Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Francis Mas Fukuhara Interview
Narrator: Francis Mas Fukuhara
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary), Elmer Good (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: September 25, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-ffrancis-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: So Mas... let's start and I'll start off by asking: where were you born?

FF: I was born in Seattle.

TI: And when was this?

FF: On January 30, 1925. And I was born right across the street from the existing Keiro, you know, the Keiro...

TI: So right off of Yesler, right around there.

FF: Right off of Yesler on Seventeenth Avenue. Yeah. There are no more houses there, but there used to be about three houses in a row, they're all down now and it's a vacant lot.

TI: And your parents, where are your, where were your parents from?

FF: They're from a town in Shiga prefecture called Hikone which is a city on the, on that big lake, Biwa Lake in western Japan.

TI: And both of your parents were from the same town?

FF: Yeah, yeah. I don't think that was so unusual, though. I, I think Isseis tended to marry people from the same prefecture anyway, if not the same city.

TI: And how did your parents meet? I mean, to get married? Were they, did they know each other as, as children growing up?

FF: No, I don't think so. Because I think my dad was really quite a few years, like more than ten years older than my mother, and I think -- and I know he was over here, as a teenager -- and he went back to Japan to get married. And so, it was I guess the typical Japanese arranged marriage.

TI: But if your father was ten years older, then your mother must have been quite young when they, they first met.

FF: Yeah, I think she was about maybe sixteen or seventeen. But I don't know that that was particularly unique at that time.

TI: What was your father like?

FF: Well, my father as I remember him, was really a kind of a very quiet sort of guy. He never did say much, you know. And I can't really, I don't really, can't really say that I really knew the man very well. Like in most Japanese families, the mother took care of the kids and raised the kids and the old man went out and, and brought home the bacon, so to speak. So... but he was a quiet sort of man. And he seemed to be respected in the community. I mean, he had a lot of visitors and they seemed to come over and talk business a lot.

TI: What kind of work did your father do?

FF: He was initially, when he came over here I think he was a clerk in the Furuya Company. The Furuya Company was really sort of a trading company, and they had a bank, too. He eventually went to work for the bank. The bank went bankrupt, in the, in the, during the Depression. And then he... I don't ever remember him being unemployed, though. He seemed to pick up right away and he went to work for Seattle First National Bank as a, as a teller and he was in the International Branch which is on, I think it's Sixth and Jackson Street.

TI: By being a banker -- I'm just sort of imagining back at that period -- I mean, being a banker must have been a little unusual, working in a bank, that's a pretty prominent position for a...

FF: Yeah.

TI: ...for an Issei.

FF: Yeah, especially working with a, with a non-Japanese company. I mean, most, most Isseis, I think, worked for Japanese companies or they had their own businesses. Yeah, I think his, his position was a little bit unique. And I think because of it, he was, he kept in touch with investment opportunities and I think these were the kinds of things that he advised people on.

TI: How about your mother, what was your mother like?

FF: Well, my mother seemed like really a... she was, I think, a very energetic type. She was always into something. She, I can remember she went to a, the old Pacific School -- there is, the Seattle University has a track down there, on that site used to be a school called Pacific School. And they had a, they had an English-for-foreigners kind of class there and she was enrolled in that. I guess, mostly because she wanted to keep track of her kids who didn't speak Japanese, so she was involved with that. And then she... I know she was, she went to beauty college and graduated from that. Somewhere, that was somewhere downtown on First Avenue or something. And then she was also involved in Japanese cultural stuff. She was very active in an organization called Hatsunekai, which was a Japanese dance and music organization.

TI: So it sounds like she actually was able to, to do things in both a more Caucasian environment and Japanese environment by going to the school to learn English, as well as a beauty college, as well as the Japanese culture, so she was able to bridge both. Is that...

FF: Oh yeah, I think she, as I remember, she made a huge effort, really, to speak English. We spoke mostly English, I think, at home. My dad had some education here, too, though. He went to an academy that preceded the present Seattle University. And so he spoke English probably much better than the average Issei. But he, again, he worked in a non-Japanese environment so, I guess that was necessary for, well, speaking English was a necessity for his job.

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