Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Ayame Tsutakawa Interview II
Narrator: Ayame Tsutakawa
Interviewer: Tracy Lai
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: June 5, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-tayame-02

<Begin Segment 1>

TL: Today is Friday, June 5th, 1998. This is Tracy Lai interviewing Mrs. Ayame Tsutakawa. I'd like to start by asking you about some of your memories of living in Sacramento when you first returned to the United States. Where did you live in Sacramento?

AT: The home that my father and mother had was across the street from a big park, city park, called South Side Park. And so it was really nice and we were occupying the second floor of this house. So we had a very nice view of the across the street greens and then there was a good size lake in this park. Yes.

TL: Was your father's liquor store very far away?

AT: It was in the International District, sort of called Japantown. Not too far. I could walk to it, but it was... from the Sacramento river it was on -- the city start from First Street, Second Street, Third Street, and his store was on Capital Avenue and Third Street so it was close to the bridge approaching Sacramento.

TL: And what was the neighborhood like where you lived? What kinds of families lived there?

AT: There was some Portuguese and some Japanese, few Chinese, but it was all mixed, yes.

TL: Did you make friends with the neighborhood children, or did you mostly have friends through school and church?

AT: I think mostly through Nichiren church that my mother was very active there, and they had a Girl's Club. And then I went to Sunday school so I made friends.

TL: What kind of activities did the Girl's Club do?

AT: I don't recall too well what they did. It was just like after Sunday school service we sort of gathered and talked about everything, [Laughs] had some tea or omanjuu or something.

TL: And do you remember how big the Nichiren congregation was? Were there a lot of people who were members of this church?

AT: Oh, gee. I think the city of Sacramento members and there were some members from the farm nearby, farmland, Japanese farmers.

TL: Was it the only Buddhist group?

AT: No, this was Nichiren Buddhist and there was a big bukkyoukai, which is a Buddhist church. I think they had more membership there.

TL: Uh huh. Maybe larger. And then were there also the Japanese American Christian churches, too?

AT: Yes, and I think there was a konkokyo and some other Japanese groups.

TL: Let's see. What were places in town that you most often went, like was there a library or certain stores or...

AT: Well, my schedule was pretty tight because I went to public school trying learn English, and then after school I went to Japanese language school. So I wouldn't be coming home 'til five o'clock or so then prepare, helping Mother to prepare dinner and ate. And on weekends I had to go to this dance class. I was taking private dance class and sometimes with a little bit of tea ceremony training and so quite busy.

TL: Where were the Japanese language classes held?

AT: It was near the Buddhist church.

TL: Was it a building that was owned by the school or was it a building that had other uses?

AT: I think this was just the classrooms. I think it was built as a, for a Japanese language school, Nihongo gakkou.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

TL: You've described that your neighborhood was mixed. Were there any parts in town where Japanese were not allowed to go?

AT: No, I don't think so.

TL: So your mother or your father never said to you or spoke directly about certain places that Japanese were not welcome or --

AT: Yes. One incident I remember, I still remember. My mother was quite a fashionable person and after the war started in Pearl Harbor, before the evacuation, Mother and I went to I. Magnin store in Sacramento. It was very high class store and not too many Asian people went to that store. Well, Mother and I went and walked in and one Caucasian elderly lady with gray hair says, "Are you Jap?" And Mother looked at her and she didn't answer, and this lady said, "If you're Jap, just get out of this store," so we just walked out without saying anything. But that one incident really stick to my mind that about the war started so I think it kind of helped me to think that maybe the relocation is a good thing for our safety.

TL: Did your mother ever speak to you about that incident or did she --

AT: No, she just, probably just left it at that.

TL: Were there any incidents before the bombing of Pearl Harbor where you were made to feel...

AT: Not welcome?

TL: Uh-huh.

AT: No, I don't think so.

TL: That's good.

AT: Well, most of the Japanese children sort of stay within the area where they live, and I don't think we went into a very high class Caucasian American residential, but there was a Chinese residence near the Buddhist church and then Japanese and Mexicans. We were kind of all mixed, but it was sort of near the river area.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

TL: In one of the photo albums you showed me several where you were dancing, and I was wondering if you could talk about some of the those events like what the occasion was where you were performing.

AT: I think it had to do with mostly Japanese sponsored programs. Some evenings they had what they call engeikai and it was sort of a talent show. And those who can dance, danced, and could tell jokes and then what they call naniyabushi, that the Japanese singing. And then occasionally when there was like a state fairground they have a Japan Day. Then I would be going there with my teacher and the musicians and did performing, dance or drums or whatever, in the program.

TL: Did your teacher also take you and other dancers to other Japanese American communities -- like, I don't know, maybe even as far as San Francisco?

AT: No, not my teacher. I studied Bando school of Japanese classical dance, Nihonbuyou, and my teacher's teacher lived in Los Angeles. So I have gone to Los Angeles to see her performance with my mother driving the car and this Sacramento teacher and myself going to Los Angeles.

TL: For teachers of other schools of dance, could you tell me something about the differences in what they were teaching?

AT: Different styles of dance, yes. Well, there are Bando school and there's the Fujima and there's Yahanayagi. It's all originated from kabuki dance, but quite similar, but the teachers... the costumes are quite similar, too. It's hard to tell what is different. It's just different, little different.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

TL: As you began to use and learn more of the English language, did you think of yourself any differently in terms of your identity?

