Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Tomio Moriguchi Interview I
Narrator: Tomio Moriguchi
Interviewer: Becky Fukuda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: October 20, 1999
Densho ID: denshovh-mtomio-01

<Begin Segment 1>

BF: It's October 20, 1999 and this is an interview for Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project. And the narrator is Tomio Moriguchi and the interviewer is Becky Fukuda. Tomio, we were talking a little earlier before we started filming, about what generation you consider yourself, 'cause your father was Issei, but your mother was Kibei so, how -- what, what do you consider yourself, Sansei, or Nisei?

TM: Well, in Japan I guess I'm considered Nisei because my, they go by the father's generation. But I kinda use both sometime I'm considered Sansei. In fact, I remember when I first got involved with the Seattle chapter of the JACL, they wanted to label me as a Sansei because most of the active people were Niseis prior to me coming on board so they wanted to boost the Sansei, so I said well, I'm a Sansei then. [Laughs] I probably culturally, and most of the older people consider myself, I mean think of myself as Nisei and I probably feel more like a Nisei than Sansei I think.

BF: Most of your friends are probably -- most of your Japanese American friends are Nisei?

TM: No. Most of 'em are Sansei --

BF: Oh, really?

TM: Actually, yeah.

BF: Oh!

TM: But, and if I was a pure Nisei, I'd probably be the, one of the younger Niseis as such.

BF: Mmm, that's true.

TM: I think the average age of the Nisei is probably ten years older than I am, something like that, maybe more.

BF: That's true. So let's start with a little bit of the family history, starting with your father's side. Could you give me your father's name and tell me a little bit about what his family, where he came from and what they did when they were in Japan, their occupation?

TM: My father is Fujimatsu Moriguchi and I guess he was the oldest of about, five children, two, two sons and three daughters. He was the oldest. And his parents owned a small, mikan, or a -- the Japanese orange -- orchard, only twenty or thirty trees, but they were probably, not wealthy, but probably small landowner, farmers. And he went through the mandatory ninth grade education, then he went to a city called Uwajima to learn the fish business. So he was either interested in the fish business or the farm and, business, and the village he was born in wasn't large enough to probably accommodate him. Also about that time, he was telling me, Japan was in a depression, or economy was bad, so, so he came to the United States. But prior to that, about the turn of the century, which is about twenty years before my dad came, fortunately a number of villagers came to the United States, primarily the Tacoma area, and did very well. A few did very well, the restaurant business, and other business. So lot of the young people from the area my father came from did come to United States seeking their fortune because they had some contacts and they could always do dish -- dishwashing work, or work in a restaurant, or things like that.

BF: So he already knew people in the United States, and knew he could sort of get a job, or have a place to stay.

TM: Friend of a friend type of situation.

BF: Yeah. But he was the oldest, so he wasn't expected to carry on the family business, or it wouldn't support two sons, or how did that work?

TM: Probably not. I don't know the details, but I, I think he had his desire to make some money and go back, I think.

BF: Ah.

TM: And, but he did, he did lose his mother young -- when he was younger. But he did call his brother and father once he established a business here. And what he did that for, I, I have to just surmise that he did that to just show what he has accomplished and maybe he was gonna go back. I don't know, but...

BF: How interesting.

TM: The house that he was born in is still there. And I haven't stayed there, but I've seen the house a number of time. I tend to stay with my cousin who has a little newer house.

BF: So the business though, doesn't exist any more? The mikan?

TM: Well, it wasn't a business, it was just a small orchard. And they still own it, and they do contract with other people to run it now, yeah, all they do is help with the harvest. In fact, they, this November they, November they will all, the whole family will get together and they will start the harvest process, for the mikan.

BF: Interesting.

TM: I've been there in December and helped with harvest a couple of times.

BF: Oh really?

TM: It's a, it's a interesting thing, yeah.

BF: Yeah. Now, so he, he actually, sort of started Uwajimaya? I mean, it was, the origins of the business are with him. And yet he didn't, so he didn't come from a merchant or retail background himself?

TM: No, but apparently he was always into business. But my mother comes from a merchant family. My mother Tsutakawa. Her maiden name was Tsutakawa. And they had a business on Dearborn Street in about the 1900s. So, and my grandfather had a business in Kobe and Seattle and also Everett and north they were exporting lumber or logs I understand a hundred years ago.

BF: Wow. So your, your mother's side, it was the grandfather, it was your grandfather, her father who immigrated and so she was born here, in the U.S.

TM: Born here, and as not unusual, she was sent back to Japan when she was about five and went through the high school system. And then she came here, a little later than most, but she came back when she was about twenty-five, or twenty-three, or four.

BF: Wow.

TM: And then I gotta just guess that she was probably introduced to my father because he was already in business, and they had a business connection. I don't know, but --

BF: It was arranged then?

TM: I'm guessing it was. In those days I guess it was pretty common, yeah. 'Cause culturally there was kind of a mismatch as far as I was concerned.

BF: In what way? What do you --

TM: Well, my mother comes from a family where they had servants, and nice house in Okayama, and a very nice house in Seattle, so, ah, I shouldn't say that. But, she was probably a little older than most, and I don't know. Some relation, it was interesting.

BF: Now, because she came from a family with much more experience in business, and exporting and retailing, do you think that her influence was, was important in your dad starting Uwajimaya?

TM: Well, I'm sure it is. Because she worked very hard. And she probably understood. In those days they had to feed the employees and things like that, and she did that. So I think it was a culture that she understood what she had to do, her role as a merchant, a family of a merchant. I think she understood that. Yeah. But the other thing is, my father already had the business going when they got married, which is probably a little unusual also, but...

BF: That's true, that's true. So it was really, it was -- he already had the idea, but it was this, it was probably a strong partnership, like you were saying.

TM: Also, he probably, I don't know, but he probably was thinking when he started the business, he would just make some money and go back. But maybe he said, well, time to get married, I don't know what the story is, but I'm glad it worked out whatever way it worked out.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

BF: Well, let's talk a little bit about the business. How did it start? What was your father actually doing?

TM: Well, it, he started out in two primary areas. In Tacoma, as it was in Seattle, there was a number of Japanese grocery stores that used to deliver to the outlying lumber camps, fishing camps and farms. And I guess my father probably saw the same opportunity in Tacoma. So he set up a grocery store, but his primary business was to deliver miso and shouyu and rice to railroad camps and fishing camps that were closer to Tacoma than Seattle. And the other thing is that he brought the skill of making kamaboko and satsumaage which the other merchants didn't have. So either, during the evening he would make satsumaage or kamaboko, and then during the day, maybe a couple days a week he would then load the truck up and bring these items, including kamaboko, satsumaage he made too -- I remember going with him to a fishing camp, lumber camp, farm and he might have gone to other camps. But there were concentrations of primarily bachelors in these camps, and they didn't want to eat the hakujin food they called it, so that was his business.

BF: And, and let's see, this was probably around what time period? Nineteen --

TM: Well he started the business in 1928 from what we heard so...

BF: Okay.

TM: So until he got married in '33, I don't know what he did as himself. Probably, that's may -- maybe a reason why he called his brother for help. I don't know. Maybe, I don't know. But...

BF: And so, it was -- he had a small retail shop in Tacoma, and then, so who manned the shop while he was doing deliveries? Or did he do it early in the morning kind of thing?

TM: I don't know prior, but after he got married then my mother was watching the shop, raising three, four kids and doing everything. But in those days I think they all did that. And I think they -- I remember having a few people come up to me and they, saying that they used to work for my dad, and I don't remember but, so he must have hired a few people from time to time.

BF: And it was, I mean it was literally in, in like a buggy that he would go do these deliveries?

TM: Uh-huh. It was a black panel truck, I remember, because I -- when I went with him, I guess I must have been an age where I couldn't go to school. I wasn't in school probably. So I remember going with him and sleeping on the rice or whatever --

BF: [Laughs] In the back?

TM: Yeah. And stealing some Wonder Bread if we got hungry or something like that.

BF: So, 'cause the trip -- I mean I assume that these lumber camps musta been in Mount Rainier, sorta around Mount Rainier?

TM: Well, they were, uh-huh, not Enumclaw, Enumclaw? Yeah, places like that. And then the oyster camps were down by Olympia --

BF: Oh, Like Aberdeen?

TM: No, not quite that far. It was in the Hood Canal area.

BF: Oh.

TM: So they were two, three hours away so it was an all day. And I, if I remember right we probably came home very late, because -- but I just remember a couple of those trips. And, or, other people would come up to me and say, "Well, I remember your dad used to come and you were in the back," or something like that. So you kind of vaguely remember, and yet it's reinforced by people telling you that's what happened I guess.

BF: Right. Right. Now I understand you also played a big part in helping him to actually make the satsumaage and kamaboko in the evenings.

TM: Well, right after the world, world war, we came out of Tule Lake, he worked briefly for either Main Fish or Mutual Fish. And then 1946 he started, or purchased the small grocery store. And the back of this grocery store he converted it into a kitchen to make satsumaage and kamaboko and that's when I started. So I was eight or nine, and right after going to Bailey Gatzert, either after school or weekends I used to help him make kamaboko and satsumaage.

BF: I see. So that's, that's a bit ahead of time, I mean a bit forward in time when you were older?

TM: Yeah.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

BF: Yeah, you were too young to do it beforehand. So when, I was -- I want to go back to sort of early, when the business was just getting started, and after your parents got married, and your mother was working in the store, and your father would be doing the deliveries. Now around this time period you -- she had, she started having children?

TM: Uh-huh.

BF: And so how, how -- it's hard for me to, to imagine how that must have been for her to take care of the children and also be working in the store. How did, that work?

TM: Well, I was thinking about that after we talked. You know, my father and my mother always had friends, extended family around them. I remember, I can't remember before the war, but right after the war, when we came back, we were, my father was very fortunate to partner with a fellow Shikoku person and they bought a house. This house that they looked at, lot had two buildings, and my father took the smaller one because the other family, Iwasakis, had more children, older children. Anyway, I remember the small house always had people in and out, friends, or my father's age people. They would always come by. Seemed like they were always there. So I'm guessing that that's probably what happened prior the war too. I'm just guessing that there were just lots of people helping in many ways, both my father's side and my mother's side, friends or family members that came, came by. And I remember primarily my father's side family, as a lot of these people that came from the same area of my father, they were mostly bachelors, so, you know. But a few were married and I still remember some very fond relation with these elderly ladies that just were there when you needed them. So I, I think, probably not untypical, but there was a lot of extended family going around.

BF: And you were saying that your mother -- it was, it was customary for your mother, or the business owners to actually feed the workers.

TM: Oh yeah. We did that. And I'm sure they did that prior to the war, but after the war I remember that was a big job. We all pitched in. But to this day here again, salesmen or people that we knew will say, "Oh, your mother fed me." And there're some students that were at the University of Washington late sixties, or about the sixties, or fifties and when they came from Japan they didn't have much money. Even if they were wealthy in Japan they were limited to how much they could bring. So one friend says, yeah, every time by the end of the month when I didn't have any money and wanted food they came and had dinner and my mother always fed them. So we kept that on for a long time until, I think until we moved to the location at, on King Street. That was nineteen, late '60's or something like that.

BF: Wow. So I have this image of your family house as being sort of always crowded, and people kinda coming and going and always something cooking in the kitchen.

TM: Right. Well but, all this feeding was done at the store.

BF: Ah.

TM: Although our kitchen was like that at home, too. My mother had to keep two kitchens going now that I think about it.

BF: Man. She must have been an amazing person.

TM: We think so. And to this day we have a lot of friends that come by and say, say things that she's done. And she always treated all of us very evenly or equally I think which was amazing.

BF: All seven of you?

TM: Right. Because I thought I should've been well treated... No! [Laughs] No, but she was amazing in that way. And also she always remembers our friends, not by name, but she'll say, "Gee, you must be Mori's friend, or you must be Tomoko's friend or something." She could just relate, maybe not the name but some way she always related. Like if your mother came in she would say, "Oh, you must be Kenzo's friend," or something like that, which amazed me all the time. So she always treated people equally and respected everybody I think, yeah.

BF: I was talking to your sister before this interview, and she says that she -- your mother was, is extremely generous.

TM: Oh, yes.

BF: And just the quiet strength when she would think of both your parents. How else would you describe your mother?

TM: Well, I would also describe her as, I have never heard her say anything bad about anybody. Just never. Almost never. And I have never heard her really gossip about anybody saying things. So she kept pretty much to herself and, I think, looking back, she just thought the best of everybody, and tried not to think the bad things. In that respect, we were trying to get some stories and her reaction and feeling about the relocation camp. And very seldom has she, she said anything. Only one time she kinda said, "You know, if they told us exactly how long we would be there then it would've been okay. But we didn't know if we would be shot, or we would be there the rest of our life." And when you think about that -- I don't know what Japanese word they use for like fuan, which means kind of a lost feeling because they didn't know how long. And it makes sense. Looking back you say, well it was only two years, but when they went in they had no clue as to how long. It, it might've been for the rest of their lives. That's the only thing that she said, so that musta been the foremost concern she had in remembering. But everything else she, that's life and shikata ga nai and all that kind of stuff.

BF: That's interesting.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

BF: Well, how would you describe your, your father then? What kind of words or memories come to mind when you think of, of him? 'Cause you spent a great deal of time by his side growing up.

