begin Segment 1>

Stephen Fugita: This is February 26, it's a Densho interview with Professor Emeritus Frank Miyamoto, who was the former (acting) Dean at the University of Washington in the College of Arts and Science, former Chairperson of the Sociology Department, former President of the Pacific Sociological Association and a real pioneer in lots of different areas for Asian American Social Scientists.


SF: Frank, I'd like to start by having you tell us a little bit about your parents' background in Japan and what kinds of hopes and what kinds of cultural background they brought over here.

Frank M.: Yeah, my father and mother both came from Miyazaki-ken, which is in Southeastern Kyushu. It's a remote part of the country as far as the Japanese are concerned. They call it and consider it to be back woods. In any event, they were born in the early part of the Meiji era in the 1870s, so it's fairly early for the Issei population. And my father grew up in a family in Miyazaki city that was relatively poor, but a shop keeping family of some kind, and on the other hand, they had fairly strong middle class kinds of aspirations I think. In terms of his own character, why he had hopes of becoming, for example, a school teacher and training sufficiently in school to get that kind of position, which I think is fairly indicative of hopes that were a little beyond many of those to be found among Issei of that period. In any event, his family had economic financial difficulties and he therefore had to quit school earlier than he hoped. He goes to work and takes care of his mother who becomes very ill and works very hard towards maintaining the family's economic status.

SF: When did he have to quit school?

FM: Oh, when he was in his -- chuugakusei -- early junior high school years I think. So he doesn't get too far in his education. However, one thing I should say about him, was that he always had kind of academic or scholarly interests, which I think was passed on to me clearly. In any event, one of the things I remember very clearly was my mother telling me how faithful my father was in trying to help his mother, who -- his mother who was sick. And the kind of devotion he showed in trying to take care of the family affairs considering the difficulties that they were in. That type of impression of what the Issei were like has stayed with me all my life and has given me a kind of model of what I should be in terms of effort, of concern for the well-being of parents and this sort of thing. To go on, however, he became connected with some kind of small importing or exporting firm in Miyazaki fairly early, and as a young man then gets appointed to a position in Korea -- and possibly in Manchuria, I don't know -- by this company to conduct their business. And so there are indications then of this Japanese expansionism that was occurring in the early Meiji era and he is already a part of it when he is still a relatively young man. He comes back to Japan however, because the Korean (investment) failed or didn't succeed as they had hoped, and in Miyazaki when he comes back, he meets my mother, marries her and decides that the next step he should take is to come to the United States.


FM: Now my mother -- I should tell you about my mother also -- comes from also from Miyazaki, out in the country. Not, well it's not so much country as in a town away from Miyazaki City, but comes from a relatively wealthier family. Wealthier only in the sense however, that they were able to engage in speculative mining for example, which is the kind of thing her father was involved in and she gets to go to Beppu where there is (an) onsen -- a, you know, a spring, bathing spring -- and to Osaka and things like this which I think was less characteristic of many of the (Issei). So, she has a background of that kind and she (got) married once earlier, and that marriage fails, however, I think as much as anything because she wouldn't put up with the kind of fooling around that this husband engaged in. She then is a divorced woman at the point where she meets my father. I mention this background because I think whatever might have impelled women to leave the area was a factor in the kind of migration which was involved for her, especially because she was well enough off to have lived well enough in Japan already. And yet this divorce probably preyed on her mind and so she, having remarried, she then decides that it would be interesting to come, let us say to the United States.

SF: The kind of picture I'm getting is that your parents were well-equipped in terms of education or and they had a lot of resources. They were kind of adventuresome because of these things.

FM: Yeah, I think the atmosphere of Japan as a whole was already adventuresome, but southern Japan, Kyushu was probably a little more disposed in that, well I shouldn't say southern Kyushu, the southern part of Japan was a little more disposed in that direction because the Dutch influences in Nagasaki, for example, and foreign influences were very much stronger in the southern part of Japan than in the northern part. And this is the kind of influence that's affecting people -- the immigrant population in places like Kyushu from which my mother came and father came. In any event, that's the background out of which they come to the United States around 1905.

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<Begin Segment 2>

SF: Do you think that that was characteristic of most of the Issei immigrants, that they had things in their background that made them a little bit different or a little more...

FM: Yeah, I would say that the main factor was the push already started in Japan of changing from this feudal, isolated background to, under the Meiji era, a new expansionist country. Now, the other factor however, is that Japan was a deeply ossified country in terms of status arrangements. It was so deeply set in its way, that despite the psychological push that is now present in the Meiji era, the actual fact was that it was difficult for people to move up. And given this kind of contradiction in the situation, there were a lot of people who were disposed to move if they could or disposed to try to do whatever they could to rise, and migration or movement to, let's say, a country like the United States was seen as a way to do it. So that was part of the picture and then there were other circumstances. For example, if you were a second son or third son and were not going to inherit the family property, then you were freer to move. These kind of incentives were often a factor in the migration of the Issei.

SF: Do you have any recollection of what your dad might have thought that he was going to find in America at that time?

FM: No. Well not clearly, but there is this about his orientation that when he came to the United States, he said he came with the idea of staying permanently in this country, which was not the characteristic of most of the Issei parents of that time. The attitude among many Japanese immigrants was they would come to this country, make a killing, and then go back and become persons of status in Japan, which they could not do within the system as it was. So the idea was that migration and then return to Japan would make possible this kind of status mobility that was not possible in the, you know, if they remained where they were.

SF: So this kind of permanent immigrant kind of world view that your dad had -- how do you think that that sort of played out in, in what he did in America?

FM: I think it made considerable difference with us, for example. He had the idea that we should become a part of the American society as much as possible and later I'll tell you about moving from one place to another outwards from the Japanese community, for example.


SF: Frank, you were talking a minute ago about the, the fact that your dad was coming over as an immigrant and I've heard that lots of other folks came over as sojourners, or people who were gonna just make some money and then go back to Japan. What, what's your feeling about how many people sort of came over with the idea that they were going to be immigrants and how certain was that idea and how did that all work out?

FM: Well, I recall that there was one community leader I talked to about this question way back in the time I did my social solidarity study and he said, "Oh, 99 percent came with the idea they would come here and go back to Japan after they'd made the money." Whether that figure's accurate or not, I think there are data which show that let's say fifty percent did in fact come with the idea of going back after they had made sufficient savings, but the other fifty percent were largely unsure as to whether they would remain here or not. One major factor was the hostility that the anti-Japanese sentiment reflected on the West Coast particularly against Japanese immigrants, and the number who could come and be sure of making it in this country in one way or another for certain was very small. And so I'd say the percentage who thought that they would come permanently was probably a very small one. On the other hand, for my father, I think it was a kind of a philosophical issue, that if he was going to try to make it here, he'd better do it with the idea of being a permanent resident and that was the orientation he had and it played out in various ways as I might mention later.

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<Begin Segment 3>

SF: So when your dad and mom came over, how did they start life? I mean what was Nihonmachi like in those days?

FM: Well, that takes a lot of telling about, because Nihonmachi here in Seattle was mainly clustered around Skid Road initially and up Jackson Street, which is the direction which they moved. But Jackson Street at that time was a totally different kind of setting than it now is. There was a hill between Cherry Hill or First Hill, and Beacon Hill, that cut straight across that area and what the city of Seattle did was to wash down that hill, remove it, and put Dearborn Street straight down through that cut in order to create a different kind of -- well to create a transportation (line) through, through fare from Rainier Valley down into the downtown area.

