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-01-0004

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TL: What are your earliest memories of growing up with your aunt?

AT: Well, my mother keeps sending American dollar so she was living very comfortably. And she never married again. And she had started dress-making business. She had some two, three girls working making clothes for young people. Well, in those days I think sewing machine was something new and instead of sewing by hand, making kimono, more people started to wear western clothes. So I think her business was quite good, and she had two other young woman working for her. So they, these two woman, were partly like a maid and partly learning to do the, making western clothes.

TL: Was it a little bit like an apprenticeship?

AT: I think so, yes.

TL: So the young girls would live with you and then help with household and also help learn the trade.

AT: Yes.

TL: So this was in her home, the dress making business?

AT: Yes, but the storefront, in the front.

TL: Did you learn some of those skills too or did she...

AT: I was too young. I was in grade school.

TL: Ah-ha. Okay. Are there other memories that you have about the house, or the store, or the street it was on?

AT: Few years ago, I was back in Okayama and I went to the street that the store was and the street was same, same kind of street. Although that area was changed and then more newer business section of this particular town was much western part of the city. But the house was still there and, of course, it was not the same store any more, but...

TL: Can you describe the house? What it was like, what did it look like?

AT: Well, my aunt moved several times so it was not just one house. And my mother's younger sister, Yasuko, she was living with my great grandmother, so, this was in the farm, farming part of Soja.

TL: Did you and Takeo spend much time with them or visit them frequently?

AT: Yes, on weekends. We can walk, it probably took about forty-five minutes by walking, but we went to visit because it was a bigger house and more comfortable. Yes. And that's where my great grandmother was.

TL: What are some of the things that you remember about your great grandmother?

AT: She was daughter of samurai, of a very high ranking samurai, they call Karou. Karou is next to the lord. And she was a daughter of the Karou so she had a training of, to protect the princess. And in this house up in the attic I saw this long woman's sword, and I don't know what naginata is. It has a long handle and there is a knife on at the end. That's what woman use for fighting, defending herself, and she had to defend the princess, Ohimesama.

TL: Did she raise her own daughter and her granddaughters to be acquainted with those traditions?

AT: I don't think so. That's probably why my grandmother came to America. [Laughs]

TL: Did your great grandmother ever talk about that, talk about how she felt that her daughter was so far away, living apart?

AT: No. In those days you hear about the next door or the somebody else in the village going to America and that was the kind of thing to do. And then the reward is to get more American dollars, more comfortable living, so family bought more land for growing rice.

TL: So, many families had a member or two who were in America?

AT: I think so --

TL: It seemed that way?

AT: -- yes. Especially in this area, in Portland and Seattle. There are many people from Okayama similar in their reason for coming over, I think.

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