TM: Well, there's no such thing as typical, but he was a Issei that -- ganko, meaning he's a man and his word was supposed to be good, and he -- so, I don't want to say unreasonable, but they were, they had their own idiosyncrasy of, of demanding certain things, and expecting certain things. And that's, I would say typical of some Japanese men that are raised to be the household, head of the household and expected to carry on and take certain responsibility. He had some of that. And my cousins, male uncles or cousins, they, when they come home they just sit there at the dinner table, and they get served by either the wife, or the mother-in-law, or the mother, or daughters. And he was somewhat like that. Although I heard, and I never saw, but when my mother had the children he used to do the laundry and things like that, which was probably, he never wanted to make public. [Laughs] But, but also I remember he talked -- he wasn't educated other than the ninth grade mandatory education, which is still the situation in Japan. But he used to think, and he used to have his drinks with the, some of the Buddhist ministers. And so he would get into some philosophical issues because I used to go with him once in a while to like the church. Maybe he would deliver something and stick around for a drink or two. I would just sit there and wonder. But I remember him talking about some of those issues, I don't know, philosophical, maybe not religious, but issues that you would expect ministers or Bonsans or reverends would talk about it. And so he was, not intellect, but he, he had some ideas and he enjoyed talking about those things, which I, I don't want to say I emulate, but you kinda tend to appreciate that kind of intelligence of somebody, anybody, especially if it's your father I guess.

BF: What sort of things do you remember him expressing? Values or --

TM: Well, getting back, he would say things that were probably related to Taoism more than Buddhism, but like respect your parents. And I remember things like, well maybe he doesn't say it exactly, but you come into the world kinda naked and you're gonna leave naked, so you might as well try to do something good, and things like that. He would say those things and, and I'm not saying he was lecturing, but those are things he used to say. And then philosophically, he'd say, "You gotta treat your customer well so they'll come back." Nothing profound, nothing he's trying to teach you, but those are just thoughts that came to his mind and he would say those things I think.

BF: Tomo was also saying that she remembers, she has memories of him piling all the kids into the van or truck and just driving around to expose them to something other than Japantown, you know Nihonmachi.

TM: I think, I think there was a couple of issues there. He said the world is a big place. You have to travel. And traveling is broadening. So that was one philosophy, and so he traveled as much as he can. And this thing about taking the kids, our kids and the neighbors' kids, or relatives, his relatives' kids out was, he felt it very important that the family stuck together. So he would, when he goes back to Japan he made it a point to visit at least my mother's oldest brother anyway. So he, he told me, and he said that, that it was very important for him to stay in contact with relatives. So he did do that. And then he also, conversely, my mother, when he went, she went back to Japan the few times, went out of her way to go visit my father's sisters, which was a long ways away. Even today it's a six, seven-hour train ride. Can you imagine twenty-five, thirty years ago?

BF: Wow.

TM: It was maybe an all-day trip. So, and I remember him talking, I don't know exact words, but something like blood is thicker than water, or something like that. That kind of feeling he had, and he instilled that on us.

BF: That seems sort of atypical, unusual for his generation because it seems like a lot of, a lot of the Issei lost contact with the family in Japan once they arrived here. And then the war really disrupted things. But it sounds like they kept those contacts, even probably, well we should mention that your, your sister was in Japan, so that probably influenced some of that.

TM: Yeah, probably, but I, I don't know. Thinking about it, young girls, or even young men being sent to Japan for education and culture was not unusual. But...

BF: That's true.

TM: I'm sure that my father felt very comfortable sending my sister to live with her two sisters. But getting back, I don't know how unusual, but he is, was the oldest, and he had good reasons to go back, property and oldest son. I don't know if that's true with other Isseis. Most Isseis would have been the second or third son and they had no chance of taking over the family no matter what it was, so they came over here. But also most -- I wouldn't say most -- but many of the Isseis that I've talked to, or read about, or heard about came because their economic future in Japan was so bleak. So they kind of threw away to come. In other words they came with the thought that they, this was gonna be a new life and everything. Probably much like the Chinese. They came with their flesh and said they'll send back money, where a few, like my father came and said they'll take back money. Maybe that's the difference. But some of the older, his friends that used to come around to the house, I'm guessing now that I think about it, most of 'em didn't have family or were, were kind of the lower ranking within the family hierarchy. So, so probably, looking back, having a place like where my mother and father was, was probably something important to them because they had nothing else, I guess.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

BF: So you had the combination of an oldest son who really, really did plan on going back, I mean and, and had motivation to; and a mother, his wife, your mother, his wife, who being Kibei probably had very strong connections culturally and had a well, a well-to-do family back there. So they, they were sort of unusual in that sense, and they probably were going to go back.

TM: Yeah. And that's why it was kind of a fortunate, but a kind of a match that I, I would have not felt pretty com -- it was probably not very common I'm guessing.

BF: So did he, during that prewar, prewar period, did he then, in the course of business go back to Japan any at all?

TM: Prewar, probably not. But right after the war he went back a number of times. I used to, we used to do business with the ships, the freight ships, freighters. So he used to go back. He loved the freight ships because you could take a lotta stuff back, and it used to be maybe two weeks, but he would go back frequently, so he enjoyed going back.

BF: Now I just want to mention again, your sister. She was sent to Japan much in the same way that your mother's family sent your mother back to Japan so again to be, why? To be trained or --

TM: Probably educated, culturally. Especially if my father really had the desire to go back, it would've been nice to have at least one daughter that could speak Japanese fluently. Who knows. I have a feeling that although they went back, my sister and my, then the youngest brother, Mori, who was only a year old, went back, and I suspect that they wanted to leave my sister only for a couple of years, I'm guessing. And then the war broke out.

BF: Right, right. So let's talk about that. The, your father's business was doing fairly well --

TM: From what I could gather --

BF: At that point...

TM: When he started it was the 1930's, or '28 or something.

BF: Right.

TM: And, and it was, economy wasn't very good.

BF: Yeah, the Depression.

TM: Right, and then it moved in to the Depression. So I think, like most businesses, he was struggling. And it was just as the Depression was ending 1935 or '40, I mean prior to 1940, I'm guessing his business might've started to improve, and that's when the war broke out. So you know it was kind of down and then up and then kind of down again. So, it was a -- that's one aspect that we don't talk about, this whole relocation, which economically these people that were in business were just recovering from the depression when they get hit by something like this. Must have been very devastating. And maybe, I don't know why, but maybe that was the reason why he went to -- we first went to Tule and he had a chance I think to move to Minidoka or other, but he chose to stay there because he considered, continued to consider going back to Japan. I remember receiving letters, him receiving letters from his sisters, I didn't read it, but they were saying well the sisters were discouraging him to come back to Japan because things were not very good and the food was scarce, and thank God he, he chose not to go back.

BF: Yeah. I remember my mother telling me that she overheard her parents discussing whether or not they should go to Japan immediately after they heard about the war breaking out...

TM: Oh.

BF: And they heard about the evacuation orders. They actually considered at that point repatriating or patriating.

TM: Oh, that's the first time I heard that I didn't -- I don't even know if there were ships at that time.

BF: Yeah, it probably, they probably couldn't --

TM: Yeah.

BF: That it, but, she remembers them arguing about it. So your father has -- his business is just starting to pick up, he has a daughter in Japan, and then, then war breaks out. I mean that must have been tremendously stressful.

TM: Right. And probably more so for the mother.

BF: Yeah.

TM: My mother, but that's, those are things that the war caused. And those stories we'll probably never hear about. Real, real stories. The real feelings. But that's probably what makes the Isseis what they were. They had the basic strength and they were given unfortunate opportunity to keep bringing that strength forward I guess. Yeah, when you think about the Isseis, they all suffered so much. I mean in addition to the language and everything else that they suffered all this other stuff. I guess we're fortunate that they didn't -- they continued to retain their values.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

BF: Do you, do you remember much of that period? I mean you were, you were so young when it happened.

TM: Well, during the camp I was only six to eight or eight and a half.

BF: Yeah.

TM: So I remember some, but I, most of it was because somebody told you that's what happened, so you think you remember. But I was pretty much of a loner. Statistically there, there weren't very many children born about the year I was born. I think it was kind of after the, after the Depression, so 1936. There may have been a few but there always seemed to be a few years younger or a few years older. Maybe that was just an unusual situation. So I was either playing with, myself, running around to different blocks or doing whatever. But I, the point is that I didn't have a set of friends, I don't think, in camp, that we were buddies with other than one or two. I think one of 'em was a little older but went back to Japan with the family, and so when I came out of camp, Tule Lake, and landed in Bailey Gatzert, walked into class -- first of all I was one year older, but there mighta been fifteen Japanese kids. But none of them came back out together from Tule. All the others, maybe ten out of them, came back out of Minidoka, so they knew each other, you know what I mean? Where I was just thrust into an environment -- they all looked familiar, but I didn't know them. So it was an unusual situation I guess.

BF: And Tule itself, most of the people in Seattle area went to Minidoka. Your family was in Tacoma so they went to Pinedale and then Tule.

TM: Right.

BF: And, you were mentioning that your father stayed there because he intended to go back to Japan, perhaps.

TM: Right.

BF: So in Tule, they did have more Japanese language instruction. More Japanese culture. Were you, did your parents encourage you to, to really immerse yourself in, in that?

TM: Well, I'm assuming my father enrolled us in both Japanese and English schools. So, which was, I don't know if all of Tule, but I'm sure that wasn't true in other camps. But, that mighta been true because he was at least signed up to go back to Japan. And I don't know if they had a list. I'm assuming they had a list. So they said, "Well, if you're going back, then at least your children should learn Japanese." So I remember, I can't remember if it was morning or afternoon, but half of the, our school was in Japanese. And our instructors were instructors from Hawaii. And I'm assuming that it's, the classes were held and discipline was held like Japan because I remember we had to clean the blackboard, and they were very strict. Where in the American, English school, it was kinda loosey-goosey. We thought we had a retired, nice Caucasian teacher that was just doing her thing. So, I'm gonna use this as an excuse, but I came out of there pretty confused. I didn't know what my primary language was, and English. So to this day my English is kinda, little rough. But conversely I have been able to converse and at least understand enough Japanese. So I guess you have to take both.

BF: Yeah, because a lot of, a lot of your peers struggle with Japanese and are less comfortable, and are obviously very Americanized, and feel very foreign in Japan. But you seem to be very comfortable in both worlds.

TM: Well, and it gets back, my father, he conversed with us primarily in Japanese, and he cussed a lot too, but that was English, but... and you thought it was unreasonable, but he probably was trying to make sure that we understand basic Japanese if we were gonna go back to Japan. And then, as we got into business, a lot of our customers, the Issei ladies that were our very important customers would speak to us in half Japanese, half English. But so you just picked up that language. In that way it was fortunate. And then when I went to Japan you just filled out what basic things you know. At first they say, "Well your Japanese is very good." Toward the end they start to correct me and they would laugh when I speak some very, very, very, old Japanese. It's been okay for me, I guess.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

BF: Now in camp, I wanted to mention the fact that your mother had three more children. One in Pinedale? Is that right?

TM: Uh-huh.

BF: And then two while she was at Tule Lake.

TM: Uh-huh, uh-huh.

BF: So she was dealing, while, through this whole internment period, with three practically newborns, as well as children who were still barely school age. We talked a little bit about how she managed that, that size family in camp earlier. Tell me a little bit about what it was like to have, have these young children you're responsible for while you're interned?

TM: Well, I don't remember all of it, but I remember a couple of things. My sister Hisako that was born in Tule was one of the first babies in Pinedale, or Tule, whatever feed system to be born. And I remember here again getting back to some extended family, lot of us from Tacoma that were from Shikoku area where my father so. I, I remember there, they came around. And they probably had, they were looking forward to doing something. I remember we had a lot of help. And it was awfully hot. I remember they, some way, how they got ice I don't know, but I remember saying, "Gee, how come my baby sister gets ice and we don't get ice?" But that's, but the point is some way, some people brought ice and lots of things for the baby. And we got spun off on some of that. And Tomoko was one of the last babies to be born in Tule Lake from what I understand. Here again, I'm guessing that they had a lot of friends, and I guess there wasn't too many family, but a lotta friends that just helped us along, I'm guessing, yeah. And then my father, in his own way, was very supportive I think.

BF: Yeah, because...

TM: I remember him doing the diaper, laundry and things. I don't think he'd ever make that public, but he did that.

BF: Because, let's see now you probably, typically, stayed in one room. The whole family in, in one room. Is that correct?

TM: Yeah. And that room might have been even smaller than this room. But in those days, how many, there was my older brother, myself and my next brother, three of us. We probably slept in one bed. I'm guessing

BF: Yeah.

TM: But I don't remember too much.

BF: Right.

TM: Although my father was very handy and made furnitures and shelves and things out of scrap lumber or crates that produce came in. I remember that.

BF: So he kept really busy.

TM: Yeah. And he tried to keep us as comfortable as possible I think. He was somewhat resourceful. As a business person, I think he was very resourceful.

BF: And you mentioned that you never heard your mother complain. So that must mean, even during this period they remained optimistic, or at least not bitter about what was going on?

TM: I think that's cultural. But I think she also was conf -- confident of her life up to that point. So she always lived a comfortable life up to that point. So she probably kinda figured if she could last out that she'd be okay, but I don't know. It's amazing what the people that went through camp endured and kind of didn't complain. It's amazing.

BF: When they were in Tule, and your father was planning to go back --

TM: To Japan?

