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

<Begin Segment 1>

TL: Today is May 29th, 1998. This is Tracy Lai interviewing Mrs. Ayame Tsutakawa. In this first part of the interview, I'd like to ask about your life in Japan, and then later on in Sacramento. So could you please give us your full name.

AT: My name?

TL: Uh-huh.

AT: Ayame. It was Iwasa, as I was born, Ayame Iwasa. While I was in Japan, my name was Iwasa Ayame, yes. After I returned to America and my mother married Mr. Kyotani, so my name changed to Kyotani Ayame. And then after my marriage to George, it's Tsutakawa Ayame.

TL: Thank you. Could you tell me the names of your parents?

AT: My real father's name is Suejiro. He married to my mother... my mother's name was Iwasa Kumano Mary. This family had three girls, so she kept the family name. So I think my father's name, Suejiro Henry, while he was married to her, I'm sure his name changed to Iwasa. My mother divorced, I'm not so sure just what year, I was in Japan. My older brother Takeo -- who is two years older than I -- and myself, were sent to Japan. And we grew up there while my mother lived in Los Angeles. And she worked and sent enough money for us to grow up.

TL: It seems unusual that she divorced him. Did she ever talk about why?

AT: My mother was very independent person. And after sending my brother and I, I think she felt she wanted to be free to do her work, which is, she liked to cook. So she had a restaurant. And he was landscaping in Hollywood, I think Hollywood Studios, so he went on his own and Mother went on with her own business. So I think they were divorced. I don't know any more than that.

TL: Do you know what their families did in Japan before they came?

AT: My mother's side? My mother's family had... they're from farm countryside. But they had enough land so that they didn't have to do the farming themselves, what they call kosaku -- is people who work and grow rice for the family and then he will get, not paid by cash, but he will get so much rice from the field. That's what you call kosaku, I think. And I think they had enough land so they lived from selling the extra rice.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

TL: What were the circumstances of your mother and father immigrating to the United States?

AT: I cannot remember exact date, but in those days it was my grandfather -- my mother's father -- who went to war and came back, and first time he saw outside of Japan. And then after he returned, then he start hearing people going to America and he wanted to go too. So I think he came and settled in Los Angeles area. And so many Japanese Isseis were doing landscaping, gardener, landscaping because it's, it was the easiest thing to do.

TL: So your mother, though, she was born in Japan?

AT: Yes.

TL: Okay. And although... well, did she have the intent of returning to Japan, or once she got to California and Los Angeles, she saw herself staying here?

AT: I'm sure she never thought of going back and living in Japan.

TL: Why?

AT: Because life in America is so much easier. You drive your own car, you have your own big house, and you have your own business. I think it was much easier.

TL: Would it have been difficult for her to be a business person if she had returned to Japan?

AT: Oh, yes. The Japanese ladies, they have a hard time starting her own business.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

TL: When and where were you born?

AT: I was born 1924 in Hollywood, California, because my family lived there.

TL: And you mentioned that you had an older brother?

AT: Uh-huh.

TL: Was he also born in Hollywood?

AT: Yes, but he was sent to Japan, very small, young, maybe one year.

TL: Oh. And what was his name?

AT: Takeo.

TL: So Takeo actually was already in Japan before you?

AT: I think it was my grandmother took my brother and I back to Japan. And my mother's older sister who had lost her husband, she was a widow, so she decided that she could raise us if she get the money from America. So my mother keep sending her money, and my brother and I grew up with this aunt -- my mother's older sister.

TL: Let me just make sure I understood this. Takeo and yourself went to live with your aunt at the same time or he went before you did?

AT: No, same time. Yes.

TL: Okay. At same time. Okay.

AT: So Takeo and I grew up together until I returned to the United States.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

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.

<Begin Segment 5>

TL: How was it explained to you about living apart from your mother? Did anybody ever talk about that with you?

AT: No, I don't think so. From this particular village, there weren't too many others, but we did hear so and so's family or so, have parents in America. Since I was sent to Japan so young that I didn't question those things. I was just growing up with all the children in the neighborhood. I didn't think differently.

TL: I didn't ask how big the village was. Do you remember the relative size? Was it considered a small village or a medium-sized village?

AT: This particular village where my great grandmother was, there were only about eight farmhouses, very small. But --

TL: So everyone would know each other pretty well.

