Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Nobu Suzuki Interview I
Narrator: Nobu Suzuki
Interviewer: Dee Goto
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: June 3, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-snobu-01

<Begin Segment 1>

DG: But, don't you think genetics evolves though, too, with your environment some?

NS: I imagine, uh-huh.

DG: But maybe over ten thousand years or so.

NS: Well, I don't know. There are certainly, certain amount of, a certain amount of adventure or something. After all, why would my father come all the way across the ocean just to make a life for himself?

DG: That's for sure.

NS: Sort of a thing that the Isseis did.

DG: It really...

NS: And then having opportunities to be in Japan and make a life for himself, and yet he chose to come back and start a life over here.

DG: Did some reading about Japan's situation in the 1890s, 1880s...

NS: Well, there's that Russo War going on and so he was drafted, but he was in Alaska at that time. So he had to go back to Japan to serve in the army and he did. But because he was -- had gone out of Japan into another country, I suppose they assumed he knew enough English to do some interpreting and that's what he did.

DG: So he did the interpreting in Japan?

NS: In -- where was the war? In Korea?

DG: China or Korea or someplace.

NS: Someplace, uh-huh. So he was more or less in the headquarters department interpreting, probably in the English because he knew some English.

DG: Because the English were occupying China at that time so they needed to negotiate with them?

NS: The Russians, in the negotiations with the Russians.

DG: Why would they...

NS: They probably used English rather than Russian because they... I don't know whether there were any Japanese who could speak or do anyth -- say anything in Russian.

DG: Oh, right.

NS: So it must have been in English because he certainly didn't know Russia. [Laughs] But he did tell my mother that he was offered a position in Japan after the war.

DG: So now we're talking about a hundred years ago, Nobu.

NS: Not quite.

DG: Not quite, but getting there.

NS: Getting there almost. About ninety...

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

<Begin Segment 2>

DG: And your father's name was what?

NS: What?

DG: Your father's name was?

NS: Moritaro Yanagimachi.

DG: And he's from what ken?

NS: Nagano-ken, Nagano-ken, Japan.

DG: That's just west of Tokyo, right?

NS: Yes.

DG: Kind of...

NS: That was where the Olympics was held this last year.

DG: Right.

NS: I was surprised to -- my brother had a map of Nagano where the Olympics were held, and there's one section right by the railroad station with the name Yanagimachi with this grammar school named after him and then some shops or something. Anyways, I have the map and will show it to you. So he was in... so my mother insisted that he go back to Japan to visit her folks, and so he made a trip in 1925 or so, '-5 or '-6, someplace around in there. He was in the Russo-Japanese war, but at that time he knew he wanted to come back here.

DG: So at the Russo-Japanese War, he was like, twenty-something, right?

NS: Uh-huh.

DG: Because he was born in around 1878? Is that what you said?

NS: '70 or '80, someplace around in there, probably more in the '80s because he wasn't too old. I think he was still in his sixties when he died.

DG: So you said that he came originally at age sixteen.

NS: He came -- well, he went as a sailor on a boat and I think at that time it was an "NYK" boat, and at that time he went to England the first trip.

DG: So NYK stands for?

NS: NYK, "Nippon Yusen Kaisha." He went to England and the reason I know that is that he had a piece of red flannel that he had for a long time. And I remember getting -- my mother making a jacket for me out of that red flannel that he had gotten in England years and years ago and that he probably brought it back to my grandmother. And then my grandmother came to the United States when my mother went to visit and I was about two or three years old.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

DG: So you were born in?

NS: I was born in Seattle.

DG: In 19...?

NS: 1909, and a few years after that -- and a year after that I had a sister and we went back to Japan. I must have been about three years old. And her intention was to leave the children in Japan and come back as a lot of the people used to do that. I think, prior to that, the first born brother had died and so it was just my sister and I that went to Japan. But her mother at that time said, "No," that the children belonged with their parents so take them back to the United States. And so that's why she brought us back. Also, at the same time my father's mother was single, and she bought her back, so I had a grandmother here in Seattle until she died.

DG: So then your father's family, was he the oldest or did he have brothers or sisters?

NS: He was the only son.

DG: The only son. Oh, then that makes more sense that his mother would come.

NS: So Mother, so Mother brought her probably as baby-sitter as well as...

DG: Sure.

NS: Mother's mother.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

DG: Now your father was doing what at that time?

NS: My father originally came before he went back to the war, he was on a boat going to Alaska. It was the gold rush time. I know he was on a boat going up and down the coast because years later, about twenty-five years later or when he went back to Japan, he looked up his old friend who was a deck hand at that time -- but he was captain in a dollar steamship the second time. So he booked passage with his friend and went to Japan and went just as long as the boat was in -- the boat went from Japan to China and thereabouts and then came back from Japan. So my father went and came back on the same boat and that was in about 1925 or so. About that time, there was a partner in the fish business that went back to Japan and started oyster farming in the northern part of Japan. My father got interested in that and brought oysters to Seattle.

DG: But now when this man went back to Japan, he sold your father his interest in the Jackson Fish Company?

NS: Yes, uh-huh. And this man then subsequently went into the oyster business in Japan. And so when my father went back to Japan he saw...

DG: This is in Sendai?

NS: Yes, this is in 1925 or thereabouts when he went back to Japan. And at that time he looked up his friend -- and he was in the oyster business -- so he bought seed, oyster seed, and had 'em shipped back to Seattle. And I remember that because he put (the barrel) in the bathtub and my mother didn't like that. [Laughs] So he had to take it back outside and then find a place for them. And they started...

DG: What did the seed look like?

NS: Well, I don't know.

DG: Are they, they're not in the shell yet, right?

NS: No, they're loose.

DG: Right.

NS: And they're little tiny oysters, I guess.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

NS: And anyways, I remember a train trip when I was about ten years old up to, toward Bellingham. At that time I know he was in conferences with Dr. Kincaid at the university, who was head of the zoology department; they probably found the best place where they could propagate these oysters. So he shipped the seeds there and started the oyster business in the area around Bellingham. Then it wasn't until '31, or thereabouts -- after I was twenty-one and could own property -- that he went with some people and started the oyster company in Willapa Harbor.

DG: The New Washington?

NS: New Washington Oyster Company. And so he didn't have interest in the Samish Bay oysters, but had interest with the New Washington Oyster Company, which we had until he died.

DG: Now, you mentioned that Mr. Shitamaya was involved also? The NP Hotel?

NS: No.

DG: No, he wasn't involved?

NS: No.

DG: Oh, he was involved with another company there on Willapa. I thought you had mentioned his name.

NS: No. It wasn't Mr. Shitamaya, it was Nakao.

DG: Okay. And they...

NS: There was a Nakao.

DG: And they were living out there already.

NS: And they were all living out there, uh-huh.

DG: And your father never moved out there.

NS: No, but he got the oysters and sold them and retailed them in Seattle.

DG: The Tolan Report says that the New Washington was one of the largest...

NS: Uh-huh. It became one of the largest, larger, oyster companies, and he shipped them. He did the shipping and he shipped to California and to Chicago area.

DG: So he initiated that distribution?

NS: Well, it was part of the business. He was the outdoor salesman of Jackson Fish and...

DG: That was back here in Seattle.

NS: That's here in Seattle.

DG: And that was located where?

NS: It was first, 511 King Street, and then they moved and bought the area on Sixth and Dearborn; he opened his fish store there.

DG: So he maintained that also all these years?

NS: Yes. Well, he maintained that until he died. Then when he died, his partner took over.

DG: Mr. Nakao? No, that's...

NS: No, Nakao was New Washington Oyster. No, Kanazawa.

DG: Here?

NS: Here at Seattle.

DG: At the Jackson Fish Company.

NS: Jackson Fish Company, uh-huh. But when he died, my mother had to sell his interest or settled with them about his interest in that. But she kept the interest in the oyster company.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

DG: Now, when you...

NS: And so we had the interest in the oyster company, and my brother worked there. My brother, Harry, worked there and my brother George also worked for a little bit there, but my brother Harry was there until he died.

DG: Okay. Now, we are talking about the New Washington Oyster Company that's out in Willapa Bay in southern Washington.

NS: That's right. But we sold our...

DG: And your father died in 193...?

NS: '36.

DG: '36, okay. So until he died he (was with) the Jackson Fish Company in Seattle and then the New Washington Oyster Company.

NS: Well, New Washington Oyster Company had its own organization, but he sold the oysters from the other company.

DG: And that was in your name?

NS: The interest was in my name. The stock was in my name.

DG: And you said you went to some of the board meetings.

NS: I drove him. I was the driver and I had to go to the meetings.

DG: What kind of things did you discuss? Do you remember any of it?

NS: I don't remember any of it because mostly it was business and how much they did or how much they didn't do, things like that.

DG: So then the Jackson Fish Company here in Seattle, was that just leased?

NS: Huh?

DG: Was the property leased?