AT: I don't think so. It was just more a necessity to learn to speak English.

TL: Sometimes I guess, especially with creative writers, they'll describe how the use of English language kind of went along with their sense of being an American, and sometimes they'll talk about what does it mean to be Japanese and American at the same time. So I don't know if you had any thoughts about that.

AT: I don't think I thought anything that seriously, [Laughs] just learning to speak the language.

TL: As a teenager, did you follow the events of World War II? Did your family talk a lot about what Japan was doing?

AT: Yes, I was very sad, too.

TL: Were you thinking a lot about your brother because he was serving at the same time?

AT: Yes. Yes, he went to Manchuria first and then came back, and he was lucky enough to come back. And then to go to Hiroshima and what happened, I was very sad.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

TL: Do you remember how you felt about the bombing of Pearl Harbor? I was wondering if you could describe that.

AT: So long ago. It was Sunday, I believe. I went to Church and there we were told about the Pearl Harbor bombing, and I thought I'd like to go home as quickly as possible because I thought being Japanese we might be killed on the street. I was so fear so I went home and then, of course, Mother and they were all just gathered and trying to listen to radio. There was no TV in those days so radio was only way to find out more about so we spend, I'm sure, the whole day and even to the evening listening to the radio for what's going to happen to us.

TL: Do you remember anything about what your parents said, or were they also pretty confused?

AT: I cannot recall what they said but, of course, my mother was very worried about having family in Japan. Her sisters and mother and grandmother and even her son was there, so...

TL: Did your friends talk about the event the same way, or did they have different ideas?

AT: I can't answer that. I was seventeen and I can't recall just exactly what was...

TL: How about did you go to school that week and did your teachers and classmates, how did they react to this situation?

AT: By that time I was in high school. I think Japanese students were mostly gathered, and like in the lunchroom, I think we probably sat together and tried keep a little distance from some people just might speak up and call us names or something. So we sort of together with the Japanese students. Of course, I was a few years behind my age group because of starting from second grade.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

TL: I'd like to now ask about what you remember about being evacuated and going first to the assembly center and later to camp. Do you remember how you found out about this so-called evacuation?

AT: I think Mother told us, the family, "Now we have to pack everything," and we were renting this house, but it was a nice house. And we had beautiful furnitures and we had to get, somehow put in storage or give away or... and I think some of the American friends were sort of taking advantage of us. "Now you're going to go, what are you going to do with all your stuff? Why don't you leave it to us?" That sort of feeling I think they had. Especially this one wine salesman that used to come to the store, and they were sort of friends of my father and mother. And he says, "Well, why don't you leave all your furniture to me and we'll keep it for you," and we took his word and nice furnitures really and beautiful rugs. We left it to his family and when we returned to Sacramento, he told us that his wife divorced him and she took all the furniture. So we did not get any nice couch or rugs or coffee tables back.

TL: Do you remember how your mother explained to you why Japanese had to go?

AT: No, I think it was just one of those things. The war started and so we had to go and we're going. And I don't think any Japanese people really tried to stay behind or anything. I think we were more feared than to stay. We might be hurt so we must go.

TL: When you were packing and it was so limited what people could bring with them, were there any special items that you tried to take or that you just weren't able to and then you knew you would miss it?

AT: I took my few things and some of the letters from Japan, I did take, yes.

TL: What were some of the other things besides the letters?

AT: Oh, little things on my desk, yes. My mother was always so protective of me, and so she went and bought -- I went with her -- but riding pants and boots, you know, the horse riding pants with this shape and then high top boots. She thought I shouldn't be wearing skirt because might get hurt from American soldiers or something [Laughs] so I wore this pants, and I had them for a long time. Maybe I still have it. I can't remember, but I know I got rid of my boots.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

TL: Which assembly center did your family go to?

AT: The one near Sacramento. I cannot remember the name. It was just... we were there just short time and went to Tule Lake.

TL: Do you remember how -- well, between the time that your mother learned that you would have to go, do you remember how much time that was -- like, was it few weeks or felt like a very short period of time?

AT: I can't recall. I remember long trip to Tule Lake and we went on a train.

TL: When you went to the assembly center, did you go by bus because it was closer?

AT: I think so, yes.

TL: What did you think would happen at the assembly center?

AT: I don't know. I cannot recall. Just uncertainty. We didn't know just where we were going or where we might be taken. I think this long train ride to Tule Lake I still remember.

TL: I'm wondering if you remember anything else about the assembly center. For example, what the living quarters were like, what the routine was like? And then I'll ask you about camp, but first back in the assembly center, do you remember anything about...

AT: No, I remember more about Tule Lake.

TL: Okay, well, why don't we talk about that?

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

<Begin Segment 8>

TL: Do you remember about what time of the year it was when you moved to Tule Lake?

AT: Well, the war started in August, right?

TL: Well, let's see, the bombing in is in December and then, I think, the announcement for the assembly centers comes in late February.

AT: Late February?

TL: And then it sort of that spring a lot of people are being moved around, like March and so on, and then it kind of varies when people...

AT: I kind of remember it was quite warm when we arrived there.