AT: Yes, very well. Yes. No one ever locked a door. Yes. And from the village where my mother's family... see, my grandmother came to America and then left this village in Okayama; but the father, her father, was from this other village and that's where the family cemetery is, of Iwasa family. And there must be dozen homes there, farmhouses. Yes. It's a little bigger. So the Iwasa family cemetery is there with my grandfather's families, Iwasa families. My grandmother, great-grandmother's family name was Yokota. I think everybody, just about every family in the village was, had a last name Yokota.

TL: How would you describe your relationship with your aunt Masano?

AT: Sometimes I felt, I wish I was with my mother. She was quite strict and because... now that I can see why she was. She wanted me to be properly growing up and having lessons and this, because my mother keep sending her money so she had to spend the money wisely, I guess, and help my brother and I grow up properly.

TL: Do you think she was stricter with you than with Takeo?

AT: Probably, yes.

TL: What's an example?

AT: Well, of course, I was taking okoto lessons. I had to do it whether I like it or not, 'cause she was paying for it. Nothing more than that. I just... other girls were playing outside after school, and then I had to stay home and practice, practice.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

TL: When you observed your girlfriends' relationships with their mothers, did you wonder about what you might have if you had a chance to know your own mother?

AT: Uh-huh. I wish I was with Mother in America. I kind of wanted to come back, I think. So when my mother came back to Japan and said, "I'm going to take you back," and I was glad to come. But the saddest part was that I had to part with my older brother, because he and I grew up together.

TL: Well, how did he feel? Did he share some of your feeling of wanting to go to America, or did he think differently?

AT: I don't know. I can't tell. Well, I'm sure it was sad for him.

TL: What kind of contact did your mother have with you while you were living in Japan?

AT: Absolutely none. No, she never wrote to us. She was sending money to Aunt to raise us. And I don't know how much it was, but I'm sure substantial amounts of it. She didn't have to go to work. In fact, she started a sewing business, because there was two, three, sewing machine. Was not... almost unheard of in Japan then. Everybody made kimono with their, by hand.

TL: Were they U.S. sewing machines?

AT: Yes. I think every time my grandmother came back, she brought back one sewing machine or something like that. So there was one, two, three sewing machines.

TL: What kind of impression did you have then of America?

AT: Impression? I really don't know. I can't remember. I thought America is probably nice place to live, but I probably couldn't imagine.

TL: From what you said, it sounds like all the -- like the money and the sewing machine -- people probably had an idea that the U.S. is maybe wealthy or...

AT: Yes.

TL: A place with a lot of opportunities.

AT: Yes, more luxury. My mother was quite an outgoing person. And so when she come back to Japan to visit, instead of calling for taxi to go from place to place, she would hire the car, and she drives the car and let the driver sit on the side. And I was so embarrassed about this, but she was that kind of person.

TL: And do you remember why you were embarrassed?

AT: Well, Japanese ladies never -- I never saw a Japanese woman driving.

TL: So it just didn't seem quite right.

AT: Yes. So when I was driving with her, then I was always kind of hide my face. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 7>

TL: You mentioned that there, in the village, there were other children who might have been in the same situation as you?

AT: I heard of two, three families, yes. But they were... the people came to America and earned so much money -- I don't know how much -- and went back to the same village and built themself a nice big house and they stayed. They never came back to America. So there were two, three, families with the children in my class -- their parents had come to America, but they had returned.

TL: Did the villagers or your classmates, did they actually use the term "Kibei" to describe you and Takeo or is that a word that, only in the U.S...

AT: Only in U.S. I think Kibei, the character Ki Bei, is to come back to America. Ki is to go back, come home, and Bei is America. So that word is never used in Japan. And the word they used in Japan for the people who went to America and made money and came back to Japan, they were called America Kaeri, went to America and come back.

TL: So did people, did they make any kind of, did they distinguish you and Takeo in any way because of your American citizenship or...

AT: No. No, not at all. What was so different about these children who, they were born in America and went back and lived there, when we get a mosquito bite in the summertime, we get blister. And the Japanese children get a mosquito bite, they never get a blister, but only those of us who were born in America get a big blister and I couldn't understand why. The water is different.

TL: That's interesting. Sometimes Kibei who came at a later age -- not as young as yourself -- talk about the difficulty of fitting in because their Japanese, might not be quite as fluent or, just their mannerisms. They spent more time growing up in American culture. You and your brother were quite young, so perhaps those kinds of differences were not so evident.

