Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Tomio Moriguchi Interview II
Narrator: Tomio Moriguchi
Interviewer: Becky Fukuda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 9, 1999
Densho ID: denshovh-mtomio-02

<Begin Segment 1>

BF: So today is December 9, 1999, and we're doing a second interview with Tomio Moriguchi in his house in Seattle. So Tomio, I wanted to talk a little bit about your participation in community life and community activities. You are one of a handful of Nisei who've had, so far, a life-long commitment to working in the community. And I wanted to know why -- what do you think sort of motivates people like yourself, the Nisei and that group?

TM: Well you know, it's a variety of reasons. And, a lot of it, some of it's culture, some of it is feeling good about it and pride. And you sometimes feel, you step up to something that you see others not doing or you feel you could do it better than others, but it's very complex. I, I try to think this through myself, and the more I thought about it, it became very complex. But I, I think it's just something you enjoy doing. And then it's kind of like once you start and people ask you, and you feel obligated, and it kind of makes you feel good that you're wanted or needed. And then so you just keep getting involved. There's a saying about, do all that's expected and soon more will be expected of you. But, you know I think we won't continue unless you felt good or at least you felt you were contributing. And people you read or talk to says, "I want to be there as long as I feel I'm contributing." And I think at this stage of my life, that, that sums it up. But why I started, what, I don't know. I think a lot of it is due to -- you think you do things to help your business or help your family, and you do that incrementally. And then it starts to kind of lose, I don't know, there's no fine definition or fine line. Things just gets merged. And some, some are long-range issues. Some are become immediate issues. They get blurred a little bit.

BF: It sounds like it becomes almost a habit.

TM: Right. Habit. And habit, and habits and hobbies are something you should enjoy.

BF: But there's, there's other people, Nisei or non-Nisei obviously, who, when they have achieved the level of success you have, they, they just play.

TM: Well, you know --

BF: Do you ever feel like just getting rid of all the obligations and travel or --

TM: Well, I've been fortunate, kind of being the "owner/manager." You know, I've had the flexibility to travel and kind of do the things I want to do, so yeah. Well, I haven't -- we haven't made all that money. A lot of the assets I have is, I always say it's on the -- in the rice in the shelf of the store. So it's not that easy to just spend. But having said that, I guess I have enough funds if I want to travel, but I try to travel two, three months out of the year. At least a month. Fact, I don't know if I told you, but when I graduated high school, I said I will take a month off every year and try to go somewhere every year I'd never been to. And I've been fairly successful in that. In the, in early stage, I used to go on three trips, one with the whole family, one with my daughter, and one with my son. And my wife didn't like to travel too much, but... so then my son would say, "Yeah, Dad, you take me to the Boy Scout and you take your daughter to Paris or something." But I don't know, maybe I told you that. So I've always enjoyed traveling. And I don't think I've been deprived at, other than time. It's never because of financial reasons.

BF: So you, at an early age, wanted to see different parts of the world?

TM: Yeah. And I think this is part of the philosophy of maybe my dad or the culture, that travel, traveling is broadening. And then it started like a lot of the people that, Japanese, Isseis, that came to America was, "Go East, young man." But this philosophy of Westerner in our culture was "Go West," but in Asia it was, "Go East to America." And so it's something that within my father's family and his friends was something that was talked about and accepted, to travel, to have different experiences. And so it was a part of our upbringing, I think.

BF: So you have the blood of, of an immigrant?

TM: Well, yeah. Maybe I told you earlier that my father was, I think, honestly determined to go back with the family. And probably that was more reason if people are going to become stuck in a little town in Tokyo or Japan, you probably wanted to see the world before you got stuck there.

BF: Right, right.

TM: But the more you travel, you also realize that there's a lot of places, even within our state, that I have not visited. You could spend a lifetime just on the Pacific Coast, up and down.

BF: And so it sounds like you, you feel like you've learned a lot, that the travel was more than just for enjoyment, but that it really broadened your perspective in a, in a meaningful way?

TM: Well, I don't look at it that way so much as you meet a lot of people and you understand that there's a lot of different ways to look at things, there's a lot of ways to do things. So you, you try not to get stuck in the mud. And you try not to become just very traditional because there's so many ways of thinking, doing things, and different values out there. And, and you pick these up when you travel. That's part of it, I think, yeah.

But also getting back to community involvement, if you feel you could bring some of these thinking, thoughts, ideas, or whatever you see as you travel to whatever community, committee, or organization you are, you feel good about it, too. And conversely when, if you're sitting at a boardroom and somebody talks about, oh, London or Paris, it sure makes you feel good if you were there already and you could relate to it. And so when people talk primarily about Asia, it makes you feel good, or they'll turn to you and say, "What do you think, Tomio?" And you feel, well, gee, I had some similar or dissimilar, I disagree. But at least you could say those things. If you've never been there, you can't relate to that. And most of the organizations that I've been involved with, I wouldn't say the primary reason I was there, but I think I was there unofficially representing the kind of Asian, and so I was expected to know certain things Asian. And having traveled gave you that confidence to be able to speak, supposedly. As I get older, I get less authoritative. But when you're younger, you think you know everything. You went to Tokyo, you know everything. Every time I go back, you'll see things you never thought of or seen before, but it's amazing.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

BF: Well, let's, let's talk some more about some of the other people that have influenced your thinking, and particularly this, this interest in community service, people like Reverend Andrews, or you mentioned Wing Luke. In what ways did, did they influence you or impress you?

TM: Well, I don't think they influenced or impressed me in terms of telling me that I should go out and do community service or things. Their, they impressed me by their integrity and their willingness to, I don't know, speak out and -- well, maybe not speak out, but do things that they felt was right for the future. Those are the things I've gathered that -- you talk about Wing Luke. When he was a city councilperson, we were all, as fellow Asians, we were very, very proud of him. He used to walk up and down Main Street, King Street, Jackson Street, come into these businesses like ours and just say, "Hey, what's happening?" So if it's a hot day, we're eating ice cream or something, so we'll hand him over ice cream or a bottle of soda pop. And he would always leave money, which really was impressive. So that's, those are the influence, I think, that I value. So there's people of so-called making, position of authority, but have the integrity to be willing to listen to you, but that type of integrity. And I could say the same thing about Reverend Andrews. He -- when you go camping with him, I was in fact, camping with him on one wet evening, and we had this lean-to. And when some Girl Scouts came up, he says, "Let's move. The girls can have this." I thought that was very unreasonable, but that's the kind of things that influence you, I think. As a gentleman, as a society there are certain, proper etiquettes, and things that just becomes a natural, and that's what they did. Not even thinking about, this is what's expected of us, and so we do it. That's, those are things that I value, I guess.

BF: And so you were involved with the Scouts, and Reverend Andrews was a scoutmaster at the time?

TM: Uh-huh.

BF: Was that -- were you involved with Scouts for a long period of time?

TM: Probably longer than most. About the time I was coming on, I forgot the term, like Tenderfoot, reduced age was from ten or thirteen down to eleven or something. I got, got there about when I was ten or eleven -- I mean ten, eleven, twelve or something because I was kind of hanging around with my older brothers. They were scouts. But I kind of hung around. Like I told you, Reverend Andrew's son, Brooks, was the same age, so there was two or three of us that kind of was the next generation. But we followed around, but we kind of stuck around, kind of tagged along for a while. And before we knew it, we were the, kind of the older leadership group. So I stuck through it almost through college in one way or another. Because I -- here again, I probably, that was, I'm thinking about it right now, that's probably the first time I kind of got involved with assisting, leadership position or something like that. And, but lot of the younger generation were either my kid brother's age or kid brothers of friends or something like that. So you just felt obligated to try to do whatever was right.

BF: So this was an all-Nikkei troop?

TM: No, it was probably primarily Nikkei. There was a few like Brooks Andrews was hakujin. But there was a few others, but, but primarily Nikkei because it was attachment, Japanese Baptist Church.

BF: Right, right.

TM: And as a Baptist Church-attached organization, we helped with various functions in the church like bazaars or lunches or whatever they had. Not a lot, but to stay, stay involved. But I didn't attend church or so-called become a member of the church as such.

BF: There's a part of the troop. What about, I was thinking maybe your, your mother might have influenced your involvement in the community because it sounds like from your descriptions in our first interview that she was always sort of serving an extended family.

TM: Yeah. She did a wonderful job in setting up a atmosphere where people, all people, I mean our friends, my friends, my brother's friends and businesspeople and my father's friends were comfortable coming together. So maybe there was no serious formal discussion, but -- and that maybe relates back to traveling. You just start to relate to people from different backgrounds, and I've enjoyed that. But my mother has to be appreciated for allowing that type of atmosphere to happen.

BF: Because she was -- a lot of people in her generation were much more shy, especially around non-Japanese.

TM: Well, yeah. That's -- I never thought of it that way. But she was not untypical, and that gracious host. They were just good hosts. But she came from a family that the father, her father and my grandfather were businesspeople traveled back and forth from Japan frequently. And she was raised in Japan. I'm guessing at some, probably pretty good high school. She traveled. She played the koto. So she did some of the finer things. And she had a house maid, I know, because my grandfather, when my real grandfather, my, passed away, my grandfather married the, I guess they call jochuusan, maid, I guess? And she was a wonderful lady. When I first went to Japan I got to meet her. She passed away a few years after that, but what was a wonderful person she was. So my mother was exposed to more, I don't know how to say, life that's attuned to maybe middle-class, business, travel, and things like that. She's traveled Europe on cruises, and she's been a lot of places.

BF: Wow. That seems sort of unusual.

TM: She was kind of funny, and sometimes she would say, watching TV, not often, but once in a while, "Oh, there's Paris -- I was there. There's London -- I was there. There's Panama Canal -- I was there." I says, "Wow." [Laughs]

BF: That's great.

TM: She's taken, I don't know about my kids. I guess even my kids, but she's taken her grandchildren to New York, to Japan.

BF: Wow.

TM: And California, frequently.

BF: Most women I know who are in your mother's generation go to Reno, and that's about it. [Laughs]

TM: I don't think she, my mother ever went to Reno. But the point is, I remember she took my daughter and my niece to Japan one early spring. And it snowed or something, and she practically had to -- you get on those trains, if you've been there. And if you don't, no seat, you just stand, and they said she stood up for two, three hours and let the kids sit down and things like that. That's what my daughter says. But anyway, the point is, she's traveled herself. And whenever possible she's taken her grandchildren or -- yeah, my, her grandchildren to various places.

BF: Adventurous.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

BF: Well, let's move on to talking about specifically some of the organizations you've, you've been a part of. I mean, I was looking at your resume, and everything from, you're, you're still involved with the Federal Reserve, and to smaller local organizations like the JACC, the Japanese American Chamber. What was it like when you were first getting involved with some of these boards? Was -- did you have much experience? Did you know what to expect? Was this something you went into purely for business reasons, or you were curious about what it was like?

TM: Well, one of the -- and I can't tell, I got to do some research on any notes or just historically, but one of the first real politically related type of involvement I was involved with and got involved with was the early '60s, I was still maybe working at Boeing, but helping my father out, or even my father must just maybe passed away. But the Model City program was a huge federal program that took cities like Seattle, and they cut a big district or property. And the property in Seattle that they cut was from almost Lake Washington and pie-shaped all the way down to the waterfront near like foot of Yesler. And our old business in 5th and Main Street was right within that border. And, and couple things happened; one, I, I don't know the sequence, but one is when I -- one morning I got up on Sunday, and they were proposing -- and I don't know, I guess it was the Seattle Engineering Department proposing some kind of, they call it Ring World, different cities have it. They call it the Inner Ring Road and the Outer Ring Road. And the Outer Ring Road was going to be part of I-5, which was built in the viaduct. And they agreed to spin around the city. And the outer -- and then they had a, proposed an Inner Ring Road that was, would come along 5th Avenue, cut down Main Street and go back. And this was ultimately going to be some kind of mass transit. You look at this map and says, "Wow. Our store is right there, and it's going to be demolished." It just comes around.

So I called, I forgot whoever it was, engineering department. And one thing led to another, they says, "Well, what you got to do is go up to Model City because they're going to have the federal funds to do this." So before you know it, you're there, you're going to some meetings, before you know it. They says, "Okay. The International District is really not well-represented. Why don't we give you some money and you go down there and see if you could get the local organization and the local businesspeople and the property owners together." So that was one of my first assignment, I guess, for selfish reasons.

And that turned out to be the International District Improvement Association, Interim. I was the first chair of that. We negotiated for a great sum of about $19,000. And actually we -- one of the first persons we hired as a director was a, is the nephew of Senator Dan Inouye, very interesting guy. I don't know where he went. But he came, we hired him. Oh, I take it back. The first person we hired, was assigned to us, was Reverend Lem Peterson, who was a retired minister. And he's still very active. He must be eighty-five. We still exchange correspondence. But he was assigned to the Model City program. He was then assigned to us. And he helped us set up this organization.

And a side story, we also at that time -- this is kind of a side issue. But at that time, Lem Peterson went to the University of Washington for the Model City program to ask for some help from architectural students. And there was a fifth-year architectural student named Merritt Sakata. He came down and helped us for one summer. And he was engaged to a girl from Seattle, Carol Farnsworth, who -- small world, I kind of knew her parent -- I mean, I didn't know her parents, who was an activist in the community. Anyway, they came down, did some wonderful work for us. And so toward the end of the summer, he, Merritt comes to the, "I think you owe me one." I said, "Yeah, I guess so." He says, "I know three girls from Hawaii coming. They need a job because they're going to the University of Washington. So I hired these three girls sight-unseen, and one of them was Lovett." [Laughs]

BF: Your wife.

