Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Ayame Tsutakawa Interview I
Narrator: Ayame Tsutakawa
Interviewer: Tracy Lai
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 29, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-tayame-01-0011

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TL: In the photo album that you showed me, there are pictures of you performing, playing koto. I'm wondering if you could talk about some of the teachers?

AT: In Japan?

TL: Uh-huh.

AT: Since money was coming, plenty of money was coming from America, my aunt probably felt that I should have koto lessons as extra money spent for, instead of just going to school. She said I should take koto lessons, so I did after school. And because I was playing koto quite well, we were invited to play at other cities. So I had extra chance to travel with the teacher. That was nice. And I don't know exactly why, but the children born in America and living in Japan, when you get the mosquito bites in the summertime, you get little bumps. And so during the summer I was sent to Beppu or some other hot spring resort place by myself.

TL: Oh my.

AT: Yes. I was put on the train and the arrangements were made to stay in the inn, and I stayed there three weeks, four weeks during the summer.

TL: Not even with your brother?

AT: No. But I'd make... young girl traveling in ryokan by herself, so the people working there, young ladies, they come and treat me differently. Yes, made friends.

TL: So was the hot springs, was that considered a treatment for the bites, or was it just to get you out of the season when the mosquitoes are biting the most?

AT: Probably both.

TL: Little bit of both.

AT: Yes. There, I make new friends and, yes, it was fun time.

TL: About how old do you suppose you were?

AT: I was like fifth grade or sixth grade.

TL: So maybe eleven, twelve?

AT: Yes.

TL: Still it was unusual though for such a young person to be traveling alone?

AT: Yes. But the people on the train, they make friends with me. And then when it was already arranged so that when I arrived at the station, then there would be a lady there waiting for me to take me to the ryokan, yes. I take my, all the homework. In Japanese schools they give you so much homework for summertime, vacation, and you had to write the date and you had to write the weather. So if you don't do it, you can't fill it in. [Laughs]

TL: So you had lots to do while you were there. [Laughs]

AT: Sometimes I skip and did three days' work at once.

TL: In another conversation, you mentioned that a lot of the koto teachers were blind.

AT: Uh-huh.

TL: And I was wondering if you could tell me more about. If you know more of the history or the reasons for that, why these woman were trained or took that as a profession.

AT: I think it was probably started as a necessity for blind people for their, to make a living. And so there were quite a few koto teachers, men too, blind people. Yes. I think like shakuhachi, you had to read the notes, but I think koto, you could memorize all the songs.

TL: You also mentioned that you studied dance. Did you start taking your dancing lessons at the same time that you were studying koto or did that come at another point?

AT: I started my dancing lessons in Sacramento after I returned, not in Japan.

TL: Oh, all right. Okay.

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