AT: No. No. Let's see. I was only thirteen months and my brother was only two years older than I. So we grew up like one of their children.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

TL: What do you remember about starting school?

AT: In Japan?

TL: Uh-huh.

AT: Starting school... like any other children. Yes. We had to wear uniform. See, this... Japanese were going toward more militarism, so it was very strict. And every morning before we had our classes, we had to go through all this exercise and marching. And then the war with Manchuria started. And so everybody was off for this war. Especially boys that had, in their grade school, they had to have similar training as a soldier.

TL: Did you have any favorite teachers or were there favorite subjects for you?

AT: I was bigger than my classmates, and I'm still a little bigger than average Niseis. So I was very good in athletic, running and jumping and all that. So, I was sort of special. I get special treatment for being a hero of the school because I used to bring home big flags to the school, competing with other schools.

TL: So you enjoyed the sports part.

AT: Yes, very much so.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

TL: Since your great grandmother was, had that kind of high status background, did that affect the way you and your brother were treated, you know, or viewed in the village?

AT: I don't think so. She had the respect of all the village people because she was from this high ranking family. But... and we respected her too, from the family, too. We didn't ask her to do any hard work or anything. And the family could afford to hire people to do the farming and growing rice and vegetables and all that. So I used to see my great grandmother sitting in the, this eight mat room, which is larger than average rooms, and just doing nothing. She just sit there and just looking around or just watching things going around about her.

TL: Was there anyone else in the village that had a similar background or was she the only one?

AT: She was special.


TL: You've mentioned that your great-grandmother had a special status because of her background, and I wondered if that made any difference in how you and your brother were treated in the village.

AT: Not at all. She was respected, but children -- no, I don't think so. The only difference was maybe we were wearing better clothes because the money was coming from America, and we didn't have to wear our mended uniform or... but we didn't wear our hard shoes because once I wore my leather shoes to school, and everybody kind of looked and pointed at me and I was kind of embarrassed, more than just be proud to wear it. So I never wear those. Some of the nice clothes that were sent from America, I just didn't want to wear. [Laughs] I wanted to be like one of those, same as village people, children.

TL: Now, was your great-grandmother's husband still alive or had he passed away?

AT: Oh, yes, yes.

TL: He had passed away. Did people come to her for advice about things, to consult about different kinds of matters?

AT: No. My great-grandmother you're talking about? My great-grandmother was well-known in the village and nearby community, because who she was. So when people passing by the house, they will stop by to pay her respect, "Ii kaga desu ka," you know and all that. But she was not treated any different than... she was just respected as she was from this high ranking.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

TL: I'm wondering about the kinds of friendships that you formed while a schoolgirl. And, what kind of, what you remember about those times.

AT: I left Japan when I was still in sixth grade. So after I came back to America, to Sacramento, I think children didn't know how to address letter so we did not correspond very much. And I went back to Japan after I married George -- for one of George's fountain installation in Japan -- I went back to Okayama. But they had married and went away, and I couldn't find them any more. I didn't look for them. I asked about them and, says, "Oh, so and so is married and went to such place," so I didn't look for them. And I didn't have that much time either, 'cause I was traveling with George.

TL: When you were in school, were there any opportunities to visit some of the other villages or nearby cities, or was this a pretty isolated place?

AT: No. Soja was one of the big city in Okayama. And since I was quite an athlete -- I was running, I was jumping, and I was swimming -- and so I went to other schools to compete. So I was pretty popular there because of that, and I was a little bigger than average girls.

TL: So you had a chance to actually see a little bit more.

AT: Uh-huh.

TL: Did your aunt approve of these activities?

AT: I think so. She was maybe proud of that. Actually I was quite a bit bigger than my classmate. Sometimes I tried not to be so big, and I was always like this, slumped, so I had a bad habit of getting bad posture. So I had to be careful about that.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

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.

<Begin Segment 12>

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.

<Begin Segment 13>

TL: Can you talk a little bit about how your mother came to move to Sacramento, since you had been born in Hollywood?