NS: No, they bought the property here. But my mother was paid a certain amount when my father died. And so she sold it to the Kanazawas; Kanazawa was the partner.

DG: So they had a -- was he a Nisei?

NS: Kanazawa?

DG: So that he could buy property?

NS: No, but he had children.

DG: Okay.

NS: So that it might have been in the children's name.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

DG: Okay. Now let's talk about your mother now because she...

NS: She was not content with just the wage from the father, and, of course, we ate fish a lot. [Laughs] Being in the fish market business, why, our main diet was fish, but, 'course, it was varied because we had all kinds of, different kinds of fish. But she had a big power machine and she sewed. She was a seamstress and so she sewed for one of the companies on Jackson Street that made clothes for Japanese women. Japanese women were small at that time and had trouble finding clothes in the American stores -- there were several places where dresses were made to order for the Japanese women, and my mother used to work in one of those stores. As I was growing up, I remember going up and down Jackson Street taking clothes or picking up things.

DG: So then she actually sewed at home.

NS: She sewed at home because she had the children, and I did a lot of the errands, uh-huh.

DG: And you were living where then?

NS: We were living on Thirteenth and Weller. We had -- it was a rented house, but it was a small cottage, but it had a big yard with fruit trees on it. I remember a prune tree and a cherry tree and an apple tree and a big yard so that we could play there, and also, a neighbor across on the back who baked bread. And every time I could smell that fresh bread baking, I'd go sit on her porch. [Laughs]

DG: A hakujin lady?

NS: Yes, to [inaudible] the lady. A hakujin lady. And she would cut a piece off of the fresh bread and put some jam, homemade jam on it and give it to us. Those are some of the happy memories that I have of living there.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

DG: Who were your playmates?

NS: What?

DG: Who were your playmates?

NS: There were people who lived in the neighborhood. There weren't too many my age, but I did go to -- on Saturdays, I did go to the YWCA, and there was a Japanese girl's group there and then I would stop in at the library and...

DG: Okay. Where did the YWCA meet?

NS: In the YWCA building where it is now on Fifth and Seneca.

DG: So you walked all the way from Thirteenth?

NS: I remember walking -- there weren't too many houses and buildings then and so we jaywalked through a path from Thirteenth and into -- I know -- we didn't have blocks then, we had roads through property, and we just kind of criss-crossed all the way to the Y.

DG: So who is we?

NS: There were -- well, we would pick up girls on the way. There would be, there were -- Let's see, on Weller I didn't have as many friends as when we moved up to Eighteenth and Lane. And when we moved up to Eighteenth and Lane, I think I was about ten years old, in the fourth grade and went to Washington School. And Rae Ota was there then, of the Otas, and they had lots of girls. Rae and I were in the same class through grammar school and high school and part of college until she got married.

DG: Now, was your grandmother living with you all this time?

NS: Yes. She lived until -- and she died when she was in her sixties, I think, when we were living on Eighteenth and Lane.

DG: So by the time you were ten in this period of time, you had four brothers by then.

NS: I don't know. [Laughs] I'd have to look at their birthdays back then.

DG: I think the last one was born in 19... oh, well, one was born in 1922; you said Bill was.

NS: Uh-huh.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

DG: Okay. Back to when you started kindergarten, you went on Thirteenth and Weller.

NS: I was four years old then and the kindergarten had -- there was a kindergarten at the Methodist church, and so I remember going there. And I did get certificate of graduation from there.

DG: Now, was that Japanese?

NS: There was an English teacher, but the students were all Japanese and about my age. A lot of them were, a lot of them have gone back to Japan since then.

DG: So you spoke Japanese?

NS: No, we spoke English then. But at home we had to speak Japanese because of my grandmother and my mother. And I went to first four grades to Pacific School and went to the Japanese school from 4:00 to 5:00 after that. So I went eight years to the Japanese language school also.

DG: Well, you knew Billie by then, right, Tashiro?

NS: Yes, she was in, probably in my Japanese school class. And then we had a girl's group that met on Saturdays, as I said, and I think she was in that group, too.

DG: So moving on to junior high age...

NS: We didn't have junior highs in those days. It was grade school and then high school. So we had eight years at Washington School and then four years at Garfield. But then we had a flu epidemic around when I was about ten years old, and I was very sick at that time, I remember. I missed a lot of school, as a lot of other people did too at the same time. The hospitals were full and we couldn't get any rooms then. And so my mother took care of me. Somehow or the other I lost a half a grade, and I went to summer school then. Broadway High School had summer schools, and so I took courses there and made up my courses so that I graduated from Garfield in 1927 with all my credits.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

DG: Now, by the time you were ten years old, did you have any special interests besides, like YWCA you mentioned, but...

NS: And then reading. I used to like to do a lot of reading.

DG: What kind?

NS: Oh, fiction, all the mystery stories. [Laughs]

DG: Was Nancy Drew around in those days?

NS: No.

DG: Not yet.

NS: But there was another series that was around then. I remember scaring myself to death in the Fu Man Chu movies -- I mean, books. [Laughs]

DG: Did you go to movies?

NS: Yes, there were...

DG: Japanese movies?

NS: No, there weren't any Japanese movies at that time, I don't think.

DG: Oh, really. There should have been some.

NS: There might have been, but they might have...

DG: The Nippon Kan, did you go...

NS: ...I wasn't too awfully interested in Japanese movies.

DG: What about the Nippon Kan?

NS: Nippon Kan had programs. My mother used to go to the movies that they had there, and I used to take her. But I don't think I was too awfully interested in Japanese movies. And then there were programs, too, put on by Nisei actors at that time and she used to go to those, but I wasn't very much interested; I had other things to do, but I remember taking her.

DG: Like what? What were those other things to do?

NS: I don't know. Probably still sitting at home reading. [Laughs]

DG: What about Nagano-ken picnics?

NS: Oh, we dutifully went to those, uh-huh. They were held in White River Valley picnic grounds, and I remember going to those.

DG: What happens at the picnics?

NS: What happened? Oh, they had different races and three-legged races and things like that for children. And, of course, the folks all prepared beautiful lunch, picnic lunches, which was more fun to go to different people's to see what else they had and eat some of the Japanese food that they had prepared.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

DG: What about discipline in your home?

NS: My mother was quite a disciplinarian, especially having boys, and they had to be -- they had to act according to her standards, or else. She was quite vociferous in that respect. But they were interested in sports and they took part in baseball and basketball and football and so they kept busy on weekends. My father used to have his truck and he would put boxes in the back -- empty boxes overturned in the back -- and transport the boys on the team on his truck when they had to go to White River Valley or the playgrounds. And my mother would go when -- there were often games at Columbia Play Field. She would take the streetcar and go out there and watch them. And there were games, I guess, there was a playfield on Twelfth and Jefferson and different places, and she liked to watch them and she would go, too. Then, of course, my brothers took part in high school athletics too, and my brother Harry played football for four years from freshman until he was a senior.

DG: So he must have been bigger than most of the Japanese?

NS: He was. He was almost he was 5 feet 10 inches, or 11 inches, and he was heavy. He was big-boned, I guess, and so he played football. He played all four sports. In fact, he played football and basketball. He had a good friend, Homer Harris. Homer was a year ahead of him, and so the two of them were always together. And there was a picture of Harry and Homer in the papers that was pretty well-known. I don't know whether you've seen it or not, but it was on the wall of one of the restaurants on Fourth Avenue. And it showed Homer, I think in front of him and Harry in back with somebody on his shoulder going through a line in football. [Chuckles] So it was interesting. And it was interesting because the announcer -- there wasn't television then, but then there was... was there television then or radio? There was radio, but the radio announcer would rattle off Yanagimachi like he knew it by heart, which was kind of a long name.

DG: It is. So did your mother encourage your brothers?

NS: Yes, uh-huh. She knew it was a good sport for them to be in; kept them out of mischief, and she knew where they were. [Laughs] And she encouraged it.

DG: 'Cause you mentioned quite a few times when we have talked before about how your mother really kind of encouraged you to do your...

NS: Yes. She encouraged me to get out and do whatever I could in the community, mostly after I graduated from university and graduate school. And she just encouraged me to get out in the community and do what I could.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

DG: Well, in high school were you involved in some activities?

NS: Just in "Girl's Club." Also, we used to put on skits at funfest time and put on little dances and things like that. And I did belong to the Girl's Club, but didn't do too much except maybe go to meetings.

DG: And you were involved with the "Y" at that time.

NS: Yes, I was involved with the Y most of the time because Saturdays they had a Japanese girl's group that met every Saturday, and we had meetings and also we had time to go swimming. And so I was -- I went to the Y quite often until college, I guess. I didn't go to the downtown Y, but I was interested in the campus Y.

DG: That was after you went to college.

NS: After I went to college.

DG: Well, in high school, was there any other organizations? Church?

NS: Yes, I was involved with the Japanese Methodist church at that time.

DG: Did it have...

