Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Karen Yoshitomi Interview
Narrator: Karen Yoshitomi
Interviewer: Barbara Yasui
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: January 23, 2023
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-527

<Begin Segment 1>

BY: So today is January 23, 2023. I am interviewing Karen Yoshitomi. I'm Barbara Yasui and our videographer is Dana Hoshide, and we are recording this from the Densho studio in Seattle, Washington. All right, so I want to just start with some background information. Can you tell me what your full name is?

KY: Karen Yoshitomi.

BY: Okay. And when and where were you born?

KY: I was born in Spokane, Washington, in 1962.

BY: And what generation are you?

KY: Sansei.

BY: Okay, great. I know that you know a little bit about your grandparents, so I'd like you to just share briefly about them. So first of all, your paternal grandparents, the Kishis, can you tell me a little bit about them?

KY: Sure. Canada Baachan and Jiichan, as we called them, or Cascade Baachan and Jiichan, landed in Steveston, British Columbia. And that's where my father was born. They were boat builders, they were Kishi and Sons.

BY: And then your maternal grandparents?

KY: Mom and Dad, or Baachan and Jiichan. Jiichan came over first and he worked in a sawmill in the Snoqualmie mountain area. Sorry, I'll back up there. Jiichan came to America first and he worked in a sawmill in Snoqualmie. He later went back to Japan and brought back Baachan as his new wife, and they lived in Thomas, Washington, which is now in the Auburn area.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2023 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

BY: Okay, great. So tell me a little bit about your father. What was his name?

KY: Allen Kishi or Akira. Allen Akira Kishi.

BY: And where and when was he born?

KY: He was born in Steveston, British Columbia, in 1927.

BY: And did he grow up in Steveston or someplace else?

KY: He grew up in Steveston until World War II broke out, and then the family was relocated into the interior. So when he was... what would that be? About sixteen? I can't do the math. 1927, 1942.

BY: So you're saying that when Pearl Harbor happened and he was sixteen years old, then the family moved from Steveston to interior B.C. Do you know where in the interior they were moved?

KY: It was an area called Christina Lake, and specifically there was like a winter lodge up on Christina Lake, it was called Alpine Lodge, so that's where they were relocated to.

BY: And so was this an existing town or recreation area, or what kind of place was this?

KY: It was an existing small town, and it's primarily for recreation. Christina Lake is a glacial-fed lake, pristine waters, and so it was more of a, kind of a resort area. Alpine Lodge had one large building which had a mess hall or kitchen area, dining hall, and then common rooms. And then they had smaller cabins, if you will. But when my father's family as well as other families arrived there, they all stayed in the lodge area. And then after a bit, built their own little cabins or housing on the property.

BY: I see. What did they do, your grandparents and your father, what did they do while they were at...

KY: In camp?

BY: Yeah.

KY: Well, Dad's dad was able to continue boat building. They moved some of their operations inland. I guess the need was so great that they continued to do some work while they were in camp, so the boat building. In addition to more leisure activities, they didn't have other type of work, per se.

BY: So did your dad go to school then in Christina Lake?

KY: I believe that he did, yes.

BY: Interesting. And so it's interesting to me that they could build boats on this inland place. It makes me wonder, do you know how they, after a boat was built, how they got it out or anything? Do you know anything about that?

KY: Mostly the river system is, I believe the Fraser went that far in. It was kind of like the Columbia River where it starts very far inland from the mountain ranges and goes all the way to the coastal area.

BY: Interesting. Okay, and then what did he do after the war? So he was in his early twenties then, or something like that? By the end of the war.

KY: Right. He finished with high school and then he came down to the States to attend Gonzaga University.

BY: Okay. And did he graduate from Gonzaga?

KY: He did.

BY: And then what did he do?

KY: He was a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, CRNA.

BY: And did he get a job after that, and where did he go? Where did he work?

KY: He did his practicums pretty much throughout -- not throughout, but in several places in Washington as well as Oregon. And his practicum included a stint at Sedro Wooley hospital, Western State Hospital which was the, still is, mental institution, and he was also in Roseburg, Oregon, as well.

BY: And then did he eventually get a position somewhere when he was done with his training?

KY: Yes. He ended up back Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane, which is the affiliate hospital to Gonzaga.

BY: Oh, okay, all right. And how was his life affected by the war, looking back?