AT: My mother always had restaurant business, one or the other different places in Los Angeles and Hollywood. And so, in her restaurant, she was handling Japanese sake. And there was a big dealer in San Francisco, a wholesaler man. He would go to Sacramento, Los Angeles, Fresno, and different towns to sell his sake. And so this person... I was told later that he knew of Kyotani and my stepfather later and my mother separately, but he knew these people. So here was widow -- not widow, a woman with children, and then Kyotani didn't have wife, so he put these two together. It was not -- they didn't find each other; they were introduced. So mother probably felt it's about time to have a nice family for us, so she married him. And then when she went to Sacramento, she told Kyotani that she has to go back to Japan once more to settle what to do with the two children in Japan. But she decide to bring me back 'cause my younger brother was like five, six years younger than I, and she thought maybe I could help him with the housework and growing up together so I came back with her.

TL: So Kyotani is the third husband?

AT: Uh-huh.

TL: And then the second one, can you talk a little -- that was Glen's father?

AT: Uh-huh.

TL: Can you describe what you've heard about him? I guess you never met him.

AT: My brother, Glen, his Japanese name is Gentaro. His father is from a very nice family from Shizuoka who went to London to study. And after he graduated from school, instead of going back to Japan by way of Indian Ocean, he crossed Atlantic and landed near New York and travel to Los Angeles. That's where my mother, he met my mother. And he kind of liked her, I think. So he stayed on and decide to marry her. But, after he passed away, my brother -- Glen's father passed away in Los Angeles -- my mother brought his ash back to Shizuoka. That's when mother and Glen came back to Japan.

TL: Oh, all at the same time.

AT: Uh-huh. It was too bad that he passed away 'cause he was from very nice family.

TL: How was your mother received by his family when she brought the ashes?

AT: Well, because their son is dead and this woman is from America, so I think the family gave her, give my mother substantial amount of money to tell her to raise this boy yourself instead of accepting this little child to the family. I went to Yokohama with my aunt when my mother returned with my younger brother and also went to Shizuoka family with them. And it was a kind of mansion that you only see in the movies, huge gate and a beautiful huge garden, and in the distance you find two, three, houses. Yes. It was a very well known family in that area. So I can see why that the grandmother... probably would like to keep the child, but she probably thought it was better for mother to raise him herself. She was given substantial amount of money, I think.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

TL: Well, returning to your description of entering public school in Sacramento and having to immerse yourself in learning English, I'm wondering what you might remember about how you were feeling about that. Were you thinking at all about how... well, were you thinking at all about wanting to go to Japan when you became an adult because that felt more like home, or were you just thinking mostly about how to learn English and kind of fit into the new family that you were living with?

AT: I never thought of going back to Japan. But I was hoping that my older brother, who I grew up with, could come and visit. This school was in Sacramento, an international district sort of. And there were many Chinese Kibeis. So in my school there were Mexican children, small children in the school, and then there were quite a few big Chinese boys in the class too, so I was not the only big one.

TL: Did that make it a little bit easier then?

AT: I think so, yes. I became friend with these Chinese boys, and we could only speak few words, I think, but we got along fine. And then from second grade, I was put in fourth grade, then sixth grade, and junior high school. I finished the whole thing in about three years and then started Sacramento High School. And then the war started.

TL: Did your mother ever express any expectations that she had for you about your schooling or perhaps taking over the businesses that, or her business?

AT: Uh-uh. I think she just wanted to treat me like, what they call Ojousan in Japan, daughter from wealthy family who had the training of tea ceremony, classical dance, calligraphy, and all this training, to have her ready to be married to a nice family. I think that was about all she was thinking about. So I was sent to classical dance, odori, and had tea ceremony lessons and all that.

TL: Was that part of her experience as well? Did she have those kinds of lessons?

AT: No, that's probably why she wanted me to have all these lessons.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

TL: Mrs. Tsutakawa, could you tell me something about the relations that you continued to have with your aunt or cousins back in Okayama after you came to the United States.

AT: My brother, who was two years older than I, he continued his schooling. And after he graduated, he found a very nice job in Kobe, one of the big ship building company, and so he moved to Kobe. And my aunt was living by herself, but there was another sister, another aunt of mine who's a younger sister of hers, so they kind of kept company. I'm not so sure where she died, my aunt. It was after the war. And when war broke out, my brother was inducted to Japanese Army, and I felt bad about it because here I am in America and my brother in Japanese army. But because he had a high education, he was promoted to officer. And, course, we had no communication during the war. But after the war, our family went back to Sacramento from relocation camp, and we received telegram from Japan saying that my brother was killed. And I was very sad because I never saw him after I left Japan. And then by that time, I was engaged to George and I thought to myself, "Oh, I can't marry American GI, ex-GI. They dropped a bomb on Hiroshima."