(Narr. note: "Skid Road" refers to the skid down First Hill and Yesler Way down to Yesler Mill at 1st and Yesler. The road was used to slide logs off the hill to the mill. This term was given to the area of homeless men (loggers, sailors and ne'er-do-wells) who gathered at the bottom of the skid. "Skid Row" was the name adopted in the American language for such areas.)

SF: This, this is about what year roughly?

FM: Around 1900. Early 1900. So, yeah, around 1905. No, it must have been, yeah. Around 1905, 1910. Somewhere in there. They washed down that hill to considerable extent and therefore, 12th and Jackson, for example is much lower now in elevation than it was at that time, and as I say, the Beacon Hill bridge is, was, would not have been necessary back in the days when there was a hill cutting across that, through that area. So Seattle -- and the other thing about the Seattle downtown is that the shoreline cut across from let's say 1st and Yesler up to about 8th or 9th and Dearborn. That was the shoreline and the rest of it was tide flats underwater. What Seattle then did was to pour all the sand that was being washed off the hills down into that flat area and create an industrial section. And so what you have now is the railroad tracks down on 4th Avenue, for example, and the King Street Station. The King Street Station area was on the shoreline, but the lines coming into it would have been underwater if it had not been for the fill that has created that large industrial section in Seattle. Then the Japanese community then is created by, well as it develops, moves up the hill. Originally, it's on, parts of it were on stilts because of this, the watered, tide lands area. But it, as they fill in and create this area that is around King Street, Weller and so on, the Japanese community moved in that direction. The other thing to be said is that the residential area, however, at that time and for a long period thereafter was mainly up on Washington Street and so on, on top of the hill to the north of Jackson Street. So Nippon Kan, which is on Maynard and Washington, was kind of a hub that was developed close to the residential section which was, as I say, mainly on Washington moving eastward from the Nippon Kan center.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

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SF: What was the racial mix of the -- around in that area at that time?

FM: Yeah, the down, the Japanese business section was down, let's say on 6th and Main Street. And then, and that was the hub of the Japanese community. On the other side of Jackson Street and King and Weller, that was mainly Chinatown. And the Chinatown area moved up as did the Japanese community, up from the Skid Road area which is west of there, down toward the waterfront. And so, in a sense, the Japanese were a little north of King (Street and) Jackson Street and Chinatown was a little south of it. But there is a mix all the way through in there and as the Filipinos come in, they move into the, that area between Jackson and King and Weller where the periphery of the Chinatown area was. So it was a kind of a mix of Asian people in that whole area.

SF: How would you describe the relationships between these groups at that time?

FM: I would say that they were essentially very much isolated from each other. In part, I suppose, because the Chinese of that early period -- the Cantonese Chinese who were in Chinatown of that period were, tended to be an isolated population. The Japanese were more outgoing in a sense. However, the Japanese had their own segregationist attitudes and they didn't make any great effort to mix with the Chinese and the Filipinos who were late comers (and) were mainly bachelors especially in the early period and therefore, they didn't mix in as community into the Asian life of that area. I, I'd simply have to say that the Japanese community existed very much as a intra-bred ethnic community, rather than one that looked upon themselves as part of an Asian, pan-Asian community.

SF: In terms of discrimination and in terms of buying property for stores or houses and so forth, how strong was that discrimination in that area versus...?

FM: You mean discrimination from whites?

SF: From whites, right. In terms of buying property or something. Or moving out of that area or moving to the fringes of it, as opposed to sort of self segregating because that's where the community was and all the cultural resources and so forth.

FM: Well there was, there was real segregationist attitudes, discrimination present among the larger population. As long as Japanese, and the Chinese, the Asians, remained in that downtown areas, the so-called International District now, they could you know be, remain acceptable. But once they started, or tried to start moving out, then discrimination showed very prominently. My father, as I said, had this kind of outward orientation, and so very early in my life, when I was in second grade, I guess it was, so I was -- it was around 1920. He decided that we should move out from the Japanese community area towards Beacon Hill, which at that time was almost totally white, middle class, lower-middle class whites and there were perhaps two other Japanese families living on Beacon Hill at that time. The resistance to our moving into that area was fairly noticeable, although it was not by any means severe. Otherwise we would not have been able to buy a house there.

SF: What kind of resistance did you get from the neighbors?

FM: Once they, once we moved in, however, especially rowdies, vandals, would make it unpleasant for us by throwing junk on our front porch and this sort of thing. However, and people weren't hospitable in the sense of coming around and telling us that we would, you know, be invited to this or that and so on. But the discriminatory attitudes in, on Beacon Hill, were not that strong, simply that some people made it unpleasant for us. Others accepted us in the sense of not bothering us in any way.

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<Begin Segment 5>

SF: So, your father, when he first came to this kind of the Nihonmachi here -- what kind of business did he get into and what was his employment history like?

FM: The, he started off when he first came in 1905 as a sawmill worker. Now that's, and I guess most Issei tended to do that. They would go into sawmill work, railroad work, the canneries, or farming, farm laborers to accumulate enough funds so that they could get into something better. And my father I think spent maybe I think about five, six years in sawmill work, initially in a place called Kerestone, which is south of Enumclaw, and later in Winslow. And then finally (be) moved (to Seattle to set up) the furniture business. But one reason that he left Kerestone was that there was the point at which, my mother tells me, at which the white workers of the mill tried to run the Japanese workers out of the area and made it very unpleasant for Japanese workers and Japanese families at that mill. Threatened in various ways, and she said one night my father sent her and, and there was a child I guess, away from the sawmill town to another place so that they might not get hurt and he remained, insisting that he was not going to be run out by a bunch of rowdies. However, it was unpleasant enough and therefore he, they finally moved out. But there was then, there were occasions of anti-Japanese feelings expressed one way or another in places like sawmills and even in the railroads.

SF: In these situations where, like in, where your father worked in the sawmill -- did he work through a labor gang, like a Japanese labor contractor or did he go directly to the sawmill?

FM: That I don't know exactly, but I, I would be fairly sure that's probably what happened. He had to find, he had to find work somewhere, somehow. And usually there was a labor boss who would draw in Japanese workers and send them to Kerestone or wherever, where it was available.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

SF: Were these labor bosses and the workers connected because of a ken connection, a kenjinkai type of connection?

FM: There was very often a connection of ken relationship. But, and if there was, then there were advantages because ken relationships would mean something to these people, but obviously labor bosses were interested in getting whomever they could who would prove to be effective, efficient workers and so ken probably didn't play as big a part in that kind of a situation as in others. I might mention that ken relationships did play a part in certain kinds of situations. For example, the hotel business became one of the dominant hotel trades among the Japanese in early Seattle. And the hotel business became heavily populated by the Hiroshima people. And one of the reasons I found was that the Hiroshima-ken people got into the trade very early. One of the first hotel owners was a man named Fujii. And, and he then brings other Hiroshima people into his kind of work, it's easy for anybody... well for in the first place they come with the idea they have, they have this Hiroshima-ken connection and then Mr. Fujii for example would say, well I can help you with some work. So he trained them in his own hotel and they would then go out and run, develop their own hotels. More notable were let's say the restaurant workers who in many instances came from Ehime-ken which is on one of the islands -- I can't think of it. Anyway, the Ehime-ken people got into the restaurant business because Mr. Tsukuno who was originally from Ehime, was one of the early ones and he would help train other Ehime-ken people and they would get into the restaurant business. So yeah, ken relationships played a very significant role in developing many of these businesses. It was true for my father. He got to know his own ken people. There were not very many Miyazaki people here in the United States because the population itself was relatively small and the migrants from Miyazaki were a very small number. But the few that came to the Seattle area often connected up with each other and so my father gets to know the few that are around at one of the sawmills. And when he sets up his own business in furniture and hardware on Jackson Street sometime around 1910, one of the first things he did was to bring in Miyazaki-ken people as his helpers when he needed to get workers. So his business, which he developed within a matter of a few years, fairly rapidly and grows into let's say a business of maybe five people in addition to himself, was mainly a concentration of Miyazaki ken people because of this kind of ken relationship factor that functioned in the community at that time.