BF: To Japan. Do you remember, I mean, did he then have many friends that were in the pro-Japan sorta movement that sort of grew? Because this is in Tule and they're, post segregation, they stayed there. So do you remember...

TM: No I don't. But I'm just gonna have to assume that he probably related to those people than the others, I'm guessing, But toward the end Tule Lake was practically all either trouble makers or pro-Japanese because it became a segregated camp. So I'm guessing that, I don't know.

BF: So you don't have any -- you were young so you didn't, probably weren't really aware of sorta the turmoil that was going on in the camp.

TM: In retrospect, if I knew I would have probably pushed for staying in the United States, I think. [Laughs] Seriously, I mean we were born here and raised here. I'm guessing that, you don't know when you're seven years old, that's pretty hard to figure those things out.

BF: Yeah. Do you remember if they had any contact with your sister in Japan? Did they know how she was doing?

TM: Well, they wrote letters I understand, back and forth.

BF: Oh, okay.

TM: And I think that's when Red Cross and places used to -- so some way we were getting word. I don't exactly know the details, but some way we kinda seemed to have, were in contact of some kind.

BF: That's right. 'Cause you were saying that your father was also getting word that it's, it's tough in Japan, so don't come back.

TM: Well, right after the war that was the message we got.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

BF: Now let's talk about the period after the war. Well, actually, before we go there, let me, let me ask you this: when you, when you look back now, and it's been some forty plus years, what do you think, what impact do you think the internment had specifically on your parents, and to some effect on your generation? Because we talked a little bit about this before the interview, about how you were saying that now you're even thinking that the Sansei, and maybe even the next generation have more of an impact, that they've been influenced more than they realize.

TM: Well, I said that, Becky, as I'm convinced that the Niseis were influenced by this whole, I don't know, relocation probably more so than they realize, or want to, admit to. And, I don't know, this is just my observation, but most Niseis that I know are unwilling to step up and risk themselves or be put in a situation where they that, step up to the leadership position, which means risk. And I don't know how much that is cultural and how much of that the relocation event caused. But I can't help but feel that it sure didn't help. If culturally, basically, we were that way in the first place, it kept it -- kept it that way. So it could be an unfortunate, indirect influence. But so be it. Unfortunately, for whatever, and you, and I don't know if that's fair, but the Nikkei have not stepped up to be the leaders of whatever. And more often than not, even in the artistic field they just have not risked themselves. In any field, as much as I would love to have seen it, and, and I have to say that intelligence-wise, and ability-wise, and whatever, it's there. They were deprived some of the basic things that are necessary for whatever leadership necessary. And having said that, and that's just my view, assuming that's somewhat accurate, the Sansei, unfortunately also have been impacted by the Nikkeis because -- the Niseis -- probably more so than people want to admit, or that's just my theory -- thinking is that they've been impacted. 'Cause the Nisei's parents probably have more influence on their children than we tend to want to admit. We admit it if they do well, but, if they don't do well, the parents must have certain responsibility. And so if you take that thinking, the influence of the Niseis to the Sansei, and the, whatever it took or didn't take for the Niseis to step up to a greater achievement, not only in business but in other fields, the Sanseis probably, unfortunately got some of that, I don't know, whatever, passed on to them and so they haven't stepped up to the plate as much as you would like to. But also, statistically, maybe we're just not there in numbers to have stepped up to whatever position, because a lot of that is statistically. I have to feel that some way the influence was more profound and longer lasting than most people want to think that it was.

BF: Now, I, I asked that question in part because your, your folks, following the war seemed to a certain degree to have escaped some of that. I mean they seem to rebound in a way that a lot of the others in their, in their peer group didn't. And so let's talk about them leaving camp. They, they left camp and what was it like when they -- they returned to Seattle actually, rather than Tacoma. What was it -- do you remember how difficult it was just for them finding housing or getting re-set up, and that sort of day-to-day...

TM: Oh, yeah. Those stories are fairly common. At, even the Olympic Hotel and Grill or something, didn't serve Nikkeis, or Asians, or even people, any people of color for the longest time from what I understand right after the World War II. So all of us, including my parents had the standard, I don't know, stereotyping and discrimination. I'm sure you've heard some families, some Japanese families had trouble buying a house north of the canal and things like that. But my parents probably, like others that I've met, they had the luxury of saying that they had the opportunity to go back to Japan. And I think that made a big difference. And so looking back, I think my father was able and willing to take a risk because his thought was hell, if things doesn't work back, work out, I could always take my family and go back to a little house in Japan that I own. And that may have been the difference between some Isseis. Because some of these Isseis as we were talking, came out of camp and they had no family here, or they had lost all their money, very little connection. They probably had no connection with Japan either, so they were forced to, not gamble, just to make, do the minimal jobs so that basic welfare of the family is important, and then also try to save some money for their children so they could get educated and things like that. But the whole story I was trying to say is that when you get beat up over the head on a lot of occasion, first it was just the basic immigrant language issue, then there's the depression, and then you get put away in camp. Isseis got beat up, Niseis got beat up and then a lot of that was transferred to the Sansei. And getting back, I don't know, I can't -- I think one difference is my father always wanted to go back Japan. He was confident that he had a roof over his head when he got there, so probably that gave him extra strength to take the risk. Having said that, also, the business that he got into, we were serving Japanese food products primarily to the Nikkei community. And my dad, I thought, felt that that business was gonna kinda just stay steady or die down. But he didn't, none of us thought that hundreds of thousands of war brides would come to the United States. That was -- so the point is sometime business just grows in unexpected ways and you just have to be there, and he happened to be there at the right time. In the 1950s you know the Richmond Hotel that was just a block away, that was contracted to house many of the war brides that were coming into Seattle area. So they would look out the window and see the sign Uwajimaya. And to this day some of those customers are, their grandchildren are coming and saying, wow, my mother tells me, or my grandmother tells me, your parents gave them candy or sushi or something. Not many, but that's the kind of relation that my father developed. But who would have dreamed that there would be that many war brides come over? And so just being there at the right time and just being lucky kinda helped also. Had a lot to do with it I think.

BF: He took a gamble, and it, it paid off.

TM: Right. But probably for the wrong, not the -- for the reasons least expected maybe. 'Cause I think my father, he used to say, "Next generation you guys gonna eat, eat hamburger and hot dog and you probably not gonna eat too much rice." Or he also didn't think this through, and it's only recently I'm thinking this through that the reason we still eat Japanese food is because if you were raised by your grandparents, your grandparents might have given you sushi and miso shiru, or rice, maybe not sushi, but -- your parents may not have, but when you went to your grandparents', they did that. And thank God that happened all over because Nisei parents start to work and the upbringing of many of the children were by the Isseis, and their primary food was things they bought at Uwajimaya. And those are unexpected benefits. So maybe it wasn't such a big risk. It just happened to be lucky, I guess.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

BF: Well, but, but so many, I've heard so many people say that following the war years the, the idea was to assimilate, to not be different...

TM: Right.

BF: To not highlight the culture. And yet your father went right back into selling Japanese goods --

TM: That's the only thing he knew. But like I say, he didn't think that was gonna grow because he probably felt the same way; that the next generation would be eating steak and hamburger and bread. And so I think that was the common feeling, that we would assimilate and the Japanese food would become a thing of the past. I think a lot of the people felt that way. I'm guessing my dad and mother felt that way, too.

BF: But did, but at your own household, when you did, when your mother did cook, she probably still cooked Japanese foods.

TM: Oh yeah. Rice was there always. We had rice and some form of Japanese food.

BF: And I assume she was still speaking -- they still used Japanese? They still spoke...

TM: Yeah, but he would say, and she would say, the next generation.

BF: Oh. Uh-huh, uh-huh. And so they come back and they're in Seattle. And there's probably not the same sort of lumber camp, you know large groups of Japanese working in the lumber camps...

TM: Right.

BF: ...or in the oyster industry, things like that. So he had to kind of restructure the business in a way so it was more retail-based.

TM: Right, and I think that continues with the same thought that the business is not gonna grow because like you say, it has changed since before the war. So I think he wanted to just make a comfortable living and just do his thing until he was able to go back to Japan, I'm guessing.

BF: So he's still planning to go back at this point?

TM: Yeah. And, but getting back before that. I think he always wanted to come back to Seattle because 1920s or '30s, Tacoma was fairly prominent city, but Seattle kept growing faster than Tacoma, number one. Number two, I think he mighta been getting tired of driving the trucks around and there was some then, more and more competition too. So, but, whatever reason he didn't hesitate, he wanted to come back to Seattle, there was no if and buts about it, he was just going back to Seattle.

BF: So there again, there was some strategizing there. It wasn't just go back to where he was most comfortable, where he'd been, but it was thinking about where was the most opportunity, what kind of business did he want to have.

TM: And I guess I told you the story, I asked my dad and others, why did you call it Uwajimaya instead of Moriguchi?

BF: Yeah.

TM: He told me two things, probably in jest. But he says, "First of all, if we fail, then I don't want my name on the business." And number two, he says, then he could sell it, the business, if it was Moriguchi-ya it would have been difficult, or he would have to continue to worry about it. He said for those two reasons. Here again, I don't know if it's true or not, but it's interesting how he was thinking about these things.

BF: Yeah, sell it and go back to Japan.

TM: Yeah. Then if his name was on there then he said it would have been more difficult. But the funny thing he said, like I say, he says well, if it went broke, he didn't want his name on, attached to it. [Laughs]

BF: Smart, very smart.

TM: In a way that's -- kinda tells the story of how my father thinking and his humor was very -- looking back, I have to appreciate it. That's the kind of thinking he always, or answers he always had, humorous side and not taking himself too seriously.

BF: So even though he was strong, and head of the household and...

TM: Yeah.

BF: He wasn't always so serious.

TM: Well some elderly ladies, you know they're pretty elderly now, they say, "Well, yeah, your dad had a heart of gold." Of course all of us kind of mellow as we get older I suppose. But they'll say, "Yeah, we used to go shopping forty, fifty years ago and he always treated us well." Makes you appreciate it. Of course they probably won't say it if it was the other way. I mean even if they had other feelings, they probably wouldn't tell you.

BF: Some would.

TM: Yeah, probably.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

BF: Well, and that seems to be a, a recurrent theme that comes up about your parents. Their, their sort of generosity and their sense of community and both giving help and receiving help, taking help from people.

TM: Yeah. I think looking now that we're talking about it, our family, at the store and our house was kind of a gathering place for a lot of people. Probably mostly related to where my father comes from. Ehime-ken and Shikoku-type people. But there was always people in and out, either my parents' friends, business friends or our friends. It was always an open house.

BF: Now you were telling me earlier about how he came across the property in Seattle for the, for that, when he restarted the business.

TM: Oh.

BF: Why don't you describe that fortuitous thing.

TM: Well, when he came, when he came out of camp, I can't remember, but he either was working for Main Fish, which was the prominent Japanese business in the Seattle area, because he had connections, or he had friendship there, and, so I think it was Main Fish. But, I think he worked there maybe half a year. And then I remember on weekends or Sundays we would go around -- well a few times we went down, up and down Japanese Town, Main Street, Jackson, looking for business. And I remember I happened to be with him, I'm sure he did this on his own, but I happened to be with him when he walked into this 422 Main Street, which was a storefront grocery store being owned and run by a Filipino gentleman. And I don't remember the exact sequence, but I remember this much, that the gentleman, when he found out that my father was interested in the business, he practically threw the key at him and says, "Take over any time." The store was really run down and very little inventory, but it was a store. And later on as I remember talking to this Filipino gentleman, or somebody, or overheard, he says, after the sale was consummated, he says something like, after a big world war there's always gonna be a depression. So he couldn't get out of there fast enough. So here again, my dad was lucky because he was able to move in there with practically nothing down. And I remember my mother and my brothers, we were in there a couple of weekends cleaning the place out. It was pretty dirty, but at least he had a store front. He was able to practically open the door the next day and be in business. Two things I could think of in that respect, first of all, since he was a business person, it was second nature for him just to open the door, where if you didn't have business experience, you would have to worry about those things, but he was able to open the door next day. Although he started his business, was in Tacoma, some of the basic suppliers like Wonder Bread were the same company. So he was able to establish credit right away with Wonder Bread, I mean as an example, maybe the milk company because, although they were in Tacoma, it was the same kind of a parent company. So he knew somebody that knew somebody. So I remembered us, right off the bat selling Wonder Bread and whatever milk it was, Kristopherson or something, I can't remember. But those were -- looking back it was because he had that experience and those contacts in Tacoma. And also, looking back, well, he musta had a good relation otherwise they wouldn't have stepped up after the war too. So he had very little -- he says four hundred dollars -- I don't know how much he really had but to open a business even in 1946 with four hundred dollars was quite an accomplishment I would say.

BF: And especially with the discrimination.

TM: Yeah.

BF: The atmosphere of the time. And, did he speak very good English? It just occurred to me, doing business with non-Nikkei...

TM: He got along. He seemed to know the right words. But you know, also he picked that site because right above us there was a hotels. And as you know most hotels in that area were, before the war, were run by Japanese. And that was one of the first businesses the Japanese came back into because here again most of the people running those hotels, Caucasians, or Chinese or Filipinos felt that, well they made good money during the war because they didn't have enough rooms for the defense workers coming into the naval yards and Boeing. But as the war ended those hotels started to empty out and naturally the Nikkei community, that was one of their better known experiences. So they moved in. And also, they had so many vacant room, that the Japanese either put their family in, or friends into these -- the point is, in that neighborhood there was a lot of Nikkei family that were our potential customers.