TM: Yeah. So to this day we -- in fact, he was here just by coincidence because her mother's not, father had an operation. They were here, so they came to the lunch. But we're still very good friends. And Merritt and Lovett, they went to the junior prom together, something like that.

BF: Oh, really?

TM: Yeah. So, they were neighbors or something. And he went on to some eastern, four-year college. She went to the University of Hawaii. And then she was going to come to go to the University of Washington. So she said, "I had to marry you, you paid me so little." [Laughs] So anyway, that's that the sad -- and the other two ladies, one married, by coincidence, a family friend's son, Victor. They just live two, three, about a mile away. And their daughter's same age as my daughter, Denise. So we've stayed in touch, and it's kind of like family. So the other one, she's around too. But all three --

BF: So you were dating an employee?

TM: Right.

BF: Boy. Nowadays that wouldn't have --

TM: Yeah, I know. Well, I was just trying to do my friend a favor. But anyway that's a side, but anyway, so that was probably one of the first -- but looking back, I think maybe, my activities at the Boy Scouts might have been kind of a first, I don't know how you say, community board membership, leadership-type of situation. Anyway, getting back, Model City program. We set it up, and that became Interim. And then as you know, with the history of Interim, they spun off to a lot of things, within the organization. Then when Interim, after two, three years, it became more, it, concerned with the social, health, welfare, and that kind of activity. And I felt that that's fine for Interim, but we needed a chamber of commerce-type of organization. So I was with people like Mrs. Uno, Shigeko Uno, and a few other businesspeople, Dr. Toda, we started the idea, International District Economic Association. And we ran that for a few years.

BF: More business centered?

TM: Right. Then two, three years ago, I was involved, I co-chaired the effort to create the International District BIA, the Business Improvement Area. And once that was established, we folded the idea. But the Business Improvement Area, BIA's are, as you know, are able to assess property owners and businesspeople. And so there's about $140,000 annual budget. So it's not enough, never enough money, but at least there's an organization that outside forces could relate to and also the, could try to coordinate parking, promotion, and things like that. And our, fortunately, we were set up to, as you know, when Paul Allen's going to build that big football stadium, they set aside some money. And the BIA seems like a logical entity to be able to maybe use some of that money. So that's fortunate to have had that organization.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

BF: Now, when you were involved in these, when -- like in the Model Cities, that sounds like a fairly large bureaucratic organization to sort of get your feet wet. I mean, and you come from obviously a business background because of your family, but how did, how, how equipped did you feel in getting, when you were getting involved and they're asking you to represent the International District, things like that? Was it sort of just learn on your feet, or did you find that it was not, not too hard to figure out what was going on and what needed to get done?

TM: Probably a combination. One of the things if you run a family business or involved you know darn well that it's not, I don't know what term am I looking, autocratic. You have to be a consensus. So when it took that type of thinking or that type of action, then I felt comfortable. I was not prepared for dealing with, quite frankly, non-Nikkei, non-Asian-type people -- well, non-Nikkei. And so that was a learning experience which I think has, in retrospect, has helped me subsequently. The mentality of the people in the Model City program was a eye-opener, very frustrating.

BF: Can you give an, me an example of sort of --

TM: Well, you know, we knew Walt Huntley. And two or three examples I have was that we were allocated X dollars, $19,000-something. But some way the checks never came on time, so we practically had to sit in his office some mornings, just to sit there. And he meant well, but the bookkeepers for some reason, the efficiency was just not there. Then some others, they said, "Okay, come to our meeting." So you go to the meetings, and they're sitting there, and they're spending 90 percent of their time on internal issues, like what days off we should have, what sick leaves. And I says, "Well, geez, those are not relevant issues to us." But that seems to get to the priorities. So it was very frustrating.

But getting back to the couple times we had to practically sit there. Our director, I think it was, oh geez, I can't remember. Inouye, Dan, not Dan, Dan's nephew. We had to practically make an appointment, sit there, and just sit there until they either gave you the check or promised you something. And that, those are just unfortunate, unpleasant memories dealing with that organization. However, I learned a lot. And some of those contacts I made, I still maintain. Hasn't been the best experience, but some of those people have become very involved in political or work for city, state, or county govern -- government, people like Larry Gossett. And they have become leaders in the community, in fact. And coupled with some of the friends I've made in high school, Garfield. Some of the black leaders. I can't agree with them philosophically. [Laughs] But at least they were there. And those served, I think, served me well as I got involved with some other issues.

BF: So rather than some of these frustrations turning you off to this sort of involvement, it sounds like you started assessing sort of, well, I would do this differently or --

TM: Well, but there was -- you can't believe the amount of money that the Model City had. I mean they -- we got $19,000 or whatever. I mean, I still remember it because it was such a pittance. But they had millions of dollars. They really just were unable to use it efficiently. But the point is, it was the carrot. There was millions of dollars. And we said, "Gee, we're deserving of some of it." And indirectly we did get a lot of it. The PDA, the Public Development Authority, Interim, they've -- we've received a Model City grants or block grants, which is kind of the residual of the Model City program. But we, we received thousands of, maybe millions of dollars indirectly throughout the years. So you kind of have to gaman and say, "Well, if that money's there and it could help us..." -- and it did help us because Interim has spun off the Public Development Authority, the -- and indirectly like the Denise Louis. Maybe not so much ACRS, but lunch programs and health clinic and things. So -- the parking lot, Merchants Parking Association. And then, I think indirectly, the BIA is a product or a, or a child of Interim. So indirectly it did. When you -- so for selfish reasons, you just kept going back and trying to play the game because it was necessary.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

BF: You've, you've been in the, the International District for quite a while now. Do you ever sit back and think about all the changes, or does it seem like it hasn't changed all that much?

TM: It's kind of like cities, when you stay away three, four years, it changes very fast. But if you're there and see it every day, it doesn't seem to change. But you and I know that the International District has changed dramatically the last couple years. And the problem is it just takes a little while initially. But once it start to change, the change is phenomenal.

BF: Do you think it's, it's all positive, or do you think --

TM: Well, it's not positive, but it's necessary and it's inevitable.

BF: What do you mean, what do you mean by -- why do you think that some of the change is not positive in that way?

TM: Well, if you take social comfort, change is never comfortable to a lot of people. And change sometimes could relate to unknown or unpredictable. So if you equate it that way, there's a lot of people that live their, all their lives, this is their whole... and to have change is deserving, I guess.

BF: Yeah. What are some of the things that you sort of miss about...

TM: The old days?

BF: The old I.D, yeah.

TM: Well, you know, one of the things we used to do is we used to go out and drink and have a nice time. And Bob Santos, and people would just gravitate to a watering hole. And this is where all the discussion was. And we would cuss at each other a little bit. But there was no real bad feeling, I don't think. But now, you go in and you're wondering if, if what are, what are they really thinking? There's just not that open communication. It might be a generational issue. It might be a lot of things. But in those days, we used to just go into like Bush Garden. Danny Woo had a restaurant up there, second floor, we used to go in. I don't know how often, but I felt -- whenever I went, I felt comfortable. We talked about positive things and bad things too. Like we would, but positive things. And that's what made things happen. And that's what we miss. And, and the sad part, when you look back, the people that are now opposed or uncomfortable are not the people that were at that table. And you didn't think about it in those days, but... it's, so there's, we're trying to recreate some of that feeling. We have the so-called unofficial Blue Sky Committee that meets about once every two, three months and try to reconstruct... but the same feeling is not there. The positive thing is it's kind of a hand-picked group, so they, the people that do come together are professional and mean well. But it's different, and maybe it should be different. But it is different.

BF: You mentioned Santos, and, and he's a recognized leader in the community in the I.D. as you are. And I'm wondering if you see sort of a new crop of leadership coming out of the district, or is that part of the problem?

TM: That's one of the reasons why this so-called Blue Sky Group is together. We felt that we should at least discuss how we should influence or whatever we could do to make, make sure we get a crop of leaders that we feel are looking out for our interest, I guess.

BF: Is it, is it hard to organize partly because it's so pan-Asian? I mean, partly because --

TM: Yeah. It, there's a lot of factors. And, and a lot of it might be just generational. Bob and I are maybe a few years apart, but basically same age. And then we got the next generation of people like Sue Taoka and people running the different organizations, such as ACRS and these wonderful organizations. They're the doers. They're the next generation. And obviously that's where the leadership, if any, emerges and has to come from. But they are then turning, "Who's behind us?" So we're kind of concerned about that. And so we're trying to get people -- but leadership is, is something that volumes of books have been written about. And I can't figure that out. And the more you think you know, the less is probably true. But leadership is a matter of mathematics. If you have enough people interested, you'll find a leader within it. So the question becomes: how many -- how do you attract enough mass of people at least interested, at least willing to talk to you and willing to have vested interest in the area, if you have enough of those, then I think the leader will emerge. So that's just how I think it about today. Tomorrow I maybe think about it differently. But yeah, but the district, it will be there one way or the other. And maybe all this talk about leadership and everything probably, maybe doesn't influence, but I guess you have -- that's what you wake up and do, and you feel that some way you influence this. And that's what keeps me going, I guess. And you think it, hopefully, you think it's positive and you're doing good. But I guess you'll find out sometimes people don't think you're doing good or agree with what you're doing, but then I guess having short memory helps sometimes. [Laughs]

BF: Remember the good; forget the bad.

TM: Yeah. You look about it, think about it, we've been kicked around a lot, in terms of -- hopefully not personally, but because of the business we ran or because some organization that I had to represent and make some statements that may not always been popular. But overall, you hope it's, works out.

BF: Does it help sometimes when you're being attacked because of some of those unpopular decisions, does the family make a big difference, 'cause you have such a large supportive family?

TM: Well -- and that's, yeah. Family. Immediate family, you know is always there because they can't kick you out. You're blood. But also that was the feeling of, I was trying to relate, I guess, to you is that we used to get together and talk over a beer or, you knew, even if you disagreed, they were behind you and they are trying to support you. And I'm, and I'm saying that that feeling is not there. And for lots of reasons because we probably didn't grow up together, and for whatever reason, but the point is it's not there. And I'm not saying it's good or bad. I'm just saying, that's the way it is. It's not there. And so you have to stop to think, is that critical? Can you work around it or what? Was it even important? But I guess you have to feel it was because the end result of some of those efforts and discussions have created, have done and served a lot of people. Maybe not perfectly, or maybe we could have done more, but I think history will say that we have done a fair share for our district, International District-type of a operation. You hate to say this, but we didn't, compare that with some of the efforts in the Inter -- Central Area, and all the money that the Model City threw at that. Anyway, when you compare the outcome of their efforts and the outcome of our efforts, I have to feel very proud of the people, the colleagues that we worked with in the International District.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

BF: Have you thought about -- I mean, it sounds like you're someone who looks at situations and learns from them, takes the good, tries to absorb it, looks at the bad and tries to never, not do that, and --

TM: Well, I'm not a book...

BF: Do you feel like you learned?

TM:, so I -- that's the only way I know how to do it.

BF: So do you think -- I mean, were there -- I mean, I don't want to put you on the spot, but were there other groups that you thought, that's not the way to go, or are there lessons that you remember learning about why the I.D. was, was doing well in this Model Cities program, but other communities weren't?

TM: Well, you know, I, I try not to dwell on what other people have or have not done. I just made that as a comment. But I think a couple things that I have personally tried to push, and that was probably through my business experience and having served on maybe other than International District or Nikkei community. But one thing I always push is to have a very good executive director. And when you look back on most small organization, doesn't even have to be Asians or minority, but -- and I'll use JACL as a good example -- is they have never committed to paying the proper wages and whatever it takes to get a quality person. And it's not only money, but the point is, the Niseis have -- I'll use that as an example, and I'm sure this is true with a lot of smaller, emerging organizations. Some way they just, I mean, to give the new director responsibility or -- and it's not only wages, but recognition and, and concern about their welfare. But they just say, we're going to pay only X dollars, and they just say -- if we find somebody, great. If we don't, they don't go out of their way and says, well, "Becky," -- it's not only money -- "what do you need out of this?" What can you get out of this? I don't think -- I think we're trying to do that within the various organizations I've been involved with. And I'll be very frank. I'm not promoting the top dollar because I, you have to balance the budget. But there's ways you could give people responsibility and other compensation. And I think organizations that came back -- I don't know if that's what you asked. If they have not succeeded is, I think, part of that reason.

BF: Yeah. I think a lot of organizations serving the community think you should do so just out of commitment or altruism. And sometimes they expect that and don't really reward the people.

TM: And the, getting back to Nikkei. They have done well in the churches and Nikkeijinkai and whatever without paid staff. So it's a mindset. But as you move forward, you have to think, is that the way you're going to do it? And I'm going to say no, because you can't do this with bake sales anymore. You can't. But that's the unfortunate problem, that not only Nikkei organization, but some small organizations within our district or any other organizations trying to do something have not been able to accomplish, I think.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

BF: Well, that brings us to another topic I wanted to talk about, and that is some of the Nikkei organizations that you've played a really key role in, like, well, you mentioned JACL, but also Nikkei Concerns, formerly Issei Concerns. And let -- I wanted to start first with JACL 'cause I think you've started -- that, that group came earlier in time in your life. And what got you involved in JACL, because not everyone in this, the Nikkei community was really supportive of JACL, especially right after the war or after the war period. So what was it that got you involved?

TM: Well, let me say first of all, if I knew what I know now, I probably wouldn't have gotten into the JACL too early. And I think --

BF: Because it was too much work or what?

TM: No. I was recruited, heavily recruited by people like Don Kazama and I'm assuming, Min Masuda, and some of the then-leadership, totally because they felt that somebody kind of young coming along, had some business experience. So I was pretty, pretty much on the fast track. And I felt that JACL was an important organization, so I got involved. And once you get involved, I guess, hard to say no. I guess maybe my personality or nature just got involved. But as I became a board member, I used to enjoy those meetings because they -- Min and Don were talking about issues that were fairly foreign to me. I mean new to me, and fascinating. Don was trying to upgrade the postal workers, as an example. Min was starting to talk about --

BF: Because of discrimination in the postal service?