NS: And there was a "Young People's" group and we used to meet at "Blaine Home" and there was Young People's worker, and we used to have parties, and we'd have dances there once in a while.

DG: Because the boys had sports and so...

NS: The girls either went to watch them or something, and they had their own activities. And I always had books to read. [Laughs]

DG: Did you do any writing at that time?

NS: No, I don't remember doing anything I didn't have to do like my schoolwork and writing. I think I took news writing one of the years in, when -- just before graduation.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

DG: Now, going to the university, was it just automatic that you went?

NS: Well, I went to Japan the year before and found nothing there that I wanted to go to, so I came back here and enrolled at the university.

DG: So when you were in high school, had you...

NS: No. I didn't think about further education, no. But my mother thought that I should go to Japan and get some education there.

DG: So let's talk about that.

NS: I went to Japan and enrolled at Aoyama Gakuen, which is a girls school and is right in Tokyo. And I stayed with the minister and his wife right on the campus, on the other side of the campus. But at that time, I think I was the first exchange student, more or less, and so they didn't know exactly what to do with me so they enrolled me as a special student.

DG: Now, this is around 1920...

NS: '27.

DG: Because you graduated.

NS: '27 to '28. And so I went to school, but I had problems because they put me in the second or third grade high school, which was way above my capacity for Japanese language. And I had a tutor that helped me with my schoolwork, but I never could catch up. And in school, at that time, they had a manners class on how to act, but after a few times I quit because I couldn't sit on my feet. You know, in Japan everybody sits on their feet and they're graceful, but I've never sat on my feet. I didn't realize that my feet were round, [Laughs] and when you sit on the floor on your feet, it helps to have your feet muscles kind of flattened. But I couldn't do that because I had been sitting up all this time, and my feet just wouldn't cooperate. So I'd sit on one side and then I'd sit on the other and, of course, that disrupted the whole manners class. So after a few times I quit. [Laughs] And besides, it was, it was interesting, but nothing that I could use.

DG: But you were American.

NS: That's right. And so they took cognizance of that, and they excused me. But then, but the girls couldn't help but laugh every time I changed my foot. And that, of course, disrupted the teacher because the teacher was quite a strict disciplinarian and you didn't laugh out loud, you laughed or you smiled behind your hand. And with too many girls doing that it just wasn't right, I guess, because they never showed their teeth at that time. [Laughs] And so it was the time -- and also the college was just too advanced for me anyway, although the English was not -- English was just beginning to be taught in the colleges. And also, so -- and the English taught in the high schools were by Japanese teachers, so their accent was very poor. And, of course, I couldn't in my position as a student, I couldn't correct her. But I remember many times that she was mispronouncing a lot of English words, but I couldn't correct her so that was a disaster.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

DG: Could you tell me a little bit about discrimination?

NS: In Japan? Well, yes. At the time I went, there were only three girls: one from Portland, one from San Francisco. I -- and, of course, we would get together and we'd go downtown on a streetcar. Well, it would be natural for us to speak in English, and so we'd get on the bus, a streetcar, and we'd be talking in English. And people would look around and say, "Namaiki," which is "smart alec," as though we were putting on something. And, of course, they give us angry looks because they couldn't understand what we were talking about. So that was a reaction of the people around us. But we did on Saturdays -- we would get together and go downtown and go to the movies or go shopping, things like that.


DG: Part of the reason you went to Japan is because there was no jobs here and so you had the discrimination here that was... go ahead and tell me.

NS: Well, there were only a few jobs available here and mostly it was secretarial to the Japanese firms here. American firms didn't hire Japanese girls at that time. There weren't any salespersons or anything else in stores, in the white stores, and there was no Japanese, no place for college graduates to find jobs unless it was with an importing firm and there wasn't too many of them. And so there were no jobs available teaching or anything else. So I think my mother thought that I could go to Japan and get some more education. But then I found this same situation there where they weren't ready for English-speaking Japanese women, [Laughs] especially women, because it was more of a male-oriented country at that time.

DG: 'Cause that period of time really impressed you for your later activities, I think.

NS: It might have. Well, I haven't thought about it, but it might have, uh-huh. But there was always something to do.

DG: Well, so that made you strong as far as Americanism, because you came back.

NS: Yes, uh-huh. I came back and I knew I'd have to do something over here.

DG: So there was a -- what I'm referring to is that there's a huge amount of discrimination here that you faced, but you went to Japan and faced an equal amount.

NS: It was equal or even worse because I couldn't express myself too well, especially in a foreign language and so...

DG: So that solidified your feelings about Americanism, probably.

NS: That's right. And so when I came back -- and that was in... and then went to college, of course, and after I finished college there wasn't any job. They weren't hiring Nisei teachers or anything else, and the only thing was, there were jobs available with churches in religious education. There were only three churches in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle; but they hired Nisei girls and mostly college graduates to take care of their Young People's Sunday school. So I went to -- after graduation I went to...

DG: This is from the university?

NS: From the university.

DG: Of Washington?

NS: Of Washington. I went to -- it was the World's Fair there in Los Angeles.

DG: Or the Olympics?

NS: The Olympics, there in Los Angeles and so I went there. I had my -- Mother's brother was there in Pasadena, my uncle, and so...

DG: This is 1932.

NS: 1932. And so I went there on a visit and also the Young People's workers that was in at the church was also in Los Angeles. So I, with the two of them there, I went there. And it was the Olympics and so, with all of that going on, I went down there. But she had persuaded me to stop in at Pacific School of Religion where she went to see if I didn't want to continue my education there. So on the way back from that trip, I stopped in Berkeley and found that I could enroll in the school there and get a master's. So I stayed and went to school. I stayed with a woman that was very close to the school, but eventually ended up at International House in Berkeley and worked there in the cafeteria for my meals and was there for a couple of years in Berkeley until I graduated in the religious education field. But by the time I graduated there, there still wasn't any job available, so I was home and that was what, '32? And...

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

DG: Now, let's define a little bit. When you went to the University of Washington, you mentioned that you were only one of four people?

NS: Four in my class.

DG: In your class.

NS: But there were about twenty or twenty-five or so Japanese women.

DG: The four in your class, who were they?

NS: Billie and Yurino, Yurino Takayoshi, and Billie (Tashiro) and Iku Ariizumi, and then myself. Is that four?

DG: And so this was fairly early when there were Japanese at the university.

NS: Yes, uh-huh.

DG: You said that you were not the first ones, but...

NS: No. There was Kikue Otani; Masuda that was ahead; and Kimi Furiya Konzo ahead and her sister, the Furiya sisters; and Sakae Nakamura and Yuki Fuji, they were ahead of me. So there were...

DG: So did you socialize together with this group?

NS: Yes. Well, we had a Fuyokai and we had dances and we invited mostly the college boys and had, had our dances either -- quite often we had them in the Japanese consuls' homes and...


DG: Okay. So, we're still on June the 3rd. This is Wednesday and we took a break and went to lunch. We took a lunch break here and you're living at this Park Shore Apartments that's just gorgeous.

NS: Retirement home.

DG: Retirement home.

NS: Uh-huh. It's under the sponsorship of the Presbyterian ministries, which is... I didn't go to the Methodist one because it was in Des Moines and too far to commute to some of the activities that I was in. And when I moved here I was still active with the Women's University Club and did things; play bridge there every Monday.

DG: So you've been here about fourteen years?

NS: Yes, uh-huh. Time flies.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

DG: When we took our break, we had gotten to your finishing grad school.

NS: Yes.

DG: So...

NS: Oh, at Pacific School of Religion. At that time, there were -- oh, there wasn't too much job opportunities. There was a YWCA in San Francisco to which I went and stayed and, over the weekend when I went to work at the church, the Methodist church in San Francisco and did some Young People's work there. So I went over on Saturday and stayed over until Sunday, until after Sunday school and came back to Berkeley.

DG: Was that a natural place for people to stop by, Japanese people, to YWCA? I mean, to stay or to...

NS: They had a building and not too many places to stay as much as they had a room or two and temporary places for people to stay when there was room.

DG: So now if you were to take a trip somewhere else in the United States, would you naturally look for a Y? Is that...?

NS: I did at that time.

DG: Did other Japanese women do that?

NS: And in a way, it wasn't because it was close to the church because it wasn't, but it was in close to the community. And it was the YWCA and it was a Japanese YWCA and not the downtown one, so that they had activities on Saturday nights in which I took part; played cards or games.

DG: So would you say the Y reached out to the Japanese people more than other organizations?

NS: You mean where? In San Francisco?

DG: Anyplace.

NS: Anyplace. Yes, they did. I had more contact with them because I had been on the board here. And so when I went to camp, of course, I did get in touch with the YW people in Twin Falls because that was the, almost a natural place for us to go and visit when we did make -- we were finally able to make a trip to Twin Falls. And the camp made a car available for me so that I could drive some girls, and we would go and have a day on the town. Of course, we always liked to be shopping. There was always something to get on the outside, and also we enjoyed having lunch together in a restaurant. So then having a car made available for us made it very easy to go into town and enjoy a day on the town. And in those days I enjoyed driving, so it was -- it must have been between 30 and 40 miles (to) town.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

DG: Well, back to finishing up grad school. You did so and then you came back to Seattle?