BF: Were you, was your family then living in Nihonmachi or on the outskirts?

TM: Just right by, on Twelfth Avenue, like I say, my father's friend, they bought a couple houses. So it was about three-quarter mile, maybe a little less than a mile away.

BF: So what, how soon did Nihonmachi, what is now the International District, sort of start coming back to life?

TM: Well, Main Street was and continued right after the war to become Nihonmachi. I think by 1946 when my father came in, there was already three or four stores, and, and like I say, most of the hotels above the storefronts were either being operated by Japanese, or the Japanese moved in to live there as a temporary site.

BF: Do you remember what those first businesses were? Was Higo?

TM: I don't know about Higo, but there was well, there was West Coast Printing, and there was Maneki, and there was Tenkatsu and three, four restaurants anyway. And there was a couple of other grocery stores, about the same time or even a little before us maybe that came about.

BF: So what sort of things did your father stock? You, you mentioned Wonder Bread, so it wasn't just Japanese goods.

TM: Well, that's how he got started, and then slowly -- I think he went down to California and started to buy Japanese products from the wholesalers in Los An -- San Francisco. And, and then other things, produce and fish and we started to sell produce, fish and lots of weenies and bolognas. We used to buy the whole bologna and the customer would come in and say I want one pound of it, and we'd cut it.

BF: Were you working in the store?

TM: Oh yeah. We all, the whole family. As soon as you could walk you worked.

BF: Did they have non-family people that they could employ? Or --

TM: Yeah. After a couple of years we hired actually, my father, mother's cousin came to work for us and there were a lot of people just coming out of camp, younger ones that were looking for jobs. So finding good people was, I would say, well it, it was okay to find people to help. Family people especially, and old friends. In fact one gentleman used to work for my mother's, my grandfather, my mother's father. He, he came work for us, and so he would say that he worked for our family sixty years or something like that, 'til he retired. When he came, he was about -- to work for my grandfather when he was, let's say twenty, he retired when he was about seventy, so fifty years or something like that. He's living in Nikkei Manors now. I just saw him yesterday, but you know, those people came and you knew them, they trusted you and they knew your business. So that's why my father was able to go to California, or Japan too, I think.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

BF: Okay, well, let's start back, and I wanted to, I wanted to get a couple dates sort of as markers. When, what, do you remember what year it was when your parents left Tule?

TM: It was the fall of '45. We were one of the...

BF: Yeah, late.

TM: Last, late ones. Because Tomoko was born in August so.

BF: Oh.

TM: So she's, you know, the reason. So my father came out a couple of months before the family moved out. So fortunately he ran into this friend and they were able to purchase the house. So the night we came back from Tule, we moved into this new house. Well, I mean our -- old but -- so we were fortunate, we didn't have to go to a temporary site.

BF: Right, 'cause a lot of people did that.

TM: So in that respect, my father kind of, I don't know, had his act together and kinda worked things out.

BF: He sorta had to with six -- [Laughs]

TM: Yeah, that's true.

BF: And then, Suwako was still in Japan then?

TM: Right. She was -- she came back 1947 or 8, something like that.

BF: Okay. So she stayed awhile back. Now before we went to a break, you were, we were talking about the family business and everyone was sort of helping out. What, what sort of things did everyone do? I mean could you describe the various sort of tasks or roles you were all sort of taking on in the business?

TM: Well, you did everything. The enjoyable part to me was to serve the customers because you met a lot of nice people. And, but we did everything. I mean whatever business, it's like running a household. Whatever had to be done, you did. And so we were deprived of our so-called regular, student life. But, in retrospect I don't regret it. Although my father was family man, so Sundays and sometimes we were able to play with friends. But most of the weekends, especially Saturday, and a lot of time Sundays we worked at the business.

BF: And immediately after school you would come back --

TM: Yeah.

BF: So you were, you probably didn't go -- did you go to language school, Japanese language school or anything?

TM: No. I never did. But my older brother went a little bit I think, maybe in Tacoma. But like I told you, in, during the latter part of Tule Lake education, it was part Japanese, part English.

BF: But you didn't go to the "Tip School" as they say around Seattle?

TM: No, no, no.

BF: Because you were working.

TM: Not only that, I don't think it was popular for our age group. By then it was -- very few went. Mostly it was for the people that were recently coming from Japan or some other. But very few of us my age group went. And I think like you were saying, we were all trying to assimilate and probably move away from things Japanese, publicly anyway.

BF: What was it like working with your father? I mean this is the time period, right, where you're starting to help out in the evenings making the fish cakes, the kamaboko and satsumaage. What was he like as a boss? [Laughs]

TM: Well, he was a tough -- he knew what he wanted and he expected discipline and expected us to be totally committed and do a good job. In retrospect, it was probably the best experience for whatever foundation for my life. I think, discipline, and to this day I still forced to clean the sinks, because I always had to do it. So it just, it was, things you learned about running business, treating customers, that you probably don't learn in any school, so, just was good experience.

BF: Did he -- was he someone who would try and impart his philosophies directly, or do you think you just watched what he did?

TM: Yeah. I don't think -- like I said, he had limited education. So I don't think he went, he wasn't the type to lecture, do what, he just, here again -- I observed this in a lot of Issei -- they don't tell you like do it the way I tell you. They kinda say, "Look at what I'm doing." But if you really mess up or screw up, they'll kinda shout at you and say, "You're stupid, you're not doing it right." But I don't think he had the classroom approach where we'll write it down, and repeat after me type of approach. It was more osmosisly I think.

BF: Do you remember, do you have any memories of specific things that he did that you really think influenced you, in how he ran the business, or was a father?

TM: No, like I say he didn't lecture you and say, you, you treated that customer well, or you didn't do it right. I don't think he scored us, or, just common sense, and do what's right type of an attitude I think. And he probably thought that on the long run this wasn't going to be my vocation. I think my mother would have liked one of the children to be a doctor or a lawyer, but typically. And so, he probably thought deep down that if he goes back to Japan, or even if he stayed, he probably felt that we should be doing something, whatever. In those days for the women to become nurses or school teachers, and for the guys to become engineers or lawyers or something, doctors. That was the aspiration for most Isseis. And I think my parents were not much different in that respect. They probably viewed their life okay, but for the next generation there must be something else. I'm sure they felt that way. So they didn't instill in us, "Well, you're gonna take over this business, you better do these things right." I don't think I ever heard that.

BF: 'Cause he didn't really think of building some huge business that would be a legacy. He really was sort of --

TM: I don't think so. In fact, I think he was surprised when the business kept growing. [Laughs]

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

BF: Now your mother was still playing a big role in the, in, in the store, even though she had now this huge family?

TM: Well, you know, as, here again I keep using the word typical, but, Japanese, she stayed in the background, but she was really the backbone, I think, in some respect. Kept the business together, kept the family together. So looking back, I guess a good combination. Kind of the front man, and the person taking care of the inside.

BF: Was she, did she handle, take care of the books? Or anything like that? --

TM: No, She didn't do any books, but she did a lot of the non-food buying early on. At first when the salespeople from California mostly came, and then also salespeople from Japan came with samples. She did lot of the non-food buying. My father did most of the food buying. So, and later on when we were a little older, she used to go back to Japan to visit her family, but also to do some non-food buying from the contacts that my father established. So, I remember going with her once or twice. And she in turn, taught me how to do buying for dishware and kitchenware. And then, after that, I had my older sister, who was in Japan, her children grew up and I took her, and she took over that position. And she's still doing it. Now she's teaching her daughters to do that. The food part is, has been done by people we hired, or my brother takes care of that. But the non-food, I don't know, we feel it's not a big volume, but it's kind of a personal touch type of situation. So it started with, little bit my dad, my mother, then myself, and now my sister kinda taking over, and hopefully my nieces will take over next.

BF: Was that unusual during -- when your mother was doing the buying in Japan, to have a woman in that -- making those sorts of choices when she went over?

TM: No, probably because it was a small part of the business. It wasn't a huge part, and it was kinda personalized, and it was kinda almost like a side issue from the people we were buying food, canned goods and things from. So probably more of an accommodation, so it probably wasn't unusual.

BF: And because it was, it sounds like a lot of it was more "women's" quote, unquote items they probably --

TM: And personalized and she probably kinda had a feeling of what the Nikkei community wanted more than anything. 'Cause we weren't thinking at all of the greater community early on. It was, our business kinda was totally geared for the Nikkei community.

BF: And you were saying that your mother sort of played this key role, sort of holding everyone together.

TM: Yeah. I think so. Also, she had a knack of treating non-Nikkei customers very well, too. So she's, she -- I don't want to use the word following, but people she -- we all waited on customers, but she had a knack and she probably had enough command of the English to build up a rapport with some of, some very, I wouldn't say prominent, but interesting people, like I remember people like Ivars coming to our store, you know just different people. And she, some way she had a rapport with these people. But it's probably true with any business, anybody doing business. People come and they tend to want to talk to the owner or somebody that seems to know what they're selling. But she was good at it.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

BF: It must have been kind of unusual when a non-Nikkei came into the store.

TM: Yeah. At first it was. But toward the end, I mean toward the end like, about the time -- oh, that's the other thing -- my father wanted us to go into the World's Fair. And I asked him why and he said, "Well, the World's Fair comes around only once every ten years," in those days. Now it comes every year or something. And he felt, I guess maybe he had heard about the Yukon Exposition in the Chicago World's Fair, and he thought this was a chance in a lifetime. So when the World's Fair was slated to come to Seattle, he wanted to put a store in, so... I don't know how I got talked into putting the store in. But he died that year, too. But, it was his idea. And looking back, I think he was now getting ready to outreach a little bit or, whatever reason. But the World's Fair naturally was not geared for the Japanese community, but we did very well in relative terms. But, having said that, the philosophy of our store at the World's Fair was not to gouge the people, but kinda promote our business and sell and promote the products at competitive prices. So, for those reasons I think we did well. And there was a successful venture, which expanded our customer base I think. And I don't know --

BF: That was like in the '60s?

TM: '60s, yeah.

BF: Yeah.

TM: Like you say, 1940s probably it was very unusual to have non-Nikkei that were -- if they were neighbors, that was a different story, but for somebody from outside the Japanese, Chinatown was somewhat unusual. But it was building up, because also, as you know, the Japanese food started to become viewed as health food, especially tofu. So those things, those things you don't foresee, but, so there's been a lot of outside influence that just, here again, lucky, being at the right place at the right time.

BF: But at, in the 1940s again, or 1940s to '50s, your father was still had this notion of at some point going back to Japan?

TM: Yeah. But to contradict that, I, now that I'm thinking about it, he did participate in the trade fairs, well not trade fairs, but the Japanese government used to bring, and he used to put in a booth. And looking back now I guess he was maybe trying to promote, probably primarily the Japanese product to the general public. But maybe trying to promote his own business, but, so, somewhat a contradiction in that sense. Maybe he thought he wasn't, but in some way he, he took an active interest in participating in the trade fairs. And maybe that was the reason why he was also -- the people running that, those trade fairs were naturally became very involved in the World Trade Fair, I mean World what -- 1962, what is it? What am I saying? The World...

BF: Expo, Expo?

TM: Expo. Yeah. So they were the same people, so he probably got talked into it. And before we knew, he brought back a contract. He said, "Well, we got this much space, do something with it." [Laughs]

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

BF: Well, before that, when you were younger, and you had, you had mentioned that you were working after school and on weekends. It's kinda hard, but to, to think of what you were going -- what you felt back then, but do you remember resenting it? You know feeling things like, oh look at my friends they're doing, they get to do...

TM: Yeah probably. But up and down Main Street there were a number of families like ours that had some kind of business. I remember one, one or two. One was even running a, maybe not the father, but the uncle was running a pool hall, so they were working. And a restaurant Main Shokudo, then there was the Yoshidas, who's son Richard was the same age. His family had a grocery store so they were working, too. So and Pat Abe's parents had a store on Dearborn. So maybe I resented it, and I'm sure we did sometime, but we also ended up playing or becoming friends with people that were in somewhat similar situations. So probably that was just normal way that we were. Yeah, in fact one of the friends, his father had a gas station on Twelfth Avenue, so he was there all the time helping. It wasn't unusual to have friends that were doing similar -- maybe they didn't put as much hours in, or maybe they did more, I don't know, but it was kind of the normal way for our group, my, my friends anyway.

BF: But do you think that's something more typical of your generation, than say, my generation or younger, this attitude of not complaining and --

TM: Yeah, I think so, I keep looking at my nieces and nephews and my children. Well, my nephews, I mean nieces anyway worked after school. But I, I didn't encourage my children. I didn't think they should, so there's a difference of opinion.

BF: A difference out of -- a different attitude...

TM: Attitude, yeah

BF: ...towards what kids should be doing?

TM: And the necessity is not quite there. I remember my wife saying in Hawaii, she came from a not too wealthy family, so she said she worked on weekends, flower shops or even hotels. In Hawaii that's about the only jobs that... so it was very common for her and her friends to have weekend jobs, or summer jobs. So maybe that's not quite so true, although I encourage my children to work during the summer anyway. Maybe not weekends, but during the summer. We all work Christmas time.

BF: Still?

TM: Yeah, well we used to.