KY: I think that part of the effect was in adjusting to being almost treated like a second classed citizen. I think he experienced discrimination and racism, but the way that he was brought up, as with a lot of Nisei, he just learned to endure it or perhaps resigned himself to being treated differently.

BY: Do you think that his wartime experience affected in any way his choice of career or what he ended up doing?

KY: I don't know if it affected his choice. I think what it did was it forced him to do a certain type of work. I guess in other words, he was more like a contract worker. And so he was given cases that perhaps the doctors, the anesthesiologists, wouldn't necessarily take, or perhaps patients who were not insured, and so those were the kind of cases that Dad took on. In addition, he was, worked primarily in the later part of his career in OBGYN, Obstetrics and Gynecology. And so he did a lot of what they call D&C cases, which in and of itself is sort of an area that, I think it makes sense that he did that because his mindset was to help others. And D&C cases also involved, say, women who have had miscarriages or gone through abortion or other kind of medical treatment. And not a lot of hospitals will take patients, especially if they're not insured or you're young or whatever it is.

BY: Okay. So it sort of brought up the humanitarian side of him, maybe.

KY: I think so.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2023 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

BY: Okay, let's talk a little bit about your mother. What was your mother's name?

KY: Rose Ayako Kishi.

BY: And when and where was she born?

KY: She was born in Thomas, Washington, in 1930.

BY: And did she grow up in Thomas or somewhere else?

KY: She grew up in Thomas and then so was evacuated or forced to leave from there into a camp.

BY: Okay, and so she was ten years old when Pearl Harbor happened. What was she doing at the time?

KY: She was, like any other young girl, just enjoying farm life, actually.

BY: And so her parents had a farm and so she grew up on the farm?

KY: Yes. Baachan and Jiichan actually were tenant farmers, and so, yes, they didn't own the land, but yes, that's where she grew up.

BY: Okay. And what happened to the family after Pearl Harbor?

KY: They were forced to leave and taken first to Pinedale Assembly Center and then to Tule Lake concentration camp.

BY: And so she was ten years old, so she spent her formative years in camp. What did she do in camp, do you know?

KY: As she tells it, she was actually, by 1942, she would have been twelve. And she said she attended a little bit of school, she called it "American school," and a little bit of Japanese language school. But mostly it was a lot of socializing. She took Japanese classical dance lessons, she loved going to the arts and crafts kinds of activities that they had in camp, and then also the friendships that she made.

BY: So when the war ended, she would have been fifteen or sixteen years old. What happened to her and the family after the war?

KY: Well, the way that Mom tells it, she left camp with the Kawaharas, who would have been my auntie Ruby, so Mom's sister in-laws. Mom's sister got married in camp, and the Kawaharas took Mom with them to Spokane. Baachan and Jiichan stayed behind in camp. Mom ended up in Hayford, Washington. And Baachan and Jiichan went back to Thomas to collect some of their personal belongings that they had left there. It took them about three months, and Mom said that then they rejoined, Baachan and Jiichan joined her in Hayford.

BY: Is Hayford near Spokane?

KY: Yes.

BY: And so I'm just guessing that your mom was in Spokane, your father was in, going to college and working. So how did they meet them?

KY: [Laughs] Yes. So they ended up in Hayford, but after about a year they moved out of, it was like the Matsumoto family, I believe it was, had a farmhouse, and so that's where they were staying temporarily. Then after about a year, they went to Spokane, into an apartment. So yes, Mom and Dad met in Spokane. How they met was actually, do you remember the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team?

BY: Yes.

KY: They were playing at Gonzaga University. And Mom went to go see the game with her friend from camp, her name was Tak. And Tak's brother, Kats, was also attending Gonzaga, but he was in a different department. He happened to see my dad at the same game and Dad said, "Who's that with your sister?" And so Mr. Tanino said, "Oh, well, that's my sister's good friend Rosie," and Dad managed to get her telephone number and he called her up and asked her out on a date. [Laughs]

BY: That's a great story. So the Harlem Globetrotters...

KY: Globetrotters brought them together. [Laughs]

BY: Wow, that's great.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2023 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

BY: So when and where did they marry?

KY: They married in Spokane in 1955.

BY: Okay. And so looking back at your mom's life, how do you think the incarceration affected her life?