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<Begin Segment 7>

SF: In terms of the relationships between fellow ken people -- if, for example, your dad had this business and he brought people in from the same ken, what was the sense of obligation with regard to say your dad to the workers and the workers to your dad and once that got going and say they, the workers saved up enough money and they started their own furniture store or hotel or whatever the case may be, you'd think that that would be competition, so, did the sense of trying to help a fellow ken person sort of override the, the potential competition? What was the sort of, yeah, the interpersonal relationships between the original sort of helper versus the new guy and how much he was supposed to be helped and what did he, what did he owe the boss for being set up?

FM: On the competition matter, it's very interesting that these businesses, the hotel business, the guy who works in cleaners business, the grocery business and so on, often set up their own business association and then these business associations had rules or set up rules such as that no Japanese should set up a competing shop within a certain area, block distance from the one that already exists in Japanese hands. And therefore, ken people might bring in, I mean help others get started in business, but then there would be this other kind of understanding and rule that they would not impinge on each other. And so there were ways of controlling that kind of thing, which the Japanese used effectively, I think, in controlling the development of their businesses. As for the basic sense of obligation, it's not very clear as to just exactly how these things functioned. People simply felt -- well it's a bond, the Japanese basically have, the feeling that if you encounter another Japanese and then you have some kind of obligation to them simply as a fellow Japanese. And then the closer the relationship is, the more deeply these obligations are felt. Obviously if one is a member of the same family, (a) strong obligation exist, if they are relatives, that is a secondary obligation, ken person, coming from same territory is a third level obligation and so on. And so the depth of obligation extends outward to include all Japanese in a sense. Now ken relationships then were thought to be -- the Japanese are basically a very strong territorially oriented people. That is to say, where you come from makes a big difference for, or at least among Issei it did. And still I think, it still does in Japan. That place, the geographical location is a factor in the sense of closeness or obligations that you feel. Therefore if you come from the same ken, for Japanese there is some feeling initially of belonging together and then this common identity in turn creates this basis of identity, of obligation. So when it comes to finding work for other Japanese immigrants for example, ken people would often cluster together and once they started working together, they would even provide living space or means of livelihood, even including helping with money, loans and things of this kind. To illustrate one point, as my family moved upward socially, moving from one house to another, we had at one point a fairly large house on Jackson Street and I can remember to this day that we, that is the Miyamoto family lived in this house, but also that my father had two of his workers living on the third level of this fairly large house, as a good... not because, not so much because we had to have people living to increase our income, living with us to increase our income, but rather because he felt he had to help them find living space and help their, their savings and so on and so provided living space for them at least initially and in due course, these men moved out and found, established their own place. But this is the type of relationship which existed among ken people.

SF: So like, well the workers that stayed with your family, they must have felt a lot of loyalty and obligation for being helped out and did, went the extra mile to, to, as workers and stuff like.

FM: Yes. I think that's true. The employer feels obligations toward his employees, but in turn as he does things for them, there is the, yeah, reciprocal factor that comes in. And in fact I thought, I always thought this was rather characteristic of the Japanese community or Japanese society.

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<Begin Segment 8>

SF: Okay, so your dad starts this furniture business and he has a pretty thriving business with other ken folk and...

FM: Yeah, the business thrived. In a way, one might ask how come he got into this kind of business. Well it was kind of, kind of natural. You might say hotel business was a natural because here are these immigrants coming in that have to have immediately a place to stay, and a hotel is one of them. Well very rapidly it comes to the point where there are not enough immigrants for all the hotels that are developing, but then once they get themselves established, then they begin to trade with non-Japanese and so that's how the hotel business grows. But initially, that's one of the ways in which the hotel business gets a start. Similarly with the grocery business, as soon as people start establishing housekeeping arrangements, they need Japanese food. And so the Japanese community has these Japanese groceries that develop and once they learn the grocery trade then they move out into the larger community. And cleaning and laundry, barber shops and restaurants, these are all things that grew out essentially out of the need of the community the immigrant community to have places where they could get their clothes laundered or hair cut and whatnot. Now it happened at the initial stage of the community's growth that there were not apparently that many furniture and hardware kinds of businesses, and so my father, for whatever reason, sees this as an opportunity. I think he was probably clever enough to make furniture and remodel furniture and take second hand furniture and upgrade them. This was the kind of thing that was initially involved. And seeing then the opportunity of selling furniture then to these immigrant families that were getting established by 1910. You recall the 1907 Gentlemen's Agreement moves towards bringing Japanese families into this country. And so he then, by 1910, finds an opportunity for selling furniture and hardware, which he also got into as something that Japanese families would need. So he gets into the business simply because the community required that type of service. One of the men, incidentally, who became very prominent in the Japanese community of that time, a man named Okuda, was in the transfer business. Well again, you might say, why transfer business? Well you needed trucks to move things as the immigrants come in. And so he's in the transfer business. And so it goes with all these people who got into businesses of one kind or another.

SF: So it's...

FM: The other thing I should mention here is that there was a strong orientation throughout, among all these immigrants getting into a line of work where they could make money, relatively rapidly and do well in that line, and working as a railroad hands or sawmill workers didn't offer that kind of future. So there's a long, there's a strong push towards getting into independent business which was noticeable, particularly here in the Seattle area. And so you got people going into various kinds of individual trades.

SF: So in a sense, your dad's move into the furniture business was, was partly caused by the shift in political situation because of the Gentlemen's Agreement and...?

FM: Yeah, I think that's a valid observation that something like the Gentlemen's Agreement wasn't intended to have any kind of an economic impact, but it does, and precisely in that kind of sense that you're talking about. Ultimately as a matter of fact, another political legislation, namely the Immigration Act of 1924 shuts down his business, because no longer is there a need for furniture and hardware in the degree that existed while the immigration was continuing. But that's the tail end of his furniture business story. Uh, let me expand on that. Hotel businesses, as I said, moved outwards from the Japanese community once the family learned how to do the hotel business, they would move into, for example, Belltown and be quite successful because people, whether Japanese, or white, or blacks, or whoever, often would be looking for some place to stay that was relatively clean, but inexpensive and the Japanese were providing that kind of place. Now the furniture business was a little more difficult to (move), less flexible in that sense. It was much more difficult to move out into the white community and establish oneself. It was certainly possible but, you had to develop an entirely different kind of clientele, and you see the furniture business was much less flexible in that regard than let's say hotels or grocery stores or dye works and cleaners and so on. So you don't find the Japanese businesses like the furniture business or the transfer business, or businesses of that kind moving out into the larger community so readily.

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<Begin Segment 9>

SF: When businesses sort of shifted clientele because of the economic situation and had to service whites or blacks or whatever, what was the attitude of people with regard to having other Japanese as clients or having these other groups as clients? Did they, was there a difference? Was it easier or harder to deal with outsiders in a sense?

FM: You mean for the person who was running the business?

SF: Right, right.

