Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Shigeko Sese Uno Interview
Narrator: Shigeko Sese Uno
Interviewers: Beth Kawahara (primary), Alice Ito (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: September 18, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-ushigeko-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

BK: Today is September 18, 1998. And representing the Densho project is Alice Ito and myself, Beth Kawahara. And we're very pleased to be here today with Shigeko Sese Uno. So Shigeko, could you start by telling us a little bit about your father, his life in Japan, how he got over here to America?

SU: All right. My father's name, Eichi Sese, lived in Tottori. He was the oldest son of a farmer. But I guess he didn't like farming. And also the Russo-Japanese War was going on, and he didn't want to be drafted into the Japanese army, either. So a group of his friends -- and so he decided to come to America. But that was a goal. Tottori is on the Japan seaside, the other side of Honshu. So they had to walk over, no transportation. They walked over the mountains that divided Honshu, and came into the seaport. Could have been Hiroshima. They jumped on the first boat they thought was destined for America. But when they landed, it was in Mexico. And so they realized they're in Mexico. And they traveled all the way over the border. They sneaked in. Someone, took the attention of the customs officer, whatever you, immigration people. And so they were able to slip in. And they found their way up to Seattle. He's never told me about any of the visits in other California cities or Oregon, but anyway, their destination was Seattle. And that's how they got here.

BK: And on their trip northward, did they just take odds, odds and ends of jobs, or...?

SU: Well, I have asked him, and the only thing he would say, he did mention, was having a job in Mexico, digging graves. I guess they did that. But the rest of the trip he has never mentioned. And it's too bad. We never thought of asking our father for details, and...

BK: And so once he was here in Seattle, did he stay and establish a business at that time?

SU: No. When he landed he worked at various jobs, working in a restaurant, not as a cook, but just a helper, I think. Worked in a hotel, cleaning. And he said that some day, sometimes he would have three jobs a day, earn enough money. So he went back to Japan so he could legally come back to America, and also get married to my mother. My mother was a daughter of a Zen Buddhist priest, so she was raised in the Buddhist temple. But they also happened to be next door to my father's farm, so they knew each other. And they got married in Japan. And my mother and father came to Seattle, I imagine about the first part of, well, around 1910, something like that, because I was born 1915 in the International District.

BK: Where exactly was that in the International District?

SU: Where...

BK: That you were born? Where was your first home that you remember?

SU: Oh, it was on Seventh Avenue South, between Main and Washington. And I remember that home because I fell off of the second floor window. [Laughs]

BK: Excuse me. You fell off the second-floor window when you were just a little baby?

SU: No. I was able to walk. But this house was a long house -- what you do call it? -- different families lived. And it was on a hill. Seventh Avenue is a hill between Main and Washington. And my mother tells me that I was looking out of the window while she was vacuuming the living room. All of a sudden I wasn't there. She looked below, and there I was, two stories down. We lived in the upstairs.

BK: You're always an active person, then, even at that young age?

SU: So...

BK: And subsequently did you have other brothers?

SU: Yes. I had a brother, Masa, that was born 1917, and another brother, Tosh, 1918, another brother, George, born in 1920, and the last one, Kaoru, 1922.

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