TL: Is Hiroshima where Takeo died?

AT: Yes. He was sent to Hiroshima short time before the atomic bomb. He was in other group. I don't know where, but he was sent to Hiroshima. There was a big army camp in Hiroshima, in city. That's where he was and it was early morning so they were having morning training, or something, I heard. That's when the bomb dropped. So it's very sad for me to go to Hiroshima these days. I have been there twice and I saw his name...


TL: Prior to U.S. declaring war with Japan, were you able to correspond with Takeo?

AT: Yes. Yes. Not very often, but I sent letter to him and to my aunt. Yes.

TL: And did he write back? Did she write back?

AT: My brother wrote to me once and I think that's the only letter I have. I still have it. Very kind letter. And he had beautiful handwriting. He was a good student, I think.

TL: Do you remember what he wrote in the letter?

AT: Yes. It was shortly after I came back so he was worried, how I am doing in the new environment and new surroundings and all that. He was very concerned.

TL: What kind of things did your aunt write about?

AT: She very seldom... I don't have one letter from her. Yes. And she passed away too. And my mother's younger sister was living after the war so I did see her again, but she was quite old. But the cousins...

TL: How many children did this younger sister have?

AT: Let's see, three girls and one boy. Yes. The only one I knew was the oldest one, Reiko, from her first husband, and this first husband passed away so she remarried. See, in this family, Yokota family, there were no boys so they have husband to move, marry into this family. That's different then this country the way it works, yes. So he has to change his name, yes.

TL: It sounds like remarrying was also perhaps viewed differently than -- well, certainly than it might be today as far as how acceptable or why people would do that.

AT: I think if you lose your husband, I think you stay widow most of your life. Most of the people just stay widow and not remarry because they are so devoted to the family that she has to stay on.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

TL: When you... on your trip with your mother and Glen to the United States, what city did you land in?

AT: To Seattle. Yes. Not, not to Sacra -- (Narr. Note: San Francisco)

TL: What do you remember about that?

AT: This immigration house near International District, that's the building, I think. Just a few days ago, I saw that again and remembering it. But my father, Kyotani, had a friend who was a lawyer in Seattle, Yasutake, I think. And Mr. Yasutake was quite influential around here then, so he came and just next day I was out of there. Yes.

TL: So did they arrange to come through Seattle because they knew this lawyer?

AT: Yes, so I would get through the immigration easier.

TL: A little faster.

AT: And then also I think my father used to live in Tacoma before he went to California. And like Moriguchi family, Mr. Moriguchi and my stepfather came from same prefecture, so they knew each other, and they were good friends before my father went to Sacramento. I think because of the prohibition that he had to close his business in Tacoma and he went to California. So at Tule Lake my (father was) happy to see Moriguchi family because my father's friend.

TL: And how did you get from Seattle to Sacramento? How did that part of the trip go?

AT: Oh, my father drove from Sacramento to Seattle in a brand new Buick. Cream color at that. And most of the Japanese people had this square-topped black Ford or something. So I thought, My goodness. My, he must be very wealthy. [Laughs] Maybe that was my mother's choice.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

TL: In another conversation, I think you mentioned that you stayed in one of the hotels in the International District before driving down to Sacramento?

AT: That was N-P hotel?

TL: Uh-huh.

AT: Is it still called N-P Hotel?

TL: I think so. Do you remember anything about that hotel or...

AT: Not very much about the hotel. But next morning my father had a friend who had a restaurant, it's in the International District -- Nakashima family. There were two brothers who had a big restaurant, and I had waffle, first time, and I thought, "My!" With lots of syrup and lots of butter. I thought it was best thing in the world. It tasted so good.

TL: Do you remember any of your thoughts about the different kinds of people that you were seeing, or was the International District all Asians so it didn't seem so different?

AT: And then that same day, my father took me to -- there was a big Japanese knitting company on Main Street, or Jackson Street. I think they were well known for their knitting, and my mother and I had heavy sweater ordered and tried on different things, and that was one impression. And then eating waffle. [Laughs] And then we drove, next day I'm sure we drove -- not "we" drove, Father drove and Mother was taking driving turns too -- and drove back to Sacramento and stopped at Roseburg overnight. And that was quite experience for me because comparing from Japanese towns, it was different. And we stayed in this hotel and everything was decorated with rose. It was nice.