FM: Uh, well, the interesting, as I say. Let's say in the hotel business, grocery business and so on, there was steady movement outwards from the Japanese community of these kinds of businesses. And my observation of that time -- although I never quite studied that issue so much -- my observation was that they made the adjustment relatively easily, mainly for the reason that what the Japanese proprietor had to offer was something that was of interest and attraction to the larger community. In the case of groceries for example, they moved often from, into a, let's say white communities. Well what the disadvantage often was that the person didn't speak English quite so well, but the husband, the father, at least would learn to manage. Now all these businesses -- this is kind of a side issue -- all these businesses thrived because families would help, particularly the wife. And my observation was that wives often didn't learn the English language as easily or readily as did the men who forced, were forced to get out and deal with the larger population. But, they would help in the groceries and presently, even the wives would manage somehow to deal with white customers and then children would come along and presently they are helping in the groceries, so. Well, the language problem is dealt with, what was the primary advantage of the Japanese grocery people was that in the first place, their vegetables and fruits were often superior to that found in other small groceries. Incidentally, this is a time when there were no supermarkets, so the small corner grocery is an issue. And in these small corner groceries, in fact it is said that the Japanese were the ones who introduced the style of vegetable and fruit display that is typical in the supermarkets now. They started doing things in such a neat and clean fashion that it was much a considerable advance over the kind of piled-up vegetables and fruits that were typical of the non-Japanese shops of that time. And so, in a sense, the, the Japanese grocers or people are able to get in to the non-Japanese community because of what they had to sell, which was saleable, which was of interest to the clientele that came to them. This was true of the dye work and cleaner business which spread very rapidly. The Japanese were thought to be very neat in handling of clothes and so they are considered desirable for that type of work.

SF: Did these customer/owner contacts with, with say whites, did they blossom into friendships frequently or very infrequently? What was the kind of...?

FM: Yes, I think they did blossom into friendships, but it was a friendship of a, of a fairly distant kind. This, in this sense that the friendship would exist in the shop, and in the store, and there would be a lot of hearty fellow feeling between customer and proprietor, but I don't think it very frequently developed into, you know, invitations to dinner and so on. Of course this is true of all the shops today, it would seem to me among, between shop keepers and customers. There is a lot of friendly feeling perhaps, but not necessarily socializing beyond that. So I think that was generally true. However, coming back to my father's case, he did business with white sales people, for example, for a large wholesale hardware company in the Seattle area. And I recall that on a couple of occasion, occasions, we visited in the home of this salesman who was, who was very friendly with my father, and the home as I remember was in the Woodland Park area. That, that is one of my recollection, recollections. And it was in, at a distance from the Japanese community, it was the kind of relationship that was very uncommon at that time, that you would go invited to a Caucasian family's home for sociability purposes, and we visited in that man's home and unfortunately I can't remember his name even. But it was a white family and they were very hospitable and here we were kids that, sitting around chat, trying to carry on a conversation with these adults and whatnot. So there were circumstances in which this type of relationship might develop.

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<Begin Segment 10>

SF: One, one other issue I wanted to ask you about with regard to these small business was, you mentioned the importance of the associations, like the Hotel Keepers' Association and the grocers and so forth, in terms of regulating competition and so forth. Can you describe, you know, what was the nature of these different business groups and what they did and what their impact probably was on the Issei community at that time?

FM: Yes. The associations were developed probably for two reasons. One, to regulate or control relations among those in the business, that particular line of business, and there were associations for example for hotels, groceries, restaurants, dye work, cleaners, produce house owners, gardeners and landscape people and so on. Maybe a dozen of these that I can remember as associations. And these business associations then would regulate the business so that people would not impinge on each other, the members. For example, they should not create too much undue competition among themselves. They would try to set up conditions where they would be, minimize the competition between Japanese. The competition against whites and what not was not a major concern. The other thing however, was that these associations were also used as a means of, of defending against anti-Japanese and discriminatory kinds of practices which might arise. In the hotel business for example, if there was a protest by white people of the Japanese invading an area of business, then the business association would come into play and try to counter that type of anti-Japanese sentiment in whatever way. So the, they were a force for controlling within the community, but also a means of trying to defend against anti-Japanese discriminatory practices that might impinge on them. Alien land laws, for example, would affect people like hotel owners or people who are trying to run businesses. And various kinds of discriminatory business laws might be erected which they would try to fight.

SF: What kind of responses did they, or could they make? Like hire a lawyer to take a court case, legal approach or to do some kind of media attempt or...?

FM: I, I can't tell you, I can't think of any cases exactly. But they would use whatever means was necessary or whatever means was possible in the event of whatever attack was made upon them. I think that the associations were in a sense, because they brought together large clusters of people engaged in the same line of work, were powerful enough to do something which the proprietors individually could not have done. And I think that was the main effectiveness of these associations.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

SF: Well you talked quite a bit about the kind of business aspect of the Japanese or the Issei community at that time. What about the social aspects, like church? And how did these get started and what were some of the important issues for them?

FM: Before we leave the business thing, incidentally, I should have mentioned that these associations in turn pulled together into what was called the Seattle Japanese Chamber of Commerce. So there was a large umbrella organization over the business associations. And then there was a separate Japanese Association which in a sense included the Japanese business associations as a kind of economic arm of the Japanese Association. So there was a large organizational superstructure in the community. Now coming back to the social...

SF: Well, I want to pursue this because this is, that's really interesting and I was sort of thinking of the same thing too. So you have this very integrated business community which has this umbrella organization, which is tied into the Japanese Association even. So what would they do collectively or this, at the level of the, the business, Seattle business -- I mean what would, what did that serve to have people tied together that way, linked to the Japanese association?

FM: Well, that's a little hard to say. The Japanese Association was the large umbrella organization and they would represent the Japanese community for example, in the... these... the Seattle Metropolitan area fund drives for, what's the, what's the name of the chest...

SF: Community Chest?

FM: Hmm?

SF: Community Chest?

FM: Community Chest, yeah, I guess it's called, I'd forgotten. Anyway, if there was a drive of this kind, then the Japanese Association would represent the Japanese ethnic community in this type of drive and they were always proud to be able to say the Japanese community came up with over the quota, you know, collections. And what the Japanese Association invariably did was to go then to the associations, business associations, and say why don't you contribute, you know, X amounts of dollars and therefore, this umbrella organization was very effective in pulling together kinds of fund, which in turn would then represent the Japanese community as very good, or socially minded community in the eyes of the larger community, and this would then get some publicity in the Seattle papers and that was good for the community. So in response to your question, this is the kind of thing that was possible given this large superstructure organization. They would -- or if an anti-Japanese kind of issue arose, then they could call upon all the various organizations, churches as well as business associations and so on, and the Japanese Association, because of its superstructure type of control, was made more effective by this interlocking relationship which they had. The relationship was strong as much as anything because many of the leaders of the business associations were also the leaders of the Japanese Association, so the -- and many of the church leaders are leaders of the business associations and also business leaders of the Japanese Association. There obviously was a kind of a network of people who did much, constantly got involved in one thing or another having to do with organizational activities of the community, and therefore were powerful in controlling such activities that represented the community.

(Narr. note: "Community Chest" was the name by which the fund was known in the 1930s. It is currently known as the United Good Neighbors Fund.)

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

SF: Were there other ethnic groups at that time who were as well organized? How did the Japanese...?

