Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Lynne Horiuchi Interview
Narrator: Lynne Horiuchi
Interviewer: Brian Niiya
Location: Emeryville, California
Date: April 5, 2022
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-501-2

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BN: And then what did your grandfather do as an occupation? Now he's got the seven kids, five or six in Seattle.

LH: So the family was fairly wealthy. I'm not... I don't really understand how we got all this money. It might have been the great aunt in Tokyo because they had a very, they had a very going business in the Eagle Stationery store in the middle of Tokyo. And they had one of the few concrete buildings in Japan, and I think my grandfather took photographs of the 1923 Kanto Earthquake and the result, and theirs was the only building standing for miles practically. There was just complete devastation, I think it was a 9.0 Richter scale earthquake, so just devastated Tokyo. I mean, there were the fires, but also the earthquake was just amazingly powerful. And so that building is actually a really interesting architectural building because reinforced concrete, 1923, and anyway, it was like Secession style. So by that time, by 1920, they already had, like, a significant amount of money, and then, of course, I think they were able to make more money after that. But my grandfather came as a regular immigrant, right? So he was like a houseboy and then a houseboy later. He worked as a janitor or something like that, he didn't really have a lot of means, so we don't really know how he managed to get the money to put together (to build) a pretty amazing entrepreneurial empire.

So he, by the 1930s, he had a place in Oregon, it was called Wawa, Oregon, I can find an exact name, it's on those photographs in the PDF. But, so, he had about, I think, five hundred acres, or that's the rumor, five hundred acres. But you could see in the photos he exported, like, an enormous amount of lumber from Oregon to Japan. And he had a very entrepreneurial mind. He was really adventurous, so he did things like a frozen pea factory in the 1930s in the middle of the Depression and that apparently sponsored a lot of... a lot of Nisei were able to work in that frozen pea factory and worked their way through the university. And he did it partly for that, according to my auntie Katsuko. It could be, I don't know. I got pieces of this from here and there. He did a lot of other export/import, because I found him in this photo standing next to the Singer sewing machines that he was exporting to Japan. So he's this very modern figure both in the transnational world of Japan and Seattle. But it's interesting because in the community, I can't find much information about him. But people apparently, I mean, think he was just like a tough old guy, and I think he might have gotten the money from my auntie, great auntie in Tokyo to start all this, but he also had the skills to carry it out, too. I don't know if you saw that picture, he's standing, he's this very stolid man like you wouldn't want to mess with, basically. So he somehow wasn't like a very well-known figure in the community, because I haven't found very many mentions of it, but everybody remembers my grandmother. She lived a long life, 'til she was ninety, but everybody apparently who ever met her remembered my grandmother and her kindness and her thoughtfulness. That actually is really important to me because she's Shingon Buddhist and Koyasan is her main temple in Japan. So I went to visit the Koyasan temple because that was really, her spirit was really pretty amazing that way.

BN: So she lived long enough so that you knew her?

LH: Not much, because she only spoke Japanese and she lives in Seattle, and I never had very much money so I couldn't go travel very much to see her. And I asked her once about, like, "So, Baachan, can you tell us something about this?" She said, "That was a very long time ago." [Laughs]

BN: Classic response. And then your grandfather sort of died youngish, right, she died before the war?

LH: Yeah, he was in a car accident, and apparently one of the young university students was driving him and fell asleep, and so he was really severely injured in that auto accident and he never recovered and then he died in 1941, December 1941, I'd have to look it up, but something like that.

BN: Oh, he died in December of '41? Wow.

LH: Something like that, yeah. But before the war, it might have been before the war, I would have to check the date. But all my aunties would say that they're very glad that he didn't make it to the war. In fact, the films, I don't think he was a Japanese veteran, there was no way he could have fought, like in the Russo-Japanese War, he was here in the United States. But he sponsored the Japanese Veterans Association, I think, and you can see that in the films that JANM has. I think I told you that my mother did sort of a unilateral decision and donated them to JANM which was probably good, because they're actually preserved there at JANM. The Nakamuras took care of the films very well, and they had some of that transferred into digital form. So you can see all of that, sort of, those kinds of community things that did happen, and he was part of them, but I don't know, the picnics on the beach and the veterans association, the picnics, the classic Issei/Nisei picnics, yeah.

BN: Yeah, you wonder, given his position in the community and the connection with the veterans, he might have been one of the ones picked up right after one of Issei interned.

LH: He would have been one picked up right away, he would have gone to one of the alien enemy camps. And you know, it's the whole thing that we really don't, we haven't interrogated it. So what was that sort of veneration of Japan? It exists all over the community, and we had displays of the emperor and bowing to the emperor and all of that. And like most of the community groups, the veterans association, that was like fealty to Japan, that we weren't able to really research or investigate for years. I mean, our parents would not permit it.

BN: But in recent years there's been a lot more, kind of, post-redress, we've been a little freer to talk about that and explore that a little. But the upshot, I guess, is that your mom's family is pretty well-off, and your mom's growing up in that environment.

LH: I think very elite. I mean, I never knew that as a kid growing up. My parents would say, like, oh, well, no, we didn't have anything. But then we found out they both had, on my father's side, he owned a grocery store. And my grandfather Horiuchi was also pretty amazing. I mean, these Issei were strong, they were really tough.

BN: I feel like there's a school that all the Nisei parents went to where they had to tell us all the same thing about how they didn't have much, regardless of what the truth was.

LH: The Nisei really did that. I mean, they had our number, Brian. And they had us, like, okay, jump this far up here. Well, they never told us that, though, that was the weird thing is that every Sansei that I know, we never got instructions on what to do. There were just these expectations, right? But my parents were both, yeah, they were like school of hard knocks, you have to do this, you have to earn your own money or whatever because I had a tough life here. [Laughs]

BN: Then you find out later, well...

LH: Yeah. So I found out later they were pretty wealthy. My father's father was a grocer, and he had to rebuild his business like three different times because first he lost all his money in the Yokohama Specie Bank crash, which was 1923, '24, something like that. I should know, but something like that. Then he rebuilt it, right, and he lost it all in the Depression. Then he rebuilt it again and then lost it all with evacuation. And by the time he got to Denver, he was pretty well spent, so he had a little corner store in Five Points.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.