TL: What other kinds of differences left an impression on you?

AT: Of that trip?

TL: Well of, either of the trip, but also just being in America, a place that you'd heard a lot about, but now it was -- you were here.

AT: I cannot recall one particular thing. Living in Japan, although because Mother was sending enough money for us to live quite comfortably, we traveled. Like especially, I was sent to Beppu or some other place, resort, or hot springs and so going places was not shocking.

TL: Was it very easy to get to know this stepfather?

AT: He was very kind. Of course, he never had his own children so he was glad to have my brother and I. And Mother was very outgoing so he liked that, too.

TL: How about your own relationship with your mother, now that you were together?

AT: Little difficult, I think. I was... I always had to think twice for anything, because it was different from talking to my aunt.

TL: Because of how your mother would respond, or because you just didn't know her very well?

AT: I didn't know her very much, yes. And, of course, my kid brother was more closer to her I always felt. So I was trying to reserve my feelings, yeah. See everything was new to me when I returned. Father -- I couldn't call him 'Father' at first -- seemed like some stranger, man. But he was more than happy to have family so he was very good to us.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

TL: At what point in your schooling did you begin to meet more Japanese Americans?

AT: Well, the Sacramento, the area where father had a house, was little away from Chinese or Japanese community, 'cause it was across the street from big park. I think he was renting this house, but it was really quite nice house. When I entered the school, I started first grade, I think. And I was thirteen years old, so I was there for like, two months, and I was learning to write ABC and all that. But I was good in math so they promoted me to fourth grade, sixth grade, and eighth grade and jumped and finished that in couple of years and then started Sacramento High School.

TL: So by the time you got to classes where you were closer in age to the other students, were there more Japanese Americans or were there still more Chinese and Mexican and Caucasian?

AT: Oh, mixed.

TL: Very mixed.

AT: Uh-huh. I was, I think I was about junior in high school the war broke out. So I never did finish high school. And then we were sent to temporary camp and then to Tule Lake, and then all the people in Tule Lake were talking about going back to Japan because this terrible war that America dropped the bomb and so we are not going to stay here. So most of us studied Japanese. Although, we did have high school. The Caucasian teacher came to camp and he was minister in Japan before the war. He came back to America shortly before the war so he was very sympathetic with Japanese children, and so... Mr. Pomeroy, I think. Yes. And I was in his high school class there for a couple of years.

TL: Thinking again about Sacramento, were both of your parents running separate businesses?

AT: No. It was my father's liquor business that mother went and she made it bigger and better. And then war broke out and then after the war our father started liquor business, but in smaller scale, so Mother started a jewelry business. That was after the war. I don't know why she wanted to have jewelry business, but she went to New York by herself, and to Fifth Avenue jeweler, and negotiated all kinds of things and started a jewelry business. There was sort of, right next to the liquor store. And then, course, she tackled restaurant business too. So, she was always on the go.

TL: Were you able to form any close friendships before evacuation?

AT: Church members, yes. Mother was going to Nichiren Church, so I did belong to Nichiren Youth Group, made some friends there. But the public school friends were not my same age so we were not very close.

TL: Did you find the Nichiren Church to be quite different from... well, or did you attend church when you were back in Japan?

AT: No. No. There is no such thing as Sunday School in Japan, unless you are a Christian, maybe. I don't know about Christianity in Japan.

TL: So what did you think about the church experience here in Sacramento?

AT: It was nice because they were... I find same age girls, and they had what they call Seinenkai -- Youth Group. And we had sort of a group doing things. Yes. And the Nichiren Church members were mostly from Okayama. Yes. I don't know why, but there were so many Okayama people belonging to Nichiren Church. Because in Japan I never heard of Nichiren.

TL: Did you feel fairly accepted by the church members or...

AT: Yes.

TL: Do you think a lot of it is because of the shared Okayama connection?

AT: Yes.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

TL: Did you have any awareness of yourself being different from other Nisei at this time?

AT: Not in the church group. They were all -- they didn't speak very good Japanese, but we got along fairly nicely. Yes.

TL: Did you continue studying koto in Sacramento?

AT: Yes, and classical dance. [Inaudible]

TL: Did you do that like once a week or how often were your classes?