TM: Yes. In the leadership positions and things like that. I can't remember what Min's case was. It wasn't redress, but it was things leading up to redress. I think it was equal opportunities, and just civil rights and discrimination issues. And he was becoming a leader of the Japanese community on some of those issues. And as I told you, two things happened, first of all, I can't remember, but as the vice president of the board, after a couple years, Min says, "You know, in a few years," I can't remember exact, but 1960 or something -- he says, "we're going to have the 50th anniversary of JACL." Also as it turns out, that was really true. It was 50th years, 50th year of the Progressive Japanese Association or something like that, which was the forefather. JACL didn't like that, but that's another story. So anyway, they says, "Well, you've -- we got to have a 50th anniversary." I said, "Okay, I'd like a party." So I headed that, recruited some people, mostly JACL people. But Harry Kadoshima's one of the first I recruited. I says, "I need somebody to take care of the money." And then I drove down with my family down to San Jose, and got to know, met Min -- Norm Mineta. I says, "Oh, you're the first Japanese mayor of a major city. You got to come to Seattle and be our speaker." And we became friends. We still are good friends. So we had a very successful banquet. So you learn to work with the Niseis, older people. They're not that much older, but when you're thirty, somebody forty is pretty old. And that was a good experience, May Nambas and the Cherry Kinoshitas, and Shigeko Uno, all those wonderful people that, if you have a program laid out, you can't beat them in terms of executing whatever it takes. Just fantastic. So that was a good experience.

Then also, I don't know exactly the timing, but this young gentleman, young man that was assistant or curator at the Museum of History and Industry some way came to JACL. And I don't know who it was, but before I knew it, Min says, "Well, you're vice president. Why don't you look into this?" And I don't know the real sequence, but went down there, talked them, and they said they had some old photographs of not only the Japanese community, but he happened to run into some photographs of the Japanese community. And he says, "Well, why can't we use these photos and get a, I'd like to have an exhibit, not only for the Japanese community, but for various ethnic communities." So I don't know what happened. I guess I could go and research that. But anyway, so we sat down, talked a few times. I says, JACL has a good history, but there's other organizations such as the Buddhist Church and Baptist Church I knew had equal good histories. So he said, "Well, why don't we go to them and have them take a booth and give their story?" And that's how it happened. Okay, so we're going along, and here again, I have very little feelings about the redress, internment. I probably come from the school where I just want to forget about it. I don't even want to deal with it. But, so we go to people like Min, and I remember Larry Matsuda and few others, they says, "Oh, no, no. You can't leave that out. It's a very important part of history." I said, "Well, okay, let's talk about it." So we had, we brought in other people. I remember a small part of it, Dana's father put together a model of the camp and one thing or another. So we put that part. But the funny part of it was somebody dug out these old posters that, "Japs Not Wanted" and all that. So we put that up. And the director, who was a elderly Caucasian lady, she got really uptight about this. So --

BF: It made her uncomfortable.

TM: Uncomfortable. But the point here, we had a huge, a large discussion -- not a huge, large, but very, looking back, very healthy, educational discussion of what's right, what's wrong, what's history, all this stuff. So those are, looking back, was some influential discussion that I was privileged to have and didn't really give much thought to before that point.

BF: So what happened with the poster that the museum had a problem with?

TM: I think we had just turned it over when the lady was around, turned it around, but she was -- but I'm not kind of a hell, you know hell-raiser, so I just says, "Well, we're in her house." We try to accommodate her, but then I had, listening to the other side, so we just flipped it around back and forth.

BF: You kind -- you found a compromise.

TM: Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

TM: And I think they -- that's my role has always been kind of compromise. The funny thing that happened was one of the, director of the Washington State Museum, which is now located in or -- it was always located in Olympia -- oh, shoot, I forgot his name. But anyway, he came by, and I guess he goes around to all exhibits. That's his job. He comes by, and he sees it. And then before I know it, I get this call, says, "You know, what you should do is apply to the National Endowment of Humanities grant, and make a traveling exhibit and get some monies for a docent and bring it around."

BF: So he was really impressed with this little exhibit.

TM: Yeah. He said, "This is a very interesting story." And so I says, "Oh, okay." I says, "Hell, I don't know how to write these things." So Min, we talked about it. And Min says, "Well, I could probably write the proposal." So that's how we, it was very successful. I can't remember, it was hundreds of thou -- hundreds of doll -- $100,000, $150,000, whatever it was, which was a lot of money. And so we got the money, and we hired Roy Tsuboi to -- and I brought him some friends, Harold Kawaguchi, who was a industrial designer to make the frame. And so we kept working on it. And we brought it in, probably in terms of hard cost, the budget, but if you paid everybody the time they spent, was very -- I wouldn't say expensive, but quite a, not an easy project and --

BF: And so this is a, this is a photo exhibit?

TM: Uh-huh.

BF: And what, it was in MOHI, Museum of History and Industry. And with the NEH funding, it was made into an exhibit that could travel?

TM: Actually, it was changed quite a bit. At MOHI, I think what we did was just give booth to like the churches and Buddhist Church.

BF: Oh.

TM: So we had to come back when we start to -- well, and this is the educational process, and this is where I probably got to know Min because we were practically together two, three times a week. I say, "Hey, first of all, I don't know what's going on. But secondly, you can't, I mean with discussions, you got to have a theme, and you got to say what the heck you're trying to achieve." I said, "That's way over my head." But, so we had to develop a theme and a story behind it. And so we practically was unable to use, I would say most of what was there. But that was a very interesting learning process. And like I say, I'm not a scholar type, so through osmosis or discussion, I learned a lot. But anyway, so Min and a few committee members got together, put this whole thing together, and we submitted, he submitted the proposal we were granted. And part of that proposal also, in addition to it being traveling, was a docent. And we went to places like community college or, and it showed exhibit, but had two or three programs where students were brought in, and we had two or three Niseis and a panel of discussion and some question/answer. One comment, disappointing as to the turnout. We just thought thousands of people would have to come to see our exhibit. But there wasn't that much interest. And I sat, maybe not often, once or twice in those panel, and that in itself was a learning experience. But in retrospect, I don't think we made as much impact as I thought we would or could have or should have, but --

BF: Well, this is the, this is I should say the, they call it the Pride and Shame exhibit. That was the title.

TM: Right.

BF: And so you're saying that the impact outside the Nikkei community was maybe not so big?

TM: Yeah, I mean not a direct. It's always indirect. It's always better to do it than not do it, but I think if I were to do it now, we would promote it much differently, much bigger and much, so --

BF: But this was at a time where not very many Japanese Americans were feeling very proud of their history.

TM: Well, in that sense, if it, you feel, and I guess I never really gave it much thought, but if you feel that it was a value to the Nikkei community, then maybe it had some value. And maybe it did because invariably to these functions that tell the story about the community, it's a community. It's kind of like preaching to the choir type of situation. And so be it. I guess maybe that was okay. But --

BF: What about the impact on you? I mean, you said that, prior to having to get involved in this exhibit, you hadn't really thought too much about what had happened and the history of the community, and now it was sort of your job to put it out there. Do you think it changed your, well, politics or outlook?

TM: Oh, definitely. I -- well, let's go back. First of all, my father never spoke about it. My mother seldom spoke about the relocation. I guess I told you that one time, the only thing she ever said was that, if they told her how long the duration of that internment would be, then they could have planned for what little money they had or, you know they, she said something like, "Well, they didn't know, I didn't know if they would shoot you or me." So that was a very, the term like fuan or something, some Japanese term that says it was very unsettling. But that's all she said. She never said anything. So the point is I think if I didn't become involved with JACL, the Pride and Shame type of program, my awareness and involvement would have been much less, I'm sure.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

TM: But about the same time, and here again, I can't remember exactly when, but when I was active with the JACL -- and I don't know if it was before or after the exhibit, but Edison Uno was a guest in Seattle for some reason. And he spoke, and I was really impressed by what he said, and --

BF: He was the father of the redress movement?

TM: I think so. And he probably isn't given proper credit. But having said that, I have to be proud of the people in Seattle, that Miyatake, and Ken Nakano and Shosuke and Henry Miyatake and people like that. They picked up the ball. I didn't agree with the process, but the ideal of what they were trying to achieve, I really applaud and --

BF: The process of --

TM: Well, they, they didn't want to work within the establishment like JACL. And they were very uncompromising. And it probably paid off because when people like Edison was talking about, I think, and because of the strong influence of Mike Masaoka, they were talking about block grant, and --

BF: A big sum of money that would --

TM: And Henry was arguing all the reasons, which now I agree with, I didn't know if I agreed with it at that time, the system and favoritism and ultimately it's probably a worse system. So they pushed for individual, and I guess I didn't exactly agree with the method they used. But looking back, maybe there was no other method, other than to be headstrong and just demand and not compromise because if they, I suppose if you compromise somewhere, it would have become a compromise, and it would have been a block grant.

BF: Were you a part of the, the leadership in JACL at the time when they were trying to decide whether to go with, with an individual payment...

TM: Yes.

BF: ...versus block grants that would be distributed through someplace like JACL.

TM: I was the --

BF: Were those real heated and --

TM: Oh, yeah. It was, except like I say, it was uncompromising and not the traditional way I went about it. But I was in Sacramento, and I can't remember what year, I was treasurer, and people like Mike Masaoka says, "The block grant's the only way we could go." And Min Yasui, people like that, well, that's another story. But I was kind of disappointed that they weren't looking at the big picture, I don't think. Gordon Hirabayashi was probably, but others were lining themself up behind certain people or something. And that's not --

BF: Internal politics.

TM: Yeah. And that's not uncommon, unfortunately. And looking back, unfortunate -- fortunately, I was so busy with my own personal life and family and marriage, and running Uwajimaya, so I got out of there pretty fast.

BF: But you did lobby?

TM: Well, I was --

BF: Was that local, locally?

TM: Yeah, I was asked to serve, speak at the hearing, which I thought was a waste of time, but in retrospect, that was a very good idea that --

BF: These are the commission hearings?

TM: Yes. That -- I really admire -- Sparky is the one that pushed for that.

BF: Matsunaga? Okay.

TM: But I think that was good. I was asked to speak. The other sad not -- interesting highlight to that is that Naomi, Naomi, yeah. Her name is now Sanchez, but what was her name? Anyway, she was working for the governor, Spellman. And Naomi calls me and says, "The governor's been asked to also testify. And he won't be there, but would you like something that we could do?" So I typed something up and sent it out. In fact, we, I can't remember who came and testified, it was practically word-for-word what I wrote. And Naomi says, "Yeah, John was really appreciative of what you wrote."

BF: Oh, interesting.

TM: So I had my story plus his. But that's not public. But, but, so in some, I always had my finger in there little bit, in some ways.

BF: What did you...

TM: Oh.

BF: Now you lobbied the Republicans?

TM: Yes.

BF: Why was, why was that your assignment? [Laughs]

TM: Well, because most JACL minorities were aligned with the Democrats, I guess, for whatever reason. But I knew most of the Republicans because I aligned myself, but also when Ruth Woo, Ruth Yoneyama -- do you know her? She came, she lost her husband in Chicago. And she came to Seattle, and she started to work for Dan Evans. And she moved way up. And so she would always try to get me, and I became good friends with her. Always trying to get me on some boards of commissions. And I said, "I don't need it anymore." But anyway, she got me on like, a community college board. And before that, she got me on some kind of a police something, organization board, where Slade Gorton was heading. So I got to know Slade. And John Spellman, I don't know where I got to know him, but Pritchard. And so Chandler, and so I was identified as the Republican contact. So I went and lobbied with Cherry and with other people, the Republican --

BF: How was that? Was it hard to --

TM: Well, here again, it's a learning curve. It's like the first one, you're nervous. But after a while, it becomes easier. But also having known these people before on other issues really helped. Like Joel Pritchard, we went to Japan together, maybe about -- how many later? But, whatever. But for some reason -- no, no, no, it was after. But like I say, serving on a committee with, like, Slade Gorton, just made it easy to call in and say you want an appointment. Then, like they say, I, you're kind of nervous at first. But then you have people like Cherry, others that really know the issue anyway. You're just there to introduce and make the opening statement, then you turn it over. But I think the, and it's mostly, it's getting your foot in the first, is the most vital part. And if I could do that, I feel that that's fine. Yeah. I don't know how to say, what I could serve the community with, whatever. But it's done me well.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

BF: Okay. We were talking before the break about, a little bit about redress. I was just going to ask you -- because you were a little bit involved, like you said, kept, kept involved a little bit with the redress movement -- when you heard, when you got the news that it was actually going to pass, and then later on when the money also actually finally got authorized, do you remember feeling anything in particular like, yea? [Laughs]

TM: Well, first of all, I was not, I didn't fill a leadership position, so... supportive position, so yes and no. But there's a term in Japanese, atari -- atarimae, that means that it's expected, it's nothing unusual, and that's the way it should be. So, I guess I'm, that's just maybe my nature. But I just felt well, great. Let's just move on to the next thing. And so, I remember at the convention in Seattle, 1989, was it? 19-whatever. President Reagan was going to sign it. So these people, crazy, they took off for Washington, D.C. And they wanted to be there at the White House when they signed. I says, "Wow." I had no desire, I wasn't spending two days of my life just to see ten seconds of somebody signing the paper. But you take, I'll use Cherry, because I respect her. But to her, I'm sure, a very emotional, justifiable, into a lot of hard work, that she wanted to be there. So I, glad that she was there, and I could kind of share her feeling, but I had none of that feeling. And I don't know if it was because of this or that's just my nature.