FM: That, that I think is the thing that is to me impressive. The only other ethnic group I can think of who were comparably organized were the Jewish people. But the Chinese, for example, although organized into their mutual benefit associations and also into tongs and so on, were not however very well organized as a community, especially in representing them to the larger society. I've always had a problem with judging what the situation of the Chinese community was. After all, the anti-Chinese sentiment in a sense was much more damaging to the Chinese immigrants than the anti-Japanese sentiment ever was to the Japanese. And it, I think it was partly historical, but this was so. The Chinese Exclusion Law came very early as you know, 1882 was it? And so the Chinese are unable to develop the kind of community structure that the Japanese were fairly freely allowed to develop right up until 1924. And therefore Chinatown -- Chinatown is an isolated community of single, bachelor Chinese to a large extent simply because the Exclusion Law restricted the possibility of the Chinese developing into something larger. The other side of the picture, however, is that the Chinese I think have always been less disposed to adjust to the larger community than have the Japanese. I've always had the feeling that the capacity of the Japanese society to have made headway in the industrial world for example, as compared to the Chinese inability to do this kind of thing relatively speaking, reflects two different kinds of orientation of the societies. And this is true also of India. You know, India has not developed as an economic or industrial power in spite of the fact that they got a start much earlier than did Japan. And my feeling is that there is something fundamental in Indian society and likewise in Chinese society which (they) lack. Fortunately for the Japanese, they did not have that (which) restrained their capacity for developing. Well, then you apply (these) kind of (observations) to the (Chinese), the Japanese, and (other) immigrants, and (you ask why), the Japanese immigrants were able to expand outward in a way that the Chinese were not able to do. Well one reason as I say, was the discriminatory, the power of the discrimination against the Chinese. But the Chinese also had, I think, a background that restrained them from getting outwards as much as the Japanese did. Well that's a separate problem in itself.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

SF: Frank, I think before the break we were talking about how integrated the Japanese business community was and how there was a superstructure and they were tied into the Japanese Association. I was wondering if there were any kind of negative effects of this kind of highly organized community, in the sense that maybe people saw them as too organized or a threat or something like that. Maybe this is kind of looking too far forward into the '30s or where those, or that time period. But do you think that there were any of those kind of negative spinoffs of the community?

FM: I don't think so. Mainly because the community is small and they could, they never became a threat in a sense to the larger community, and also this community organization functioned largely within the ethnic community, and the larger community probably had little knowledge of, or understanding of the kind of network that we're talking about existing there in the Japanese community. So, as far as I know, most people, I would say that there was very little feeling about this matter. I did have the impression that in a sense, the neighboring ethnic communities, the black community for example and the Chinese community in a sense envied the Japanese for their capacity for organizing things and activities in a way that they did. Because the black community for example, a person would say you know, we just can't seem to get organized in a way that you people do, or in the Chinese community they would not be able to organize sports teams for instance in a fashion that the Japanese community would. So there was a certain amount of enviousness of what was going on, but as far as I know, I would not say that it had any adverse effect.

SF: Just one more question I want to ask of the community, too, before we go onto the social institutions. In Nihonmachi, there must have been a lot of kind of illicit businesses because it was in the slum area or part of it was in a slum area.

FM: Uh, what businesses?

SF: Illicit businesses.

FM: Oh, illicit, yeah.

SF: Yeah, like maybe houses of prostitution.

FM: Yes.

SF: Gambling.

FM: Yes.

SF: How did the, how could the community deal with this in terms of the way they raised kids and so forth. Being in this, this area without having these negative affects spilling over into their, their life in a sense?

FM: I'm not sure that the Japanese community consciously dealt with the problem as far as I know. As, as kids for example, we were very definitely aware when living on Washington Street that this is an area where houses of prostitution thrived or were numerous along Washington Street. You could hear the window tapping constantly and you knew that there was business going on. And as kids we had terminology for what was going on there without any keen understanding of what it was, but nevertheless, we knew that this kind of business was going on. But it was a separate world as far as I know. I can remember one kid telling me, he says, "Well, we have this grocery store, and upstairs was this house and every now and then the people upstairs would ask to have grocery delivered to them and so I would be asked to take it upstairs." And that's the kind of report he gave me that he regularly delivered groceries to this house of prostitution, but it was, as far as the way he expressed it, a totally separate world. He kind of told me about it as part of his macho experience, but beyond that, it really didn't amount to anything. Now, the Chinese had their gambling houses and again, there was evidence of that all over the place. You know, the, there was black, the paper things on which they would make markings. Do you know that kind of.

SF: No, uh-uh. Please tell us about that.

FM: Oh, I forgot what they're called. They were like, well anyway, it was gambling in which you, if you marked the correct category, you know slots by, and could match it with whatever, with a key, then you would win or lose accordingly. And you'd find these papers all over the International District and you knew that this, this had to do with gambling, and where there were stories about the gambling that was going on, etc. But that was a separate world from the world that the kids engaged in and we knew it was there and we dismissed it and went on to our own business. I don't think the parents had to concern themselves with this issue to any serious degree. There was one study that was done by one of my colleague sociologists, but way back then I was not aware of the study of course. But anyway, it was a study of juvenile delinquency rates by school districts for the whole city of Seattle. And the worst school district in terms of juvenile delinquency was in lower Queen Anne Hill and certain neighborhoods of that kind where white residence, residents lived. Now very similar in character to that kind of neighborhood was the International District where the Japanese residents lived and our school district, the Japanese school district was one of very few which compared with the level of delinquency in Laurelhurst, one of the finer residential areas of that time, in terms of the relatively low delinquency rates. Well, here is a neighborhood in which prostitution, gambling, crime and suicide were very high, in which however, juvenile delinquency rates were very low, and if you asked the question why was this so, the only answer you could give was that the families simply regulated their kids in such a fashion that they did not get involved in this type of activity which was part of the world in which, within which they lived.

SF: Were there any Japanese houses or Japanese gambling places, or were they all, like if the Japanese adolescents, guys wanted to have a good time on Saturday, they would go to these other places?

FM: Yeah. Well as a matter of fact, in terms of houses or prostitution, in the history of the Seattle Japanese community there was a time when they flourished. The Japanese brothels flourished and this was very early in the history of the Seattle Japanese community at a time when the immigrants were mainly male, single male laborers. And the history book, which my, a friend of my father's wrote explains that there was this very scandalous history of the Japanese in the Seattle area, which however, was stopped very suddenly by the intervention of the Japanese Consulate from San Francisco who came up all the way to see what was, you know, to make sure that this was in fact what was going on, as he had heard and put a stop to it, or require that it be stopped because it was a (blemish), a blotch on the, the good name of the Japanese nation. And so, Japanese prostitutes were so to speak run out of the city and no longer existed. But, the -- there is this interesting side light on this kind of question. I had a friend in the cannery where I worked each summer, Nisei like myself, who used to brag about living as a pimp off a white prostitute. And he would tell stories about his experiences with this prostitute. In fact he claimed that there was one time when he almost got married to her and there was quite an escapade apparently. Anyway, this young man grew up in that neighborhood and got involved in the prostitution activity, but he was one of the relatively small handful of cases I knew of, of that kind. In fact he had a kind of bad name in the Japanese community as a kid who was in engaged in this kind of activity. Similarly, yes, there was a gambling house in the Seattle Japanese community known as the Toyo Club, which was famous for being engaged in illegitimate business. There was a certain store on, I think it was Maynard, storefront, behind which all this gambling activity was said to occur. And, and we were told about it and a couple of my friends it was said were heavily involved in, as young men growing up into this, this structure, this system. But again, as in many other Japanese communities along the coast, these clubs, gambling clubs were kind of isolated, an isolated element within the larger community and it was as if there was, yes, there was illegitimate organization, but it was kind of simply a small cancer enclosed in and shut off from the larger community and people didn't worry too much about it because it did cause some problems, but in the main, they were simply an isolated part of the community.