AT: Maybe two, three times a week?

TL: Wow.

AT: Yes. So I continued to do that in the camp too, Tule Lake. So I was performing on the stage every weekend as entertainment for the people.

TL: As a teenager in America, did you find there were more or... no. What kinds of things were you interested in doing that perhaps you couldn't have done back in Okayama?

AT: I never compared. I never thought it in comparison so that's hard to answer.

TL: Were there any restrictions? Things that you'd liked to have done, but that your parents, or your mother objected to?

AT: In Tule Lake?

TL: In Sacramento.

AT: I think Mother was very protective of me.

TL: What gave you that impression?

AT: There was some boys in the Nichiren Church that wanted to date me for going to movies on Sunday afternoon or something. My mother would answer the door and she said, "No, Ayame is busy." So I thought she was trying protect me. So I never had chance to date boys.

TL: Did they come because you had said that you'd like to go, or did they come just to ask and then...

AT: Maybe casual conversation at the church or something.

TL: How did you feel about that?

AT: I don't know. I can't remember what. I certainly disappointed, but probably that was that.

TL: Would it have been acceptable for a group of young, a group of girls to go together?

AT: Oh, yes.

TL: Would she let you do that?

AT: Oh, yes. There was all kind of activities in the church that girls did together, with some boys too. That was okay.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

TL: You mentioned taking classical dance lessons. I'm wondering if there was more than one teacher in Sacramento.

AT: Well, one teacher, yes. And I don't know if there were others because this teacher was, she was sort of a leader in Bon Odori practices. She was the one. And I assisted her in teaching Bon Odori too. And then her teacher lived in Los Angeles. So Mother drove car with myself and my teacher to Los Angeles to see this Ms. Bando's recital in Los Angeles. Things like that.

TL: Did those lessons, did they contribute to your being selected as Miss Sacramento?

AT: Well, I don't know if the dance had anything to do, but I had... Mother bought many kimonos. She spent so much money for my kimonos, and she wanted to put me on the spot where I have chance to show them or to appear. So most of the Nisei girls didn't have kimonos or had any Japanese or couldn't even speak Japanese so well. So they could not be the Queen from Sacramento to represent the city as Miss Sacramento. And after, I found out that most of the girls who were chosen as Queen from Oakland or Berkeley or Fresno, I think they were mostly Kibeis, because they knew how to wear kimono and look good in it, and could speak the language to meet the dignitaries from Japan.

TL: Do you remember what other duties the person selected needed to have?

AT: At the Treasure Island World's fairground?

TL: Well, actually, let me back up. I'm wondering for... well who selected Miss Sacramento?

AT: There was a Japanese Community Center, like Nihonjinkai here. There was one in every city, I think. And then this community center dignitaries, they were leaders of the Japanese community, I think. They talked to my mother and, of course, Mother you know, say, "Yes, of course," because she could go out there with me. She was so outgoing. [Laughs]

TL: And how were you informed that you had been selected?

AT: I don't know. I can't remember that.

TL: Let's see. What do you remember about the trip to Treasure Island? And Treasure Island was where the World's Fair was located?

AT: Yes.

TL: What do you remember about that trip then, the people you met and...

AT: There were quite a few Japanese government people -- because this is International World's Fair -- and there were different activities and holidays that we had to attend to and wear kimono and be there with a big smile and meet these people. And because we could speak Japanese, I didn't mind it at all, I felt...

TL: When you met the other young women who had been selected, did find you had a lot in common with them since they too were Kibei?

AT: I don't think we had very personal contact because they come from different areas, like Miss Oakland or Miss Fresno or... and I think most of them did speak Japanese somewhat, not fluent. We did not become great friends, no. Just saw each other at different occasions.

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

<Begin Segment 21>

TL: Were your parents very active in the Sacramento Japanese American community?

AT: No, not very much. I think my father knew the people with the community Nihonjinkai, but I don't think there was very much activities like... course, Bon Odori or Hanamatsuri with the church or, we had the fair in the fall.

TL: Like Akimatsuri?

AT: Yes, the fairground. They would have Japan Day or something. Yes. So get all dressed up and go and meet the people.

TL: Do you remember whether there was a point where you felt pretty comfortable using English as a daily way to communicate?

AT: Well, it was a necessity, yes, but I still rather speak Japanese. Yes. I have no difficulty speaking to anybody, even dignitaries from Japan. I could speak the same language, yes.