NS: To Seattle, uh-huh. There wasn't any work-related employment at that time and opening. There were only three Japanese churches that employed religious educators so I didn't get a job. So, I came home.

DG: And this is in San Francisco you were saying that there was no job?

NS: No, the school is in Berkeley, but the jobs were -- there was one in Los Angeles, San Francisco...

DG: Oh, I see.

NS: ...and Seattle. And Seattle had a California girl and San Francisco -- oh, no, San Francisco didn't have any girls. I just helped with the Sunday school there. And then Los Angeles, there was a YWCA there where girls...

DG: So you were maybe twenty-one or twenty-two about, by this time?

NS: Yes, I was twenty-one then.

DG: So was marriage something that you were looking at, at all?

NS: No, I wasn't looking at marriage at all.

DG: Was your mother looking at marriage?

NS: Oh, probably. You know how mothers are. After you've graduated college, why, they think that you should get married soon afterwards.

DG: Did you date?

NS: What?

DG: Did you do some dating?

NS: Oh, I used to, but then not seriously.

DG: So then you came back. So that would be what year, about '35, '34 maybe?

NS: '34, and then I was home just one year. Then I got married in '35.

DG: So, what were the circumstances?

NS: Well, I had known Paul before. I had met him -- when we were in Japan, we saw each other when I was in Japan. Then he was in at the College of Puget Sound, and he used to come over for the Young People's meetings and we would go to Tacoma for Young People's meetings.

DG: Is this YPCC?

NS: Yes.

DG: That stands for what?

NS: Young People's Christian Conference.

DG: That was quite the place to get together.

NS: That's right, with all the different areas: we were in Yakima and Tacoma and Seattle. We hadn't quite gotten to Portland at that time.

DG: Well, Kaoro Ichihara, is that...

NS: Kaoro Ichihara?

DG: She was pretty active in that.

NS: Not too much. She might have been, but -- she might have been interested in it, but she wasn't one to take any leadership part.

DG: Who were some of the organizers of...

NS: Of the YPCC? Well, there were a lot of attendees, people who always went to those things. But people who took leadership parts in it were few. Mostly the Young People's workers that were hired by the churches that did the leadership portions then and the Young People's ministers at that time.

DG: And that was an inner church...

NS: Inner church thing.

DG: ...organization.

NS: Uh-huh.

DG: I've seen some pictures.

NS: Yes.

DG: My father used to go to them.

NS: Uh-huh. And it was a good meeting place for a lot of the young people at that time.

DG: Then you didn't work during that year then that you came home?

NS: Yes, I did. I think I worked with the Japanese -- what year was that? I think that was the year Japanese Chamber of Commerce -- or was that afterwards?

DG: I'm not sure.

NS: I think there was a period there where I did, but there were so few. I did take a course in welfare work.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

DG: So now you're married. Tell us a little bit about your husband's background.

NS: Are you on now? He came to the United States after he finished his middle school, I guess, or high school, or whatever it was in Japan. He came because his uncle and aunt adopted him in Tacoma. In the summertime he worked in the canneries and worked as a schoolboy at the home of Mr. and Mrs. W.W. Seymour -- at one time he was mayor of the city of Tacoma.

DG: The Seymours were?

NS: The Seymours. (Mr. Seymour was mayor of Tacoma at this time.) But he was a schoolboy there and went to -- I think he was a schoolboy all the time he was in grade school, I mean high school and college. And he went four years to Stadium High School, graduated, and then went to College of Puget Sound. And all the time he was schoolboy for the Seymours, and they treated him very well. He had use of the car when -- she would come to Seattle often for things and so he would drive her. Those were the times when I would see him when he came to Seattle. And then I don't know how he got into Creighton, but most of the coastal medical schools were closed to Japanese; and, I think there always was a quota or limit to the number of Japanese accepted in medical school. So he went where he was accepted and, therefore, it was Creighton.

DG: And that's where?

NS: That's in Omaha, Nebraska. There was no, there was no one else from the Northwest here. There was a Japanese, a couple of Japanese boys from Hawaii, another from Los Angeles, and one from San Francisco at the time that he was going to Creighton. But that was in the four years that he was there. Omaha was -- you want me to talk about Omaha?

DG: Sure.

NS: Omaha had very few Japanese people. There was a variety store, like a lot of other small towns, and that was where I met Yoshiko Akamatsu. Do you know the Akamatsus here in Seattle?

DG: Heard of the name.

NS: And she was from Seattle, Yoshiko.

DG: Now, you were -- right.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

DG: So you had gotten married in '35?

NS: In '35.

DG: And then...

NS: And then '35 to '36. '36 is when he was graduated. But I couldn't stay for graduation because my father died the first of May. My mother sent for me to come home, and so I missed his graduation and came home. And my father had had a heart attack and died, so I came home at that time. But, in the meantime, I don't know whether it was March or thereabouts when, of course, applications were out for internships right after medical school. He had gotten a rejection from King County, which we were counting on to come back. So we called Dr. Swift right away.

DG: Now, who was Dr. Swift?

NS: Dr. Swift was the doctor that I worked for when I was in high school. He was a brain surgeon and quite well-known in Seattle area. But during my junior and senior years in high school, I think my mother felt that I should know something about American households. Therefore, she thought it would be good for me to work as a house girl -- a schoolgirl they used to call them in those days -- and be in a white household. And so I was there and going to Garfield at the same time. Dr. Swift was the one that we had counted on to get his internship. So we called him and he got busy and reversed the decision and he did get his internship at Harborview. So he came back and started, I guess it was July 1st when they start their internship. It was a two-year internship, so he was there from '36 to '38. And then when he was ready for finishing, we got an office in the Jackson Hotel Building. He had two rooms which he used as an office. His practice was slow, but then it was building.

DG: Were there other Japanese doctors in town?

NS: Yes, there were. Dr. Shigaya was the last new physician here. Otherwise, there were a couple of doctors who had had their training in Japan and who had offices in Seattle. So the only doctor with United States medical school was Dr. Shigaya, until Paul came into the picture. And he was -- in order to augment his income, he worked in the emergency department working nights at Harborview. That was his position in '41 when war was declared. At that time I wasn't well myself. I had a bout of pleurisy and I was taking it easy and being in bed, but I called him. Then not long after the declaration of war, why, he had to quit.

DG: So did you expect the war to come?

NS: Huh?

DG: Were you surprised?

NS: I was surprised.

DG: What did you think about the war?

NS: Well, I had no thoughts of...

DG: Were you worried for being Japanese?

NS: No, I wasn't worried for being Japanese. I just was worried of what was going to happen with us. Of course, being in the social work field, I knew that something was going to happen, and it certainly did because most people lost their jobs; just because they were Japanese, they were laid off. And so I immediately went to, I think I went to the Family Service first, which was a private agency and asked them what kind of help that they could give to families who were large and had no means of support, excepting for the fathers who had been laid off. And they had limited finances, but they helped a little bit. Then, of course, it got worse.

DG: So what about your husband's job?

NS: My husband, I think he quit or he was laid off at Pearl Harbor time.

DG: From the King County emergency?

NS: From the emergency. So he was home.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

DG: So now, you had a couple children by then.

NS: Yes, uh-huh.

DG: Your oldest one was?

NS: Let's see, what is this, 1941?

DG: Uh-huh.

NS: Yes. I had the oldest son, and then the second son died not too long -- I think it was before Pearl Harbor. That was part of my illness too. And so...

DG: And then you had your third son.

NS: And I had the third son. So we had two at home, you see, with the one that died and then we had the two. So my husband was home after Pearl Harbor. And I knew that I'd have to work someplace or go someplace to find help for some of the people that were laid off and had nowhere else to go. So I think I went to the Japanese Chamber of Commerce to see what they could do to help. And they could get -- I think they were doling out rice and a few groceries at that time, but there wasn't very much that could be done. The welfare department helped in the very direst of circumstances, and I think that's about it. That was '41, wasn't it? And then...

DG: Well, now this is where your experience as a social worker comes into play?

NS: Mostly. And being the only one...

DG: Now, were you already on the YWCA board at that time?

NS: I think so. Yes, I was.

DG: Right. Well, you had to be. So you had been active with that already?

NS: Yes. And so I don't know how much involvement...

DG: Well, seeing the needs then, sounds like you...

NS: There was more -- I mean, it wasn't YWCA work or group work that I needed to do, it was more family-oriented work that needed to be done. Like those families who lost their jobs right away and didn't have -- some people who had no resources and had to find someplace to get their groceries and such. And so I think I went to...

DG: Was the Japanese Consul involved at all?