BF: I think a lot of Nisei were probably, had more feelings like yours, who weren't directly involved. I could see that, people kind of --

TM: And here again, I don't know if it's a Nisei trait or just in general, but it was, I guess it would have been a shock if somebody didn't sign it, I guess maybe. When you -- after all those years, the logic of it just seemed so logical. And you could -- and that's the other people, like Henry, they would continue to argue about the amount and other things, and, and I could understand that. But I guess I'm not vested that much. And I just feel that it could only -- it's not a bad deal. It's not the best, but it's not a bad deal. Take it and then move on, I guess.

BF: Yeah, although you're right that the issue seemed so clear, and the legal principles and the moral principles were so firmly in our corner, and yet when you look at the political process -- and you're a numbers man, how small of a constituency we are. It is amazing it worked.

TM: Yeah. Well, you know, it's kind of like a tanabata. The stars got together because without Sparky and Norm and Dan Inouye and Bob Matsui there, it would have never happened. And the chances of four very well-respected Nikkei congressperson, congress members, to be together again, seems fairly remote. It might happen in many years from now, but in the foreseeable future, not in my life. I can't foresee it. If it happens, that's be great. So it was an opportunity, and I'm glad the community, with the leadership of JACL, took advantage. However, I think the other thing that most Niseis failed to realize is the legal work that was done by the Sansei that's not really talked about. And I'm convinced that the Niseis, even if they had the legal horsepower -- and you have to discount the fact that for whatever reason, they didn't have it, the depth of the legal background and the schooling and experience that Sanseis have, but the Niseis were deprived that. And so that could be an issue. But even if they did, I'm convinced they could not have been able to attack this without, I don't know how you say, interjecting your personal -- they couldn't be completely objective to keep their mind on the legal issues. I'm convinced. And getting back, we were talking about some personal interjections I noticed as I dealt with the Nikkei community. And it's probably not unique to them, but I've seen that. If you, if you make this general statement that some of that would have become part of the legal process as it was administered by the Nisei, it would have never happened. So the Niseis in the general community really owe a lot of thanks and appreciation to the third-generation legal lawyers that are mostly unsung and have done a lot of work. And a lot of them are in the Seattle area and Bay area. And I hope that one of these days that they will be properly recognized. And I don't think Niseis appreciate, have that appreciation or awareness of what kind of work -- and I don't understand it fully myself, but I'm just convinced in the simplest way that the Niseis, even if they had those talents, would have had trouble getting this redress movement to the point where it got to.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

BF: I know that you also give a lot of credit to the vets...

TM: Oh.

BF: ...and their service during World War II as, very important.

TM: Well, yeah. That's the other leg of the three-legged stool. Without the vets' history, heroic stories, it would have been very difficult.

BF: Is that a reason why you, you got involved with the, one of your more recent activities?

TM: Oh, the mem --

BF: The memorial project?

TM: Right. I think so. I, when I was told that they were told by Congress, which, they made this decision, which I have to agree with. Congress, I guess, occasionally makes good decision. They wanted to de-emphasize the military aspect of it, or I guess, I don't know how they say it, but they didn't want another memorial, monu -- war monument. So that's one of the reasons they gave me, when they came to me, Frank -- Francis Sogi said that they were looking for non-vets to become members of the board because they were trying to, as you know, the "Go for Broke" group were primarily all vets, started this with Mike Masaoka. But they felt they would not be able to pass it through Congress, if it was not, the emphasis were not changed to Japanese American history. So when they told me that, I said, "Well, that's great." I would, if I serve a role as a non-vet, then so be it. So I got involved. And also it's an opportunity to tell the story, not the only way, but a very important physical, I don't know, monument for it. I don't know about forever, but for a long, long time, to tell the story. And that's, that in itself is not important, but it's a very important component of the necessity to continue to tell the story.

BF: Now this was a national effort, fund-raising effort, right?

TM: Right.

BF: And so you were part of the Seattle part or you were also part of the national board?

TM: The national board member.

BF: Okay, okay. I understand that the Seattle -- maybe I'm wrong, but I heard that the Seattle fund-raising part of it was very successful.

TM: Yes. The board and the subcommittee, I was on the fund-raising subcommittee. I forgot the name of it. We got together. And we'd been meeting every quarter in different cities, and that in itself is quite an experience because you meet the local people in Hawaii and Denver and San Diego. That's -- but anyway, one of those meetings, and I don't know where, but the committee got together and practically just threw a chart on the wall, and says, we got to raise 8.6. Hawaii take this much, southern Cal take this much, Seattle take this much. And at the end of the day, Seattle was assigned approximately $700,000 to raise. It just, it was a factor of Nikkeis. And then --

BF: So not everyone got, it wasn't distributed by just numbers or equal --

TM: No. And just to give you example, southern Cal, like Los Angeles, because of the population, should have had at least eight times that.

BF: Yeah.

TM: But we felt that well, you factored in things like they have other programs, they have other things. So, I can't remember the number, but LA should do 1.5 or something like that. Whatever. But when you think in terms of population, that's not fair because Seattle, Northwest, had to do 700,000. But we kind of all agreed to this. And so we came back to Seattle. And Cressie Nakagawa, who was co-chairing that fund-raising effort, we called him, and I asked him to come to Seattle because he also knew a lot of people here. And we had a meeting in a cocktail party in this room, oh, maybe two, three years ago. And locally, people like Tosh Okamoto, Peter Okada, (Jim) Turk Suzuki, who are all vets, were their spokesperson when it was before the, when it was being run by the "Go for Broke" group. So they were active. So I asked him to come and ask their friends. And lo and behold, Frank Sato and Bob Sato came because... and Bob was asking all these questions, after, Cressie is a very good, articulates well about the program. And Bob was asking a lot of these questions. So I says, "Well, he must be very interested." So Tosh and I took him to the side and says, "Okay, why don't you head the Seattle effort, the Northwest." And he says, "Well, let me think about it. I got some more questions." But he decided to take it on. And through his effort, he was the chair of the Northwest fund-raising effort. And they will now probably raise over 2 million dollars.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

BF: So kind of related to this and also what you brought up about traveling around as part of this board and seeing different communities, do you feel that there's -- I mean, obviously each community is unique.

TM: Uh-huh.

TM: In what ways is Seattle's Nikkei community unique? Do you get a sense we're a different breed or --

TM: Yeah. I think Seattle is very unique in a number of -- historically, Seattle's one of the, next to Hawaii, they're one of the oldest Nikkei community, established community. LA, San Francisco, is not far behind. But I think Seattle, for whatever reason, could say they're, next to Hawaii, probably as old as any, one of those, so there's some history there. Seattle, I think, getting back to this Go West, Young -- I guess it's not Young Man, Young Person. But when you come to end of the ocean, you can't go further. Like Seattle, you tend to attract people that are, outspoken is not the right word, but you, you tend to attract people, this is the last stance, and this is my home. I'm not going to go further east -- I mean, west, because I can't go further west. So you tend to -- my theory, my thoughts are that, and this is not unique to the Nikkei community, but Seattle has become known as people that come from other places and make it a home. And if you make anywhere a home, you have different values and you fight a little more. And I think Seattle, not only from the Nikkei community because the community as a whole is considered very liberal next to San Francisco, and that, herein lies some of the problems we had with WTO. But that's another story. But those basic values have been reflected and vice-versa to the Nikkei community. So, and I think that's, people ask me and I ask myself, why did the JACL start in Seattle? Why was the redress movement and other movements been successful here? Seattle's known as kind of the rabble-rousing, kind of idea type. And I think basically the atmosphere of Seattle is conducive to that type of movement. So that's number one. Number two, we're of a size, probably like Portland, in that you know everybody. It's large enough to have a mass and economics. But you know each other, we tend to work with each other little better. In LA or Hawaii, it's impossible because everybody, everybody means well, but they have their vested interest and it's such a large, too large. So Seattle, unfortunately, has had that economy of scale that allows the resources, but the ability to talk to each other. It's not so large that -- so I think for those reasons -- and then, I'll be very frank. I think we have had a good, a bunch of leaders in our community too. I think that, that hopefully we're thinking outside their own personal family means or personal means, but kind of looking at the future. So for those reasons, yeah. If you read that book about Tacoma, when you look back, getting back to the history, Tacoma was very, very progressive in the promotion of Japan-US trade or cultural exchange. And the naval ships bypassed Seattle, went to Tacoma, and Japanese naval ships. And so, and Tacoma, as you know, also was one of the, not the strongest, maybe the only one, but they had a very good Japanese language school. So a lot of people, you come, my age, or from Tacoma, speak very good Japanese. So the cultural aspect before World War II maybe started in Tacoma but was shifted to Seattle. But the whole Bay area, I mean, the Puget Sound area, as I stated, reflects some of the thoughts I have about it.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

BF: Because I know that Keiro and Nikkei Concerns, another organization that you were a part of starting, I, from what little I know about those types of organizations, it's really quite unique and quite, quite special. And I know I've talked to Nikkei in other parts of the country who have said they're very interested in knowing how that happened -- why it worked here, but not so well in other places. Well, so let me ask you about Nikkei Concerns, then called Issei Concerns. You were there when it started. What, what got it started? I mean, what planted the idea?

TM: Here again, I was thinking about that. I don't know the chronological, but two or three things that comes to mind. First of all, before Nikkei Concern, Issei Concern, we had a group at the Seattle Chapter JACL called Social Concerns. And this came about because as I was telling you, as I became active in JACL as a local board member and vice president or whatever, Min and Don and few others, Phil Hayasaka and those people, felt that JACL should broaden their interest and bring in speakers from the greater community, like superintendent of school, politicians, or people like that, or the police chief. And so we were, we still, I guess they were meeting, we were meeting once a month, at least eight, ten times a year. And we would have this long agenda, and at the end of the agenda, we would have these programs. And those poor speakers had to sit through our agenda for hour, hour and a half, and then they would speak. We lost half of those people, so when I became president or the year before, I talked to people like Min Mas -- Matsudaira, and I says, "Why can't we have a Social Concerns meeting that will meet in different Japanese organization aside from the board because it's not fair to have the speaker come in and give them only five minutes at the end when everybody's tired." And also it just, we used to spend, I mean, have something that's strictly for the Social Concerns. And, and two things happened, first of all, we did broaden our interest. I think it continued to promote the JACL as a viable community. I think it's still viewed in the Asian community, I think, historically viable, credible community organization. But it enhanced that. And also I think in retrospect, the beauty of that was also as we went to different organization, they knew who JACL was, and we got to know what the Nikkeijinkai was, maybe, and churches. And so it was a little better relation. And thinking back, those relations probably helped me and helped us when JACL was asked to do that exhibit because we had those contacts. So that, that's a side story. But let's see, what was I thinking? But, anyway, that's one thing. And then as we went to the --

BF: So from, so from this group...

TM: Yeah.

BF: ...came --

TM: Well, and I can't remember, but one time, as one of the guest speaker, I think we had somebody from the health --

BF: Oh.

TM: Washington state or some health-related speaker, I'm guessing. I can't remember the detail. But, and I remember distinctly this meeting was at the Nichirenkai, Nichiren Church. And we were talking, and gee, what was the name? Mr., he was very active in the Hiroshima Club. But Uyeda, Mr. Uyeda, very nice gentleman, Issei. One of the few Issei that really went on a limb to support the nursing home. But anyway, they get up and they said, "What we need is a nursing home." And I said, "Okay, that's great. Let's go on to the next subject." [Laughs] And then, and so they talked about the need, and kind of just went through me. And then we had a meeting one time at Nikkeijinkai on King Street. And I think it must have been December because walking in there, we see dozens of poinsettias. I said, "What are these for?" They said, "Well, there's seventy Niseis, Isseis, in about twelve nursing homes throughout Seattle. And we bring these and blankets." I said, "Wow." Fortunately, I didn't know anybody -- the few I knew used to be at the Hirabayashi Nursing Home, which was small, but maybe I was there once. Fortunately, I was, we didn't have family or real close friends that needed those service. I said, "Wow. This is interesting." That's, so but they kept -- and then about two other things simultaneously happened: Doctor Ruby and her husband were involved with this corporation. I call it, I remember now it was the called the Swan Corporation. They were trying to build a 100-unit nursing home on the same site across the street from where Dr. Ruby used to practice. And they have acquired about half of that block. And they were going to build a 100-unit nursing home. And retrospect, there was two or three things, and I'm thinking as I was trying to put this together was, first of all, it wasn't going to be exclusively Nikkei because it was the, their friends were Caucasian, and they were looking at it from a broad business point of view. Number two, even at that time, twenty-five, thirty years ago, the state was trying to cut back the number of licensed beds. And they kept arguing that King County had too many beds. And so that, so that, I don't know how many bed they were, licenses they were looking for, but it was, the top was like they were allocated, they would be allocated approximately a hundred beds. The more I got into this and started talking to various people that operate these nursing homes, they were saying that a hundred is just not enough to break even. You needed about 120 beds. So anyway, so economically, it didn't seem to pencil out. So Ruby, she was at some of these meetings because she's always been involved with the community also. So I remember talking to her. And she says, "You know," -- oh, let's, let's put it that... and then the third thing that happened was this Glen Akai that was a very active member of the Nichiren Church, he was there. And he was at a few other meetings. And yeah, he says, "Well, yeah, we got to do a nursing home." And then he calls me up, he says, "This Mount Baker Nursing Home, 63-bed, is for sale, and they're going to lose their license. But you have one year before they lose it, if you buy it." I says, "Gee, well, that's interesting. What the hell we going to do about it?" So we got together. And he was, we were not best of friends, but we were able to get together. And he says, "Oh, we got to have a drink down at Bush Garden or Nikko, wherever." So we got together. So I called Tosh and Harry and Henry Miyatake, and Don Kazama was gone, so we called Ruth and kept meeting. "What are we gonna do?" He says, "Well, they want only 300,000, and you could buy it and we could do it." So anyway, we were thinking about that when a fourth thing happened, Tosh Okamoto's daughter Joyce was in LA, just married, and married a minister's son. But anyway, she was working for LA Keiro. I can't remember what she was doing. But just happened because she and her family very community conscious-minded and everything. So she was working at LA Keiro, and so she calls Tosh up and says, "My boss, Edwin Hiroto, and his wife, who are thinking of retiring in four, five years, are going to drive up the coast and look at properties they would retire in. So would you take care of them?" Naturally, when they come to Seattle. Just fortuitously, the evening that we were allow, or given the keys to look at the old 63-bed site, Edwin happened to be in town. So we walked through that place, and we're saying, "Oh, shoot, we don't want to do this." Edwin says, "This is a, for $300,000, 63-bed, you're not going get a deal like this. Buy it. Take it." He says, "It's a deal. You can't miss it." He says, "eHeHeThe need is there." And he's running 2, 300 beds in LA, and he has authority. He says, "Oh, gee." Okay, so we formed this non-profit. And we said, "We got to raise $300,000 because that's what it's going to cost." Edwin said, "Oh, no. You got to raise 500 because it's going to cost you a couple hundred thousand to open it, and cash flow." Says okay. So anyway, so we formed this non-profit organization. We went to JACL, I remember. And we kind of, I guess, back of my mind I was hoping they would take over. But they said, "No, here's $1,500." And to this day, they feel they were one of the first seed money, which is right, and they are deserving of credit for encouraging us anyway with $1,500, and I think --

BF: You would have to -- I mean, it would take a while to raise $500,000. So how, didn't you have to put down earnest money or --

TM: Well, I think, I can't remember, but we had to put like $50,000 down, yeah or something like that. And I don't know how we raised it, very frankly. I think, I can't remember.