KY: For Mom, I think things changed dramatically for her. I believe I shared with you earlier that when they went into camp, she went in with her brother and sister and mom and dad. During camp, Uncle George and Auntie Ruby both got married. So by the time they left camp, it was just Mom and Baachan and Jiichan. And, again, Mom left with the Kawaharas. And so the family was pretty broken up, if you will, went their separate ways. And I think it was a struggle for the family. In moving from Hayford to Spokane and being in the apartment, it was tough for Jiichan to get a job. And Baachan didn't work, Jiichan had very little education, and so he did a lot of manual labor. And so Mom helped out a lot. She went to work as soon as she could to help out. The lucky thing for me was that by the time Mom started working, Baachan and Jiichan had fully retired and they had moved in with us, and so we were all living under one roof. But I think it was hard on Mom just because she had to grow up really fast and things were tough.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2023 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

BY: All right, let's talk a little bit about you. First of all, do you have any siblings?

KY: I do. I have a sister.

BY: Okay, older or younger?

KY: Older sister.

BY: All right. And where did you grow up?

KY: I grew up in Tacoma area. So basically from elementary school through high school.

BY: And can you talk a little bit about your neighborhood? What was it like? What was the ethnic makeup of the neighborhood?

KY: It was somewhat diverse in that we were close by to McChord Air Force Base in Fort Lewis. And, but I would say, though, that the student body was primarily or a majority white with a few Asian and vary few Native American, very few African American.

BY: Okay. And so who were your friends?

KY: Mostly Asian, the handful that there were. [Laughs] And then, of course, friends from church.

BY: And tell me a little bit about your church.

KY: Well, first it was Spokane Buddhist Temple until we moved to the Tacoma area, and then Tacoma Buddhist Temple. So I've been attending now for quite some time.

BY: And so your church friends, then, were all Japanese Americans.

KY: Yeah.

BY: Okay. So it sounds like your family was active in the Buddhist temple. What kinds of things do you remember doing?

KY: Well, I think it was just the usual fundraisers and attending conventions and so forth. I think it was just a part of, that was part of the community. I think even growing up, in thinking about it, we were always encouraged to stick to our own kind. So that's why, in school, I always sought out, there weren't very many Japanese students that always sought out Asian American friends and so forth. I think that that's sort of why.

BY: And besides the Buddhist temple, were you and your family involved in any other kind of community activities?

KY: No, not growing up, no.

BY: Okay. And as a child or as a teenager, did you have any Asian American role models?

KY: I tried to think about that. You know, there were very few. And the only two that I could think of were, that I saw on TV, right? And so one was Bruce Lee and I think the other one was George Takei.

BY: I mean, I think one of the reasons we ask that question is because there really weren't very many.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2023 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

BY: All right. So let's talk a little bit about your own sense of who you were, your identity. So do you remember when you first became aware of your Japanese American identity, like maybe how old you were, if there was something in particular that happened?

KY: I think I was young, like maybe elementary school. Probably would have been maybe fourth, fifth grade. I used to dread December 7th. And the date would come around and I just knew that there was going to be even more, sort of, poking at me. But there were always taunts on the playground or kids being kids. But I realized that being Japanese was something that sometimes I was not very proud of and I wanted to, sort of, hide my identity, which was impossible to do.

BY: And it sounds like you went to schools that were majority white, or at least not Asian, so you couldn't hide very well, you'd stick out a little.

KY: No.


BY: So the next question, which is sort of related to what you were just talking about, did you ever feel like you were ever treated differently by anyone, either in a positive or negative way because you were Japanese American?

KY: I believe that I was treated differently, and it worked both ways. If I think about it, we talked about a little bit of "model minority" myth. I was not the good math student, and the expectation was, is that you do well. So I remember one Sunday my father was so disappointed that I couldn't do my multiplication tables, and so I had to make my own flash cards. And it was pointed out to me that you're supposed to be good at certain things, and you're supposed to be obedient, and you're supposed to be this or that, because that was part of the "model minority." And I couldn't quite fit in either way, whether it was positive or negative.

BY: So how did that make you feel? Do you recall your feelings?

KY: Somewhat "less than." Maybe kind of like my dad, like a second class citizen, that it's never going to be enough.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2023 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

BY: Okay, I want to ask you some questions about your schooling, your school experiences. So what schools did you attend?

KY: In primary or...

BY: All the way through.

KY: All the way through?

BY: Yeah.

KY: Okay. Elementary school is Oakbrook Elementary School, Hudtloff Junior High, and Lakes High School. And then for college, I went to the University of Washington.

