Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Martha Nishitani Interview
Narrator: Martha Nishitani
Interviewer: Sara Yamasaki
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 15, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-nmartha-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

SY: Well, this is May 16, 1998. [Ed. note: the date is May 15, 1998.] I'm Sara Yamasaki, interviewing Martha Nishitani at the Densho office. And we'll just begin talking a little bit about your family background. Your father, Denjiro, and mother, Jin, had four children, and were living on their estate in Nojiku, Japan. Now this is an estate, before you were born. But what do you know about that Japanese estate?

MN: Well, all I know is what I've been told or what I've heard from my older brothers and sisters. (In 1960) when I went to visit the area, I learned a little bit more about it. And it seemed that, on a little rise, and a flat area was where our home was. And it was a large home. (...) It was like, in the medieval times. It was a special place to repair tools and a special place where, to make tsukemono and a place to store fruit and vegetables, and a barn. And these were kind of separate from the house, but they were places to do things like that. And the house was quite large, and the space was quite flat and large. And I walked up there, and I could look out, and it was very beautiful. There were trees in the distance and other hills. And it must have been nice to live there to see all that, picturesque (setting).

SY: Was there a garden there?

MN: Yes. There was an orchard, too, I understand that. And they had persimmons...

SY: So it was really a lovely place. But like in 1906, when your parents had, actually, a number of children. Hiromu was seven, Sadako was four, Yutaka, two, and Misao was just born, your father decided to leave Japan, as did many Isseis, and come to America. So why did he decide to come to America?

MN: Well, he came because he was supposed to learn how to grow big oranges, like they do in California. Because in Japan, they have these little oranges that, which are very nice, but for some reason, I guess they wanted to raise big oranges, too. And so he did start out. On the way, the San Francisco earthquake came, and so he couldn't go to California. He had to be rerouted to Seattle. That's how he landed in Seattle, and that's how our family lived there.

SY: By the, so in some ways, you would have lived in San Francisco, had it not been for that earthquake.

MN: Right.

SY: Do you recall any stories on his journey on the boat, or when he first came to America?

MN: Well, when he first came, there was a religious man, a Reverend, I don't remember his name. But he met all the Isseis that were coming from Japan and he got him a room. And he didn't know how to do the bed, so he just laid on top and he kind of smoothed it out in the morning. And he worked, I think he worked on a farm and he worked with a wealthy family who had an estate, and he became their gardener.

SY: Right.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.