BF: I've heard that, that, the, the folks, individuals like yourself who were organizing it, put in their own money.

TM: Yeah, well, I think we did. I can't remember, and I don't have anything written. But I'm sure, whatever it took, $50,000. And then we brought in people like Russ Akiyama, we heard that he was working for the state. So he was very helpful because he knew exactly what, what the state was doing. And then, so you're right, we had a deadline. And then we said, "What are we going to do?" We said, "Well, why can't we work with an existing organization?" And for whatever reason, we checked those off. And well, a side issue was, naturally, the Nikkeijinkai, which we thought was the most logical organization to do this, kind of just backed off.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

BF: Was, was, what -- I'm wondering, though, there, there, the Ni -- Issei were getting up in age, so they were needing nursing care. But it's not as though the City of Seattle didn't have nursing care facilities.

TM: Uh-huh.

BF: What was it that made you think those weren't either enough or somehow not quite satisfactory?

TM: Well, there's a number of stories. And people, once they got wind that there was being considered, it came out of the woodwork to tell you that the services that their parents or their friends were receiving were bad. And one example, I remember and Tosh Okamoto mentioned, that he went to a nursing home with his friend one time, visiting, I assume it was the father. And the friend is giving the father a dollar or two. And I said, "What's that for?" I mean, Tosh asked, "What's that for?" He says, "In the middle of the night, when he puts that dollar up, he gets service." And that was one. And then also, I can't remember distinctly, but people like saying, "Well, my father doesn't like the tsukemono" -- I mean, "does, wants, craves, tsukemono, and doesn't like the American food." And so if you look for those stories, you get all of them. All these reasons why care would be better in a culturally sensitive, Japanese-speaking environment. But you're right. That was the argument, says the next generation doesn't need the English and cultural, but, so there was a lot of argument why we should even do it. In fact, people like, I was surprised, Henry said, "You're going to bankrupt the organi -- community by $500,000." Which was a large amount of money. But, so anyway, we went through and we met practically every night at Nikko or Bush Garden. And we went through this whole thing, Tosh, Harry, myself, and a few others. And we kept saying, and we start to form, that we have to put a new organization together, and who should represent that. And one of the things, and I don't know whose idea it was, but I think initially made it successful, was that we said that as many of the prominent, established Japanese organization had to be at the table. And that's why we had the two classes of board members, so-called board members representing the Buddhist Church and vets and whoever we went to, and talked about the program. He says, "If you're interested, send money and send somebody." And I think to this day, I think that was a success. And the sidelight, getting back to the initial issue, Seattle is small enough that we could talk to -- if you did this in LA, you would have a heck of a problem because you're invariably going to leave somebody out, and you couldn't accommodate 500 different organizations that would consider themselves leaders of the community. So Seattle, I can't remember what it is, but maybe we have ten organizations, Nikkeijinkai, Buddhist Church. And no one to this day challenged us as, we're an organization, why aren't we at the table? I would think you would have that in Hawaii or Los Angeles. So Edwin encouraged us. We talked to Russ Akiyama, he was willing to be the first paid director. We hired a young lady, Kathy Cox-Mihara. And we asked -- I gave her a table, a desk at my office, and we started to fund-raise. And we went around to look at different nursing homes. And so we went into the business. About a year later we opened the door.

BF: And well, I guess that you had Dr. Ruby, Dr. Inouye?

TM: Oh, yes.

BF: But other than that, no one had any experience in nursing care?

TM: Well, we had -- yeah, that's true. But we had a couple, Nina Chinn, who was, I think, or people like that. We had various people.

BF: In health care?

TM: Yeah. There were, there were nurses, and they didn't stick, but they came and served, served us well. And we had Russ, who had the state connection.

BF: Was it, was there a kind of, any kind of conflict between sort of the traditional cultural values of the elderly you, you take into your own home, your parents you take into your own home as opposed to, I think it's probably a more American culture of having nursing care facilities. Was there, were people who had a problem with, with that issue?

TM: Oh, yeah, there was. But the very fact that there was sixty to seventy parents in existing nursing home, I guess...

BF: There was a need.

TM: ...convinced us that there was a need. And then if you look at the graphic, the population graphic, if you look at it from a dall point, it's small, as from older than, Isseis kind of popped up, then it kind of neck down, but then it gradually grew up from Niseis. And if twenty-five years ago, if the longevity and the health of the Niseis were the same as the Isseis, then the need for the nursing home would have just dramatically exploded in about 1995 or the year 2000. But that's not true any more, fortunately.

BF: It's been delayed.

TM: Delayed. So the delay might happen, but it's just a matter of time where the population, the internal, because we're having very few new immigrants, but although it's not as explosive as other minority, but we are increasing in population slow enough. And if all things stay the same, you're going to have more people at a certain age that the percentage will require nursing home. That's been delayed for a lot of reasons. But unless some factors change, the need for nursing care will continue to just expand slowly if all things stay fairly constant, unfortunately or whatever. And fortunately, I guess, after the bubble of Issei, we knew there would be a contraction, but we thought it would come out again. But because of the delay -- and very frankly, a lot of the Isseis are dying before they need nursing home. I know that's not statistically, but a lot of my friends, you're hoping if they need the care, it's there. But Harry Kadoshima is a good example of people like that that, statistically, they would come down and need the nursing care. Well, they're gone. But anyway, so we should have known this also. We were pretty naive. Let's say there was seventy Isseis in nursing care, so we got sixty-three bed. "Wow," we says, "how can we not fill up?" Well, we went to about thirty-five, and they got stuck there because a lot of the parents, for whatever reasons, were not moved. Children, for whatever reason, didn't move all. So we got stuck there. And we said, "Wow, maybe the few people that said we were crazy were right." Because unless, even a 63-bed, we knew we couldn't make money, but if you have it only full -- half full, you're losing big bucks. So that's also you're thankful for input from people like Edwin, says you got to raise that 500 instead of the 300. But in about a year, year and a half, the darn thing went up to 63-bed, and then waiting list started to climb like crazy. So that's when we said, "Wow," we started saying, "What can we do?" So we bought properties adjacent to the existing 63-bed, and we wanted to just add twenty or thirty more beds. In fact, we went and spent 2, 300,000 for a, enlarging the dining/activity room, putting in a nice kitchen. So we were prepared, getting ourself ready to expand the bed from sixty-three to maybe eighty or ninety beds. And we kept studying that, and it just didn't make sense because the original building was just not very good, and the location wasn't the best and different things. So I can't remember now, maybe ten years after we opened the 63-bed units, we had quite a change in our administration too. Fred Takayesu was there. He retired. And we then got and Anne Arakaki-Lock, and she's a, was a very good director, I, I thought. So we started talking about what can we do to serve the sixty, thirty or forty people waiting? So we said we need about 120 beds. And the state really wanted to give us only about a hundred bed, as I was telling you. They didn't want to get off that. As we were doing all this mathematics, Janet Deguchi did our, she was working for one of the hospitals that did our certificate of need, which is very important. You have to prove to the state you need these beds. And that was a very political -- they were willing to give us a hundred. We could have probably got 120, but I think I was one that pushed for 150 for a couple of reasons. Like I say, we, we knew although there was a contraction of the need for the Niseis, we knew that it would eventually be needed. And if somebody tells you, or your bookkeeper tells you need 100 or 120 to break even, you probably need twenty or thirty more. [Laughs] As it turned out, right now our break even is about 145. So they kept saying, 120. But the state was adamant against it. So we, here again, I was fortunate, myself, Harry, and so we had this political connection. So we used that wisely. And we were able to -- that in itself should be an interesting story. I just should sit down and think about that a little more.

BF: The politics.

TM: The politics of getting -- because they were, there was two or three arguments. They said, First of all, the Japanese community -- you don't say that publicly -- really don't need 150 beds. Privately, we knew that, not for a few years anyway. There was people arguing that, well, you know, Niseis, the younger, the older Niseis might want cultural things, but the younger Niseis, they could eat anything. They, Japanese language was not important. So the argument was, and rightly so maybe. But I just felt that, and I strongly feel that any organization I belong to, it can't be ongoing sub -- substain itself on ongoing income from the community. If at all possible, it should be self-sustaining. That's -- so 150. And I guess I just felt that, by gosh or by gone we could fill it. We had ups and downs, but right now, it's doing pretty good.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

BF: Well, and it's... Nikkei Concerns has broadened, too. There's -- so it seems as though, even though there's going to be this period of time where maybe nursing care, straight nursing care, there's not as much of a demand. It seems like you guys have really branched out, whether it's child care or assisted living, those types of units. It, it really seems as though that organization in particular thinks ahead.

TM: Yeah. And I was thinking of, my input was market-driven. The out -- outcome and services it provides is much broader. But when we were at the old Mount Baker site next to the Presbyterian Church, they started the Kokorokai, and that has been very successful. And then the assisted living because if you're serving the greater community, you have different levels. But if you look at it strictly from the market, that's a feeder system into the nursing home. And the third thing is that one of the -- we did, we do questionnaires and focus group from time to time. And Ann was very good at this. But I remember we says, "Let's go find out what the third generation is thinking because they're the one that will influence where the Niseis go." The Nisei -- the person that goes to the nursing home invariably wouldn't go there if they had a choice and don't make those choices. So we said, "What does the Sanseis thinking?" And I remember one questionnaire we looked at, and one -- I assume it was a young lady said, "Do something for my kids and I'll be there." So we started to think about day care and intergeneration. It started to make sense because if you look at it from a pure sense, you say, well, intergenerational. It's warm and fuzzy and makes you feel good. But I'm looking at it for market because if you make the Sansei women, most likely she's going to make the decision of where her father and mother's gonna go. And if they feel comfortable at Keirobecause Keiro is not the only options anymore. They could be anywhere. So you got to make them feel comfortable. And if they're comfortable, they'll just invariably bring their parents. And that's what it takes. If you're not filled all the time, well, you could put a tremendous burden on the community.

BF: You know it's -- I wonder if that is one of the reasons, really important reasons, why this community and your leadership has made an -- has, has been successful, as opposed to other ethnic communities because of that business sense. Not, I mean 'cause a lot of non-profit social organizations, they're warm and fuzzy, but warm and fuzzy doesn't always get you anywhere.

TM: Well, it doesn't sustain you.

BF: Yes. I mean, do you ever -- I mean, you're a humble man, but that must, you must think that that's important. That you know that's important.

TM: Well, that's what I was telling you, most non-profit organization I've been involved with have some way sustained itself throughout the years. And I think that's an important attribute or whatever I bring to the table, I guess.

BF: Yeah because a lot of people don't appreciate, they, they think it should all just be politics or heart or that sort of thing. But you've got to pay the bills.

TM: Well, you know, the two, two examples of people that have organizations that have not followed that have, I view them as paying a dear price, and one is that Kimochi in San Francisco. They built that, I don't even know if it's assisted living, but it's a senior housing for twenty people in the heart of San Francisco, on the most expensive property. And I guess each bed costs them maybe $200,000. I says, "Wow, they'll never be able to pay for it. Twenty people." And it just doesn't make sense. So I says, "Wow." So they're out there always raising money. The other one is Kin On. When they -- other thing is, we went to them as, we knew we were building this new one. And these, the other thing is we went to the Filipino community, but they just said they couldn't take this on. So we went to Kin On.

BF: Chinese Americans.

TM: Yeah. And then -- so if that's a difficult community to work with, but we leased it to them, and got them going, I think, and they're thankful that they had this opportunity to run a 63-bed. And they were full and they had a waiting list, and they still insisted on going for a hundred-bed nursing home. And maybe it was political, and maybe that was all they were given, but I kept telling them that -- and Ed Wong is a accountant. And I says, "God, everything we studied and everything we hear is that it takes 120 to make or break even. Why are you doing this?" Says, "Oh, some of our board members are so conservative, and they don't want to take the risk." And I says, "God, you're taking a bigger risk if you don't make it larger." But anyway, I don't, I don't know the inside story. But they chose to go with a hundred-bed, and they spent $10 million, let's say around. And I'm guessing they, for another half a million, half a million more, they could have built twenty more beds. But that's, but when I see that, I said, "Wow, I don't be involved with an organization that knowingly goes in not being able to break even or make money." That's just sad because that just puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the funding source in the community.

