Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Shosuke Sasaki Interview
Narrator: Shosuke Sasaki
Interviewers: Frank Abe (primary), Stephen Fugita (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 18, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-sshosuke-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

FA: It's May 18, 1997, we're at the Kenny Retirement Home in West Seattle, talking with Shosuke Sasaki. And Shosuke, I just want to say how, that you look just as good as you did when I first met you twenty years ago. [Laughs]

SS: I wish I felt that good.

FA: Well you look great, Shosuke. Tell me where were you born, when were you born and what was your family... tell me about your family.

SS: Well, I was born in Japan. Do you want the address and the location?

FA: The ken.

SS: Oh, the ken. Yamaguchi-ken. And Yoshiki-gun, and the name of the village was Ajisu.

FA: What's your birthday?

SS: March 26, 1912.

FA: And what are your parents' names?

SS: My parents?

FA: Yes. Father and mother.

SS: Oh. My father's name was Tamenosuke and my mother's name was Moto. That's their first names.

FA: How many brothers and sisters do you have?

SS: Well, I have living, only my sister.

FA: What's her name?

SS: Umeko Araki.

FA: What class was your father and mother from?

SS: Well, we were from the samurai class.

FA: Can you tell me a little bit about that?

SS: Yes. The, as you know, in Japan, they had a number of classes. Of course the top class was the Emperor and the, his relatives and nobility. We never ranked anywhere close to that. But we were sort of... the American dictionaries sometimes refer to us as being the lesser members of Japan's lesser nobility.

FA: I know you're very proud of being from samurai class. Why are you so proud of that?

SS: Well, if it hadn't been for the samurai class, Japan might have been taken over as a colony by the United States or England or any of the other powers. But the people of, the countries of Europe and the Unites States essentially, they're all of European decent except for the Native American, so-called Indians. The... when Millard Fillmore sent Perry, to, to open up Japan, his attitude toward the Japanese and its government was one of utter and total contempt. And they would have probably enjoyed mistreating us harshly right from the beginning if they could have gotten away with it. But they were probably restrained from taking that attitude of treating us as animals or semi-animals because of Japan's experience with the European countries before that time. So the, certainly the Americans, their attitude was based on ignorance. Of course it was one of total contempt and they would have acted accordingly if it hadn't have been for the warning they received from other countries that had relations with Japan many years prior to that. Like, for instance, the Portuguese and the Dutch. They must, the American government must have been warned by them not to take that total contemptuous attitude toward the Japanese if you want anything ever settled.

FA: How did you come to, how did your family come to immigrate to America?

SS: Well, my father was a graduate of Japan's first merchant marines school. And because of that, he learned English there. So he was always -- well, as far as I remember -- bilingual. He could read, write and speak in both English and Japanese. Which I found to be a great advantage to me as a boy growing up. My father did not hesitate to correct me on my English more than once. And he read, he bought and read books written in both Japanese and -- written in either Japanese or English and, maybe I could mention here that my father's best friend in that little town where I lived for the first four and a half years of my life in this country in a little town of Pomeroy. It's in the southeastern corner of Washington State. My father decided to live there because his friend Edwin W. Gibson urged him to come to that town.

FA: Why?

SS: Well, for one thing. They were, since my father was bilingual, my father read the same books, same magazines that his friend Edwin Gibson read. Edwin, I called him Ed, I should have called him Uncle Ed, really. In Japanese, I would have called him Ojisan, you know, Uncle. But in this country, my parents never thought of the fact that I wasn't being as polite as I should be. And this Edwin Gibson was probably one of the best-educated men I ever knew. He never had a chance or went to college, but as I grew older and started reading on my own, I realized the extent to which Ed Gibson had educated himself by just endless reading. His home was practically a library. The living room was, had bookshelves on all four walls.

FA: What books do you recall reading when you were in Pomeroy as a child?

SS: Well these were children's books that he and his brothers read when they were young.

FA: What books, do you recall?

SS: Well, they were, I don't remember the names of these books. But I know that my sister and I had free access to all the books in his house and Ed was not only a scholar, he was a born teacher.

SF: When did you come to the United States? What year?

SS: Came to this country in 1919, the year World War I ended. And I might add that I didn't come by steerage. We came first-class.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.