TL: Okay. Maybe it was already summer, maybe.

AT: I think there was a first assembly center near Sacramento and then we went to Tule Lake. It was quite warm then and dusty.

TL: Well, what was that train ride like? What do you remember about...

AT: I really don't remember the details, but we were just jam packed. We can only take what we can carry ourselves so it was a backpack and two more bags. Everybody had to carry your own, but Mother had all of our belongings stored at Beacon's Storage in Sacramento. So later on after I started to do classical Japanese dance and I did have quite a few kimonos stored, and so she wrote to Beacon's and sent cedar chest full of kimonos to Tule Lake, yes. So I had enough kimonos to wear for my performance, yes.

TL: What was your first impression of Tule Lake?

AT: I don't think I can describe that in words. 'Cause, everything was so uncertain just we are just following the order.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

TL: Do you remember much about once you got settled, your family became settled at Tule Lake, what your routine was like? What did you do during the day? What did your parents do?

AT: Most of the people at Tule Lake, I think they were thinking of going back to Japan. And there were quite a few boys from Hawaii who were Kibeis and they were in our block, too, so they were all talking about going back to Japan. And they made short wave radio by buying parts from Sears Roebuck catalog, and they made their own short wave radio, and they were listening to broadcast. Of course, Japanese propaganda was they were winning the war at that time [Laughs] so all the time we...

TL: So do you think, did your parents share this idea that maybe after the war you as a family would also go to Japan?

AT: Uh-huh. I think most of us at Tule Lake, anyway, thought they were going back. Not going back, but probably be sent back.

TL: And is that because people felt they wouldn't be safe or that they wouldn't be wanted in the U.S?

AT: Mostly because not wanted. Remember, some of the leaders of Japanese community like Nihonjinkai kaichou, they were picked and shipped to another camp. And George's uncle, one of the uncle, was somewhere in Arizona, yes. So we all kind of thought we were going to be sent back to Japan these people, too.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

TL: Did your parents, while they were in camp, did they take any of the jobs or the jobs that helped run the camp or teaching classes or that kind of thing?

AT: My mother. She wouldn't sit still [Laughs] so there was a canteen in the camp where they were selling some fabrics and some clothing, and she was sort of managing the place. And then, of course, there was a way to buy some food so instead of eating in the mess hall, we could cook in our barracks. So she used to bring home some fresh vegetables and meats and fish so we ate in our barrack from... if I go to this Tule Lake reunion maybe my block or the room that we had might still be there, and I'd like to kind of see. The barrack was one long building and the rooms, there were maybe four or five rooms separated with just a wall. But the way, we added a kitchen to the barrack on the side and so we were cooking our own meals.

TL: Sounds like maybe you ate better than people who had to go to the mess hall.

AT: I think so. I think she didn't want us to be like a beggar and go around with their tray and have our food poured on this plate so she thought we have our own family dinner.

TL: How about your father, did he take a job somewhere in the camp?

AT: No.

TL: So did he spend his time talking with the other men?

AT: Yes. I think they had a card game going every day [Laughs] in one of these bachelor's quarter.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

TL: And then you've mentioned that you went to school. Could you describe what that was like?

AT: Well, I was probably thinking of returning to Japan and so I wanted to keep up with my Japanese language so I went to Nihongo gakkou every day, and I was in the top of the class because, 'cause I was Kibei. And my classmates were all Kibei so we were in the very high class.

TL: Was this school different from -- I mean, was there a regular high school where you could have completed your work 'cause you, the war interrupted your completion.

AT: Yes. There was a high school going and I remember one of my teacher, Caucasian teacher named Mr. Pomeroy, and I have a video tape of Tule Lake with him in this picture. And he was a minister, Christian minister, in Japan so he was very sympathetic to Japanese people. And I think there were two, three other teachers in this high school class that were ministers in Japan.

TL: So you went to both schools or just --

AT: Uh-huh.

TL: Okay. And so were your able to complete your high school education there?

AT: Not quite, not quite. Besides I was going to my classical Japanese dance class and then tea ceremony class so I was busy all day.

TL: And was your teacher evacuated to the same place so you studied, you continued studying with the same teacher, or did you have another or different teacher for dance?

AT: No. From Sacramento this teacher, the same one that I was studying in Sacramento, and then my teacher's teacher from Los Angeles came to Tule Lake so she was there, too.

TL: Did you form any close friendships in camp?

AT: I was so busy from morning to night. There was no place to go with a friend anyway. [Laughs]

TL: You've shown me the curtains which your mother had made for the dance performances, and I'm wondering if you could tell me about why she had them made and what the occasion was?

AT: Well, the classical Japanese dance there was a Bando school, Bando Ryuu school, and this school is part of the kabuki theaters in Japan so every dance had a story to tell so we needed a background, yes. So, 'cause mother knew this artist and so she ordered the yards and yards of material from a catalog, and she had the block ladies sew this big curtain together and then this artist would paint on it.

TL: And was there a, were these used every time you danced or was it used for just a certain...

AT: For my performance, yes. I still have those curtains and I took it up to Alaska once.

TL: Yes.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

TL: Were you aware of any tensions in the camp, tensions between different groups of Japanese Americans?