BF: Right.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

BF: Do you -- I mean, you strike me as a very patient, low-key individual, your personality. When you sit in some of these meetings and you're faced with people who aren't looking at the facts or are going a way that you know is not going to be sustaining, what do you usually do? Do you usually go kind of uh-huh, and then decide, okay, I'm not going to work with them in the future, or is there a side to you where you ever just sort of stand up and bang the table and say, "Listen"? [Laughs]

TM: No, I don't bang the table very often. Only at the family meetings. No, I -- you try to use outside, friendly persuasion and if that works, that's fine. Our method has been, let's go out for a drink and talk it over. If you get through, fine. If not, there's other organizations, other projects, other things to go out there. And that's been my way. And maybe that's not right. But I think I've been around long enough to know there's certain things you just can't change or, the energy needed is not worth the result or something.

BF: Kind of choose your battles and --

TM: Yeah. Well, like getting back, the family battle, I can't leave. So that, you just know that you have to stay there and fight the battle. But the other battles -- and you feel, looking back a little bit, that if you're credible enough, you do your homework, then you could persuade your thoughts because the thoughts of the others are usually not all that firm either.

BF: But prove yourself...

TM: Yeah.

BF: ...and have your words.

TM: Credibility takes a little while. And you don't sit there and say, I want credibility. Just after a lot of things, and it just comes about, I guess.

BF: I'm intrigued, when you said that about, that's, the family is the one place you, you sort of change your tactics a little, a little bit?

TM: But you learn. It's all similar in some ways. And looking back also, I think what I learned in the family environment, I've been able to use in especially Nikkei and Asian types of organizations.

BF: Like what? What sort of things have you learned?

TM: Oh, getting back to the patience at issue. And the fact that whatever we do has to make money because the family, there's no way you're going to say, "We want to do this just for the long run." We, short run, we may be willing to lose some money, but in the long run, we're not going to take any project on that's not "profitable" in one sense or another. So those are influences that hopefully, I can bring to the table.

BF: You know, when you work with non-Nikkei organizations, do you see that as being a difference where -- I mean, this more being able to understand the bottom line. And do you see, do you -- in some ways, do you see mainstream organizations more receptive and more understanding of some of those philosophies, or do you see the same sorts of things?

TM: That's an interesting -- I was thinking about that the other day. And organizations that attract or ask people like me to serve are usually very well run, well thought through. So I'm, selection of myself or people like me or different people, different color or different persuasions, is just a symbol or -- how do you say? -- how you say, because they think that way, they're successful. So the organizations I go to, I don't have to bang on the table because they're basically organizations I enjoy because they're thinking more broadly, they feel they need different views, they need different persuasions. So in some ways, that's why they're enjoyable because they're very dedicated, very professional. And, and it feeds on each other. So you're comfortable there, and then so you do some things that you're probably overappreciated. And then, so if some other organization ask you serve, it makes you feel good. And I guess ultimately we pick and choose. It's kind of like getting married or something. You kind of subconsciously just start to pick and choose. And I think that's the way it is because I'm sure not going to -- if somebody from the Central Area, PDA or somebody called, I would no way in hell serve because I didn't think that economically they would be able to handle and things like that. So I guess I have picked and choose subconsciously maybe.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

BF: I, I know that one of the things that you see as being kind of a weakness in the Nikkei community is their lack of involvement at higher levels in boards, in politics. And it seems like you've gotten a great deal out of it, and feel it's very important. What -- do you, have you thought about why more Nikkei aren't involved?

TM: It's strictly a numbers game, and to a certain degree and a factor that with cultural issues, but it's a numbers game. We just, in terms of percentage or round numbers, we don't have the population. And you couple that with -- and the more I think about it, as I get a little older, I think the damage is done by the internment and the destroying of self-esteem, directly/indirectly, and it has really played its toll. And it will play its toll for next couple generations. And the toll may not be direct, but the toll is indirect in the sense that if my mother was incarcerated, she probably didn't want her children, including myself, to take any risk. Wanted us to be safe, work for the, become an engineer and work for Boeing or become a school teacher. I don't think people coming out of the internment is telling their kids to risk your whole bankroll or risk things. Be safe. Don't make waves. You've heard all that before. And I think that's, as I think about this more and more recently, and I think it's much more profound than we want to realize, I think. And that's why, getting back, I don't know about your, your parents, but your parents' age are the group I'm kind of thinking of, most of them, very -- all of them are very intelligent, nice people, but they have been adverse to risk.

BF: That's true. Yeah. I, I look at the leaders in the community, and just a handful have used that leadership outside their own community, outside the people they already know and the people they feel comfortable with. I know you've also said that -- and you just said that -- generations... so you feel that the Sansei, like your, and the Yonsei, will also have some of this kind of baggage to deal with. Do you... well, you have children...

TM: Uh-huh.

BF: Do you encourage Denise and Tyler to get out there? You know what I mean? Is that something you, you really, you try and make them less, consciously make them less risk-averse and --

TM: Well you know, I don't talk to them as much as I should. Thank God, my wife, Lovett, was much more, articulated much better and had better discussion with my children than I did. So I'm very fortunate that, at least Denise was fifteen and Tyler was seventeen or eighteen. In fact, a month before Lovett passed away, she spent, Tyler and her spent two, three weeks in Hawaii visiting her sister. So they, they I know that they had a lot of talk. This was just a couple weeks before they, he went off to college. So I -- and I don't want to hide behind this, but I'm probably typical Nisei in the sense that I did not talk to my children. But I think I try to set an example. And if they talk to me, I try to respond. But I think it was a shortfall on my part not to articulate some of these issues with them. But they know that, business, I talk to them about business -- well, maybe not talk to them, but I take them to my workplace and some of the meetings I've had ever since they were young. So they kind of had through osmosis a feeling of what is important to me and things like that. But I think that's a shortfall that I just did not sit down, because they're intelligent enough to talk about it. And I'm hoping to have more opportunity to do that. But getting back, I'm convinced that the Sanseis -- and I would love to see somebody do this study, that the Sanseis are much more closer to the Nisei than the Sansei want to be, I think.

BF: Do you, do you see it in certain habits or --

TM: Yeah. Values, habits. I'm not saying that's bad. I'm just saying that it is much more --

BF: What, what sort of values do you think, good and bad?

TM: Well, I think family values and values of education and values of, some real good values that start off with that Taoism, that Japan, you know, the Shinto. Not so much Buddhism, but any religion, they don't teach you anything bad. But the values of Japanese that we talk about, the Issei values, come from the Taoism. The respect to your elders, family, family and parents, and those kind, and things about carrying your own way, not being a burden to society. All that is ingrained in us, and being at the family gathering, being at the funeral, the weddings. Those are ingrained in us. I don't think anybody told us, but that's part of our culture. In fact, if you've been to a Chinese wedding, God, 5,000 people. You know what I mean. But that's a cultural issue. How can anybody know, 5,000's an exaggeration. But you've been to one with 500 people. That's a cultural thing. I don't think if that person, the bride or the groom, they don't want to invite 500 people, but that's a cultural -- and that's what I'm saying, is that the people you invite to like those events are cultural, and the Sanseis are caught up with that. And like I say, it's not a bad thing. I'm just saying that they may think that they don't want to be burdened by this, I don't know how you say, culture that they have received, but that's, it's stronger than I think they, a lot of people think it is.

BF: What about some of the not-so-positive things, like the risk aversion. I mean, do you see that --

TM: Well, that's the other, I think, the indirect heritage that the Sansei has, I'll say unfortunately, received. Because if your parents are not risk-taking, it's pretty hard for children to become a risk-taker.

BF: Yeah. You still don't see -- I don't see my peers, of the young Sansei, going, being entrepreneurs, trying politics.

TM: First of all, you have to equate those achievements with risk. And that in itself is a question. But if you do, in a very simple term, then there is a tendency of lack of risk or aversion to risk that is strong in our community.

BF: So you don't think then that entrepreneurship and politics -- I guess it, for you, it hasn't, you haven't -- well, I should ask you, do you think it's real, a risky, riskier, than if you had people go on the track to be accountants and engineers or --

TM: Yeah. And here again, I don't think I got out of high school or college and say, I'm going to be a risky, taker. I was comfortable. I was comfortable at Boeing. But I guess we're all kind of unique. But I don't think there's too many younger people, not only Asians, but just thinking in terms of, thinking things through as political connections, the risk and things like that. But this gets down to the numbers. I'm saying that if we had one million Japanese, I will guarantee you at least a handful of leaders because but that's just the numbers game. But we don't have a million Nikkeis in the community, so you're going to have proportionally less risk-takers and musicians and whatever it takes because a certain amount of that has to be demographically proof. But having said that, there are ways to enhance that odds a little bit in the risk in business, and we haven't been able to do that. And go back, the incarceration probably didn't help tweak that percentage or something like that because you can't say in China or Japan, where there's a hundred million or one billion that there aren't sharp leaders that are emerging, the same genes you have --

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

<Begin Segment 18>

BF: Yeah, I think I agree with your assessment, that a lot of it is practical reflection of numbers and being a very small minority group. But I'm, and I'm wondering if we're gonna get smaller as more Japanese Americans marry non-Nikkei?

TM: Also you're getting smaller in terms of percentage, yeah. Raw number might go up, but you're competing at, with more people.

BF: Yes.

TM: So the percentage, for whatever reason, for those reasons, Japanese Americans are not increasing at no greater rate than the general population.

BF: And we're not getting an influx from Japan.

TM: No.

BF: So what do you, when you think about that, do you have -- I mean, your business is connected to the continuation, a lot of the organizations you've given a large part of your life to are part of the Japanese American community. Your kids are Japanese Americans. Do you worry about it? Do you think it's, well, change, change?

TM: Well, when I'm six feet under, I'm not gonna be able to influence that anyway. I think this why it's important, though, to have the next generation think about how relevant and how important this is. I'm thoroughly convinced we shouldn't be so confident, I felt we were formed like Nikkei, Issei Concerns or, to help the Isseis, and I think we did. And we're struggling to help the Niseis, second generation. But the Sansei, I don't pretend to say that I'm going to be able to be in a position or want to influence that. I mean, that's just the next generation's responsibility. And if the foundation is there, great. But I don't think, I don't want to go to any board meetings, and say, "This is the way it's got to be for the third or fourth generation." That's just, it just doesn't make sense for myself, my generation. It's got to be the next generation or somebody close to it that got to, kind of formulate the, provide the leadership for what's right and good and proper for the next generation. That's the way I feel about the store. I'm very proud of what we would have given them. But after that, heck, six-foot under, you're not going to influence it anyway. And you don't want to worry about that. You kind of want to enjoy what you have, stay healthy. And then when your time has come, you just go. Why worry about what it's going to be in the future?

BF: Well, and you're, you're -- a broad-minded person realizes that the future takes care of itself in a lot of ways.

TM: Yeah. And in, I think, I'm confident that the Nikkei community -- and that's a positive things, on some of this --


BF: I was gonna ask you -- well, this is, this is kind of a touchy subject, but I want to ask, ask you this because your experience, you have your, you have your feet planted in both communities very firmly, in the Nikkei community and in the non-Nikkei community. And that's slightly rare. So I'm going to ask you about a touchy issue having to do with the interracial marriage rate for my generation and younger generations. What impact do you see that having on the community? Have you thought about this?

TM: Not really. I mean, I haven't thought a lot, but I think it gets back to the numbers game. I, you know, even if 50 percent of the so-called outmarriage happens, so you actually double the in -- not influence, oh, yeah, influence, of the Nikkei, then if half of the people stay committed to the Nikkei culture and our awareness, then you have the same amount as if hundred percent married each other.

BF: Right.

TM: So I think I've seen, and I probably have as much as experience as any because we have had customers that have been with us for three, four generations. A lady I remember serving on Main Street will come and say, "This is my granddaughter, would you meet, whoever." And I said, "Wow." So if she says, "Meet my Sally. She loves Japanese food." So -- but then there's probably some parents that are not coming because their Sally is eating non-Japanese food. But the point is, this is the third generation of the, her grandfather is hakujin, and mother's Japanese. But I don't know what her parents -- but her parents, one, the mother is at least part-Japanese. But here she is, her grandmother bringing her because she likes kimchee, not kimchee, but tsukemono and rice. And she's introducing me as, "Wow, I'm bringing you this next generation that just loves, loves Japanese things." But if she represents half, then the net result is about the same as if everybody...

And the other thing I want to say is that I've found some of the non-Japanese parents that, whether it be a male or female, and most likely if it's a non-Japanese mother, they embrace the Japanese culture and bringing them to the Buddhist Church and things like that, seems like that, in a much stronger sense than the Japanese mother, Japanese third or fourth-generation mother, maybe because they, it's osmosis, they just think it's natural or they just don't spend as much time being aware of the Japanese culture. But if you're born to the Japanese culture, you maybe embrace it and you go out of your way to teach it to your children or allow them the opportunity to embrace it. And so -- and I'm not worried in terms of, I mean, the number. The need for the things that I've worked on, nursing home, elderly care, that has a Nikkei slant or Nikkei prominence, it may not increase, but the need will always be there in some degree, even if it diminishes, it's not going to be like everybody marries outside, and no more Japanese cultural needed. That's not going to happen. It just may not grow, but the need will always be there. In fact, I'm convinced that it might incrementally grow, even if half the, our, our children marry outside, the so-called Japanese heritage people.