TL: I'm wondering if as a teenager whether you began to think of yourself as Japanese American, now that it seemed that you would be staying here in the United States, or if you continued to think of yourself mostly as Japanese and you just kind of happened to be here?

AT: I don't think I had any thought about that. I don't think I -- after marrying George, of course, I never thought of going back to Japan except for trips, and I never -- I still never think of going back to live there now. We have few relatives there and it's good to visit, but not to live there.

TL: Your home is here.

AT: Yes.


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

<Begin Segment 22>

[Koto demonstration by Ayame Tsutakawa]

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

<Begin Segment 23>

[Begin walking tour through home and garden, viewing George Tsutakawa's artwork]

TL: Tell us a little bit about... anything we walk by. [Laughs]

ME: Which way are we going to go?

AT: Do you want me to say a few words about this? [Gestures to two small sculptures, side by side]

ME: Oh great!

AT: George did this soapstone carving when he was a student at the university; taking anatomy, I guess. So it's an old piece, but it's quite well done. And I have just a few more of his early pieces, but mostly after our marriage, he started to do abstraction. Shall we go down?

We are hooked, aren't we. [In front of bamboo trees] This tree is a short clump and in about six, seven years it's grown this big. It comes out everywhere. This has gone under the ground. [Gestures to smaller tree] This is another new one coming up, it is in good condition now.

[Points to small fountain] This is George's very first fountains that he designed for the public library downtown, and it was a half scale model. We only keeping it for historical reason. It doesn't work.

[Walks to several large sculptures] These are Gerry's sculptures that he is doing commission in Bellingham University. There are three pieces that's going together. Doesn't look like very much now, but I think it will be quite nice after it's in place.

The mural fresco... [Walks to rear of house] I have everything around here. This is a fresco that, it was also George's master thesis. You see, in Mexico you'll find these frescos on the side of the buildings. It's usually outdoor paintings, but we never really put it up in the right position or anything so it's kind of deteriorating now. But I have an oil painting of the similar, upstairs in the house. And this is the shop, welding shop.

[Indicates small fountain] And one of his fountain. It -- doesn't have a pump so it's not working very well. I just put water in it. This was originally designed for the science center on the Seattle Center ground, and I think there's one there, very similar.

We have a nice view. The trees are getting taller.

This stone? [Points to stone in garden] Yes. It says, "Ima yara ne ba itsu dekiru? Washi ga yara ne ba dare ga yaru." This is the saying of a very famous Japanese sculptor named Denchu, and it says, "If I don't do it now, when would it get done? And if I don't do it, then who else gonna' do it?" So it's a nice words. I like it, so I had it engraved on this stone. This artist come from the same area where George grew up, in Japan.

The parents live here in this house, [Points to neighbor's house] and they built this house for their daughter when she was married; and so these two are related. And when we moved here, it was just nothing but beautiful lawn here. The front, there was no tree, no bushes, anything here, but lawn; and after so many years, we planted too many other things. [Laughs] So, it's in not very good shape now.

[Shows small sculpture] This is one of George's stone carving from his master thesis. And it's an original stone, and we are making a bronze copies of this for his tombstone. And it's in the foundry yet. And these two lions [In front of sculpture] are supposed to be the guardian of the spirit. His early sculpture.

[In front of large sculpture] George's sculpture, he called it, "Evil Eye on I-90." And was turned the other way, and he used to look down the bridge, and seeing all this traffic, and that's (why) he called it, Evil Eye on I-90; he didn't like the traffic. But after this was in the exhibition, somehow Gerard put it the other way so you had to look that way. [Laughs] We can't see the bridge now anyway, with all the trees have grown. But that's the name of the sculpture is Evil Eye on I-90.

And this is our son Marcus's house. [Points to neighboring house] This house is older than this house. It's a very old house. And then these pine trees here, I brought them back from Cascade mountain after we went matsutake tori, and they were about this size, and now it's grown about 30 feet high. You can see how big they are from here.

It's been a few years. George's father came to Seattle as a import/export businessman, and there was a house that the father built near Kobe, Nishinomiya, and the house looks very much like this house, only a little smaller scale. And there's a couple of pine trees right in front of the house, so George liked that idea.

TL: Even if people couldn't see it, they would understand what you are talking about, because the traffic on the bridge is...

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