BY: Okay. And for your K-12 schools, what was the racial and ethnic makeup of those? Was it like your neighborhood or a little different?

KY: Pretty much it was the same as the neighborhood. Pretty much ninety percent white and then everything else.

BY: Okay. And did you ever go to Japanese language school?

KY: No.

BY: Do you recall anybody ever talking about that, or was just...

KY: Going to language school?

BY: Yeah, whether you should go or not.

KY: No, you know, at the time, the emphasis was on blending in. Japanese was spoken at home, and sometimes we would speak Japanese in public if we didn't want other people to know what we were talking about. [Laughs] But that was not a language that was emphasized.

BY: So it's interesting that you say that Japanese was spoken at home, so I think that's unusual for Sansei. Is that because your grandparents lived with you?

KY: Uh-huh.

BY: And so do you speak Japanese?

KY: A little bit. You know, I'd come to find out it's more like baby talk and very countrified and Meiji-era. So it's old, outdated, and not appropriate for modern conversation. [Laughs]

BY: Interesting, that's funny.

KY: Well, it's because my grandparents talked to me.

BY: They're the ones who you learned from, yeah. Okay. So you said that you went to University of Washington. And what did you major in?

KY: Psychology.

BY: Okay, and thinking back to your college years, you were a psychology major, what other activities, or were there clubs or organizations that you took part in at all?

KY: I tried. Actually, I tried to get into the, what do you call it, EOP program through the Office of Minority Affairs. But because I was admitted as a regular student, I was not able to access some of the extra help that, say, EOP students might receive. I also tried the Japanese Student Association but I struck out there, too. Because it turns out that the club was primarily for international students, so I didn't quite fit in.

BY: Because you were Japanese American?

KY: Yes. [Laughs]

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2023 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

BY: Okay, all right. So what did you do after college?

KY: Actually, I started working right away. I worked for the Center for Career Alternatives with Alan Sugiyama and (Jerry) Shigaki. So it was my last year at the University of Washington, and somehow I ended up with sort of like an internship or part time recruiter position with CCA. And after I graduated, turned into a regular full time position for me.

BY: Okay. And what did you do at CCA?

KY: Started off as a recruiter, and then an instructor. CCA was a federally funded job training partnership (JTPA) program. So we worked with at-risk youth.

BY: And how long were you there?

KY: Gosh, I hadn't thought about that. Let's see. For maybe about five years.

BY: Okay, and then what did you do after that?

KY: I went to work for the Japanese American Citizens League as the regional director.

BY: And how did you get that position?

KY: Probably through Jerry Shigaki. [Laughs] I found that there was a position opening. Tim Otani, who was the regional director, was leaving the position, and it was recommended that I apply for it.

BY: So what year was that, or approximately what year was that?

KY: I believe that was in '91, 1991.

BY: Okay, so that was shortly after redress then, right?

KY: Yes.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2023 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

BY: So what kinds of things, what was going on with JACL during the time that you were regional director?

KY: Well, when I first stepped on board, because redress had already passed, they were onto the identification of redress recipients. And so there was an application, so-called application that needed to be completed to verify eligibility to receive payment. So I spent a lot of my time during the first year or so assisting people with collecting information to submit to the Office of Redress Administration for their eligibility.

BY: And so those are mostly Issei and Nisei, right? Or probably mostly Nisei.

KY: Yes. Well, some Issei, I mean, my grandparents, Baachan was still alive at the time.

BY: So did that give you some insight to the Japanese American community in Seattle at that time, going through that with all of them?

KY: I think so. I think the insight came, though, when I was at the University of Washington. I'll tell you about that. One of the classes that I took through the Asian American Studies program was one that was taught by Dr. Tetsuden Kashima. And that was where I first really learned about the history of the Japanese in the United States. Our family talked about camp but it was mostly recollections of fun times, or they didn't talk about the hardships. And if camp was mentioned, it was usually upon meeting other Nikkei for the first time and trying to make that connection to see if they were also in camp, and then you move on from it. But at the University of Washington, in this class, taking a closer look at the experience of Japanese, and lights started coming on for me in terms of the, I guess, the lingering discrimination and stereotypes, the Japan-bashing, English-only kinds of movements.

BY: So you mentioned Tetsuden Kashima and Alan Sugiyama and was it Paul Shigaki?

KY: Jerry Shigaki.

BY: Jerry Shigaki, excuse me. So it sounds like they were mentors to you or role models for you? Can you tell me a little bit about what you feel you got from each of them?