BF: Why do you think it will still grow?

TM: Well, because the Japanese culture is not a bad culture, and it has some very strong points. And it's a culture that at least you could think you could identify with. And if you read or if you hear about cultures and educations and religion, some people, not all, but some people tend to gravitate to things that are little easier defined. And obviously, Japanese culture is much more definable than Christian culture that comes from Midwest because it's pretty Americanized. It's not distinct.

BF: Right.

TM: And how strong that is, I don't know. But it's amazing, the number of books sold on Japanese cultures and Japanese religion and things like that, if that's any indication. The other thing is, state of Washington, per capita, or per percentage, have more students learning Japanese than any other state --

BF: Really?

TM: -- maybe next to Hawaii. It really even surpasses Hawaii in terms of percentage. There's a lot of reasons. But the wheat farmer in Palouse, some way feels their product is going to Asia, so -- and Japan is a very comfortable language. It's to, compared to some other Chinese or Malaysian or something. So there's a lot of Japanese students in, all across the state. So the awareness of Japanese and the cultural being somewhat accepted is, continues to grow, I think.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

BF: It's, in a way, you've answered this question in what you just said. I was going to ask whether -- there's some people who would like us to move to this melting pot idea in this country, where really we all just think of ourselves as Americans, we're color blind. And yet, I know that -- I assume that you must feel that there will always be a need for organizations that are specific to the needs of an ethnic group?

TM: Uh-huh. I think so.

BF: Or, why is that so? I mean, what is wrong with this sort of idealistic notion where we're all just Americans? [Laughs]

TM: Well, I don't know. And part of it is maybe an experience in a lot of my life is that, as I have been fortunate enough to get involved with, outside the Nikkei community, they expect you to understand some Japanese languages, culture. And so maybe I wasn't strong enough to say, "Hey, I'm American, the hell with it." It's easier for me, especially in my business background and my cultural upbringing and having traveled Japan to say, "Yeah. I could answer that. And we talked about that." So for me, maybe that was a easier course. The other side of it is, what is American? I mean, we all come from some root. And when you look at the Jewish community, they, they go back 2,500 years, or 4,000 -- well, at least 2,500 years. And it's not a perfect society, but they have some very strong traits or culture, that the Nikkei Concern has emulated and tried to follow and have evolved from it and used and have talked to it. So it's just -- I mean, why do we have to be American? I guess that's, you have to think about it that I way a little bit. And maybe if there's outmarriage, and my children marry non-Nikkei and hakujin, let's say, and then maybe two, three generations, they may look like non-Japanese, but as long as their strong attributes are Asian or Japanese, they're going to be treated differently anyway, so why fight it? Just be proud of it.

BF: Yeah. I like that because, as sad as this may kind of sound, I don't hear very often Nisei or, making -- well, Sansei for that matter, making the statement that our culture will survive or this community will continue because there's something there that's special.

TM: Well, and I think of it as sad -- if they're right, it's really sad because then I, I may be unique, but, and I have friends that live on Mercer Island, but I use this. I don't think I would feel comfortable as a Mercer Island person, feeling that I have roots there, and that I have -- that's where I belong. Maybe not even this Capitol Hill. But I, when I go to the International District, maybe because my business is there, I grew up there, and I have land there, but I feel, "Wow, this is my community. This is where I belong." And I feel very secure, safe, and feel comfortable. And I guess thinking of it when I go back to my father's village where he grew up, and was born and raised, and my cousin and my uncle live there, I says, "Wow, this is -- I feel very comfortable. I feel I belong." And I see no reason why I should give that up. Because I know I'm American by birth and by passport, I guess. But it's, it's a shame that the Sanseis that you spoke to can't feel that they could be proud of their culture and heritage. It doesn't enrich their life. It doesn't restrict it. It should enrich their life.

BF: I think you're right, that part of this is still dealing with the history of the internment.

TM: Yeah.

BF: And part of this is probably a continuation of, of forms of racism still. Well, I should ask you, what do you think, as being someone who, well, you've been in a lot more organizations than I have. How would you assess the level of sensitivity in our country, to racial issues? [Laughs]

TM: Well, this gets back to -- I don't, fortunately, I have not had to knock on the wall or door and say I want to be a board member or active. And fortunately because, and this came through just becoming involved with Model City program and Science Center for -- I went to the Science Center because I wanted, was looking for a birthday site for my son, and I got involved. But the point I'm making is, organizations like that that embrace you and welcome you are enlightened organizations. And I guess we talked about, we pick and choose. Invariably or intuitively, you're not going to go to an organization that treats you badly. And maybe that's a sad statement. That's the kind of organization that I should be involved with and other non, I mean, minorities should be involved with. So I've had fairly positive experiences because you tend to go to organizations and tend to deal with people that have, at least outwardly, dealt with this issue pretty well and comfortably for me.

BF: Do you find that in sort of your daily life too? I mean, when you're just doing your shopping or --

TM: Well, we all experience the back-of-the-seat mentality when you go places. But I think if you let that eat into your guts, then life is too short for that. So you just -- and I guess if you have a certain amount of confidence, you just say, "Well, that's their problem, not yours."

BF: Yeah.

TM: And I think you have to think of it that way. It's their problem, not yours. But I'm sure we've had friends that let, let that bother them. And well, that's, to me, unfortunate.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

BF: Now, your, your daughter was the second Japanese American debutante?

TM: Oh, right.

BF: And your niece was the first?

TM: Right.

BF: So do you remember, did they, when, when they considered being debutantes and were invited and were considering that, did they talk to you? I mean, was discrimination an issue?

TM: I think the parents were much more excited than the kids were.

BF: [Laughs] To them, it was just another group.

TM: To them, it was -- I can't speak for Mineko, who's my niece. But my daughter says, "Well, there's twenty kids. I know fifteen of them. So what's the big deal?" And she kind of knew that it was important to be, so she went along. But I think honestly if we said it wasn't important and we didn't have to do it, she probably wouldn't have done it. And she wouldn't have lost any sleep over it either, I think. And I feel proud that -- it's somewhat superficial. It wasn't important to her, I think. I'm proud that's her value, that was great. So if she came to me and said, "Hey, Dad this is all BS. I don't want any part of it." I think I would have said, "Fine." I would've probably shown a disappointed face, and she would have known that. But you think back, even if she said no, the fact that she had that opportunity to do it itself was a valuable experience.

BF: And is that why you and your sister were so excited because you realized that, wow, this is...

TM: Well --

BF: This is something...

TM: No.

BF: ...unusual or --

TM: No, it's probably part of that. But part of -- it's just like, wow, your daughter is going to be special. If she was, even a supporting person in some kind of play, you're there applauding. That's the kind of same thing, I think.

BF: It's just a little mind-blowing to me that there's any organizations left in this time, day and age that you'd be a pioneer, a racial pioneer.

TM: Yeah. Yeah it's --

BF: Kind of wild.

TM: It's amazing. But it's -- well, it's still, I was at a dinner just a couple nights ago that maybe forty prominent Seafirst people. And Freddie Brown and I were the only person of colors. There was a lot of female, ladies that wouldn't have been there ten years ago. But still in this day and age when you have forty or fifty prominent businessmen, bank leaders, and Freddie Brown's the only black and I was the only Asian there. That's kind of scary.

BF: So do you remember having that realization, kind of looking around the room? Do you still do that? Because I've talked to some people, and they say, "Oh, I don't notice."

TM: Well, I don't do it with Fred, but I remember doing that with some ladies, ten years ago, and says, "Wow, you're the only lady here, or we're the only, token minority here." Didn't do it with Freddie. But I have done with others in the past.

BF: So you have that consciousness? I mean --

TM: Oh, yeah. And this is where I get back to like, little bit of Sanseis. They got to have that consciousness. If they're not, they're brain dead. [Laughs] And it's, the question is, what are they going to do about it? And if they say that hey, I'm different, then they got a problem.

BF: But you say, the way you've dealt with it is to be proud of it?

TM: Yeah.

BF: And say, might as well make it an asset.

TM: And try to make an asset, yeah. And that's something I've got to give more thought to, I guess.

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

<Begin Segment 21>

BF: Speaking of interesting experience and your ethnicity being an asset, you got to eat dinner with President Clinton.

TM: Oh.

BF: Tell me, tell me a little bit about that. That must have been something.

TM: Well, I think Clinton was probably more surprised than I was, I was sitting at his table. But --

BF: [Laughs] Why do you say --

TM: Well, first of all, when you go into the White House, which was a unique experience in itself, they give you a -- first of all, they announce you, and then they give you a card at the start. And my card table said 34. So I said, well, I heard there was about 350 people, so 34 must be almost the last table. So I just, during the reception, Clinton was about forty minutes late, so I was feeling good. And fortunately, there was a lot of Nikkeis that I've known through JACL and through the memorial. And they were from Washington, D.C. and New York and Hawaii and Los Angeles. And these were political leaders that I've gotten to know throughout the years. So we were having a great time, drinking, drinking more wine than I should and feeling pretty good. And then they, there's a huge tent, White House was a large, about a hundred yards away they put you on a bus, you get off. And so I'm kidding, I'm feeling good. And my date was Jane Nishida. And she has a table 32 or something. So they, they split. So I'm getting -- and these very, armed forces, maybe marine, army and WACs and all that, beautifully dressed. I mean, they're just handsome, young, bright. And so I'm kidding along. And I says, "Oh, gee, does this table mean I have to wash dishes or something?" Because I just thought I was really at the end. I mean, there's no reason why I should be anywhere close to the podium. And they said, "No, I don't think so, sir. You're sitting there." So I go over there, and I says, why is that podium doing next to me because I, it didn't even, no one told me, and it didn't dawn on me. So they said, "Sit there." So I sit there. And then I see the next sign to me was a Mrs. Obuchi. So I thought well, maybe that's the daughter. I didn't think it was Mrs., prime minister's wife. Anyway, I sat there. And they says, "Did you look the next?" So I looked, and it says, "President." So I'm kidding to them because I'm feeling good. I said, "President of who? President of what?" Because I really didn't think I would be sitting next, at the table of the president. I mean, there's no reason why I should be there. Anyway, we sat there. We had a nice time, nice talk. And then telling thing, why he's surprised is that next to President Clinton was Carter, that lady that plays Wonder Woman?

BF: Lynda Carter?

TM: Yeah. Very outspoken. Very, articulates well, spoke very, a lot. Next to her is Bob Matsui, who I know. So right off the bat I'm chit-chatting a little bit with Bob Matsui because we'd known each other. And then -- and they put two interpreters, one between myself and Mrs. Obuchi, and one between Mrs. Obuchi and Mr. Clinton, president. And so I'm trying to make small talk. And we got along pretty good because I know Mrs. Miki, who is a former prime minister's wife, who comes to Seattle. She must be in her eighties. But then I figure she, they knew each other. So we were talking about that. And then I'm speaking Japanese a little bit. And so the interpreter is trying to help us out. Finally, the lady said, "Well, you guys, you talk to each other." We're talking away. So we talked about Mrs. Miki. And then the funny thing we had in common was the, each of us, Mrs. Obuchi has three daughters and Clinton has one and we have one, so that was a one conversation. So I was ending up kind of translating for Mrs. Obuchi as we were talking to Bill. And he's a charming guy. I tell you, he's very charming. He looks you right in the eye. I could see why he gets into trouble. [Laughs] But anyway, he's charming. But telling point of why he was surprised is he gets up, and about five minutes after he gets to the table, he's very savvy. So he says, "Mrs. Obuchi," because she's the honored guest at that table, He says, "Mrs. Obuchi, I want to introduce you to the table." Points to me and says, "Oh, you met him already." Didn't know my name. He went around to the seven other people, knew everybody's first name.

BF: Oh, no. But he covered himself.

TM: Yeah. He says, "Oh, you've met him already." At the end, he came around, shook my hand, said, "Very nice to have dinner with you, sir." Probably thought I was an old man.

BF: So at that point, he still wasn't quite sure --

TM: Why I was there. The telling thing was, I heard later on that each counsel general's office, Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, has to submit some names of Nikkei community people. So I was on that list. And when I accepted, I suspect -- and they won't tell me -- is that I know Ambassador Saito, not well, but they've been in Seattle, the Japan American Society event, been a speaker there. And when I was in Washington, D.C., for a couple meetings on the monument, I met him, been to his house. I suspect that they knew I spoke Japanese. But that's, that's just conjecture, and I don't know. But a wonderful evening.

BF: And they needed someone to sit next to the prime minister's wife?

TM: Well, maybe, and culturally or language-wise they probably said, "Well, why don't you let him sit next to Mrs. Obuchi because then they could talk." She was a wonderful lady. Very, raised, born, raised to be a diplomat's wife, you know.

BF: Very cultured, very poised.

TM: Yeah. But it was very fortunate that I knew Mrs. Miki -- I mean, know Mrs. Miki. And if you don't know about Mrs. Miki, I should tell you that story sometime in the future.