SF: How long did this Toyo Club operate? What time period was it?

FM: Oh, I think it, I can't say when it began, but it must have had a very early beginning and it ran right up into the war. I recall in the period of the relocation centers, of detention centers that there were people from Sacramento who were alleged to have belonged to the Sacramento Toyo Club or equivalent, and one of the guys who was on the police force in fact, and they used to point him -- "Oh he's one of them, you know, big cheeses of that organization who is now on the police force" -- and so on. So, yes, they continued to run and for all I know, they still may run. But they're no longer as notable as during the Issei period.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

SF: Okay, I want to ask you about the other community institutions like the churches which probably played a very important role in the community. Can you describe the, how the churches got started and the different kinds and what role they played in the community?

FM: Yeah. In the Seattle area, curiously, the Christian churches got their start first. I think the Baptist church for example had a minister here as early as 1898 or so. And dating back to then, the Methodist church and a couple of others got started. The reason why the Christian churches thrived was that the single male immigrants coming over found themselves in the United States lacking the kind of support network that they had been accustomed to in Japan. The support network in Japan of course has, has to do not only with the family, but the relatives and community groups. In Japan, as you know, especially in the villages and so on, there were all kinds of village groups that, like the neighborhood group and the larger five man group headed. Well, groups of people who would support individual families, individual entities and the immigrant, male immigrants were totally missing that kind of background. The ken of course was here, but they came, their organization got established somewhat later than the period that I'm referring to. So the Christian church which was always evangelical in the sense of trying to do missionary work among those who needed it, move in on the Japanese ethnic community and immediately they create. They do the kinds of things which the Japanese immigrants really needed immediately. Namely, they not only save souls, but they save people physically. They would do things for them so that they would be cared for if they got sick. They created Sunday organizations where groups of people could gather and feel a sense of friendship and intimacy and social support which they were otherwise lacking and particularly, they would create employment opportunities. They had (a) name for some of these young men who were sent out to do housework, (they) were called "mission boys," and they got started from the missions, or churches and (were) sent for housework from there and therefore, they were the mission boys who got started working in that fashion. They also taught English of course. And in the case of women, they, they would teach them sewing and American customs and cooking and whatnot. So the Japanese, or the Christian churches functioned to fill a gap, a vacuum which was created by the fact that the Japanese immigrants didn't have the kind of support group that they were so familiar with back in their own villages and native land. Now the other thing that happened was that the Christian churches of course, as was characteristic in the United States would created their church groups and have their Sunday school classes and so on. Buddhist organizations, as you know in Japan, were not typically organized in that fashion. The characteristic way in which Buddhist, Buddhism was carried on was for families to have their own little family shrine so to speak, but then they would go to the temples on occasion and, and do their obeisance and then go home and that was the nature of their religious contact with the Buddhist organization. It was not a church organization. However, given the success of the Christian churches, very soon the Buddhist churches or organizations realized that they had to create a church organization here similar to the Japanese, the Christian churches in order to win the kind of support that the Christian churches were. So very soon you had these Buddhist churches organizing in a fashion similar to the Christian churches which was not characteristic in Japan. So you'll find that in a sense. [Interruption] ...the Buddhist Sunday school. What do you know, they're singing Japanese hymn to the tune of Jesus Loves Me, This I Know in Japanese and fitted for the Buddhist church. [Laughs] And I, I think that's true.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

SF: Okay. So, would you say that the churches were the kind of main institution that sort of helped the new immigrants adapt to the country?

FM: Yes. I would say as far as other organizations, other than the family and the ken are concerned, the churches probably played as important a role as any. I guess I would have to, yeah, I'd say the churches were very important. And, and, well go ahead.

SF: I was just going to ask, now these Protestant churches were -- when they started to reach out to these new Japanese male immigrants to help them cope with their new context, how much interaction was there? So, in another words, was it just to help them set up the church and to kind of get these different things started, like the cooking? Learning how to cook American and how to deal with American society and it then once the church was sort of started, was the congregation all Japanese, or what, what, how was the interface between the whites...

FM: Yeah.

SF: And the Japanese?

FM: Well the initiation, especially at the very beginning was by Caucasian missionaries, missionary types. And they would help the immigrant bachelors in small groups of half a dozen people initially perhaps get their initial beginnings here in this country. But once these groups were brought together, that is, the immigrant groups were brought together, they, they in turn, they themselves organize in the typical Japanese fashion, they immediately sensed the need for organization and they would organize and they would take over so that the missionaries then immediately, increasingly take a secondary role and the group itself becomes the organizing entity. So as far as the Japanese Baptist Church was concerned for example, it very quickly brought in a Japanese minister, I think Reverend Okazaki was probably one of the first. They bring in a Japanese minister who in turn organizes all the Japanese members into this church and it comes to be well supported. And Christian churches didn't flourish in Japan, so the members of this new church were not so much people who came with a Christian background, but people who found that this Christian church, this Buddhist Church, Baptist Church for example offered advantages which they had not appreciated or had not required in Japan. It would offer cooking classes or sewing classes or language classes or, and they had Sunday schools for the kids. Now in the Sunday schools, often the missionaries would, because of their English language, come in and help teach. But the church itself tended to be taken over very quickly by the Japanese people themselves. And this was true in the Baptist Church, Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church and so on. Now in the case of the Methodist, one of the things I remember, was that as a three or four year old, I went to the kindergarten that was run by the Methodist Church, Seattle Japanese Methodist Church on Washington Street. And this kindergarten was famous at that time because it was the only, the main kindergarten to which Japanese kids went. And it had these white teachers, white Sunday school or kindergarten teachers teaching Japanese kids in the -- and this was thought to be desirable because very soon these kids then would go on to public schools where they would have to be exposed to white teachers and so they got a start. And there are pictures of myself with Michi's older sister in the same class and so on, a whole group of us sitting there in front of this Methodist Church with a white teacher present and so on.

SF: So, the basic thought there was that this would help you cope with things, the American things that were going to come later on.

FM: Exactly, yeah. And in a sense the Christian churches served that function. And what I was trying to point to was that the community then takes it over and then uses it for this kind of function. They needed a kindergarten, the church is the place where they would organize it.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

SF: Another really important institution in the community I think was the Language, I'm sorry, the Japanese Association. Could you kind of describe what, how it was organized, what things the Japanese Association did and what were other roles it played?

FM: Yeah, I haven't studied the history of the Japanese Association here in the Seattle area as closely as I might, mainly because the stuff is written in Japanese and it's an effort for me to read it. But anyway it appears to have gotten organized quite early and the Japanese Associations flourished not only here in Seattle, but in Tacoma, and Spokane, Portland, down in the White River Valley and so on. So the history book tells us about these, not only the Seattle Japanese Association, but the one in Yakima and Tacoma and so on, and so on, and there's a whole collection of them. The organization began here, mainly because of the community, they really had politically-minded people emerging who felt that it was desirable to have some kind of overseer organization of the community among other things. For example, the Japan, the Japanese Language School needed to be organized and so here is an occasion where leaders of the community would get together, not merely to organize the language school, but to bring the community support behind this kind of an effort. And various types of problems arose which called for community organization and what you have then is a fairly early development of an interest in organized activity, which by 1910, I believe, certainly by 1910, perhaps as early as 1905, created the basis for a Japanese Association.