KY: This sense of civic engagement, personal responsibility, that we are the recipients of the sacrifices and the efforts of a lot of other people, and that we have an obligation to do what we can to help others along the way.

BY: And so from JACL, what happened next?

KY: Well, what I would like to say is, before JACL, I mean, before happening next, I think important piece in my experience at JACL was one of the positions that I inherited from Tim Otani, was as a member of the board for a five-state coalition that was called the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment. And it was a group that was formed by Bill Wassmuth, who was a former Catholic priest who turned community activist, so to speak. And it was through that five-state coalition where it had representatives from the Department of Justice Community Relations Service from the City Attorney's office or State Attorney's office, law enforcement as well as civic organizations like JACL. And we worked on passage of hate crime legislation or bias crime legislation. And I think that, combined with the knowledge of the history of Japanese sort of sparked this desire to look more at the civil rights aspect with, sort of, contemporary issues that are going on. So it's the historical perspective, but then it's also coupling with addressing the issues of today.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2023 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

So then from JACL to my current position at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington. You know, working in civil rights, dealing with hate crime, it's kind of exhausting sometimes, mentally, psychologically, emotionally. And I wanted to do something a little bit different to help people. I felt like I could provide support to people, but maybe in a different way, and not so much anger, but it's a different side of the emotional spectrum in terms of I wanted to be more on the healing side. Less on the activism, maybe.

BY: A different kind of activism, maybe.

KY: A different kind, yes.

BY: Okay. And so how long have you been in our position with the J?

KY: I think I'm in my ninth year now.

BY: Okay, so quite a while. And what kinds of things have you done, are you doing that you enjoy doing in that position?

KY: It's meeting all of these different people, whether they come to volunteer, they come to donate things for our thrift store, or they come for information and research or they just have some type of affinity towards the cultural center or language school. I think that's the main thing in terms of providing service to people, I guess, public servant.

BY: Is how you see your role there?

KY: Yes, supporting role.

BY: Okay, great. I mean, it seems like, looking back on your career, you have dedicated your career to helping other people, to fighting against injustice, to being sort of a background player in helping people become activists or being active in their communities. So what inspires you to do that kind of work, do you think?

KY: I had to -- oh my goodness, I'm going to start tearing up here -- I had to take some time to think about that, I mean, in terms of why, why do I do what I do? And I think it goes back to the realization that for the Issei, I'm living their future, what they wanted. Because I enjoy privilege, from world standards, unprecedented wealth. I am the beneficiary of that. So I am their future, but I'm also the future's past, if you get what I mean, in terms of what I'm doing now, I'm hoping will impact future generations. So it's this sense of obligation. I don't subscribe to the "I pulled myself up by own bootstraps and success," or whatever. There has to be acknowledgment about all of the sacrifices and the effort, I think the causes and circumstances that all had to come together for me to be here. So it's this obligation to the past but also to the future, and that's why now, I get that now is important. [Laughs]

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2023 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

BY: Okay, let's back up a little bit here. So are you married?

KY: Yes.

BY: Okay. And can you tell me the name and background of your spouse?

KY: Michael Yoshitomi. He grew up in Renton, and so we were actually pen pals. They don't do that anymore, do they? [Laughs] My cousin, my cousin introduced us, my cousin who lived in Renton, went to high school with Mike, and she thought he'd be a great guy for me to meet, especially since I was still living by the "stick to your own kind" upbringing. [Laughs]

BY: And do you have children?

KY: I do. I have three wonderful children.

BY: And names and birth years.

KY: Okay, Kaila, she was born in 1991, JoAnna in 1995, and Kenzo in 1991. I mean, no, Kenzo in '98, I have to work backwards here, sorry. [Laughs]

BY: I didn't catch that either.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2023 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

BY: Again, I'm sort of skipping around here. You said that your parents talked about camp a little bit, but in not a very in-depth kind of way. Did you ask them about it, did they volunteer that information? And just talk a little bit what they, how they talked about camp or what they said.

KY: I didn't think to ask them about their camp experiences until, gosh, I was in college. And so the questions, I think, were a little bit different than they would have been if maybe we had talked about it, sort of, not openly, but as a general course of part of their growing up. It's hard to get to know your parents as real people, individuals, they're just mom and dad. But more recently, talking about how did they make the decision. For example, why, since Mom and Baachan and Jiichan ended up in Tule Lake, they had an opportunity at one time to move to a different concentration camp, but they opted to stay, and so discussions surrounding the choices, and I guess, the ramifications of that.