BF: Why? What did she --

TM: Well, Mrs. Miki -- Mr. Miki was a prime minister, was from the Isle of Shikoku, so when he was in United States right after college in the 1920s or '30s, he went to UCLA, but came to Seattle for a summer job. And Mr. Fuji, who used to run the Gyokokan Restaurant, took him in because they were from the same Shikoku island. And stayed in contact, not as very good friends, but stayed in contact. And when Mr. Miki was a prime minister very short time, maybe two, three years, but he was known as very leftist, very liberal. But anyway, he decided to send his wife, who's about my age, to Annie Wright in Tacoma. So they have a house in Tacoma. And they sent their daughter. And the daughter, in turn, sent her, yeah, three, but they sent two of their children to Annie Wright. So they have a lot of connection in Seattle. And actually, my brother's friend, Fish Okada, when he went to Japan, he worked for Mr., Prime Minister Miki, and so through that relation, the few times I went to Japan, I got to visit with Okada, Fish Okada, who your dad, mother knows very well. Got to meet the family. Not in a direct way, but... ways. And so, so Mrs. Miki used to come to Seattle frequently because they have a house in Tacoma. So Fish, frequently, I was invited. And I was asked to help them out. So we have a pretty good relation. Then her daughter, Kisako, lost her husband a few years back. And they were grooming the husband to run for the same seat that he started out in Shikoku. So they have a network, they built, rebuilt a house and everything. And then the husband passed away. So she decided to step up and run for congress. So she is a congressperson from the upper house, which is like our house of representatives, the weaker. So I haven't seen her. And she hasn't been here recently because she ran for that office, what, last June or something. But anyway, there was that relation. So I was able to talk to Mrs. Obuchi about Mrs. Miki and Mr., Kisako, and so that was enough of an icebreaker. So we had a very nice conversation.

BF: Was it sort of like switching gears for you to, to talk -- because I would assume talking to Mrs. Obuchi, you would, it'd be sort of different from talking to President Clinton. I don't know, they just very diametrically different.

TM: Actually, three ways. And then the person next to me, she was the wife of a US News and Report-type of a chief editor's wife or something.

BF: And then there's Wonder Woman?

TM: Yeah. Well, she was off on her own.

BF: Oh, okay.

TM: I didn't get to talk to her. But she was a wonderful, very interesting lady. So we spoke too. So in a way, I was talking to her, and all my best, well, whatever, American issues. And I was talking to Mrs. Obuchi about Japan and our daughters. And then Clinton was, we were talking mostly about Chelsea, I guess, saying that, and when Chelsea was home, he made it a point to have at least dinner with her three times a week or something, things like that, which was very touching, very interesting. But it was quite an experience. And I don't know what to say.

BF: It must be -- I mean, so you weren't, was it, was it the liquor? But you sound like you weren't nervous.

TM: No. I, like I -- and if they told me, I would have been. But by that time, we were really feeling -- it's just a very festive feeling. I mean, you feel secure. There's very well dressed, attractive, army and military personnel. It was just a wonderful feeling. And music in the background. Everybody dressed, and you just -- it was just a wonderful feeling.

BF: Do you ever, when you're, when you're in experiences like having experiences like that, and you travel around the world quite a bit and see amazing places, do you think about what your parents would think?

TM: Yeah. You know that they would be very proud. But getting back to the language thing, I'm fortunate that I have had experience to deal with like Mrs. Obuchi and dealing with people that speak Japanese and very little English. So it was, I felt comfortable, very comfortable. I wouldn't say very comfortable, but I felt comfortable that I had this experience, talking to like the Mrs. Miki and others throughout the years. And some of the people that we have dealt with in Japan, as an example, like the Yamasa shouyu people we've dealt with, once in a while when I go they will bring their wives out, which is rare, but I've had some opportunities where they felt I'm American, so they do bring their wives out, which is rare. So I've had opportunities to have dinner with business leaders' wives, which is somewhat unusual. But it's given me the experience to talk to them. I didn't feel uncomfortable talking to Mrs. Obuchi at all.

BF: Interesting.

TM: Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 22>

BF: Well, tell me a little bit about -- I mean, we're kind of winding up here with this one interview, about your sort of life philosophies. I mean, we've, we've touched on them today. And I hear common themes sort of running through, broad-minded, politics, involvement in politics. There's a very strong pragmatic part of you that's the business -- businessman. But how would you sort of summarize some of your life philosophies?

TM: Well, I, I think, getting back to philosophy, you've heard that Taul Watanabe says, "Business is politics, and politics is business." I don't, I agree that, that they're intertwined. And it would be naive to think otherwise. And there's a lot of, maybe my friends just don't put it together or think it's not important, but it is. And so you, your awareness and your connection with politic, political people and political system is important, but you don't want to make it all your life. I mean, it just has to be a balance of you stay in touch, and because you can't go overboard. You find people that are all politics and nothing else. But the awareness of politics is important. But I think I go back to basically what my parents' culture and Asian culture, and American culture, has taught us about -- and I, I say the strong emphasis for the Asian and Japanese culture has been the Taoism. And I don't know other than it's like respect to the elderly, parents, and things like that, I just gained through osmosis. And those are very important things. And, and I don't, I really haven't given it much thought. But you try to live for what's right. And if you do things that are right, then you don't -- do it right because you don't worry about the consequences, then you're okay. So I'm not -- I don't, I'm not that deep of a thinker. I just feel you do what's right, and you do certain things because you feel obligation, and not to bring disrespect to your family. And all those things play into it. And if you do all those things right, then at the end of the day, you're okay. And then fortunately, otherwise, then maybe you try to, I try to stay busy enough so I don't have time to think about it. So when I come home I got about three days of newspaper laying next to my bed I can't even get to. But so physically, I keep myself busy, which is maybe a excuse not to get involved in, with other things. But I just feel, just doing what you're supposed to do, do it right, and do it, and then things will fall into place, I guess.

BF: You know, I think there's a lot of people who would, who have a negative impression of politics, and they would, they would say that the notion of doing what is right, because it's right, as opposed to what it will get you or other motivations, that that's sort of, that they don't see that working with politics. But how do, how do you think of politics? Because obviously, you don't see it as all negative.

TM: Well, here again, it's a building block. If politics is kind of on top, which doesn't make sense, but if it is, try to get there first without building the blocks below, it doesn't work. But if you are active in the community or you're somewhat successful in business, the politicians will come to you. And if they respect you for what your, organizations you represent, and if you give a few dollars, they'll come to you. And then once they come to you and if you get along, like Pritchard and people like Slade Gorton, they say, "Wow, how can you be friend with Slade Gorton?" But we're friends. And when I was there with Jane Nishida for that White House event, we had about a couple hours to kill, and Jobi was there, so we wanted to see Jobi, Bea's daughter, Akira?

BF: Oh.

TM: She's a -- she's what? Twenty-six or seven. She said, "I feel burnt out now." But she was the head of staff, chief of staff, for Insley or somebody. Anyway, so we go there. I says, "Well, I'd love to go see Slade." So they call. And naturally, they, receptionist doesn't know who I am. Get a call five minutes later, says, "Slade wants to see you. Come right now because he's flying to Spokane in about half an hour." But, and everybody in the office says, "Wow." But the point is, how do you weigh something like that? Even Jane was really, wow. But that's the kind of friend. And it's not because I gave him lots of money, but you had something going. But that's important because if, like the redress, we went to Slade. I mean, that's the kind of relation that was necessary, I think, to even get your foot in the door. And I don't know what I'm trying to say, other than for some reason I've been able to retain that kind of relation with people that were in politics. And it goes back to Jackson and Magnuson and Joel Pritchard. And because, like I say, I was involved with organizations and somewhat viewed as a successful businessperson, some way they knew who I was. And that builds on each other. But that's where the risk come because somewhere you always have to make a decision because there's always going to be somewhere, sometime, two or three people that run for the same office, and you're going to have to make some decisions that. And I have a theory about that. It doesn't matter who wins, as long as that person is a credible candidate and you're viewed as backing a credible candidate. If that candidate loses, it's okay, as long as that person was credible. What you don't want to do is back publicly candidates that are not credible. So you have to take a risk, but the risk is minimal if you do it consistently and pick people for backing who you think are good people.

BF: You make, when you discuss politics, you make it sound a lot less mysterious and scary than I think a lot of Japanese Americans think of it. They're just people to you, and friends.

TM: And fortunately because of these long relations, I've gotten to know these people as people.

BF: Yeah.

TM: And I think when they feel comfortable that you're treating them as people, the friendship and bond seems to grow.

BF: It sounds like this all, it happens very, it happened very naturally, that you weren't someone who plotted a course -- [Laughs]

TM: Well --

BF: To become a mover and shaker?

TM: Well, ever since, well, who am I thinking of, the governor. Well, I've known every governor, and, before they were in office. So except for Dixie Lee Ray. Taul Watanabe introduced me to her. But even her, I think I knew her prior to her becoming a governor. So I don't know what to say other than it's much better to know these people before they become elected.

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

<Begin Segment 23>

BF: You must like people, too. There's some people who like people and some people who are less social.

TM: Yeah. I feel I have something to talk to about with almost anybody. I guess starting with the president. I don't know. I guess we talked about Chelsea. I feel comfortable, even in Japan, talking to most people about something. And I think that's important. That's a good point. Well, I guess we shouldn't beat up on the Sanseis, but the trait of Nisei-Sanseis, a lot of them are not comfortable speaking to people other than their, strictly peers. I got this story, had some guests from Japan, so I invited my sister, naturally. And she had two couples from California. And so my brother-in-law, three of them sat there from 6 to 11 o'clock. And the wives I know a little bit were going around talking to everybody. And the three of them just sat there from 6:00 to 11:00. I couldn't understand it. Just sit there and talking to themselves. But I, I don't know. I just said, "Wow." Looked like very intelligent, nice people. But they just didn't mix.

BF: And you see that as a missed opportunity, kind of a shame?

TM: Well, yeah. Two-way, a shame. My friends that were sitting here, they weren't doing much better, but they didn't talk to each other at all.

BF: It seems like, I know a lot of my non-Nikkei friends, especially some of the folks who I met in law school, were kind of, attracts a different crowd than undergraduate, they came from wealthier families who -- and so they were brought up to understand the importance of social skills and knowing how to interact and learning to like people and not be afraid.

TM: I was at the lunch for -- not lunch, but lecture by Mandela yesterday.

BF: Oh.

TM: And I couldn't understand a lot of it because of the accent. But that's what, one of the things he said. He said, "Unless you're willing to do some of the things we're talking about," I think he said something like, "If you do those things, then you could become the president, like Gore, vice president like Gore, Clinton," or, and he said some of those things. He says, "Go out and meet people and talk to them, and don't do drugs." But basically, what we're saying and I'm telling you, that Sanseis are not doing some of those things, yeah. Or the Niseis, starting with the Niseis.

BF: Yeah, because I have heard that from other people who are close to you, and I asked them to describe you. And they, the first thing that comes to mind is always your, your graciousness, your hospitality, your genuineness. You seem to really just like being around people and are, and are a wonderful host. Do you think, I mean is that something that just came naturally, or did you have to work to be not shy?

TM: Well, that's where my mother's culture comes from. She was raised with that type of open, serve tea, and all this stuff, thing, and open house. That's where -- I think, I'm guessing my brothers and sisters are, all of us are like that a little bit.

BF: Good, good. Well was, at this point, is there anything that you would like to add or talk about because I know we're getting close.

TM: What time is it?

BF: Yeah, it's almost 1:30.

TM: No, not really. I think you covered a lot of things. I've been thinking about a lot of things you wrote. Yeah, I try to put the pieces together. The dates seem to kind of slip. But I guess that maybe that is important, it's just put down some of the issues. Because I wasn't thinking, trying to think how I got involved with the Pacific Science Center. And I was just thinking, last night I was thinking that when my son Tyler was, had a birthday, I was looking for something unique. And walked into the Science Center, and before I knew it, I was talking to them. And before I knew it, they said, "Gee, why don't you come on the board or become an associate or something." And before I knew it, I was there. [Laughs]

BF: [Laughs] "By the way, can I rent the room for free if I become a board member?"

TM: I can't remember. I rented it for a few dollars. But the point is, well, they says, "Why don't you volunteer for this and do that?" And before I know it, I was associate, and I was on the board, and I was even VP in charge of fund-raising that, this one program, some annual fund. That's the year that Lovett passed away. They were very worried. I said, "No, it's a commitment. I think she would want me to continue." So I did that. Then I said, after that, "I'm going to quit." I still stay in touch with them. But that's something that just came out of the association for the desire to some way be good about my son. So I came to, not only to these organizations different ways, but they all kind of seemed to come together. This YMCA organization that I've been a member of the AK Guy Award Committee for the last ten, fifteen years, and off and on. And I remember I got there because Mary Gates called me. And I was trying to think how I knew Mary Gates. I can't remember, but I served on a couple boards with her, and I can't remember. But she called, says, "YMCA has this award committee, and they need some blood." So I said, "Okay." I can't say no to Mary Gates, so I got there, and it's been a good relation. But this year, they didn't ask me to serve, and I was wondering maybe, I thought, well maybe my tenure was up and that was fine. And then they called me, they says, "Well, we'd like to nominate you." But here again, that was something that, why would I be involved with YMCA, but Mary Gates just called one day and said, "Like to ask you to serve on this small committee." And I said, "Hey, that's great." And fortunate thing is, once you get there, there's people you know, like Joel Pritchard was there, and Don Covey was there. And you don't know everybody, but once you know two, three people, it keeps making you feel comfortable.

BF: You are a part of a somewhat select circle in this city.

TM: Yeah.

BF: They're just your friends, but when you kind of step back and look at it objectively, the names you name, those are movers and shakers.

TM: Well, if you look at the program from the AK Guy, I'm the 16th person, 15th person before me, including Scott. There's fourteen out of the fifteen, I think I've had an opportunity to work with.

BF: Yeah.

TM: So that's a unique opportunity. Well, anyway. I appreciate, Tom was there. Scott was there. That was nice.

BF: Yeah. Good.

TM: But, you know, I don't know. Try to make sense of all this, but I -- like I say, you just do the best the can, and at the end of the day it's going to be all over anyway.

BF: When you're six feet under. [Laughs]

TM: Yeah. And then my -- they quoted me in that program, says, my dad said, "You come into the world naked, and you're going leave naked. So while you're here, try to make an impact or do something." That's about all you can afford, that's all you can wish for, I think.

BF: That's good. Wonderful.

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