BF: Right before New Years?

TM: Yeah. It's the busiest time, so...

BF: Yeah, 'cause I've read somewhere that the immigrants, families, particularly the Japanese, the businesses thrived prewar primarily because of this family factor. That, that they, that, that it seemed that one big difference between immigrant families and the American workers were that they, they had their wives working, they had their kids working, everyone was out in the field.

TM: Well general, make a general statement, most immigrants, regardless if they're from Europe or Asia, and probably the most visible to us are the recent Asian immigrants, but the parents and their children are working probably as long hours if not more than our parents did and we did, and that's especially people from Korea and some of the southeastern Asian countries, especially if their family ran businesses in, where they came from. I'm guessing that the parents are working long hours and their children are helping just as much as ours, our generation. Probably typical of most generations that come from a primarily "laissez faire" type of a country that they come from. Socialistic, maybe it's different, but people from especially Hong Kong, Taiwan, they come from a communi -- culture that is business and, especially Korea too. I'm guessing, and I don't know too many personally, but I'm guessing there's a lot of kids of parents, where they're the second, or even came over as young children, working very hard and long hours, I'm guessing in the family business, I'm guessing.

BF: But it's interesting, because, with, I guess, because you said somewhat there's less the need, you've, you've chosen to not, to not have your children work after school in the store.

TM: Well, and like I say, getting back, we did it because, well, because we, that was the way it was. But also a lot of our friends did it, so it was okay. But you look at your children, if their friends are not doing it you kinda hate to push them to do it.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

BF: Back when you were working with your father and you were saying that you kind of -- it probably was your, not your parents' hope or plan to have you necessarily go into the business, but did you want to? I mean at that point did you really, you said you liked helping out the customers. Did you, was there a part of you that, that really liked the business and hope that you would eventually work in it?

TM: No. You know, my father was probably surprised I went to college. But in those days it was either -- for the guys it was engineering or something like that, architectural, so that was a natural tendency if you went to college and if you were looking for a comfortable vocation. And so when we went through the high school ritual of going through job fairs and aptitude tests, actually I scored very well in the nursing field. But that didn't just seem right, didn't seem right. So I struggled through school. But there was a feeling that entrepreneurship was nothing. If it was, it was very late. It was not something that my father encouraged us, or -- and, and getting back to this Nisei issue, there was very few role models or people you could -- that were making a name of themselves, being business entrepreneurs. And the ones that were successful, you looked up to them. Community leaders were either professors at the university, or maybe business people, but, they were business people not because they studied business, you know these family type. I guess, looking back, the people that I looked up to like I told you, people like Edison Uno or Min Masuda, were all some way considered academia. And they were our heroic leaders. So, looking back I don't think I had any contacts with any so-called business people. And, and here again, I think, if all things when went well, my father stayed healthy, and business as he predicted not to grow so fast, my brother would have taken over and, and I was working at Boeing. It would have been okay, I guess.

BF: It seems like there was probably a different attitude or stature to, now at this current time in, in the '90s going into the new millennium, it seems like entrepreneurship is really at a high social status. But it sounds like during that time period, in that community, the thing, the thing to be and the place to be was more in get a degree, go into education.

TM: Well, like I say, it was doctor, lawyer or something like that was the, the quote, that's what all parents wanted their kids to be or something like that. I think, yeah, looking back, entrepreneurship is probably only become, I don't know, have its high esteem just recently, ten, fifteen, twenty years I think. That's when they became -- and I guess the Fortune magazine and all these, they start to publicize the CEOs making money. And I'm guessing the old, old money came from family wealth. So the CEOs were probably low-keyed and were not the subject of the best sellers or whatever, front-page news. Especially in the northwest it was lumber money, mining money type of thing and those were very quietly passed on from generation to generation.

BF: Yeah, yeah. So you didn't really hear about them.

TM: Yeah. And also, in those days the coming of the Japanese trading companies and big Japanese companies was still rare. And even if they came, the thought of being able to make a mark or achieve any high status in those companies was something we laughed at. I mean no way can you achieve that. From economically, or socially, and you knew damn well that the Japanese businesses weren't going to hire the local Nikkei, which I think was really crazy. They should have because culturally they could have brought a lot of, a lot to the table. But that's a different story.

BF: So the Japanese businesses, businesses Japan-based, they wouldn't hire the local Nikkei in, in the U.S.?

TM: No, no. And I only mention this because if, when I was about twenty if I got up and said I'm gonna become the chairman of General Motors, or General Foods, or Ford, or -- they would've all laughed. There's no, nobody's made it before. And, and at the same time if you say you were gonna become the general manager of Mitsubishi or Mitsui, they would've also laughed, for different reasons. But, getting back, the Japanese companies -- Japan Airlines or whatever, they, the little experience I have, they, they look down on the immigrants from Japan, the iminoko it was not so... but, I only mention that again because they lost a lot of opportunity not to take advantage of the Nikkeis, Niseis that had command of the language, knew the lay of the territory, and had this cultural background that they could relate to. But I think they missed the boat.

BF: Wow, that's really interesting, because it wasn't that removed, we weren't, that generation wasn't so Americanized that there wasn't some tie. And you would think that it would be an obvious benefit to companies.

TM: Yeah. The only few that have took advantage, parlayed it or understood it was Morita, of Sony. When he moved to New York, he made lasting friends with a lot of Nikkeis, to this day. He even hired a few Niseis in Japan that were Americans but chose to stay in Japan. And that was rare, very rare, in fact very unusual. And looking back, it's too bad because, too bad from my point of view is that this was one niche area where the Nikkei should have been able to excel because of this cultural, cultural background and awareness. But there was two probably, looking back there was two things. First of all the Nikkeis were not, Niseis especially, were not given this opportunity to have that kind of relevant experience, or expectation of them to become the CEO or the something. And number two, the Japanese business people that came just had no appreciation or feeling and, or -- well they looked, to say it bluntly, they looked down on the immigrants in general and specifically they just never thought the Nikkeis would be of any benefit to them. And I repeat, it's a shame because they could've added a lot to whatever they were trying to achieve in this country I think.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

BF: It must have been a hard period too, for your generation, looking, just thinking about what your future prospects were. On one hand the businesses in this country -- it doesn't sound like you, people felt that they had a, a really bright, unrestricted future there. And so do you remember thinking about that when you were thinking about your career plans and college plans? Did you think, well, I'll get a degree, but what good will it do me?

TM: Yeah, you know, we were like sheep. We just said the few, I'm guessing from the class, our class of graduating Garfield in 1955, oh, let's say there was 300. I don't know what the exact number was, 300, maybe ten percent of us were Nikkei, Japanese, so there were thirty approximately. And I'm guessing of the thirty, only about fifteen of us went on to college. And if there was fifteen of us I'm guessing there were about ten girls and five boys, you know, guys. And I'm guessing two years later I looked around and said, "Gee there's only about three of us left, of the guys." And I don't remember about the girls, but even the girls, if there were ten, and these are just round approximate numbers, but probably only seven left. And I'm guessing that, so we had, we didn't have the peer pressure to try to outdo each other. We were just there, hanging in there. And so related to that, I don't think we thought ourselves, or got together and says, "Hey what are we gonna do when we get out of college?" It was just a natural progression. I'll go work for Boeing, and Fred Nomura say he's gonna be a doctor and somebody else becomes an engineer. And that was what happened. I don't think we thought too much that we wanted to be a captain of something, of industry or something. It was just like going through high school. So if you're gonna go through college, you're just gonna go work. And if you didn't, lot of the fifteen that probably graduated high school went to work for whatever, post office, or either got married, or was doing something. But I don't think we had the luxury or we weren't smart enough to think wow, what are gonna do in our future. What, what are we gonna create for our children. I don't think we thought those things through. Others might have, but my friends and I didn't.

BF: But that says something in and of itself, that you didn't necessarily either see or feel you were restricted, and also what your plans were.

TM: Well, but restrictions were, how do you say, it wasn't black and white. You had, as a minority, and getting beat up all your life, and even if it wasn't for relocation camps, or Tule Lake, or whatever, this unfortunate experience, the minority community in general, and the Japanese always were some way considered, even within themselves as second class. I mean you never -- I mean, who aspired to become whatever, the head of whatever, you couldn't even become a judge you know, couldn't even do this. I mean, those were the kind of things that were -- what am I trying to say? In a sense, intuitively or whatever, the culture kind of self-imposed some restrictions within yourself. And it was probably both, and I haven't thought this through, but part of the culture and part of the way the general, community in general, maj -- majority of the population imposed on certain minorities, especially if, as we were, looking back, we were viewed as a threat, an economic threat or something. So, and it's no secret, those were the reasons why we were relocated too, the economics. And so, I don't think people got up in the morning and said, "Gee, what am I gonna do to hold down the Japs?" But some way they told you in so many unwritten ways that, "Just stay in your place, just do your thing, and don't make waves, and you'll be okay." And by and large the majority of the Nikkei said, "Well, okay, that's fine. So I'll just be a model citizen, and not make waves, just do what I'm -- become a good citizen," and that's the way it was, I think. And it gets back to what I'm saying is that the Nikkeis, Niseis, probably were forced into the situation, and most of us don't think about it, and if we did, we don't want to admit to that. And so that's why I keep saying that the Nikkei, Niseis, whatever, much more influenced by this whole relocation, because it added to something that was already there as a basic issue. When you add something, and you don't want to talk about it, and you don't talk about your basic issue, you don't talk about something that's, as major as relocation. I mean, now you would say to the next generation, we would not have tolerated, and made a lot more noise, but for whatever reason, the Nikkeis chose not to, by and large. And they started by paying a very dear price, and they continue to pay a dear price. And I repeat they've passed some of those issues on to the Sansei, unfortunately.

BF: Aim high, but not too high.

TM: No. Yeah. And don't make waves and all that stuff. But, getting back, that's the strength of our culture too, in some ways, in Japan.

BF: Explain. What are the...?

TM: Well, you take a country in Japan, they are a hundred twenty million people. I think culturally, by having a little bit of that kind of a gaman, and give and take, you could have the harmonious society that allowed it to become the economic power. Conversely, if you go to the... I don't know, maybe I'm just thinking in general, but some cultures where they always outspeak, outspoken, and they don't allow other people, they don't give other people elbow room. Japan culture is similar to American culture in that respect. They may not like somebody moving ahead, but they don't stop, they don't get in the way, where some cultures will stop others from advancing whatever economic situation. So they do that illegally, or under the table which only creates problems. So culturally, Japan has this, whatever it takes. But the culture allows people to, at least in the front, the omote, you know the front, to get along with somebody, harmoniously, and the Niseis probably took that too much to heart and not made any waves.

BF: But, transplanting some of that in this society sometimes makes you the sheep among wolves.

TM: Yes. There's a, you guys met Dr. Yuko Nishimura. I think she's -- I read only part of her book about India, but I think she's on to something like that a little bit. I gotta talk to her a little bit more. But I'm feeling that if she looks into the Nikkei community a little bit, this is a subject that I should spend some time with her, because I'd like to have her view. I haven't really thought these things through, and I haven't really talked to too many people, those are just thoughts I have, and now that I'm into this type of interview process and kinda reflecting back a little bit.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

BF: Well, I, I want to talk a little bit more too about the earlier years, when you're, when you're still attending school. It's, let's see, we're probably now in the '50s, right? When you were attending, let's say like Bailey Gatzert, you brought up Bailey Gatzert. And you said that it had a large Nikkei population.

TM: That was 1945, or 6 when Bailey Gatzert, because I was a third grade.

BF: Oh, okay, so still really young. What sort of interaction was it, so this is very postwar, very close to the war's end. What kind of interaction was there between this, this group of, of Nikkei and the non-Nikkei students there? Was it pretty comfortable, or was it uncomfortable?

TM: Well, you know, I've been involved with our high school reunion, and part of the committee, and I've been involved in our class, we have one reunion every five years, which is unusual.

BF: Yeah.

TM: But the point is, two or three of the committee members are kids that I got to know when we were third grade, so they were from Terrace. So, in some respect we were not uncomfortable, because they were very poor. And they were living in subsidized housing. And we were maybe culturally a little richer, but economically, we were probably, the same boat. So there's two or three ladies that meet each other in third grade. So the point I'm making is we didn't stick together as close friends, but we stayed in touch all these years. When you think about it, it's fifty years now, forty-five, fifty years.

BF: Yeah.

TM: So there were friends and there were situations where it was comfortable, and that was probably more from the economics of it. They didn't have money and we didn't have money, so we kind of had to stick together. But having said that, as I told you, most of the friends that I -- new friends like, that made after the world, you know, coming back from Tule Lake, were people that were either neighbors of where we lived, or neighbors of businesses. So you tend to, we ended up with friends with people that had to help their families. But when it came to school events or sometimes like Halloween parties or something like that, we went to the non-Nikkei hangouts and some of those friends we have. But having said that, I remember fighting over being called a "Jap", and probably it wasn't philosophically as offensive as, we just probably didn't like the guy and he just called you a name, it could have been any kind of name and you probably woulda fought anyway. But I remember, we probably had our, I wouldn't say typical, but had our differences with people of different colors, but that might have been not cultural so much as just the nature of growing up I guess maybe.

BF: Now the high school you went to had a smaller number of Nikkei. Right?

TM: Well in percentage, because --

BF: Percentage, right.