NS: No. The Japanese Consul, I think, closed their offices...

DG: Okay.

NS: Pearl Harbor time. And, besides, they -- I don't know that they ever helped destitute Japanese families.

DG: Oh, really?

NS: I don't think so. They were more interested in community relationships than actual monetary help of any...

DG: Did the FBI come to your place then, since your husband was an alien?

NS: No.

DG: They didn't bother you.

NS: No, they didn't bother me. I guess they did some places, didn't they?

DG: Right.

NS: If they did, I wasn't aware of it.

DG: I guess he didn't quite have the right connections to be bothered.

NS: I guess not.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

DG: Now, before we move on too far, was there any considerations that your husband had to think about in terms of starting his practice in the Japanese community? Were there certain ways that you had to respond socially?

NS: No. He always knew that he wanted to come back and practice in Seattle, so there was no... it had been some time before any Nisei was practicing in Seattle so his object was to open a practice in Seattle.

DG: There was a need then?

NS: There was a need, (yes). And so he became busy and he also was able to use Providence Hospital as a major hospital to take his patients. And he didn't want to be -- there was Seattle General also -- but he didn't want to be going from this hospital to another one, so he just, before the war, he just made himself available to the two. And...

DG: Well, to the two. Providence and where else?

NS: Seattle General.

DG: And so then he didn't go to, like, Swedish?

NS: No, no.

NS: Swedish or...

DG: Virginia Mason, maybe?

NS: No.

DG: Or, that wasn't around?

NS: Well, it was, but it was still new. But he just confined himself to the other. He didn't want to spend his mornings going from one to another hospital and so he -- at first he was working at the emergency. But as soon as war came, that was terminated, of course, because it was in the evening and we were restricted then, as far as evening was concerned, because we were not allowed to wander after eight o'clock.

DG: So he was restricted, also?

NS: Oh, yes, because he was Japanese, all the Japanese.

DG: What about house calls and whatnot?

NS: He couldn't make them; all Japanese were restricted.

DG: So did he make...

NS: So he couldn't make any house calls.

DG: Did he make -- did he do phone call consultations?

NS: Oh, yes, he could do phone calls and he could get his friends to see the patients that had to be seen. He had friends, who were doctors, who could visit and see the patients that needed to be seen at that time.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

DG: And you went to work for the WRA relocation office?

NS: Yes. Well, as soon as that... I was still doing some -- I guess I was connected some way or the other with the Japanese Chamber of Commerce, as far as welfare or trying to help people. And somewhere along the line there was a need for typhoid inoculations. In order to go from Seattle to camp, wherever we were going, there was a necessity or advisability that typhoid shots be given. And so people who could afford it went to their doctors to get them. And also it was available for people who were traveling, and such, to go to the city health department and get them for free. So I went to the city health department and talked to the head man, and he just shouted at me, "Get out of here."

DG: Because?

NS: Isn't that awful? And then, of course, it made me cry. [Laughs]

DG: So what did he say?

NS: He said, "Get out of here."

DG: Because you're Japanese.

NS: He says, "I'm not going to give them any shots."

DG: Oh, okay.

NS: Yes. And so that was the head, he was the head of the health department. But, of course, the one that I was friendly with was the assistant, and so the assistant said -- and he said there was plenty of medicine available to give to the community, to give these shots to the community. And so that's why I went to the head man. Well, the head man just, well, he just cursed me. And so...

DG: You went as a representative of the...

NS: I just went on my own to try and get the shots released because it would have been a whole quantity of them, so that the people could be inoculated against typhoid. So word got around that I couldn't get it. Somehow the Cannery Worker's Union, Taul Watanabe and somebody else heard about it.

DG: You said Dyke Nakamura?

NS: Dyke Nakamura and Taul Watanabe. They heard about it. So they said that they had monies in the Cannery Worker's Union and they could make it available for us if we could administer it. And so we bought the typhoid and set up one of the empty places. Paul and the nurses gave the shots.

DG: That's your husband?

NS: There was a picture of that, someplace.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

DG: What did you do as far as relocation work?

NS: What do you mean?

DG: You said the WRA set up an office.

NS: The first thing, yes. They did -- the WRA also opened an office on Second Avenue with some social workers, and people who wanted to relocate were invited to come. And they were given, oh, $50 or whatever toward train fare to go wherever they wanted to go. So I helped in that office for a while. Then until it -- well, I helped there until it was time -- about a month before, they said, "Well, everybody's going to be evacuated." So, about that time I decided I'd better get my family together and pack, and do things like that; arrange for our own furniture and things to be stored. And that's what I did.

DG: You didn't think of relocating yourself?

NS: No. No, we thought about that, but my husband said, "No." People by that time had pleaded with him, "You better stay with us and go with us wherever." They would feel a lot better if he went with them. So he felt that it was his moral obligation to go with them and so that's why he went. So that's why we just packed our things and went to...

DG: Where were you living at this time?

NS: We were living on Eighteenth and Lane. We were in a little rented flat across the street from my mother so that she could take care of the children. I was just across the street.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

DG: Going to Puyallup, how did you get there?

NS: There were -- after we had stored our things, there were people, hakujin people, who offered to drive if anybody wanted to to take us to Puyallup. And so one friend did come by, pick us up, and drove us to Puyallup.

DG: This was in April or May?

NS: April, end of April, I think it was.

DG: And then, was your husband asked to work for the WRA or somebody like that as far as...?

NS: No, but all the doctors were all -- well, they set up a -- they had to set up a hospital and they were asked to work there.

DG: Did he help set it up?

NS: Yes. They set it up right under the grandstand. They set up a hospital and first aid station. I guess it was a first aid station there.

DG: Did he have to bring any of the equipment or anything, or was it provided?

NS: Well, no, he didn't bring any equipment. It was mostly whatever first aid medicine or whatever he had, he brought with him. But the first night we were there, we were in one of the barracks in the parking area. But after the first -- as I remember, they were hastily built barracks with almost a bare floor. If there was a floor of anything, well, the grass was growing through it. But that was only for one night. And after the first night, we were transferred over to under the grandstand. They put up barriers along some of the big rooms and set up a doctor's living quarters there. So we had a room about half of this size [points to this room] that had enough room for a couple of cots and our suitcases and things, and we were there. The food was prepared and served in this great big hall with long tables and a long line to pick up your food and then eat it. I had to put a sign on my son's back after a few days saying, "Please do not feed him," because everybody that would say, "Oh, what a cute little boy," and give him a stick of candy or something. [Laughs]

DG: Was this your older one?

NS: The older one. So I pinned a sign on his back saying, "Please do not feed him." So that was kind of a joke in the place.

DG: So...

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

NS: But after we were there ten days or whatever, the younger one came down with chicken pox and he was covered. I guess, the older one must -- I don't know whether it was the older one -- the older one must have come down first, but his you could hardly tell; it might have been here and there, and you couldn't tell that he had chicken pox. But the baby, nine months old I guess or something, he was covered from head to foot with these sores. So, at that time, they decided (that) they would put him in an isolation ward. So they took one of the warehouses where animals were kept -- it isn't a warehouse -- but, anyway, one of the buildings they had animals, because it smelled like animals, but they put cots in there. And we were put into isolation at that point. My husband brought a tray of food for us to eat, for me to eat because the baby was still on milk. We had to stay there for ten days. Well, I was there for a few days and couldn't stand it any longer so I made him stay there for a while. [Laughs] But, of course, he wasn't the only one; there were others that came down with it, too, and so they had to bear with that too. But we were there in Puyallup until September. That was three or four months. And, during that time, of course we had friends visit us. Our friends from Seattle would come and visit, and they'd have to visit across the fence. We'd just talk to them across the fence. And once one of them brought a chocolate cake to us, but it had to go through the office. And when they brought it to us they had several slash holes in it, because they were afraid that they had put some contraband material inside the cake. But we ate it anyway. [Laughs] But people were suspicious at that time, I guess.

DG: You mentioned later that you thought that the Minidoka administration was so much better. So what was wrong with the administration at the Puyallup?

NS: The Puyallup administration was army more than it was civilian, so they were very strict about people coming and going, and they hardly allowed anybody to go in or out. But, fortunately, we weren't in Puyallup too long and people didn't -- I mean, the authorities didn't know what to do with us.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

DG: What did you feel about your civil rights being violated?

NS: Oh, there wasn't any such thing at that time. [Laughs] And people didn't enforce anything like that. I mean, this was wartime. It didn't, civil rights didn't exist in wartime.

DG: Did you question then going along with it?

NS: There was no use in questioning because things were pat. There was nothing that you could do against the army authorities and this was army.

DG: What did you think your future held for you?

NS: We didn't know what it was going to be and they didn't know. Nobody knew what it was going to be and so we just had to go with the crowd and do the best we could.

DG: Did you feel that it was...

NS: No, it was wartime and the army had the most say about things. They decided that we were going to be incarcerated and that was it.