AT: I don't think so. I wonder if these boys, Kibei boys, from Hawaii might have been, felt little differently from other members, other people in the camp, but I didn't see any incident or anything.

TL: Some people who have written about Tule Lake describe how the, when people began to apply for the leave clearance so that they could leave the camps early, but maybe even more so when the loyalty, this so-called loyalty questionnaire was asked of everybody that the community had a strong response because people had strong opinions about the way to answer the questions. Do you remember having any kind of discussion with your family about that?

AT: I think I was too young.

TL: Little bit too young, sure.

AT: And I was just busy doing my own studies so I did not get involved in any of these groups.

TL: Did being in camp change your feelings about the U.S. Government?

AT: Not at all. I felt as we were being protected.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

TL: You mentioned earlier that through this short wave radio people had a strong impression that Japan was winning the war. So do you remember your reactions to Japanese surrender?

AT: I think we all cried especially after we heard emperor's last speech that he was to surrender, and his voice was pretty wavy and very sad and we all cried.

TL: With the surrender how did that change your family's perspective about where they should go after the camps closed?

AT: No other question, but just go back to where we were from so we all packed up. And when we heard that now we can go back to Sacramento, my mother was the first one out of the camp to go back to Sacramento. She did, by herself and she rented an apartment so we had a place to go back to because our house was not there any more, and she even negotiated a small restaurant near this hotel so we have place to eat. And she came back to Tule Lake after maybe three, four days and she said let's get out of here, [Laughs] let's go home, go back. So we were the first family to leave the camp, yes. And we were very fortunate to have this place to stay 'cause many other Japanese people returning to Sacramento, they had no place to go so they were staying at the church auditorium or places like that for long time before they could find a place to move out to.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

TL: Did your father want to restart his former business, the liquor store?

AT: Yes. Fortunately, he kept license, liquor license, so he was able to start this liquor store, and some of the boys who work for my father before, they came back and help with the business. So we had the restaurant and then we had the liquor store and we had an apartment on the same block.

TL: Now, did you go back to school or did you just start working to help out at the restaurant?

AT: I was helping my mother's business. There were many American soldiers from Hawaii, they were all returning from East Coast and different camps and because there was a long wait before they can ship back to Hawaii because of lack of boats, there weren't too many boats available for them to go back. So they stayed there for couple months before they could go back. They all came to the restaurant.

TL: So business was pretty good?

AT: Very good. They just stayed all day long. [Laughs]

TL: What kind of food did the restaurant serve?

AT: We had Japanese and Chinese food so mother's kitchen was very busy.


TL: We were talking about the restaurant that your mother started up again, and I was wondering if you could tell me about the size of it and the name and some of those details what it was like?

AT: It was not a very big restaurant. Mother found this place because it was near the apartment where we moved out (from camp) to. She thought of a place for our family to eat. So there was a counter and then maybe half a dozen booths and two large tables and then behind that was a kitchen. And it was near the pool hall so when Hawaiian soldiers came back from going home to Hawaii from serving in the U.S. Army, they were all stuck in north Sacramento camp because there weren't enough ships to take them back to Hawaii. All these GIs came to our restaurant so it was a very busy place.

TL: What were your responsibilities in the restaurant?

AT: Well, my mother started this business with my name, Ayame, and Ayame Shokudou, and then Iris Grill the translation of it. So I was supposed to be manager maybe. [Laughs] It was such a busy place because these boys just came and stayed all day.


TL: Did your mother hire other workers to help in the restaurant?

AT: Yes. We had a chef and a waitress and another person who did running around, yes.

TL: So if you were the manager, what did your mother do?

AT: She was always around looking after things, yes.

TL: And how long did you continue to do that, to work in the restaurant?

AT: Well, until George didn't want to wait any longer.

TL: Until you got married.

AT: Uh-huh. See, I met George in Tule Lake.

TL: Right.

AT: So he was waiting.

TL: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

TL: Well, before we talk more about meeting him and your eventual marriage, could you tell me about moving into the apartment. Specifically I'm wondering about what kinds of items you had in storage and whether you had to buy a lot of new things. You mentioned there were some things that had given been given to the wine salesman and whether you could recover any of that.

AT: The furnitures, most of the nice furnitures we had before evacuated, there was this wine salesman and he says, "Oh, I'll keep all that for you and when you get back and I'll give it back to you so it will be safe and just leave it to us." And so Mother trusted him and when we return Mother found his phone number and called on him and he told us that his wife, he divorced his wife and the wife took all the furniture and everything with her. And I was too busy with new restaurant and all so I didn't hear anything more about it, but we stayed in this apartment for some time.

TL: So what kinds of things had been put in the Beacon's Storage?

AT: They were just my kimonos. I had many, many kimonos for my dance and, of course, my mother was always making more excuse to buy my kimonos. I think she was enjoying it too because she didn't have these kind of things when she was growing up. So there was two tansu and one cedar chest at the Beacon Storage and cedar chest was sent to Tule Lake because I needed kimonos for my performance.

TL: And the tansu, they were also filled with kimono?

AT: Yes.

TL: But they were safe and you were able to get them out of storage and put them in the apartment?

AT: Yes.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

TL: Well, when you weren't busy with the restaurant, did you have time to think about what you wanted to do with your life and your future?