TM: Bailey Gatzert, maybe, here again I'll guess, three, four hundred students, junior high might've had seven, eight hundred and high school had twelve hundred or something like that. So the Nikkei didn't increase too much, so you're getting a small number into a larger and larger pool. So I'm guessing, by the time we got to high school, our class, if there were thirty, half of them came from Bailey Gatzert, and the other half came from other schools.

BF: And you mentioned that you have stayed in contact with some of these people since grade school.

TM: Yeah. Those were the non-Nikkei friends. But the Nikkei friends we have stayed in touch, too. Both just as pure friends, but also as we do this class reunion every five or ten years. You just naturally stay in touch too.

BF: Well what do you think, do you think there's anything unique about either that time period, or that school, or that mix of people, that accounts for the, the length of time you've stayed friends? I mean, why the five, every five years as opposed to you know, most people it's every twenty years or whatever?

TM: Yeah. We were fortunate. We had a couple of "spark plugs" in high school. And one lady, Jane, actually she passed away about a year ago, but she was just well liked by everybody, so she kept us together. But getting back, I think it was, I don't know, maybe it's not unusual. If I lived in middle town USA, I would've had these friends from kindergarten. Maybe it would've -- I don't know. And, but here again, these friends that I'm telling you about that grew up together from third grade on, we kind of lost contact after, at least college, but this reunion kind of brought us together and we've, we now meet because of that from time to time.

BF: Well, I ask in part because I've talked to some of your close friends and one of the things that came up was the fact that, even though your circumstances have changed to the point where, well for instance, you've had dinner with President Clinton, and that you travel extensively on your business, but you still hang out with some of the same sort of old Nikkei gang, and play poker, and sort of do all that. What, what I guess do you find that you get from those friends, that have sort of kept you...

TM: Gee, I never --

BF: ...a part of that?

TM: I guess it's a -- I think that might be something my father, as I was telling you, that old relations, and relatives relations are very important. And maybe that comes from that. And also, maybe I've traveled a lot and did a lot of things, but the family has always been there, the core. And so maybe these people are part of the extended family. I don't know, I really haven't given it much thought. But it's partly an obligation I have, I feel maybe. And then, you know, you know who they are, and like I said, you've known them for thirty, forty, fifty years and there's a level of comfort. And I don't know, I just, I haven't really given it much thought. But I try to make every effort to stay in touch with the family, and extended family friends, and people I've known for a long time.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

BF: It seems like, I think you're really on to something, though about the notion that when you were a child, every, the family was more than just the immediate family, even though you have this huge family. It's this exte -- it's larger than that.

TM: Yeah. And looking back, and thinking about it now, I guess my father always, and my mother always had that. So it's just maybe something that, here again influence. They didn't want to, they didn't go out of their way to influence, but we just got influenced some way. And it's fine. Well, in some ways that's a cultural thing. Because my uncle, well my father's cousin anyway, Mr. Kubota, before he says, "Well you gotta join the Buddhist church." I says, "Why?" He says, "Well, you gotta have somewhere to get buried and have a funeral." I says, "Oh, okay." But that's the kind of a cultural thing. You know, they do it for, to save face, or, so they do things. And, you know, you just expand that type of thinking. You don't want to die alone, or you want people to come to your funeral. You say why, but, my wife would've said why? But you know, I guess that's a, especially if you're in business or have a large family, you just think about those things, which is maybe stupid. But you say well, do unto others type of thing. If you go to their funeral, I mean to somebody's funeral, well they'll come to yours and you'll feel good about it or something like that.

BF: Uh-huh.

TM: But, I think it's part of the culture, you've got to do what's good for... to be a good citizen within a culture, I think, is, is a culture that the Japanese, and getting back, homogeneous, outside anyway, from the outside. They put up a front to make it look like everybody's happy and everything, and in back it may not be true. The Japanese culture spend an inordinate amount of time to put up this front to make like everybody's getting along. And maybe --

BF: And, that does make things go smoother.

TM: Well, I think so, and I think, I'm sure we'll get into other issues, but some of the successes of the Japanese organization locally and otherwise have taken advantage of that. And probably, like anything else, it has also hindered parts of other types of developments, because they try to do things so consensus wide, and so appropriate from the outside. Maybe tend to lose the real focus of what we're trying to achieve, or the good of the real, real objective, but I don't know, that's another thing I haven't really thought of too much.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

BF: Now when you went, were in high school, and this is again that sorta that postwar period. And I've had other Nisei, older Sansei, say that there was a time period where the community, a lotta people wanted to be less Japanese, wanted to be culturally less Japanese. Visibly there was no way to change it, but they had hoped that they could be... do you remember going through a period of that, or having that same attitude?

TM: You know, because of the business, and because I had a very comfortable surrounding from the family, I don't think I really felt that way. But thinking back, I think we either talked about it or I noticed friends, or people that, acquaintances that kinda did things that I thought was strange, like a few even changed their names. You probably heard of Takahashi changing it to Highbridge or something like that. So that wasn't unusual, so there were, you either read or heard or knew people that did, to me, unusual things to try to break out of this. Say that I'm not Japanese, I am American type of, whatever type of statement. Looking back, I don't think, because I was comfortable with my surroundings as a Japanese, I don't think -- but I'm sure we must've done things, but I don't remember any specific things we did.

BF: Now' cause when you brought that up, that did sort of make me realize something. You don't have a typical Nisei nickname.

TM: Oh. Well --

BF: Or do you, do you? [Laughs]

TM: No. That's true. The generation before me had nicknames like my older brother is called Gunner and my older brother's friends used to call me Shrimp or something, but it never stuck. But they did. And here again maybe that was the part that they were trying to become Americanized. Because if you go to the movies that's how it was. That's interesting. But getting back to the typical, to show a little bit more of my father's culture and humor, is that, somebody asked him, "How come you didn't give your children middle names?" He said he couldn't afford it. [Laughs] But when you talked to him a little bit more he said, well, I'm gonna take 'em back to Japan, so he didn't want to give us Japanese names, I mean English names. That was the truth, but his answer was in jest, he says, "Well, we couldn't afford it." So, that's the kind of person he was. The answer was never straight, it was kinda humorous, but there was always something behind it when you asked again and said, "Well, what's the real reason?" Well, to go back to Japan he didn't want to us to have American names, or English names.

BF: So, I wonder, if that also played a role in you maybe not going through such a strong period of loss of identity, that, that your family business was, was so entrenched in Japanese culture, in the goods, in the products?

TM: Well, I'm just thinking right now, a lot about getting back to why did I retain some of my good friends, mostly Caucasian, a few blacks, a few Filipino, but why did I continue? Maybe this was part of my statement of change, I'm okay with non-Japanese, or this is my way of making a statement out of America. I don't know, but after you asked that question, I was kinda thinking of why I stayed in touch. But maybe this was a way for me to show my, I don't know --

BF: Prove you're an American.

TM: Yeah, or that I, it wasn't totally important -- I don't know, I haven't given it much thought. But I think in some way all of us through high school and college, someway, probably was faced with this issue, that you're American and --

BF: What does that mean?

TM: Yeah, what does it mean? And maybe that's the time you just start to say well, "Okay, I have some hakujin friends," but I don't know. But the comfort level with, well I didn't play with Alan, but the Hirano brothers, and Bill and it's always been there. So we tend to go where we're comfortable I think.

BF: Now your sister, when did she come back from Japan? Was it around this time period?

TM: She was fourteen, so she was born in 1935 so it was 1949 she came back.

BF: What kind of adjustment did -- do you remember seeing her having a hard time adjusting?

TM: Well, she a year older, but we were in the same class, so I think, looking back, and I think she'll say this, she was very fortunate that there were some very dedicated teachers that went out of their way to make sure that she was able to catch up in school work and -- in those days, well, they probably are, the school teachers were very dedicated. I'm sure she was very fortunate to have that, because we were in the class together and, in fact we still probably very close.

BF: So it was pretty easy for her to come fit back into the family, I mean she'd been gone so long?

TM: Well, I don't know about that. I think she must have had some problems because of my father was stricter with girls for one thing.

BF: Had she been the only child in the family she was with in Japan, or was she part of a larger family?

TM: Well, she lived with my cousins, and there was three girls and a boy. So she felt pretty comfortable, so that was, that was not the problem. But I have to feel that my father, typical Isseis, probably were more strict and expected more from their daughters I think, I'm guessing. So I'm sure she was expected to serve tea, you know what I mean, take, look after the younger brothers and sister I'm guessing. So she, her life wasn't all that easy I don't think.

BF: So you had your father on one hand, who adhered to some of the traditional, typical, conservative values, but your mother, it sounds like, maybe tried to balance some of that out by treating everyone the same and --

TM: Oh yeah, I think, looking back we had a wonderful, well we do have a wonderful mother.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

BF: What kind of, did you, were you engaged -- you did have some extracurricular school activities, even though you were working, did you? Didn't you do --

TM: Well, in the, both junior high and high school, I ended up running the film. And so I, so that wouldn't be extracurricular, but during the school I very seldom went to the study halls because I was always tapped to do this or that. But actually, I didn't have very much extra -- I attended game, but I didn't play sports, especially basketball, I didn't play that at all. [Laughs] No, I didn't even try out, where my kid brother and older brother tried out for football and played second team and things like that. I didn't turn out for anything like that.

BF: And so no clubs, so you weren't involved in --

TM: No. I did things during the school hours a lot. And I did a lot of things, one, like I say, is in junior high I learned to run the16 millimeter film, slide, I mean the projector, which in those days was fairly complicated. And once you learned that, then before you knew it you're, you're tapped, they say whenever you have a study class, then come in and run our class for us. So I used to have to bring this camera into a ladies class, a girls class and show them all this, which was kind of interesting. You know, girls ed. type of film and things like that. [Laughs]

BF: Oh, the health films. [Laughs]

TM: Yeah. Anyway, that was junior high I learned that. I forgot, maybe seventh or eighth grade or whatever. But I'm pretty mechanical, so once I got tapped, from then on, all the way through junior high and high school, I was involved with, not extra things, but during classes or whatever, running the stage show, or if they were having a production, I was in charge of the mic. or something like that. So that's probably another reason why I was able to stay in contact with some of these non-Nikkei kids. Because they were also, they were the leaders that were involved with this and that -- you know, built a pretty good relation and to this day we have had some good relation.

BF: How would you describe the relationship with your siblings? I mean, especially when you were younger?

TM Well, I get along with my two sisters, or three sisters probably better than I do with my brothers, but I think we kinda, since we interact at, within the business and family gathering that outside of that we have our own set of friends and we don't socialize with each other outside of family gathering and business. And I don't know, maybe it's because of business that you see each other all the time. And also, sequentially other that my sister who is only one year apart, the rest of us are two or three years apart so we tend to have different sets of friends, so I would say I have a good relationship with my sisters and just a probably a typical relationship with my brothers, I guess.

BF: And that was true sort of when you were growing up too?

TM: Oh yeah.

BF: But you were all working together in the store during that period too?

TM: Yeah, but fortunately the business was growing enough so that we were able to take different parts of the business, so physically and responsibility, it started to divide itself.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

BF: Did you still stay pretty close, I mean as far as what work you did in the store, was it very close with your father? That you were sort of --

TM: Yeah. It started out working closely with my father, manual labor, because I wasn't expected and I wasn't thinking of taking over any management type, so I just did the groundwork, and I appreciate that opportunity. But as we were growing I think I maybe mentioned that I feel that for whatever reason my life was formulating into where, I feel, I don't know, the influence of the culture again. But you, my -- I don't want to say philosophy -- but my strength has been in both the family and outside organizations, trying to fill niches that are not being filled, or not being done by others. And I think, the more I think about this, this has been my strength or my role in life, whatever. It started out in the family. You just try to do, in a family business there's always gonna be slots or vacancies or things that are not being done, and I think this is where, probably, I don't know what it, how it started, but looking back, that's been I guess my suit or my calling is to do things that's not being done. And looking back, I think that's where my strength in bringing to the various non-profit and even profit organizations, moving in, but trying to fill or take on responsibility that I view as not being performed. And I think to enjoy that, not because it's something I like, but because of the fact that it's something that I perceive as not being done, or could be better done by myself or something like that. So looking back, that's probably -- I don't think you get up one morning and say this is what you're gonna do, but you start to, in a family business say well gee, somebody's not doing that so, you can't turn around and say, "You do that," you just end up doing it. So I think looking back the last few days after this interview process I was thinking what has my role been? And I'm thinking more and more I feel that my role has been to fill the slots or the responsibility that, I perceive as not being done, and just stepping in and doing it.

BF: So even as, when you were younger then, it wasn't necessarily something that your father assigned? You would just see something and do it.

TM: Yeah. He needed help, so you're there, and that type of situation I think.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

BF Talking again about sort of the period before your, your entering college, and everyone's working at the store, were, were some of your siblings more interested and more enjoyed working at the store more than others? Did you...

TM: Well, yeah, I think so. But as the business started to establish itself, the younger siblings spent more time in school and outside activities. And then they went away to college too, some of the younger ones.

BF: Oh really?

TM: Yeah. Like Tomoko went away to, what's the one in Spokane, and then Toshi went to Reed in Portland and things like that. Then my sister worked for awhile and she did not go to, you know the oldest sister that was in Japan, and got married fairly soon after high school and so there was different levels of -- we all kind of worked together and equally maybe during junior high and high school but after that we kind of, my older brother went away to army for two years. He was drafted I think or something like that. So there's different levels of involvement.