DG: So was the army your people? Who were the Japanese that they were at war with? Was that somebody else or was that...?

NS: Probably. It was the people in Japan.

DG: And you didn't feel like...

NS: And it wasn't the people here in the United States.

DG: But here in the United States they were treating you...?

NS: Just like we were people from Japan.

DG: Did that...?

NS: Well, there was nothing we could do about it because they had the guns, the barbed wire and the authority to shoot, if anything, if anyone was questioning or inciting any activity. Why, I think the soldiers were instructed to shoot and ask questions later.

DG: So did you talk about what you should do at all?

NS: No, we just accepted what had to be done and did the best we could under the circumstances.

DG: Seems like you were constantly thinking about the needs of the community, though, in terms of -- you were right away working with the students at that time, too?

NS: Not in Puyallup, because there wasn't any relocation problem. There wasn't anything going on at that time about relocating students because this was summer time and students weren't -- students were uprooted and put into the camp. There was no setup for relocation at that time.

DG: Now, these hakujin friends that came and you talked across the fence, where were they from?

NS: Well, they were our friends in Seattle.

DG: Neighbors?

NS: Neighbors and friends.

DG: Colleagues?

NS: Well, one especially was one that we knew in Omaha. They had come over to Seattle and they were taking care of some of our things. And also, she baked a cake and brought it to us.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

DG: So moving on to Minidoka, how did you go?

NS: We went by train, we were all put onto the trains. And then we went across to Minidoka and the barracks were a little bit better there. At least -- it was just open field more than anything else -- and the barracks were bare, very dusty, but we swept the dust off and put up our beds and our things, put our things in. And, of course, he went to the hospital. Our barracks were close to the hospital so that he walked to and from.

DG: So you had been to Omaha so you knew what dry climate looked like.

NS: Oh, yes.

DG: So that was not surprising.

NS: No.

DG: But it was for a lot of the residents from here, right? They had never been out of Seattle.

NS: I imagine, yes. Yes, there weren't any green trees and it was all just bare flat land with barracks in rows all the way. Then these barracks were just one right after the other. And some of the barracks didn't have walls going all the way to the top so you heard your neighbors talking or quarreling or everything else. [Laughs] Lot of quarreling going on because people weren't very happy.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

DG: Okay. For this next segment, you have quite a few personal papers that you've kept, and you have a lot of correspondence that I've had the opportunity to read.

NS: Makes it kind of interesting, doesn't it?

DG: It's very interesting. One of the things that you have...

NS: I did a lot of descriptive work of what camp was like.

DG: Because of your connection with...?

NS: With the YW. I let them know -- well, they wanted to know and so I wrote and I used to write them. I don't know. I look at it and I think I certainly was verbose. [Laughs] But now...

DG: Well, you went there in September and so I notice that there is a letter right away that they are not going to remove you from the board.

NS: Yes.

DG: So you had already been nominated to the YWCA board. How long had you been on the board?

NS: I was only on for a few months before -- I don't remember when the election was, but I know that I was supposedly on the board for maybe about six or eight months, or something like that. I was just on the board.

DG: So there was a lot of YWCA work that you probably had done through the years, and then you were asked to be on the board because you were Japanese?

NS: Partly, I think, partly. And then partly because I was active on the YWCA in my college days, too.

DG: So now when you got to Minidoka, did they contact you or did you contact them?

NS: I probably contacted them. Well, I kept on a correspondence letting them know what we were doing and what it was like.

DG: But first, you contacted -- oh, I remember -- you said the Twin Falls YWCA. Now, why did you contact them?

NS: Because it was the closest town and if we -- when you're confined in a place with a fence all around, you want to go out. I mean, there's something about a fence that makes you feel like, well, I want to get out of here and that was the way we felt. So the closest town was Twin Falls. So probably I contacted the YWCA -- I mean, we can go shopping to Twin Falls. But I think there's always the need to land someplace and relax, and I felt that the YWCA quarters would be the place to do that. You can't do that in a restaurant or there wasn't any other place. So that was one of the reasons why I contacted the YW.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

DG: Because one of the first letters from Seattle says that they're going to keep you on the board, "But would you please do a monthly report?" And then I notice that you did quite a bit of descriptive work about what camp was about.

NS: Good thing I did.

DG: Right. So maybe we can go through some of that. So starting in September, the first thing was relocation of students.

NS: Yes. I felt that people that -- usually the schools started in the middle of September to the first of October and, if possible, we could get the students who had acceptances from the eastern colleges, let's hurry and get them all through. And when I got into that relocation office, they didn't know what to do. I mean, the man that was in charge of it was still a student in the School of Social Work over here and he didn't know -- he didn't have any organizational insight or know-how or anything, and he was just there because of the job. And then, of course, Kaoru Ichihara was helping him, but she was a secretary and didn't have the professional acknowledge at all. And so I offered to work there and I got mostly -- first of all, I got the people who had... students, of course, had written to the different colleges to which they wanted to go, and they had acceptances in their hands. But they needed the clearance from the San Francisco office to leave the camp. And so those are the people that I focused on first.

DG: Okay. Now San Francisco office is a WRA office?

NS: (Yes).

DG: Okay. And it was a special office.

NS: And that was the office that released the evacuees to go out. So the people in Minidoka couldn't do that. They had to refer the people to San Francisco and the San Francisco office released them. The man, who was in charge of relocation, stopped by Minidoka. And so I told him that the first thing we were going to do was to get the people who had acceptances -- that we were gonna send those in, wire them to him as soon as we had them in hand, and, "Would they please get those people out first?" And so they did. I think we were quite fortunate in getting...

DG: How many of them are we talking about?

NS: Oh, there might have been fifty or more, fifty to a hundred. And then after that there were high school graduates who wanted to relocate and go to some college, but they didn't have any correspondence with them.

DG: Or place to go yet.

NS: Yes. And so I left that office for them to follow through. I was only in that office until all the ones I knew had acceptances got released.

DG: Did you get paid?

NS: Sixteen dollars a month [Laughs], which was the going rate at that time.

DG: Then at the same time...

NS: The professionals, like my husband, got $19 and the other people got $16. They didn't consider me professional, I'm sure.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

DG: Now, there's some correspondence from like, the Friend's Society.

NS: Yes, uh-huh.

DG: And so you worked with them?

NS: Yes, uh-huh. Floyd Schmoe was -- I wonder how I got to be Friend's Society? I don't know where the beginning was...

DG: Well, Gordon was living in your house, Hirabayashi.

NS: Not then.

DG: Well, there's a letter from him to you.

NS: That was in Spokane.

DG: No, this was...

NS: In Seattle?

DG: In Seattle.

NS: Oh, might have been, yeah. Well, maybe while I was working in the relocation center, I might have had correspondence with the...

DG: Friend's Society?

NS: ...the Friend's Society to see what they could do to help the relocation effort. And so I was working quite a bit with them, too.

DG: So then there's correspondence showing that you had contacted the YWCA, and you were starting this "Girls Reserve" organization in camp?

NS: (Yes), in the camp.

DG: Now, let's -- to show the impact of...

NS: And that was, I mean, it was important because it gave the girls something to do and also they could help the war effort. I think, at that time, they did -- I don't know whether they did...

DG: Now, one of the letters says that they refused your offer.

NS: Of Red Cross.

DG: Right.

NS: Bandages.

DG: Right. Why would they do that?

NS: I don't know. That was some bureaucratic...

DG: Because here were all these people with all the time, right?

NS: And they were willing to make bandages and things like that. But they refused me because we were Japanese. [Laughs] Kind of foolish, isn't it, when you think about it. But we did all we could to see if we could help.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

DG: So now we're into October. Okay. So the immediate press of relocating the students is over. But you begin to, or not begin -- you constantly, all through this time, talk about everybody needing to relocate and not stay in camp. Why didn't you think it was a good idea to stay in camp?

NS: Well, there was really people with nothing to do and they were just... well, I never thought that idleness was a virtue of any kind. [Laughs]

DG: You used a term...

NS: I'm always doing something.

DG: You use a term that I like; you say, "They become some good-for- nothing moochers."

NS: [Laughs] That's it. And so...

DG: So then that's why you got the girls going. Okay. Now, shortly you said there's 150 girls involved. That's a huge number when you figure that there were maybe four or five hundred in the high school, girls, and so a fairly...

NS: Fairly good number. Then I found that, I found that there was a group of national officers going from New York to California to a conference. So I persuaded them to stop at camp and...

DG: Now this is YWCA national officers who were going to go to a...

NS: To a meeting in California. So I persuaded them to stop at camp for a day and a night, and I made arrangements for them to stay in camp to see what it was like. I think it was a -- I mean, to do some interpreting and to show them what it was like. I don't think anybody else did that, but I did. [Laughs]

DG: Do you remember some of their comments or were they surprised?

