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-01-0012

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TL: Now, I'm wondering about your memories of when your mother did come and told you that she would be taking you back with her. What do you remember about that?

AT: You know, I'm still not so sure whether I was sad or happy about that, because I grew up in Japan from... I was thirteen months until sixth grade, and my aunt and my brother was there, the older brother who grew up with me. We spent so much time together. So my mother came back to Japan with my younger brother, Glen, he was about six years younger than I, I think. I don't know whether I was glad to come back. I think it was mixed feeling then, to leave my brother and aunt who raised me.

TL: Since the village was small, was it a big event for someone to be coming to visit from America?

AT: No. This area of Okayama, there were other families that came to Canada or America and made enough money to build their own nice house and probably had enough money to buy back the land, and they actually had moved back to Japan. There were some children from these family that I knew of.

TL: When your mother came with Glen was it, did she stay very long? You know, a few weeks or she came and as soon as she came she said you needed to get ready; it's time to go back?

AT: I think it was maybe three weeks, less than a month. Yes. I don't know the feeling of my aunt who raised me, how she felt about it. But she thought it was about time that I was getting old enough to, that I should grow up with the family, instead of staying with her. But my brother, who was two years older than I, he was already in the special, very nice school, so he wanted to continue his education over there. And he was all for me, in fact, he told me, "Ayame, you go back with your mother." I'm sorry that... he died, but I never saw him again.

TL: Was it your mother's intent, or did she intend to bring both of you, and then when she saw Takeo had his heart set on finishing school, then she said, "Okay. I'll just bring you."

AT: I don't know. But I wish he had come back with me, but I think he wanted to stay to look after Aunt. Yes.

TL: What do you remember about the trip home, or the trip to the home you hadn't, you couldn't remember, the trip to California?

AT: Well, everything was so new. I was, I had a very mixed feeling about it. And in Sacramento, I... we came back from Japan on a ship, not airplane. It took a while. So on the boat coming back I learned ABC. Every day I was writing A, B, C on the ship, but that was about all I knew. And when I landed here, I didn't know one word of English, maybe just hello and good-bye or something. And I knew how to write ABC and I was thirteen years old. So Sacramento I started from second grade. And all the other children were like this [Gestures to show height] and I was thirteen years old. And I was so embarrassed. But I was in second grade for maybe three months and then they put me up to fourth grade because my, I could do mathematics so well. And then I jumped to sixth grade or something and then finished junior high school in about three years.

TL: Were -- the other students in school -- was it a mixed group or were they mostly Japanese?

AT: No. This was public school, and in Sacramento there are many Mexican children, especially this area of the town. It was Chinese, Japanese, and Mexican children.

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