AT: There was no time for that. The restaurant was busy, maybe I had to get down there about seven o'clock in the morning and then probably 'til almost midnight. This went on and on because we were so busy, and after lunch hours, I had to go to bank and deposit some money and get some business done so very busy.

TL: Did you think about or did you want to go back to finish your education and possibly take other classes in college?

AT: No, there was no time for that. No.

TL: Well, what about your mother's or your parents' expectations of you besides helping out with the family business, what else did they -- did they talk with you about what they thought you should eventually do?

AT: No. Well, they certainly knew that I was already engaged and to be married in Seattle so, but just hanging on to me as long as possible. Of course, I wanted to be nice to my parents. It was my stepfather and so I wanted to be nice to him too to help family settle down after the evacuation and all that so I helped with the business until George say, "It's about time you come to Seattle."

TL: So the restaurant was pretty successful.

AT: Yes, very successful.

TL: And did the liquor business get reestablished successfully, too?

AT: Yes. See, the father kept his liquor license and that was hard to get and he was happy to get that back.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

TL: Well, why don't we talk about how you met George and kind of how you got to know him and the engagement.

AT: George came to Tule Lake from Fort Snelling where he was teaching Japanese language to visit his sister's family, Moriguchi family. Mrs. Moriguchi, George's older sister, and my father and Mr. Moriguchi were friends. They knew each other from way back 'cause they were both Ehimekenjin, but I think it was Mrs. Moriguchi kind of had the eye on me 'cause I was on the stage quite a bit, and she had seen me and maybe back of her mind it was, "This is a good wife for my dear brother or something." [Laughs] So when George came, Mr. Moriguchi brought some food from the mess hall -- he was a cook in his block mess hall -- and we were invited and that's when I first met George. And then next day he was to go back to Fort Snelling by train so he walked all the way to my barrack, which was opposite end of Tule Lake (Camp). They were way over in Alaska area, what we call it was the people from Tacoma and Seattle were there, and then my block 22 was on the opposite end of the camp. Anyway, he walked all the way to say good-bye and we just (said) good-bye (and shook hands).

TL: You've described that dinner that you had in the barrack when you met him, can you talk a little bit about what your impressions were of well, of the affair of the dinner and of meeting George. What kind of impression did he leave you with?

AT: The barrack that Moriguchis had... of course, there were so many babies and maybe four, five children and the diapers and everything was hanging all over in this little room. [Laughs] I thought, "Oh, my goodness, compared to my barrack..." They had to hang many washing in the room, but anyway that was fine. And next day George was to go back to Fort Snelling and he walked across the field to my place and just said good-bye and that was that. And then couple months later I received a ring from him and Mother said to me, "What did George do to you? What did you tell him?" So I said, "I don't know. I didn't make any promise or anything. We never talked about getting married or anything." But Mother said, "Well, this is engagement ring. I don't remember hearing any proposal." [Laughs] I think he did write to me maybe suggesting it, but he did very hastily. See, on the way going back to Fort Snelling from Tule Lake, he stopped in Spokane where his cousin Ed Tsutakawa lived and George and Ed went to jewelry store and bought that ring. So it came from Spokane to Tule Lake, which is a short distance, shorter (than) from Minneapolis. So he couldn't wait to get back to Minneapolis to send this, but it came from Spokane.

TL: Well, so since he didn't exactly ask you, how did you feel? When you read it, did you say to yourself -- oh, what did you say to yourself about this engagement?

AT: Well, my first impression of meeting him -- of course, I was so protected by my mother. She would not let me go out on dates or anything and so when I met him I thought he was very gentle and very intelligent and I kind of liked him. So receiving the ring I was kind of divided, but from Mother's point of view, of course, it was different.

TL: Did she want to introduce you to other men, or did she have in mind to try to arrange something else?

AT: I don't think so. I was too young then and until the ring came, I don't think there was any other person in my mind or Mother's mind.

TL: Did you have any concerns about his being so much older than yourself?

AT: I didn't think so. Wearing that GI uniform, I never questioned his age.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

TL: Could you talk a little bit about his family background?

AT: George's background? George's grandfather -- I'll go back to his grandfather, was sort of a landlord in this area of Okayama where they had a lot more than other people, big land and where they grow rice. That was, of course, every family's main source of income, grow rice and you keep what you eat and you sell the extra for your cash, you see. So this family owned -- I was told as far as you can see over to the next hill or something, but the grandfather who indulged in tea ceremony and his pleasure of a gentleman, he went to Kyoto and pursue his pleasures and Japanese painting and tea ceremony, and George liked his grandfather 'cause he was really not a farmer, but classical man enjoying his life. So George's father growing up and thinking that he had to gain back this family wealth so he decided to come to American because he was hearing that other Japanese going to America and suddenly sending back a lot of cash to the family so he decided to come to America. But he was quite a businessman. He was thinking ahead so he established company in Kobe and sent his two brothers to Seattle and started this Nichibei Nakagai Shoukai, Japan America Trading Company. And it was pretty successful business having store here and from Japan he was sending miso and rice and these Japanese foods.

TL: Did George's father expect him to become a businessman too?

AT: Oh, yes. George didn't like that. He liked grandfather more than his father, I think, [Laughs] the way he enjoyed his life.