NS: They were surprised, but they were grateful, too. It was unfortunate that I had an appendix operation just at that time, and I was in the hospital. I wasn't too awfully well, so I missed -- I got to the meeting and the banquet that they held for the national officers and for all the YWCA people in the neighborhood. And so we had a big banquet hall full of people with a good banquet and a meeting.

DG: Well, it says in one of your letters there was over 200 people there.

NS: Yes. We had a whole barrack full of people, which was, I thought, quite an accomplishment.

DG: And I think as many as 180 girls from camp were involved by that time.

NS: Yes.

DG: Back to...

NS: I'm glad I wrote all that down; otherwise it would be lost, wouldn't it?

DG: Right.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

DG: Back to a little bit earlier time when you got started. There's some kind of a conference you went to in a nearby town called Filer, or something like that.

NS: I might have.

DG: Well, there's different organizations in the YWCA and one was this Girl Reserve that we've been talking about. But there was another group called the Matrons. Now, were you...?

NS: You mean, of the Japanese group?

DG: Right.

NS: Well, they were girls who were just married and had a group in Seattle, you mean.

DG: No, they were in camp. There was a meeting.

NS: Could be. Could be.

DG: Part of the agenda was like, talking about discipline. What kind of discipline problems were there?

NS: Well, it could have been probably with their children. It could be some of the Issei women?

DG: Well, there was one subject heading that said, "Issei Relationships." Why was that a problem?

NS: Because they had nothing to do. I mean, the Isseis didn't have anybody organizing them or taking an interest in their welfare or activities.

DG: So why didn't you start a YWCA group of Issei women?

NS: Ah, I just didn't.

DG: Well, another subject was, "Kibei Relationships."

NS: I know why, because they weren't Christians, all.

DG: Oh, okay.

NS: A lot of, you know, the Issei people were not Christians, and if we specified a Christian relationship, it didn't go well with the Buddhist, if they were Buddhist.

DG: And there wasn't any basic division because of Buddhism and Christianity, which is good.

NS: No.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 33>

DG: Now, there was another subject matter about the Kibei relationships? Why was that a problem?

NS: The Kibei never wanted to accept the Niseis, probably because of their language difficulties. They couldn't express themselves and they felt that -- and I think -- I don't know whether it was the fault of the family and their upbringing that they felt themselves more Japanese than assimilating into the American culture. And perhaps they wanted to go back to Japan or they had part of their education in Japan and came over here, because a lot of the young people -- their parents sent them to Japan to go to school, and then brought them back here, which was a mistake because they were foreign to their parents as well as foreign to the people around them, around here.

DG: Right. We should define "Kibei." What does it mean?

NS: "Kibei" is a child that was born in the United States and was taken to Japan to be educated and then brought back to the United States. And that occurred in a good many families and it wasn't because of age or anything. Mostly they came back after their high school and, therefore, they were adults, but not quite adult enough to analyze their own situation. And that's why they were, they had misfits in a good many of the places. They were misfits because they didn't have the same outlook or...

DG: Well, they were instilled with that Yamato damashii, or whatever.

NS: Something. They had something instilled in them that they couldn't be wholly Nisei. And their English was not perfect because they had spent so much time in Japan. And a lot of the Japanese culture and their pride, they were instilled a lot of the Japanese pride in their being, so that they just couldn't accept being Nisei. But the Nisei didn't have the Japanese experience, so they weren't bothered, excepting to know that the Kibei just didn't think the way they did.

DG: That's interesting.

NS: That's why I feel that I can understand both having been to Japan and been here, too, that I can understand the differences.

<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 34>

DG: Now, back to the Girls Reserve, the first group we talked about. There was a little competition between the Portland girls and the Seattle girls, was there?

NS: No, not too much competition. It was just that there were just a different group of girls. I don't know why...

DG: Well, you mention in your letter that the girl who kind of took charge was from the country and was from neither Seattle or Portland and you thought that was good.

NS: That they were what?

DG: This girl, I think her name was Suzie Takimoto, you said she was from the country and she was neither from Seattle or Portland, which made her a good leader. And I wondered what you meant by that.

NS: [Laughs] I think there was always some rivalry between the Portland and the Seattle girls as to -- now, why that would be, I couldn't say, excepting that there were -- they were the same, I guess. But then, just the rivalry, like being from different cities, you felt it more or something.

DG: I saw somewhere something about the purpose of the Girls Reserve and some YWCA thing. Something about the girls need to belong to something, and that's one of the reasons why this was encouraged.

NS: (Yes). Well, I think that when there is a thing like camp where people are just put together -- and I think girls who are just growing into adolescence and young womanhood need to feel a sense of belonging someplace. And I think that that's the group that I was probably talking about that didn't have their feet on the ground yet and needed to have something concrete, and that going out into the different cities as secretaries or workers of some kind was to be good for them.

DG: Now, one of the first activities that I noted was that you're decorating a recreational hall for them, so that they can have a place to get away.

NS: Uh-huh.

DG: What was that about?

NS: Well, when you're in with a family -- with your own family in a room where the beds and the cooking stove and the warming stove and all your brothers and sisters were all around -- it's kind of nice to go into a separate room where it's more quiet and people can meet in their own age and talk about things that interested you more than -- and then not have the family hear everything. I think that privacy is something that we all enjoy. So that was one of the reasons why having a separate room for such an activity was almost a necessity.

<End Segment 34> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 35>

DG: So you had a list of items and you were requesting of the different YWCA groups from all around Portland and Seattle, right?

NS: Yes, I probably did.

DG: But the WRA bought a hotel in, was it at Twin Falls? And so then there was a lot of furniture that the WRA provided after all? You don't remember that? I'm not sure about that. I think there was some note about that. In your own handwriting -- now, most of these letters were typewritten so did you take your own typewriter to camp?

NS: Uh-huh. I probably did have my type -- typewriter. Yes, because I always typed whenever I could.

DG: But there was a series of handwritten pages when you were describing this get-together with the white girls and you thought it was wonderful.

NS: Oh.

DG: Do you remember -- and at the end, Suzie Takimoto sings, "Thanks to God," and it sounded kind of touching?

NS: I don't remember, but...

DG: I think you were referring to the fact that they were craving more intermingling into the community, 'cause here they were behind...

NS: Barbed wire.

DG: ...and this was their first chance to have this inter...

NS: Interrelationships, yeah. And so I was writing probably to Twin Falls YWCA and some of the others. Could be.

<End Segment 35> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 36>

DG: There's something that you wrote about Christmas in Minidoka.

NS: Uh-huh. Well, that was the first and only Christmas we were there. [Laughs] Yes. It was cold and it was certainly different. Did I do a descriptive thing on it? Probably.

DG: I think...

NS: It's a good thing I wrote all that [Laughs], because after all these years I can forget.

DG: It sounded like they were very ingenious in making decorations.

NS: Oh, yes. We -- did I write anything about making candles? Got the sagebrush and melted wax and put a wick through it and made sagebrush candles. Yes, we were quite innovative in those days.

DG: And a tumbleweed Christmas tree with the stars or something.

NS: [Laughs]

<End Segment 36> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 37>

DG: Now, talking some more about the YWCA groups, there was a conference and there's a list of participants in various sections of this conference, and one of the areas that had nothing but Japanese. Now, most of the areas had both hakujin names and Japanese names, but this one area of business was business and industry, had just Japanese names. Was that about?

NS: Was that in camp or cam -- Filer?

DG: That YWCA conference. There was a sew-ed group that was a college-age group, and then there was this business and industry group.

NS: Industry group. And that was in...

DG: The interesting part to me was that all the members who attended that were all nothing but Japanese.

NS: Oh, in the business and industrial group?

DG: Uh-huh.

NS: I think most of them -- the girls were secretaries or interested in -- a good many of the girls at that time were interested in secretarial work and felt that that was the best that they could do in the outside world, and that there was very little outside besides, perhaps, teaching or something like that. But secretarial work was always open for them.

DG: Well, there were twenty or thirty names, and so, obviously then they went to that session to find out more about...

NS: That's right. What might be available should they apply for relocation and work at that time.

DG: Now, another interesting part of your report was, is that there was a lot of housework available.

NS: Yes.

DG: And you comment about that.

NS: Yes. Well, a good many people at that time were looking for housekeepers or girls to help around the house. Those were a lot more available than office work.

DG: But you suggested that you didn't want to fill those jobs.

NS: No. [Laughs]

DG: Why?

NS: Well, it seemed to me that there were other places where girls could avail their talent, work on their talents a little more.

DG: And that was kind of demeaning.

NS: Well, that there were other places where they could use their energies to more helpful means than doing just housework.

DG: Now, one of the things that you did is you went to places like Boise and Denver and Salt Lake.

NS: (Yes). And I talked with the different groups that they had there. And talked to them about the need for relocation and to see if there were any places or places where they could use girls or people to work, because the camps were full of capable people looking for places to go.

DG: Now, doing all these things, what happened to your children?

NS: My mother took care of them.

DG: And then tell me what your mother told you at these times.