The Association was intended to serve primarily in the beginning as a kind of social welfare organization for the immigrant population. In Japan of course, the communities were organized for social welfare support, and in this country, apart from the churches there was, there was of course the larger community social welfare programs, but the Japanese felt the need for something within their own community and the Japanese Association then became the provider for that. But beyond welfare, then they found discrimination was a problem and so they get a political orientation. The Language School becomes a concern and so there's not only the Language School, but school orientation generally. Educational programs then come under consideration and as I said, the business association gets organized into the Japanese Association. So there were about four or five main departments so to speak, built into the Japanese Association, and each one then would look after that aspect of the community and thereby tie it in together under one umbrella organization. As for -- and there were plenty of people who were sufficiently interested in political activism of one kind or another to be involved in this type of thing. On the other hand, there were many others in the community who were not politically-minded or didn't feel that this kind of thing was of interest, was not the kind of thing they wanted to be involved in and so, you had a fairly large part of the community population being largely disinterested in, or indifferent to the Japanese Association. And it was often said that the Association is made up of windbags and people who are power hungry. On the other hand every now and then, the community as a whole would call, or would turn to the Japanese Association as the means by which they would carry on a joint community effort on whatever was needed. So there was this kind of ambivalent feeling in the community as a whole, as to what the Japanese Association was there for. My own assessment is that the Association played an important part in the community. The other thing we should, cannot forget is that the Association also was hooked into the Japanese Consulate and for one thing, whenever an immigrant Issei wanted to visit Japan for instance, it was necessary to get a visa or passport privilege and the Japanese Association had a function in that regard.

SF: Did the Japanese Association support sort of patriotic efforts? Were they involved in things like the Emperor's Birthday celebration, that kind of thing?

FM: Yes. Yeah. They were not, yeah. I, I don't know if they were thought of as patriotic efforts, but it was felt that as Japanese, as, yeah, as Japanese citizens essentially, Japanese nationals, it was important that they carry on these usual functions of Japanese society, including the celebration of the Emperor's Birthday, etc. So they did, yes. And there were regular meetings of this, affairs of this kind for those occasions. And in this connection the Nippon Kan Hall, which still exists as a building, came to function in an extremely important role. It became the meeting place for all kinds of functions of the Japanese Association when community people were called together.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

SF: Okay. I want to skip ahead a little bit and talk, or ask you a little bit about your educational experience as you were growing up and you moved to Beacon Hill, which was integrated so to speak, and how it's out of Nihonmachi and, what was, what was the school like for you?

FM: When I first started, I started at the Methodist Church kindergarten. And that was a place run by white teachers with a whole bunch of Nisei kids running around, in the main. But curiously as I remember, there were also some white kids who were present in the kindergarten, probably kids who were from the neighborhood families. I remember one, this was my first experience of ethnicity that I remember. I remember one occasion where a white girl was, I thought, mistreating one of my Japanese friends and I started to object to her. And I don't know what I said, but she made fun of my English or what I was trying to say and she said something to the effect of why don't you learn how to speak the English language or something, something like that. And suddenly it, I came to realize that, you know, I was not speaking the language as I was supposed to according to the Caucasian standard and I got the sense of ethnicity as I say in a fashion that I had never been aware of before. It's just a kind of incidental example. Coming back to the matter of school. But, but that was in fact not an uncommon experience that school was the place where kids, Japanese American kids of, of my generation first learned exposure to the English language, and many of the kids went there, as they say, without knowing any English ever and they just sit there, sit there dumbfounded listening to a white teacher babbling, teachers babbling at them in a fashion that they would not be able to understand. And on the other hand, in my case, because I had two older sisters, I had the sense that I knew enough English to follow what was going on when I went to first grade and had an American teacher.

The first grade I went to was at a place called Main Street School which is on the corner of 6th Avenue and Main Street. The building of Main Street, one part of the building of Main Street still, of that school, still exists on that corner. It's the school building entrance. Anyway, it was a school for the first three grades, first, second and third grade. And then, kids who advanced beyond that would go to one of the other schools. But the Main Street School for the first three grades was populated by virtually all Japanese kids, Japanese American kids. There may have been some Chinese kids and there must have been, but somehow they don't figure prominently in my recollection. And the teachers of course were all white. And the teacher I had in first grade was a lady named Ms. Smith. I have a very clear visual picture of her still. And I have a sense of learning how to fold paper and learning a little bit about how to use the English language and things like this that was entirely new to me. What impressed, what sticks most clearly in my mind, however, is the fact that this was a school populated by all Japanese American kids. In fact virtually all the Japanese Americans of my age or older probably had their first schooling in that school. So it became well known as the elementary school for Japanese American kids right in the heart of the Japanese community. The other thing I recall very distinctly was a lady named Ada Mahon, who was the principal of the school. She was a lady of Irish background, as I recall, extremely strict and demanding, and authoritarian actually, and she would make the kids toe their line. But, the Issei thought she was the best thing in the world for the Japanese kids. They honored her in appropriate fashion later, as I remember. But Mahon, Ms. Mahon ran the school with an iron fist and ran the kids with very strict discipline. But also was demanding of them that they perform at a high level, as much as they could. So she symbolized then what that school stood for.

The Main Street School closed in the early, late 1920s I imagine and then there was something called Bailey Gatzert School that was organized and established on 12th and Lane Street, right near the Beacon Hill bridge, and that's the school to which my wife Michi went as an elementary school student. So many of the, or most virtually all Japanese American kids who grew up at that time went to that school, the Bailey Gatzert School. And the students were all Japanese Americans or Chinese Americans and there was a very definite sense of ethnic belonging by virtue of the fact that you were part of that student body. We had as -- I didn't go to Bailey Gatzert -- but kids who went there and kids who went to Main Street School had no clear notion of what the schools for these white kids could be like. For me, the experience came early of learning what the white schools, kids' schools were like, because when I was in the second grade as I told you, my father had the idea that he wanted our family to get absorbed into the larger community as rapidly as possible and so... and since his business was thriving at that point around 1920 or 1919, he bought a home in, on Beacon Hill and we became one of three Japanese families that lived on Beacon Hill at that time. Having moved up there, I then was assigned to the second grade class in, at Beacon Hill School where all the students now were white in contrast to the Japanese American kids who had been my schoolmates at Main Street School. I have no clear recollection of how I adjusted. I think I was a little overawed initially, but very rapidly got drawn into the school's goings on and adapted, as I feel, fairly easily to the new situation.

SF: So you had a lot of fairly close white friends.

FM: Yes.

SF: And you hang out and all that.

FM: Yeah, the curious thing is that my first friend is, that I remember of that time, was a young kid named Herbert Arnold who lived two or three doors away from me. So I got to know him and I thought of him as my friend. But very soon I discovered that he was not a good athlete. He didn't have the kinds of interests which so many other kids had. He was kind of a loner as it turns out, a what do you call it, what's the word for this type -- wimp? [Laughs] Is that what that call it nowadays?

SF: Weenie?

FM: He must have been a bit of a wimp. Anyway, I discovered that he was not as interesting to me as other students whom I discovered, whom I encountered and so very shortly, he dropped off on the list of my friends, but he was my first friend. And as my friendships enlarged, it included particularly guys who were very good at baseball or, or very good at other sports activities and I became a bit of a show piece for them, because the claim was that as small as I was compared to the rest of these hakujin kids, I could take care of myself physically, in little combats with them, and the claim came to be that, "Well, Frank knows judo, so you better be careful." [Laughs] And they kind of you know, helped me get through the, the difficulties of being a juvenile in a society where I might not always be accepted by other kids.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

SF: So, when you went on to junior high and high school, you started to play a lot of sports and that sort of thing?