BF: Was it sort of understood -- how much was, or was it ever discussed as a family who would take over the business and who was expected to fend for themselves? Or was this something that your father just kept in his head?

TM: Well he kept in his head, but it was fairly obvious that he thought that Gunner, Kenzo, who was the oldest should kinda take over. That was just the natural thing to do I guess, so he went to Seattle University because it was only five minutes away from where our house was. So he took business-related courses and things like that. The others were probably not told to fend for ourselves, but we pretty much went to school. But anyway, my, Kenzo went to business school of some kind. But myself and my next brother Akira, we both studied engineering. Toshi studied chemistry, I guess, and Tomoko I guess it was arts or something like that. And Hisako, gee, I don't know what she studied. I guess it was home economics or something like that. So, I don't think he sat down and said, "You better prepare yourself to take over this business." That wasn't what we were told. And probably, because he didn't think the business was gonna grow this much, or like I say, looking back, he probably either thought that one, one of the sons, oldest son probably could take over, and/or he was still thinking of going back to Japan. And he, he was probably thinking of going back to Japan until my sister's first daughter, or his first granddaughter was born. Then I think he started to change his tune because I think the first thing he did was go out and buy a cemetery plot. And went after citizenship. So I think at that time. I always say he was looking for an excuse. And when the first granddaughter was born I think that was the right excuse to say well he doesn't have to go back to Japan anymore.

BF: That's interesting that in the back of his mind -- this is a long time now. And the kids are established and the business is established, but in the back of his mind there was a part of him that still was considering returning to Japan.

TM: Well, you know, I'm sure he made a vow when he left Japan that he'll be back. And in the 1950s or '60s or late '50s anyway, there were two very healthy, and two sisters in Japan that he visited often, very nice people. So I'm sure he had some mixed emotions about gee, I promised these people I'll be back, and there's the house there for him, and some of his friends there. So I could see where it would be natural for him to continue to think, well going back is not such a bad thing.

BF: But it would have probably at that point just been he and his wife?

TM: Most likely. [Laughs] By then, except for the youngest siblings, we were pretty much... I don't know, I'm sure if he said we have to go back we would have. But I, if we were given our own choice, I'm sure by then we would have stayed here.

BF: That's interesting that you just said that if he really put his foot down and said he wanted everyone, you would have gone back.

TM: Oh, I'm sure. That's, there's no doubt about that.

BF: Really?

TM: Until I -- even out of college, I'm guessing that if he said we all must go back, I'm sure we would have.

BF: But you had just spent your entire life in...

TM: Yeah, but you know -- I don't know when -- I visited first time in Japan in '61 or something like that, so I was almost out of college, or maybe out of college, so it wasn't bad. Like I say, very nice people. It was rural, but comfortable. So, but I'm sure if my dad, about up to that, for sure right out of high school if I didn't go to college, if he says we gotta go back, I'm sure we all would've gone back. Yeah.

BF: Wow.

TM: That's just the way we were brought up. I don't think that's unique in our generation. And that's kind of the reason why we all went to relocation camp, because we were culturally, what's, we tend to follow the leader I guess. And that's the good part and the bad part of the Japanese culture.

BF: Do you think your kids would relocate?

TM: Oh, no. They're pretty Americanized. But even through high school I think they would.

BF: Now when you graduated from high school, you went to college...

TM: Uh-huh.

BF: And you went into the University of Washington.

TM: Uh-huh.

BF: You said majoring in engineering.

TM: Uh-huh.

BF: Mechanical engineering? Or --

TM: Yes.

BF: So you had no plans on going into the business? I mean you really --

TM: No, you know, I don't think we really even thought of it. We just, it was there, and it was a way of life, but that was just something that, like high school or something, you would just do what you had to do and go on to the next phase. 'Cause I'm sure if I had any inkling, I would've at least studied you know, basic business, or accounting, or something. But none of that. I didn't even study Japanese. Technical schools at that time, I don't even know, know now, but foreign language was not required. If it was, I'm guessing I would have studied Japanese or something. Or Chinese if we knew we were gonna do business in Asia. But no, I have to honestly say, when I went into college, and even when I got out of college and went to work, applied at a couple of companies, technical companies, and Boeing hired me. But there was no thought of -- maybe helping my brother and mother on weekends, but I never thought of becoming a lifelong vocation.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

BF: Now how much were you helping out with the business while you were going and getting your degree?

TM: Oh we worked weekends. Uh-huh.

BF: [Laughs]

TM: Every weekend almost. So that's why it took me six years to get my degree, too. Well, I also had a six month -- I was in the National Guard, so I took six months off. Also went to Japan I think, maybe skipped a quarter. Whatever, it took me six years.

BF: Now why were you working still in the business? It was just so busy that they needed the help?

TM: Yeah, and then my father was ill, prior to him dying. And then like I say, he says, "Well somebody's gotta open that store in the World's Fair."

BF: So this was, the World's Fair came up while you were at the U?

TM: I think so, yeah. Or just starting Boeing, one or the other. That, close by. Yeah. No, it was, I was at Boeing by then. I was working in '61. I graduated in '61, that, that fall. But those decisions were made a couple of years before that.

BF: So has, has, was -- the business is still in the same location that...

TM: Uh-huh.

BF: this point that we're talking about, that your father got right after the war, from the Filipino gentleman.

TM: Uh-huh.

BF: But it's growing in terms of --

TM: Right. He, we, in 1946 it was just one storefront. And he took over one or two, so he had, by the time he passed away there was about three storefronts he had.

BF: Oh.

TM: And then after he passed away, we took the rest of it so 120 feet. So that was six storefronts I guess that we took over.

BF: Was it still primarily Nikkei at this point?

TM: Well, about 1960s like I say, it started to expand to other, well a few other Asians, now that I'm thinking about it, but mostly Caucasians that were viewing rice and tofu as healthy foods. So we used to get more and more of those people. The other thing is also that we were starting to wholesale a little bit. You know people started to come in, especially if they were running a restaurant up the street, they started to say, "We want to buy wholesale," so we were expanding that. Just probably through necessity than anything. So the business kept growing. So we needed more space and things like that.

BF: So during that period you said that your father got ill. What did he have?

TM: He died in '62. And five years prior to that he had one lung removed because he was a heavy smoker and we suspect that he had -- he did have cancer in one lung. So that was removed and the, five years later he passed away and the autopsy showed that it was not a medical problem, it was a mechanical problem. When he had one lung removed, some of the blood vessels, the major ones started to cross over and they started to restrict each other. And so it was unfortunate. This day and age you could have figured this out real quickly, but in those days, he started thinking it was maybe the other lung or something. But as it turned out it was unfortunate. How much longer he would have lived, I don't know, but it was unfortunate it was a mechanical issue. He kept saying he need [inaudible] and I remember I was home one day, the day he passed away. I finally said, "Well we gotta take you to the hospital." So I took him to the hospital and a couple of hours later he was, passed away.

BF: But for five years he was in declining health?

TM: Right. Well, but even at that he went to Japan once with his one lung. So he, he was an optimistic person. No one wants to die, but he was in declining health, and he was slowing down quite a bit.

BF: Who was running the business then? Pretty much your mother?

TM: My oldest brother and...

BF: Kenzo?

TM: And my mother. We had by then quite a staff of people, five, five, ten people working.

BF: Was your mother still cooking for all the workers?

TM: Oh yeah, yeah. Like I say, we, she cooked until we moved in 1969 or something like that.

BF: So she, would she cook at the rest -- at the store then?

TM: At the store, yeah. So we would eat all our evening meals there except for weekends at the store. And then she would cook lunch then for the workers. And then my sister and myself, we would cook the dinners for, primarily the family and a few stray workers that maybe stuck around.

BF: What kind of lunches was she making for -- I mean was this a pretty large crew? Or was it just a few people?

TM: Oh yeah, we used to have a big pot of rice and then -- you know we ate either the best or the freshest, or something that was almost ready to be thrown out, one or the other. [Laughs] Nothing in between.

BF: Either really well, or really bad.

TM: Yeah. I don't know. You know what I mean, when you're running a store you just, there was always something to eat. Maybe your parents will understand. We ate a lot of bologna and weenie that was cooked in shoyu and salt, sugar. Hawaiian people love that. We ate a lot of that. My mother used to make spaghetti too, you know. She just, because that was, anybody could do that. In fact, funny story, when we were at the old store, 19... a few years before we moved to King Street we brought in a cash register, NCR. And this lady was a trainer. She came, and she came in. I guess she's retired. She came in the store the other day and I recognized her. She says, "Oh, your mother used to make spaghetti for me." And I didn't have the heart to say she made it for everybody. [Laughs]

BF: She wasn't all that special.

TM: But she's oh, "She knew I was Italian and she made me spaghetti," and she, and I said oh. Well anyway, that's the kind of lady she was. Hakujin, if they come in and they're helping us, training us with the cash register, and she's giving them lunch.

BF: Wow.

TM: To his day, and this is what, how many years ago? But I remember that lady walked in the other day and I recognized her and we were talking about that.

BF: Wow. And so for the evening meals, you guys, the family ate down at the store.

TM: Yeah, whatever was left over. But we used to also go up the street to the Chinese restaurant and buy egg foo young, or something like that. I don't know. She'd make the rice and we'd eat it, too.

<End Segment 23gt; - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

BF: So you're working, you're going to Boeing, or you're graduated, you were working at Boeing and still working at Uwajimaya at the weekends because it's busy, because your father is in declining health. It seems like it must have been a pretty busy and somewhat stressful period for you. Do you, do you remember it --

TM: No, I, you know, since I wasn't obligated, and I didn't have to punch the clock at Uwajimaya, you know, you kinda just kinda help during the busy time and you kinda... I, I used to travel, and I used to go hunting with my friends, so I wasn't completely, it wasn't completely work only. So, I was single and I had pretty much a very loose, unstructured life other than work. And even at Boeing I had this opportunity to get into a program where, I don't know 100 or 150 of us every year were allowed to, within a division, change your job three or four times in two or three years. It was an opportunity where, how I got in, I don't know, because I didn't have the highest grades or anything. But I had one supervisor there, supervisor that, one of my first supervisors that said, "We'll get you in there." So, but the point I'm making is, my job at Boeing was not exactly nine to five either. I had some positions that were fairly loosey-goosey as long as I did my job, so, sometime on call twenty-four hours a day type of situation. I've been fortunate in those ways. So I had the flexibility to either travel or help my father or things like that. But I felt I was doing my job at Boeing.

BF: It sounds like a, like a management training?

TM: Well, they didn't call it management, but they wanted the best fit in the cross culture in awareness of -- yeah probably, they didn't call it management, but we were given a special human resources department and we would check in with them. And we were, I think, allowed to change from three to five jobs in two years, positions. And I had, in my year and a half I had about three or four different positions. So it was a unique experience and I kind of got a broader view of the missile, Minute Man missile division at Boeing. So...

BF: Do you think that that sort of experience also started giving you kind of a new insights or broadened your, your idea about, I don't know, running a business? Or managing or things like that?

TM: Yeah, I think looking back it gave you the confidence and the flexibility necessary to get things done.

BF: Interesting. Now you, you mentioned earlier about the World's Fair. And now is around the time when the World's Fair is coming up. And you said that your father gave that to, to you...

TM: Well, I don't know if he gave it to me.

BF: ...and your sister to take care of?

TM: He wanted to go into the World's Fair because in those days the World's Fair were very prestigious type of events. And so these things don't come overnight, so let's say it happened in '62, so four or five years before, it's '58. He's fairly healthy. So he probably wanted to go in, and if he was healthy I'm sure he would have did it in some way by gosh or by gun, but in his failing health, I guess I kinda stepped up and took over.

BF: What, what, so either consciously or unconsciously this was an attempt to reach a broader customer base.

TM: Uh-huh. Looking back, it probably, I guess I should, I should be, I should give him more credit. Maybe he wasn't as inwardly thinking as I maybe think he was. But for whatever reason, actually my sister Hisako worked very hard, too. So we both worked. And she was in college at the time and I was working at Boeing. So I kinda helped physically put that together, which I enjoy, and I been doing ever since for the company and like other places. But, but I remember she ran the business. So I kinda just put it together because I was working at Boeing, and she kinda ran the thing. It was primarily during the summer vacation, so I remember that she ran the thing.

BF: And you said that the strategy was not to make a lot of profit, but was to expose people.

TM: Yeah, both, primarily to the products from Japan, but also to Uwajimaya I guess. But I think my father was more interested in promoting the products. And we found out the, you know, sembei, rice crackers and things which we take for granted and you can buy it at the supermarket now, it was a very hot item if I remember.

BF: And that was new to them?

TM: Yeah. And the electric rice cookers. Even to this day we sell hundreds of rice cookers. I can't understand where they're going to, but there are just hundreds of 'em. We buy rice cookers by almost the vanload. It's amazing.

BF: So do you, do you remember whether you thought at the time that this would be a successful, that the World's Fair would be as successful as it was for the store, or did you think, oh well, it's just something to do?

TM: No. Here again, I'm thinking it's just a duty. [Laughs] I'll be honest, if I had it my way I don't think I would have put a store in the World's Fair, it was only 4 or 500 square feet or something. It's something that we got committed to, we saw it through and probably couldn't wait 'til it got finished. I don't think that was -- under that circumstance, I was working at Boeing and I just thought, well just help out. Get them on their feet and go on with my life I thought. So I'm sure that same thought was at the World's Fair. But having said that, he, like I said my father, I didn't, but he had contact with people running various trade shows, especially from Japan. And some of those relations have continued, and that's been good.