TL: Well, in your family since your mother was quite a businesswoman and your father was a businessman, were they disappointed that George did not -- or was George, did he seem like he might go into business at the time that he proposed to you?

AT: Oh, yes. My father knowing many Seattle people and heard about Tsutakawa Company so my father said, "Well, George is Tsutakawa Company's son and so you will be doing all right." We didn't think that he was going to get back to business anymore. It didn't occur to me at all what he was going to do when I married him. He was going back to school to finish his degree.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

TL: You've been telling me about George's background, and I'm interested in any similarities in his education since he too was Kibei.

AT: I was happy to speak to him in Nihongo because I can express myself better; and, of course, George can read and write Nihongo quite well, too. My first letter to him I wrote in classical Japanese writing with a sumi and fude. Would you like to see it?

TL: Maybe at the end that would be nice to look at that, yes.

AT: George kept it and I kept it, and I still have it because it was my first letter to him and I just wanted to keep it.

TL: How old was he when he went to Japan and how long did he stay?

AT: I think he was sent to Japan about seven or eight and... what year did he come back? He came back and then after he went one or two years in Japanese high school and then came back, I think.

TL: Do you think that while he was studying in Japan that he studied the same kinds of things that you did, or because of where he was living would the curriculum have been different?

AT: Well, there are quite a few years between the time so that I think it was different 'cause the time I was growing up in Japan, Japan was in war with Manchuria and all that, and his time was probably not in war time, yes.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

TL: Well, you've mentioned that after he met you, he right away sent a letter and a ring, but you didn't get married right away. So could you talk about how you were feeling about that, why you didn't and how you were looking at that.

AT: George sent engagement ring from Spokane on his way back to Minneapolis and then shortly after, I can't remember how many, how much time there was, but after we went back to Sacramento our family, we received a telegram from Japan saying that my brother was killed by atomic bomb in Hiroshima. And that was very sad for me because my brother Takeo and I grew up together in Japan. He was always sort of protecting me. And so I wrote to George saying that, "I'm sorry, I cannot marry you for awhile." I don't know what I said why, or I probably said maybe we had to have you call off this 'cause American dropped the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. That's where my brother was killed. I feel very bad about that. So he said he can wait and he did. And after about a whole year my mother said, "If George is still waiting for you, you should go to Seattle."

TL: Did you feel ready or were there still questions in your mind about marrying him?

AT: No, I think I was ready to put that aside.

TL: So how old were you when you got married?

AT: 1947... 1924. (Narr. Note: Twenty-three years old)

TL: What kind of expectations did you have of your marriage?

AT: Expectations of?

TL: What kind of marriage did you hope to have because you had... well, you had your mother's example and maybe some of the aunties, maybe some of the people who were part of Nichiren or...

AT: I don't think I had any expectation. I just trust in George and whatever he was going to be or whatever he is going to do would be fine.

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

<Begin Segment 21>

TL: Could you describe the first home that you shared? Well, actually maybe you should tell me about your wedding 'cause that was in Seattle?

AT: Uh-huh.

TL: Yeah. What do you remember about that?

AT: Let's talk about the house first, okay?

TL: Sure.

AT: It was in January, (1946) in Seattle. It was gray sky. It was raining most of the time, cold, and this house that George was living on 12th Avenue, it was behind one of the main house and two Japanese families had this house. One was Moriguchis' friend's house and this side was Moriguchis' family house. In-between there was a stepping stone sort of, but it was all wet muddy sort of place to walk toward the house. And George had described this house to me, but when I saw this house it was more like in Sacramento farmer's shack, and I couldn't believe it at first. Is this really it? And George says, "Yeah. This is going to be our house." And inside was quite nice. He had a collection of classical music and some books and all that, but then he told me that he used his GI bill, right, to buy house and he used that for his aunt's house next door to purchase that house for his (Michiko) obasan. And my mother was more concerned about that. George, knowing he's going to be married, why did he do that? He should buy the house for himself, but he, George, having kind heart and he knew that Obasan needed this house because she had her family and actually they lived there, and Obasan's children lived there, too.

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

<Begin Segment 22>

TL: When you came up to Seattle, did your mother accompany you?

AT: Uh-huh, yes.

TL: So she assisted in the wedding?

AT: Yes. See, I was only daughter of hers. My younger brother, yes, but she really wanted to plan everything for me. I was naive, I guess. [Laughs] I just did what she expected me to do.

TL: So what kind of wedding did she envision?

AT: Well, it was quite nice. It was in the Nichiren Church here in Seattle and then reception was at the Chinese restaurant that Japanese own, Gyokoken, on Main Street who was my father's very good friend, owned that restaurant so it was very nice occasion. And so my father's old friends, who were big business people in Seattle, they were all invited. So it was okay, nice, and Mother went right back to Sacramento. And then we went, we were to be going on honeymoon. Well, the night of the wedding we stayed downtown hotel and then next day he rented a car, rental car, and took me to Seward Park and Alki Point and that was the end of the honeymoon, [Laughs] and we went right back to the house. I think he couldn't afford much more than that one trip to any place.

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

<Begin Segment 23>

TL: Did George, was he attending classes at that time? Had he already begun graduate school?

AT: Yes, yes.