FM: Yeah, sports obviously, are the means by which one can get especially well accepted into a juvenile society. I was not a great sportsman. I thought I was, but somehow I wasn't as skilled as I might have been. I was fairly fast on my feet, and so I ultimately in high school turned out for track and was on the track team, but I never won a letter. I couldn't run fast enough to win a letter. And in baseball, football and things like this, I really wasn't as good as I might have been. The other thing that stands out in my mind however is that, as far as sports went, the sports activities in the Japanese community were very much better organized than in my white society, the white society that I was in touch with. And my friends and I would play baseball or football, but somehow it involved nothing much more than occasional games on the school field and there was never any kind of team that was organized, whereas in the Japanese community, it was typical that if you played football or played baseball or basketball, very rapidly you would get drawn into some kind of team organization. I became aware then very early that there was a difference of this kind between the Japanese and the white community. My situation was peculiar in that, in the main, my school day was spent in the Caucasian community, however, my father had his business in the Japanese community and he had his business contacts. Also my relatives lived in the Japanese community and they had a host of sons. In fact there were eight boys in the family, one of whom who was a little bit older and bigger than I, became my, well in a sense a role model or he became the guy that I was always tagging along with. And so, especially on weekends, I would spend a great deal of time in the Japanese community with my relatives, family, especially in contact with this cousin of mine. As a result of that, I learned a great deal about what was going on in the Japanese community and got involved in team sports in the Japanese community which I would not have otherwise. But then during the weekday, why I was involved with my white friends, who as I say, somehow never had this kind of organizational network in which they could get involved. In high school of course they had -- or, yeah, in high school -- they had football or basketball teams and so on. But in the elementary grades (there) was nothing like the little league that exists now at that time and there was never any team sports that we got involved in, in any systematic fashion.

SF: So I think you've made the observation before that for Nisei adolescents or young adult that in a sense their life might have been richer in terms of social choices, which is a really interesting observation.

FM: Yes. That was my observation at that time. I began to feel that as far as finding others with whom one could engage in common interest activities, it was much easier to do so in the Japanese community than in the white community. The white community was broken up, it was very difficult to get organized activity going. And you might have an occasional, you might have one or two close friends, but beyond that, there was not very much that one could do that was as interesting as was going on in the Japanese community. There were things like Boy Scouts for example. I joined the Boy Scout troop in my local neighborhood and we had trips and things like this with the Boy Scout troop, but when I later joined the Japanese troop, I found that things were much more interesting there than in the white community., namely because the organization was stronger and better and there was much more joint activity going on in the Japanese community than in the white community. So I think that probably is a typical difference between white and Japanese community even today. That the Japanese for whatever reason, have an exceptional capacity for organizing. And members of the Japanese community have in a sense, an exceptional capacity for getting together and functioning well, coordinating their activities in a fashion that one doesn't find in the Caucasian community. And that was true in my, my early days.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

SF: Another aspect of growing up must have been the dating situation. And so for example in high school, what were the options for Niseis? I mean were they, did anyone ever contemplate dating white girls and all? What was the boundary like at that time?

FM: Yeah, I, I don't recall. There were Nisei who dated white girls in high school I suspect, but I can't give you an instance. As a matter of fact however, I can't give you instances of Nisei males dating much in high school. There was, to my knowledge at the high school level, very little dating that went on among Nisei males.

SF: Was that part of the kind of Japanese, sort of Issei influence in terms of kind of damping down these kinds of...?

FM: I think so. And the influence was not so much a restraint on the Nisei, but a self restraint on the part of the Nisei themselves, because they were not socialized into the feeling that they could deal with a girl, boyfriend-girlfriend situation adequately and so I think most of the Nisei males of that time and for that matter, girls perhaps, just didn't think too much of dating, because of, in a sense, of fear of not being able to function very effectively in that situation. Dancing for example was not something that was, that for example, I knew much about when I was in high school. And in general, dating was not characteristic.

Now, I grew up, however, in a Caucasian community and I know that my friends, in many cases were dating. They would talk about dates and there was one instance where my white friends were teasing me that a certain girl in this class, white girl, was interested in me. What they were telling me, whether it was or was not true, I don't know. But in the white community there was this kind of activity that goes on, that pressures in the direction of dating by teasing or whatever, and so I got the sense that maybe I ought to be involved in that sort of thing and the girl was not unattractive so, you get the sense that maybe I should. But then the kind of reserve that you feel coming from your own Japanese background prevented my ever doing anything in that situation. But that was the kind of experience I had in the Caucasian community. Now the Japanese community, there is this which was characteristic, namely that in the churches we had young peoples' organizations and social activities and we were thrown, men when kids were boys were thrown into contact with girls and that was the level of kind of group socializing between boys and girls that went on at least in our time. I don't, as I say, I don't recall any instances of dating as such. But there was group socializing of boys and girls, provided by the church setting in which we had these Epworth Leagues and Young Peoples' Christian society of one kind or another that provided, that offered opportunities for mixing between boys and girls.

SF: What were some of the activities that, that the, these, that you all engaged in? I mean, that allowed these kind of group contacts between the sexes so to speak?

FM: Well, for example, I belonged to the Japanese Congregational Church. It was one of the smallest of the Christian churches. And however, because it was small, it was advantageous to belong to it. The relationships were, in many ways, more intimate. Also, as it happens, we had a very good group of people drawn together. Perhaps because of the liberal character of the Congregational churches, the people, the members, the family members who were brought together seemed to have the kind of liberal orientation that would allow for freer activity than in some other churches. In any event, we had a very good group of young people together. And I enjoyed the contacts I had with the girls who were in our church. But it was mainly a matter of church socials where we would come together and play games.

SF: What kind of games?

FM: Hmm?

SF: What kind of games would these be?

FM: Gosh, I can't remember what those games were, sometimes, you know, parlor games. Or you know, musical chairs type of things. Could be any game. You think they're silly and dumb games now, but for us at that time, why they were a way of getting together in a fashion that, that seemed very enjoyable. And the other thing was that we would put on events for money raising and help with the bazaar.

SF: Booth at the festival or that sort of thing.

FM: And we even did drama, put on shows at Nippon Kan Hall as I recall a couple of times. I don't recall whether that was mainly for money raising, I suppose it was. But in any event, it involves all the members of the organization, boys and girls together were engaged in doing shows, entertainment of one kind or another and, that was the type of thing we did.

SF: What did...

FM: I don't recall if we ever did dancing, social dancing in that setting.


SF: In terms of the, these boy-girl get together and these institutionalized context, did they sometimes spin off to, "Hey, let's all go to the beach and we'll have a picnic on the beach," and, away from the institutional context, something a little more liberal if you want to call it that?

FM: Yeah. No, it did not. There were picnics and there were parties, but the whole church would do it. And then the kids would in a sense be engaged in their own group separate from the Issei parents, but nevertheless it was usually a family affair, or the whole entire church affair that was involved. I don't recall -- well there may have been occasions when the young people just took off together by themselves, but nevertheless, it was not as if you had small groups of the church members breaking off and doing something together. It was rather the church group if it was the Nisei, the Nisei going off by themselves, but as a, still as an institutional group, rather than that groups were breaking off from the church setting.

SF: That seems pretty amazing, right? I mean that it's so kind of contextualized within these institutions?

FM: Yeah, it is. As I think of it now, but yeah. It was not... I suppose we are just not sufficiently oriented towards individualized boy and girl activity to engage in that kind of thing.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.