NS: Well, my mother always said, "Well, you can do those things and I'm..." and she was capable of taking care of the children and so she said, "Well, for the good of the community and the people that you're helping, you might as well do those things, and I will take care of the children." And she was very good about that and she always did. And she was good with children too, so that was fine with me. [Laughs]

<End Segment 37> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 38>

DG: One of the letters was to a Kimi about asking her help in taking care of a girl who had an illegitimate child.

NS: Well, Kimi was YW secretary in San Francisco, and she worked in the YWCA and in either Chicago or someplace in the Middle West. And I was in contact with her, so I probably wrote to her at that time.

DG: Now, the reason I bring this up is because you allude to the fact that illegitimacy made it impossible for this girl to be in camp or with other Japanese.

NS: Uh-huh.

DG: So, could you explain a little bit more about that?

NS: Well, the Japanese -- I mean, being in camp was in -- everybody was in such close quarters that there was a lot of gossiping going around. And, of course, idle tongues are not too helpful in a good many ways. And I'm sure that illegitimacy was not a comfortable subject for a girl to live through. And, I probably felt compassion for her.

DG: There wasn't a lot of problems like that around?

NS: I don't think so.

DG: What were the worst problems that you can remember?

NS: Partly because in the spring there were -- I think the army came by and got some of the eligible young men to volunteer for the army, the 442nd, and they left. And also the Kibei all went to Tule Lake and they left. So a lot of the young people were gone from camp, the young boys.

<End Segment 38> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 39>

DG: Okay. Now this, about joining the 442nd... now, in February of 1943 -- so we've gone from September to Christmas and now we're into the first of the year. There was a "loyalty question." Can you tell me about that?

NS: Yes. It was all over camp that they were going to be a questionnaire circulated for people to assert their loyalty and so that went around.

DG: And it really consumed the energy of everybody.

NS: Yes. There were -- because a lot of the Kibei were suspicious that -- and a lot of them that had grown up in Japan were, well, they were skeptical about their treatment here in the United States. Having been brought up in Japan, I think they felt that Japan would have treated them better or something; that they might have had a conflict in their own feelings at that time.

DG: Now, you had four brothers.

NS: (Yes).

DG: What was...

NS: They were all, I mean, they weren't Kibei. They were all loyal to the U.S. They didn't know anything about Japan, even though Mako, the oldest, had been to Japan and the youngest had been there. But they were not sympathetic to Japan at all.

DG: So they all volunteered.

NS: So they all volunteered for the 442nd.

DG: What did your mother say?

NS: Mako, the oldest, wasn't accepted because he had asthma when he was younger and so with lung problems, he was not physically able to join the army. But the other three volunteered. And Harry was the oldest of the three, and he was the football player and the biggest one of the three. And I suppose he had more leadership qualities than the other younger boys, so he was chosen to go to officers training school. And so he became an officer and he stayed at Shelby until they closed up.

DG: What did your mother say about all this?

NS: She didn't say anything about the boys growing up. She let them, more or less, grow up the way they...

DG: But she didn't mind their all volunteering?

NS: No, she was all for it. She, of course -- all the parents were skeptical because they didn't want their children to be slain, you know.

DG: Right.

NS: And they were worried about that. In fact, one of her best friends didn't want her son to go because she was afraid for him. And she had a nervous breakdown, I think, afterwards, because her son was killed in the war. But it was the only son and she doted on him and it was just too bad. It was sad, but those things do happen.

DG: What did you think for yourself?

NS: Well, I thought that -- you mean, about my brothers going? Well, I just thought that it was up to them; after all, it was their life.

DG: Was there any need to show loyalty?

NS: No, it was their own choice. I mean, if they felt that they wanted to go with their friends and go to the 442nd, that was up to them. I mean, nothing I said would...

DG: But what was their reason for going then?

NS: Well, that they were all going to show their loyalty.

DG: They needed to do that?

NS: They needed to do that. And they wanted to go with their friends and they did.

<End Segment 39> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 40>

DG: Earlier in the year -- which I forgot to have you talk about -- as many as 2,000 of them went out to the farms and worked on the farms, right?

NS: They probably did, too.

DG: And you mentioned how the boys had it good because they got to go out and were more free.

NS: Yes. They could do what they wanted and they did.

DG: And something about the economy of Twin Falls as a result of the camp. What?

NS: Well, there was a lot more activity going around. and then the restaurants were always full because all the people in camp wanted to go and have some chicken dinners and something good to eat. And all the people in camp wanted various and sundry items like the dime store, this kind of thread or that kind of material or whatever their needs were. Whoever was going out had a big shopping list to bring back to camp.

DG: And you said all these 2,000 boys earned money and spent it all.

NS: Yes. Typical, don't you think? [Laughs]

DG: But one of the things that everybody seemed to have to buy more of was warmer clothes, right?

NS: Yes, because Idaho was very cold.

DG: And boots?

NS: And boots. Well, because of the mud. The mud was so bad. With all this construction, it had stirred up the dirt and the dirt was -- there wasn't any grass in the area. And with the buildings going up, they stirred up all the dirt and so when the dust storms came, it was just like, it was worse than a snowstorm. And it came through all the cracks in the walls. It was just terrible.

<End Segment 40> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 41>

DG: And to finish off about the recruitment, your husband was refused.

NS: Yes. He volunteered, but they wouldn't take him because he was born in Japan and not a citizen. So he was refused. And he couldn't go to any other state because his license was good only in the state of Washington. So he had to -- in order to relocate, we weren't sure whether he would have, whether he could take the state boards in any other state. And since there wasn't any reassurance of reciprocity, he decided -- well, the only thing was to go back to the state of Washington. And that's why we came back to Spokane.

DG: Because you were thinking of going to Chicago or someplace.

NS: Yes. I had an uncle in Chicago.

DG: One of the things that you mention in one of the letters is that you were inundated with paperwork with all these questionnaires. So I took a look at the questionnaire about relocation -- and so there is some items in there about what kind of magazines that you read or what kind of papers you read and, so forth, and whether you'd been to Japan or whether you spoke Japanese, all those things. And it was interesting to me that you said, "After everybody gets through filling out all these questions, is there any question about their loyalty?"

NS: [Laughs]

DG: Were you having to constantly prove your...

NS: Yes, I think so. Well, to prove that you were loyal; that you had no interest in Japan, as such, excepting as a country and where your ancestors came from. But as far as your loyalty was concerned, it was where you were living and that was in the United States.

<End Segment 41> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 42>

DG: Well, one of the comments that you make is that as you were helping people relocated, there was a saturation point for some cities that you didn't want too many to go to one place. Why was that?

NS: Well, because there were too many Japanese for the size of the town.

DG: And why is that bad?

NS: Because there were no jobs available. Unless there were jobs available -- I mean, there is a saturation point as far as jobs were concerned with the number of people in that particular locality. And if you inundate that with extra Japanese, you have more prejudice coming against the people taking over some of the jobs that the white people feel that should be theirs. That was the reasoning, I think, behind that statement. I wrote a lot of things. [Laughs]

DG: You constantly talk about everybody leaving and you said, "It's becoming an old people's home."

NS: [Laughs] It was, because it was just the elderly who couldn't do anything that stayed behind and the government took care of them.

DG: And that was kind of becoming a welfare state.

NS: Yes. And they probably would, and they probably -- and it seemed that people who didn't need to be old, became old. A lot of the people who were halfway there became dependent when they didn't need to be. Their whole outlook seemed to be more defeatist than optimistic and it wasn't doing anything good to people being in a camp like that.

DG: It seems like the YWCA understood this.

NS: Yes.

DG: Because they said that everything was geared toward resettlement in their publications.

NS: Uh-huh.

DG: Is that right?

NS: I guess so. Anyway, I felt that it was a forward-going organization that I had been interested in and took interest in.

<End Segment 42> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 43>

DG: Okay. Finally there is some correspondence with Floyd Schmoe about your car.

NS: Yes. My car had been left with some friends and they -- I don't know whether they used it or not, but anyways it was being kept up. And so when we were ready to leave, why, Floyd drove the car over to Minidoka and we left.

DG: Now, there's all through the letters quite constantly, but right here especially, about rationing.

NS: Well, there was rationing at that time for everybody. It wasn't just the Japanese Americans. It was rationing -- I mean, gasoline, sugar, a good many things were rationed. But it depended on the number of people in the family, how much you had. And, of course, we had a big enough family that we could manage with what we had.

DG: So were you excited to get out of camp?

NS: Yes. I felt that by the time the whole year was up, that I had done what I could do and that it was time that we took care of our own family. And since he was ready to start school, that that was where...

DG: This is your oldest son?

NS: (Yes)... we can go back to our normal situation and that I had -- I felt, I guess, that I had done my duty as far as community was concerned.

DG: Okay. Well, thank you for today. We will continue some more next time.

NS: Well, I hope it comes out good.

<End Segment 43> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.