TL: And was he near the end of his studies, or was he kind of beginning his graduate work?

AT: He was doing his graduate work for his master's degree, but he has some... he already had quite a bit of sculpture and art degree so he was teaching part time so that helped, yes. It was nice, one or two classes. And then eventually he went into full-time teaching.

TL: Can you describe your early, kind of these early years of marriage, what you were busy doing and maybe some of the things you were thinking about as you both established your family.

AT: Well, Gerry came the same year. We (were) married in January and it might have been, but I was so busy with just taking care of the children. So I don't think I was thinking of anything more than... George had many good artist friends and they were coming to this little shack to have dinner and drinks and all that. He kept me busy. [Laughs] I don't think he could afford to take anybody out to dinner. In those days that was very hard thing to do, to eat out. I think everybody ate at home.

TL: As you met more of his artist friends, did you get a... did you get a clear idea of the kind of artist that George was becoming?

AT: I don't think I had any serious thinking about that, but I trust in him. His friends were all creative artists with the university teaching. They were all nice people. They were certainly kind to me. They probably thought I was so naive about art so they were all trying to be good to me. But we did have many Japanese dinner in this little shack house. [Laughs] George (was) more proud to serve Japanese food.

TL: How did he maintain a balance between teaching and creating his own artwork?

AT: That was, teaching was full time, but I think his creative works were so natural to him that whenever he had little time, he would be doing his works, or he took advantage of family outing and did sketching, painting outdoor scenes. We have many paintings still left in the house. Children were having snow fight in the Mt. Rainier then he would be just sitting around and sketching.

TL: Did he talk much about his ideas of art with you?

AT: Not at all. He didn't try to explain or try to make me understand about art. He never lectured me about that and it was just part of his life and my job was to raise family, I guess.

TL: Were you planning on having a large family?

AT: Not at all.

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

<Begin Segment 24>

TL: At what point did you move from the tiny little house?

AT: Well, I think it was my mother that keep telling me that, "I think you better look for a house, and move to a bigger house," and so we did move out of the house. I cannot remember. After the third one was born, we moved to a house down in the valley at Judkins.

TL: And what was the Judkins house like?

AT: It was a good size house and it was a little high up on the street and sunny house and quite good, yes. We were there for a few years until next to the house, it was a vacant lot then when we moved so our house was very sunny, nice size, and then someone bought this whole lot and started to build little tiny houses. And after many people moved in and it was not a very comfortable place anymore, and Mother did come to see us in this situation, and she said, "You better find some other house in a better location." So I did see a few houses on Beacon Hill, but this minister was doing this real estate on the side, and said, "There is one more house that I think is too big for you, but I just want to you see it because it's a nice house." And he brought me here and I saw this house and I thought, "Well, this is it. I'm going to move to this house," and I called my mother and she says, "By all means you better go ahead and buy it," so we were fortunate. And these people who owned this house was a piano teacher, and I was carrying Marcus. He was still -- I don't know how many months, but this lady, Mrs. Richards, really liked Marcus and oh, she really thought he was so cute and nice. And after seeing the grand piano in this living room, I thought, "Someday I'd like to have a place like that for the family," and Mother was good enough to send us down payment 'cause George had already used up his GI bill (for his aunt Michiko's house).

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

TL: I'm wondering about what kinds of interactions you had with the Japanese American community. For example, were you still attending the Nichiren Church or perhaps your children were enrolled in the Japanese language school?

AT: Yes. Children did go to Japanese Language School. I thought they should, but the Nichiren Church, no. I had no time to be involved with the church activities or anything, any other club thing that, I might have enjoyed it, but I was spending all my time taking children to language school or to their piano lessons.

TL: So it sounds like you learned to drive.

AT: Yes. It was necessity.

TL: I'm remembering what you said about your mother kind of shocking the village when she took over the rented car.

AT: Yes.

TL: Did you shop regularly in the Japanese stores?

AT: Not regularly. Japanese foods, yes. Uwajimaya was relative so that's where I went, but other food stuff was local supermarket.

TL: It sounds like George was very busy both teaching and making artwork. In your social life together, did you have many friends, or were your friends mostly in the artistic community?

AT: Yes. We did not belong to JACL or any Japanese organization because of George's work with the university. Most of our friends were related to his works and his teaching.

TL: I'm wondering if you were able to continue your interests in koto and dance and tea ceremony, or were you too busy being a mother to continue those?

AT: Oh, in those days, yes. I went up to Alaska for (art) festival and at that time I did brush up my classical dance, and I used my curtains and did performing in the festival in Anchorage, and besides I was teaching folk dance to native Eskimos' children. And they really liked that Japanese Bon Odori type of folk dance. They thought that some of the rhythm were so similar to their culture and they enjoyed that.

TL: How did you come to be invited to the Alaska?

AT: Oh, my husband George had a friend, a Japanese artist in Anchorage, Bill Kimura, and he had a sister in Seattle so he came down here, and that's how George got to know him. And so he thought it would be nice to have a Japanese program up there.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

TL: You also mentioned that at the University of Washington George helped to put together a center for the Asian arts or something like that?

AT: That was American government program inviting Japanese artists and scholars and Japanese musicians.

TL: And were you involved in that a little bit? What did you do?