We talked a little bit about Uncle George because when the "loyalty questionnaire" came around, that was very hard on him. Jiichan insisted that George answer "no-no." George was a twin, and before they were sent to camp, Harry, George's twin, he was a Kibei. Harry and George were both born in the United States, in Thomas, and then Harry and my auntie Ruby were sent to Japan to live for a while. Not fully for education, but to help out the grandparents on both sides. They spent about five years there, then they came back and they had just returned to live with the family. Family was whole again, they had maybe a few years together and then Harry passed away. He contracted meningitis. He caught a very bad cold and he couldn't get treatment out in the valley, and by the time they thought to take him into town, into Seattle, to try and find someone who would treat him. The cold had turned into a bacterial whatever, pneumonia, and then that made its way into his brain. So when asked if Baachan and Jiichan would be willing to allow George to enlist in the army and serve for the United States after the experience that both Baachan and Jiichan had gone through, the answer was absolutely no. Jiichan was convinced that Japan was going to win the war. And so then they stay in Tule Lake, and after the war is over, they're going to go back to Japan. But that choice for Uncle George had serious ramifications, probably long-term ramifications for him, I don't know if he talked about that after he left camp. But being in Tule Lake and being a "no-no" carried its own stigma.

For Dad, the same kind of discussion, and his dad, they continued to work inland. And when they were free to return to Steveston or to the business, the boatyard, Jiichan decided to stay in Christina Lake. He just couldn't, he couldn't do it. So the other side of the Kishi family went back. And so it was no longer Kishi and Sons, it was, it turned into Kishi Boat Works, and I think that also had an impact on Dad, because that was then the end of the line of boat builders, because Jiichan's father was a boat builder in Japan, and that's the skill that they brought to Canada, so it was hard.

BY: And you said that your uncle George, though, actually left. So why did he leave camp?

KY: He got married.

BY: Oh, he got married. Oh, okay. And so he and his wife...

KY: He and his wife, yes. They went with her side of the family, moved out. And I believe that they were in the Spokane area for a while, just not living in the same household.

BY: So the war was really a traumatic experience for both sides of the family, as is most Japanese American families. So you said that they didn't really talk that much about it until you were in college, and that you really didn't find out much until you took Tetsu's class?

KY: Right.

BY: Okay. Have you gone on any pilgrimages?

KY: Just one, to Minidoka. There is definitely... the healing, the value in intergenerational pilgrimages. I wish that I had gone to more, then I think probably I'll try to go to more if they continue on, I'm sure they will. I have an interest in going now, but for a very different reason. The first time I went, it was primarily because Mako Nakagawa was involved. I really felt that the healing circles that they conducted is really important to witness and to just... I sort of felt like a bystander. But I think if I went back, it would be more so as a, to do some healing as well.

BY: Go on the Tule Lake pilgrimage, I think they're every other year around the Fourth of July, especially with your family's involvement with Tule Lake.

KY: Found out that Jiichan was in the jail for a while. [Laughs]

BY: Oh, interesting. And that jail was sort of notorious.

KY: Yes.

BY: Okay. So besides, now you've worked for CCA and JACL and the J, are there any other Japanese groups or organizations that you belong to?

KY: Currently? No. I had taken up bowling. I didn't know that there's still a Nikkei bowling league, but there is. So at my age, I'm taking up this sport. [Laughs]

BY: And how about the Buddhist Temple?

KY: Still active. I teach dharma school, so I've been doing that for twenty-some odd years.

BY: And I see you dancing every year, so talk about that a little bit. Where did that come from?

KY: I love the dancing. That's Jiichan, my mom's dad. He used to love Obon dancing, he just enjoyed dancing. And then Mom took, as I said, classical dance, that she was one of the teachers for the Tacoma Buddhist Temple, dance instructors there. So started up helping out. Now my daughter's helping. So for a minute there, there were three generations that were dancing together.

BY: That's very cool. So I think, well, so were you involved in the redress effort at all, or your tenure at JACL was after that?

KY: Yeah.

BY: Okay, all right, okay.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2023 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

BY: And so these are sort of some reflection questions. So how important is your Japanese identity to, your Japanese American identity to you, say on a scale of one to ten?

KY: It was probably around an eight, it was pretty high, but it's not the only...