BF: Now you, the fair was successful?

TM: For us it was very successful. And I guess for the city it was. Some people didn't make money, but we made very good money, I mean relatively. We might have almost accounted for a third of our annual sales at that time or something. So it was very good. Much better than, I don't know what to, what we expected, but it was very good.

BF: Was it a turning point for the business also after the fair was over? Did you see increase -- ?

TM: Well I think those were the reasons why probably I did decide, I came to the conclusion that I couldn't work at Boeing and also help. But I'm guessing the success of the fair probably helped me decide that this was making some potential. But I have to honestly say I didn't think, even at, when I quit Boeing to help my parents, my mother anyway, that this was going to become my lifelong vocation. I, I, I'll be honest, I don't think I was thinking that way at that time.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

BF: You were just again, helping out the family.

TM: Yeah, but a couple of things happened. First of all the, the Japanese family that owned that building that we were renting came to us and said that he wanted to retire, and he was getting on in age. His wife was sick or something, would we buy it? And we said, "Well gee, we can't afford a lot." Having said that we had a little bit of money from the profits so we did buy it, but they were very generous in the terms of low down payments so here again, maybe I got trapped at that time. We got this business, and we now own the property, so I don't know. But thinking back honestly, I don't think it would have been something I would have thought of that I would be talking about fifty years later or forty years later or whatever, and saying that that's what I desired to do. I don't think that would be true.

BF: So how did that happen? The, the World's Fair ended, and then I believe that your father passed, passed away.

TM: Uh-huh.

BF: And at that point Kenzo was assumed to take over.

TM: Uh-huh.

BF: And then you decided to leave Boeing.

TM: Uh-huh.

BF: And, but when you came in, you came in not just as a part of the company, but you actually came in as the president of the company?

TM: Yeah, well a few, as we were maybe sorting this out, and especially if we start to buy the property. We bought the property, just Kenzo and I myself, because in those days it was more tax advantage, there was more advantage to sell, own properties personally. But, but it became evident that if we were going to continue the business we had to incorporate and all this kind of stuff, start to buy insurance. And so we started talking about these things. And we hired Lem Tuai, who's the attorney, and we got to know him. He said, "Well, so we'll incorporate, so okay, who's gonna be president?" And my brother said, "Well, you be president." So it was very informal, but we had to start to formalize some of that loosey-goosey stuff. And then this, especially also, when you start to go out and rent money, now that we own the property, you have to have a corporation and things like that. And that's how it was. There was no formal vote or anything, he just said oh, you take over the president because it was just necessary. So that's how it happened.

BF: But it's interesting because he was assumed to be the one to take over, and he was running it up to this point. And you were working at Boeing. And yet he says, you do it.

TM: Yeah, well he said, "I'll run the front end you know, accounting and retail end. And you do whatever this legal stuff you do. And in addition you could continue to make satsumaage and things."

BF: Maybe it's -- what do you think -- and you didn't decline either. So what was it that was understood between the brothers as to why it, this arrangement made sense? Was it...

TM: I don't know. We didn't think. We don't talk very much about these issues very much. Just, just seemed natural, most expedient I guess.

BF: Had you had any, during the purchase of the property, did you sort of handle most of the details with that?

TM: Yeah, and also, you know, he's not, I'm more into the mechanics and taking care of buildings and things like that, and he knew that. So I was doing a lot of that already in terms of as a leaser, maintenance and all that anyway. So it just seemed natural for me to get into the real estate and building maintenance part of it.

BF: Now as, as things started, where the business decisions had to be made, and how did, how, how smooth was that with both you and your brother having these leadership roles in the business?

TM: Well, in the traditional way, my father, when he got ill, he did go to a lawyer, I can't remember who, it was either Mimbu or Sakahara and divided the company. It was called a company. It wasn't incorporated. And he gave, he divided the supposing, what little, whatever the company was into four, and he gave each son one fourth, twenty-five percent.

BF: Equal.

TM: He left the girls out, and he left my mother out. So in some ways I knew I had a quarter of this business. So the point I'm leading to is we had to deal with the fact that even with my brother and myself, Kenzo and myself, we had only fifty percent. We had to deal with the other twenty-five percent and fifty percent with my two brothers. As they were going on to college and serving the army, we had to be very cognizant that we had to look out for their interest, and then provide a position for them when they came back if they wanted to come back. Now dealing with the sisters is a different issue and we still are working on that issue.

BF: Did they, they didn't have a problem with the division?

TM: Well at first they didn't because my oldest sister, she went to work and got married and right after high school primarily, right after high school.

BF: Hisako?

TM: No, Suwako, my oldest.

BF: Oh.

TM: The one that was in Japan. So she probably didn't have a problem. And then Hisako and Tomoko, they both went to college and they kind of moved to California and they got married to Californians so they were away from Seattle physically. So they probably didn't give it much thought either I'm guessing. But what we did was to be -- you know, they were away and we thought, well, this isn't fair, so each of us brothers gave up five percent and gave the three sisters and my mother five percent each of our shares. Which we thought was generous, but it probably wasn't. And so we're still struggling with this. I think we, I don't know if legally, but we have now since, split the five percent of the, my mother's share into one third each for the girls, so at least now they have about seven and a half percent of the business. And we're trying to some way work around it. But recently when we had this family with all the nieces and nephews, they, they said well, you can't recreate history, so let's go forward. So, but we're, we're struggling with this issue. But in the future, how do we, I don't know, the term is not equalize, but be fair to people that work within the company that they have a stake in the potential growth of the company. You know, some informal stock option type of situation. Maybe not quite formal. At the end of the day there's two things, from, just because, from hereditary -- I mean just from the family sake you should retain some ownership. But also the people that work the company and make it grow or create value should share in the, you know, a fair share of that. We're, like I say, struggling with that issue. That's the biggest agenda item for, for the next couple of years. Resolve that before one of the four, five, seven siblings pass on. I hope to have that resolved.

BF: Yeah. But even the one generation up. You were mentioning that you had four, four sons with equal shares in the business. So running a business, that must be somewhat complicated to -- [Laughs]

TM: Yeah. Well, but you know, you could always say it could've been easier and less complicated if my dad chose to give a hundred percent to my oldest brother, which was not that uncommon either. So maybe he had some foresight. Or here again, I think it been my mother's influence. She wanted to treat everybody equally. I don't know what was in my father's mind, but maybe the attorney told him this is the better way, or he felt it was legal. Whatever, but that in itself was unusual. So here again you just take advantage or you do with what you have. And maybe because it was four ways we, we couldn't be totally dictatorial. We had to consider other people's views and consider other thoughts and everything. So in some way it was a good check and balance, I guess.

BF: And was it, was it one of those things that became part of how Uwajimaya is, is managed and the sort of culture that the business has to do things by consensus and do things kind of democratically?

TM: I think so. To the point of nausea sometimes. [Laughs] But no, I think that's true. You have to think if any one of us ended up with a hundred percent or ninety percent it would have been different. And most likely, the logically, it would have not been unusual for my father just to give everything to my older brother. In fact, if he probably lived, and I was away and my brothers were all some working somewhere else, that could have happened probably.

BF: Yeah, it, you could almost speculate that because you were still helping out with the business so much he probably, that probably influenced his decision to, to not, to divide it up. And, if you divide it up to two, you better do four.

TM: Yeah.

BF: But he drew the line there. [Laughs]

TM: I don't know the thinking. I haven't really thought this through but -- well, I'm sure as you were hinting that it did influence, and has and will continue to influence the way we do business, because, just because when you deal with partners you deal differently than if you were absolutely in control of things.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

BF: How much was your mother still -- how much of a role was your mother still playing in the business at the point you stepped in?

TM: Well, she was working very hard manually. She never cared for the bookkeeping end. She never counted the money at the end of the day. But like I said she was ordering the non-food stuff, and keeping the kitchen going, and serving the customers as needed. But she was in the background just working very hard.

BF: When you, when the brothers had to make decisions on big issues, did you try and involve her?

TM: No, by then she said you know, and she never, never to this day I recall ever having her step up and say well, you gotta do this or that. It mighta been a communication issue, but I doubt it. It was just her nature. And she never to my recollection, recollection told my dad how to run business or... I don't know if he would have listened anyway, but I don't think I ever heard her say to, publicly anyway to my father, said, well you gotta do this or that.

BF: And yet, from what I understand, your sisters, to greater or lesser degree have, have stepped up and are strong individuals and strong leaders in their, their own rights.

TM: Yeah, except for my oldest sister who has this very strong influence of staying in the background. But as you know, Tomoko and Hisako are very, speak their mind. And I don't know if that's, that's probably that generation isn't it, more or less, also? But then, having said that, I don't think my father ever discouraged us from speaking out, and my mother never did. I know that. In fact, I don't think she encouraged us either, but she never discouraged us from speaking out. And my father maybe tended to encourage us for speaking out because he had some of that in him. Not a lot, but a little bit.

BF: In what ways do you remember him encouraging you to speak out?

TM: Well, he used to say some unkind things about Japanese organizations, like they were self-serving and things like that. And then, so he had some thoughts of Nikkei organizations and he used to talk about those things. And so, he didn't publicly, but he didn't make it a secret that he felt that some of these organizations weren't doing what they were supposed to do and things like that. So if he was willing to say that somewhat in the public, you kinda tend to understand that's where he's coming from and that's accepted behavior I guess.

BF: Self-serving in what way? What did he...?

TM: Well he used to say things like the Nikkeijinkai, they weren't really serving the community, they were trying to each person just get their own recognition from Japan and things like that. And then he would say things like well, they would come around and ask for donation but they wouldn't buy things from us, or something like that.

BF: So was he involved in any of the community organizations?

TM: No, and I don't know if it was because he didn't think they were doing things right, or -- one thing I heard about, him say is that he didn't feel, although like I was telling you, he was very interested in religious philosophy, he felt he should publicly join an organization, one church or the other because he was a business person, he felt he should be neutral. So no, he did not become active in community organizations. He was active in like, maybe sports or something. But not a community spokes -- a public -- how do you say, civic organization. If he took active he might have taken an active interest in the baseball league or something like that.

BF: Oh, so that's very interesting, because that's a departure -- I mean your life in that way.

TM: Yeah.

BF: A dramatic departure from your father's.

TM: Well, after the war when he was trying to establish himself in Seattle, I'm sure he was busy. But before the war, I understand, he and when he called my brother, they were very active in the martial arts type of thing. So I'm sure he would have liked to have done that, but he was very busy. And then he got ill toward, when he probably had the time and a little bit of resources he was ill. I remember him saying that it was very important to support organizations that supported children, you know sports and things. But I didn't really see him. And I guess I didn't think about it, but -- maybe because he did do it I got involved. I don't know. But it wasn't like --

BF: Oh, because it was a niche. [Laughs]

TM: Well, and also, it was expected of any company or emerging companies within the community to be active in one thing or another.

BF: But that's kind of a more American way perhaps of thinking about businesses.

TM: But you know the Nikkeijinkai and the JACL and whatever and the churches. Their principal funding sources were businesses or people, so they naturally came around one way or the other. And my father wasn't that very generous with them. In fact he, like I say, he spoke ill of some of these organizations. But for me, when like JACL came calling I said, "Well, we should be involved." And I did, little by little got involved and then one thing led to the other and --

BF: That's very interesting. Because you, one of the things that is so much a part of who you are it seems like, is your community involvement, and yet your father was not anti-, I mean, because he had this informal network, but, but formally he wasn't big on it.

TM: No. He wasn't a strong leader in any of those organizations. Looking back I don't know how, I'll have to just say that he was very busy, but I don't know.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

BF: When you took over the business after your father passed away, and you were working, you and your brothers were working together. How much were you sort of doing the typical discussing the goals of the company and creating a vision and a business plan and things like that?

TM: Well, I don't know when, but you know, when I became the president, more or less -- yeah, you read a few things and I remember bringing in consulting, consultants helping us with some of these, and reading, and talking to accountants, and we, so some of that we did. And because any growing business has to do some thinking about -- well first of all, your basic question is do we continue? If you say, "Yeah, we do," then the question becomes what do you, what kind of strategy do you use? And then you start to say, "Well, then we have to plan five years, twenty years out." So we went through all that ritual. And I remember interviewing, and using and hiring consultants here and there along the way. And then I've been through my share of conferences, you know, like family business, or growth. I remember taking courses like reading financial statements for non-finance people. You know, those courses I've taken throughout the years. Just hope, I don't know, some of it's haphazard. Just do what you feel you have to do at that time. We haven't been really good at planning our future. Maybe that's been our success because we kind of let things happen. But like I say, our major issue next is some discussion of the equitable position. But maybe that's not the issue. The real issue is succession. Who will succeed the, when our generation retires or are gone. And pretty much the conclusion now is that we will hire and select whoever we feel is the best for the company and it doesn't have to be family members. Family members have every right to be considered, but the conclusion seems to be that there's no guarantee that just because you're a family member that you have a automatic crack to it. And the family seems to agree that that's the best way to do it.

BF: So has the, has selling been ruled out? Selling the business been ruled out?

TM: No, that hasn't been ruled out, but I think it's not a -- I mean that would be one of our last considerations.

BF: Okay.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.