AT: I was sort of interpreting these Japanese speaking artists (so) went to school with them. One in particular print maker, Kiyoshi Saito, he became good friend with George so he stayed upstairs in our (house) and so I cook breakfast. I drove him to university and stayed with him because he couldn't speak English to communicate with the students. So after the class I would bring him back. George and he had such a great time and discussing Japanese art or art in general. Then I would be busy cooking big dinner. [Laughs] This went on for quite a while and there (were) other artists, too, that were coming, performing artists.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

TL: As George became more recognized as an artist, what kind of impact did that have on your relationship and your family?

AT: No difference. It was continuation of family life. He was busier and we had people working for George 'cause he couldn't do all the work so it was pretty busy time he was doing some of these big bronze sculpture fountains for quite a few years and children all grew up in this atmosphere.

TL: You've mentioned that there were a number of trips that you took, either the two of you or perhaps your whole family, and I'm wondering if you might talk a little bit about your memories of those trips.

AT: George took a sabbatical from the university, and I thought since he didn't have chance to see Europe, I thought, "Well, it's good time for him to see what the other side is like," so I arranged for a trip around the globe with local a Japanese travel agent, George Kawaguchi. And so we started from going that way to the east and went -- no, no. Excuse me, that was another trip. We went from here to Japan and then to India and Cambodia and went around the other way and came back. I don't know how long it took, about one month? More than a month, little bit more than month, I think. That was our big trip and I thought it was a very good trip for George 'cause he did many sketches, and he saw other big museums, and I think that may have broadened his vision about art.

TL: How about for you because this was also a first opportunity to do that kind of traveling?

AT: Uh-huh. I was just tagging along, but I was carrying all the tickets and all his money. [Laughs]

TL: Taking the pictures for the camera?

AT: Took all the pictures. We have hundreds of pictures.

TL: I think perhaps you've mentioned that was there also another trip where the whole family went or several other trips, maybe to Mexico?

AT: Yes. I thought trip was really good for the children so we did take them on a trip as often as possible, and we did take advantage of his vacation time and went to Mexico and gave children opportunity to travel, too, if they wanted to.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

TL: When you think about the way in which you grew up and the way in which you were raised and then the way that you've tried to raise your own children, what are some of the... what are some of the things that you've tried to pass on that you valued and what are some of the things that are different, different because of the different times that you live in?

AT: Well, I was sent to Japan when I was a little baby, and I came back to America, I was thirteen years old. It was quite difficult for me to have a real close relation with my mother, or my father was a stepfather so it was not my real father so there was always this feeling of separate distance to father or to mother. So I wanted to keep my children with me other than the times they traveled or went to school and that worked out quite well 'cause George was always a family man. He enjoyed children. We have traveled together when we went on the camping trips and all that family affair and doing was very important to both of us.

TL: When you think about the kind of young woman that you were when you first moved to Seattle to marry George and you think about the person you've become, what are the greatest changes that you think you might have made?

AT: I don't know about changes. It just seems like everything worked the way I would have... even if it wasn't George, it would have been probably the way. George was so busy with his own works that I think I was sort of planning family doings or trips or even George's things, his exhibitions or whatever. I think I was very much involved in that. I don't know whether it was good or bad. [Laughs]

TL: Are there any other topics that you would like to talk about?

AT: About George?

TL: Or about yourself or about the life that you had together?

AT: I think I'm very pleased. I don't think I have any other way. I can't think of any other way that would have been better.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

TL: Do you think that raising your children in the, with all their exposure to the art that George was creating and all the artists who came and visit, did that in some way influence their interests?

AT: Children's interest? I don't know. I can't speak for them, but I don't think it was a bad experience. They were all very nice people, very serious artists, sincere, good people so I don't know how much of it that the children remember of these people, but I think it added to their growing up.

TL: Maybe as a last question, what do you think helped you the most in building such a positive family life, what value or approach?

AT: I don't know. I can't talk about value, but we certainly, the family certainly stayed together, and they didn't, no one just walked away from us. I think children like to come back to this house to visit, and they are being so honest about their life, and I'm very pleased what they are doing. I'm glad to have them.

TL: That's great. That's a good conclusion.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

TL: Could you tell me about what each of your children have ended up doing, their work.

AT: Oldest son, Gerard, he's taking on sculpture. I'm so glad that he's into this making sculptures and making living on this sculpture because it's hard to be artist and make a living with a family growing up and all that, but he seems to be doing quite well. And my second one is Mayumi and she's into more creative writing, which is a form of art. And the second son Deems is a jazz musician, and he is coming up with CDs and things. And Marcus is, of course, orchestra conductor, music teacher.

TL: How many grandchildren do you have?

AT: Gerard has two daughters and a son, three. Mayumi has two children, one boy and one girl. And Deems, no. And Marcus has two girls. They are all very nice grandchildren.

TL: And do you any of them pursue or are any of your grandchildren interested in the creative arts?

AT: Gerry's daughter, one is a chef, into cooking, and I think she has her way of creative cooking. Other daughter is into more performing theater work and all that, and the other young one, of course, we don't know yet. He is into baseball now. [Laughs] But Marcus's two girls are really into violin playing with the Suzuki School, and they are very serious so they are all into some kind of their own creative studies. I think that's correct.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.