BY: Okay. So talk about why you chose eight.

KY: Because I think that there are certain things about my Japanese heritage that are important in terms of some of the values and perspectives on life. But there's also this piece that needs to recognize how the "Japaneseness" fits into the global perspective, or even just if you bring it back to my own little area, to American way of life. And I have the luxury of picking and choosing. I can pick the good things that I like about being Japanese American, and I can utilize some of the negative things and figure out how to turn that into a positive. So it's important but it's not a hundred percent. [Laughs]

BY: Okay. You talked a little bit about the values. So what values did your parents instill in you?

KY: I think one is friendships in terms of tomodachi, and importance of not only having friends, but being a good friend. And I think that there was also this obligation or debt, and call it on. And it's this, you know, your life is not just your life, it's a culmination of a lot of other things, and so you have to conduct yourself in that way. So it's about how we treat other people, I think that that was an important value that Mom and Dad instilled. And then not just for my mom and dad, but from Mom's parents, Baachan and Jiichan, this sense of living in gratitude. Baachan and Jiichan said... okay, let's see. They used to do sutra chanting twice a day and three times on Sundays. It was the first thing they did in the morning and the very last thing that they did at night. And sutra chanting is sort of, it is basically showing your gratitude. In the morning you do it, "Thank you for waking up," and, "I'm alive today." And it's the last thing you go do before you go to bed, because it's thanking for another productive day. So without knowing it, and after I grew up with it for years and years, it just became commonplace. But I didn't understand what the ritual was until much later, but it's this, it's got to be gratitude. And if you live being thankful, live your life being thankful, then the hard times are not quite as hard.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2023 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

BY: All right. So as a Sansei, you did not experience incarceration yourself. But many people believe there's, in this idea of intergenerational trauma, which can be manifested in things like mental illness, drug and alcohol addiction, violent behavior, suicide, things like that. The idea that that intergenerational trauma is passed from generation to generation. What do you think of this idea? Do you think there's truth in it? Do you have any kind of personal experience, either friends, family, with that?

KY: I think there's a lot of truth to that. If I think about it, I think the way that it manifested itself in me was a hyper vigilance. When I walked into a room, I would always look for, are there people of color? Are there any Japanese? Looking for bias, looking for times when I'm treated differently and wondering, is it because I'm of the "other"?

BY: What do you think about the "model minority" myth? You've shared a little bit about that, but what do you think? Do you agree with it, do you disagree with it?

KY: Absolutely not. [Laughs] You know, I could see how my parents' generation, that the "model minority" would have been great, because that's exactly how society wanted them to be. "Be the quiet Americans, obey the law, don't make waves, stick to your own kind." But that doesn't work for... you can't live up to this model minority in terms of... and I certainly can't. I mean, if I feel like someone has done an injustice, I have to speak up. Or conversely, "model minority" being, sort of overcoming some of these things. It sort of negates the trauma or whatever. And you're still a minority, right? [Laughs]

BY: Yeah, you can't get away from that. Okay. All right, any last things that you would like to share, thoughts or other ideas?

KY: You know, I think the only thing that I feel like I need to do is, number one, to thank you, Barb, for -- you know this has, like, been homework, you know, taking a test on myself. But really, it has given me the opportunity to do a lot of reflection, to really take stock. And it's almost like putting together your own eulogy, but yay, I'm still alive. [Laughs] But I appreciate that because I don't think up until now, I had really taken the time to think about who has impacted my life, who has influenced my life, why do I do the things that I do and why am I the way that I am? And then also to thank Densho, too. Because you know, I think really my grandfather probably didn't feel like anyone would want to know his story or even both sets of grandparents and my parents, that their story was unique in any way. But I think he should know, he always felt like he was thrown away, he'd say, "Suterareta." Because at the end of the war, he had plans to go back to Japan. But word came back, you can't come back here, and then they were from just outside of Hiroshima. I mean, they're suffering, so no, don't come back. So he was turned away from Japan, he was turned away from America, and yet he still lived every day being grateful for what he could do for his family, the sacrifices that he made. And I think what Densho is doing is allowing literally thousands of people to share their story and to pay sort of, not tribute, but to honor the past, because we are living (as a result of) the sacrifices that they made. And we're doing okay. [Laughs] We're doing okay. So I think it's our part to then make sure that their stories are preserved for the future.

BY: Thank you so much.

KY: No, thank you.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2023 Densho. All Rights Reserved.