Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Ayako Murakami - Masako Murakami Interview
Narrators: Ayako Murakami, Masako Murakami
Interviewers: Dee Goto (primary), Alice Ito (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 14, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-mayako_g-01-0003

<Begin Segment 3>

DG: I heard a little bit about how he saved money.

MM: I think at the beginning, I think he did save his money. Didn't... he told his friends, "Don't drink, don't gamble." You know how young men were. But, I think he was wise not to drink and not to gamble. So he was able to buy the store. I don't know how much he paid but at those days, you know, prices were quite low but the value, the money was better. And then, what, what more do you remember? You were born first, Aya. [Laughs]

DG: Did you know anything about the first business at all, Aya? Okay, so then, let's talk about how he got this place.

MM: I think he worked overtime and things like that, and saved money.

DG: And he got the land...

MM: Yeah, and then he...

DG: And the story about that, you told...

MM: Oh, about Furuya?

DG: Right.

MM: Oh, the, what was it? A Pacific Commercial Bank, was it the name of the place, Aya?

AM: Commercial Bank, I think. I don't know the exact name. Pacific Commercial Bank, maybe.

DG: So, we're talking about 1930 now.

AM: Pardon me?

MM: 1930s?

DG: We're talking about 1930, right?

MM: Yeah, when is it, though, that the Commercial Bank, ano, collapsed?

AM: Around 1930, I think.

MM: Around 1930, somewhere around there. The bank was going downhill, and, I think Mr. Fukuhara, one of the Japanese employees of the bank, I think, approached my dad and said, "Would you please help the bank?" They didn't want it to collapse, so, "Would you buy the land?" so I think that's my father. I think, my, minna no tame to omotte, he bought the land. But, I mean, he bought the land but no use just hanging on to something that you can't do anything with, so then he decided to build this building and that was real bad Depression time. And like Aya says, the workers were working for a dollar and a half a day.

DG: And how did he get the money?

MM: Saved money. He didn't gamble or anything.

DG: And where was it saved?

MM: He had it in the bank.

DG: In...

MM: In then, that Commercial Bank, probably, huh? He must have gotten it out to buy the...

DG: Here in the United States?

MM: Uh-huh. Down Second and the Main, where Furuya... do you remember Furuya no store down there? There's a bank around there anyway, Aya. I don't know the exact date, but it's in that vicinity.

DG: Well, you mentioned he also sent some money to Japan.

MM: Well, that was strictly on the QT, supposed to be. Helping...

DG: Then that's how come he could amass...

MM: Well, I don't know exactly how much money there was but I think Japanese government wanted help. It wanted dollars. So, how that went through the bank, I don't know.

DG: And there was somebody who helped you legally.

MM: Oh, yeah, Tom Masuda, ne? He was a real nice guy and... he was the only Japanese lawyer, ne, that we knew then and he did all the legal work for us. And you were there, too. But she was under, were you underage then?

AM: What?

MM: You were underage? So...

DG: You would have been around, what? Seventeen?

MM: Quite young.

AM: We sold it as a stock, you know.

MM: Ano, and they formed a corporation, not... you know, you had to... because Papa couldn't own it. So I think your name was in it and then Tom Masuda, and then, and another banker, I think, it was that, name.

AM: So, we bought shares in the stock.

DG: I see. So what did you think about all of this? Were you involved in the business at that time at all?

AM: Pardon me?

DG: Were you involved in working?

MM: She was helping in the store, too. You know more about it, that, than I do, 'cause I was, she's the oldest and I'm the youngest, so...

DG: So you were about how old, yourself?

MM: Not high school age yet, I don't think. But I knew they were talking about banks and stuff like that. I didn't know exactly what was going on but ...

DG: Well, we've talked before and your father encouraged you businesswise from when you were really little.

MM: Well, we took it for granted that, you know, we'd help around the store. Papa never pushed us to do it. He never told us do this, do that. If some things came in, well, we'd unwrap it and things like that. But, how would you say Papa...

AM: He was a soft gentleman.

MM: Real quiet. So he let Mama do all the talking. Man of few words.

DG: But you talked about how he wanted you to know about the business. And about how he nurtured you, just like your brother. You had a brother, right, between the two of you. And his name was...

MM: Kay, Kazuichi, but they called him Kay.

DG: So then you were born when, Aya?

MM: 1913, ka?

AM: Yeah.

MM: And the Chiyo's 1915. And Kay was born 1917. Then I was born 1919. Two years apart.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.