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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-01-0028

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BK: You've been such a pillar of the community. I was wondering, was there some experience or something in the family that instilled in you to become so active in the community, to make changes? Was there some, anything, that your parents, mom, dad, anything?

SU: Only, I think, in the fact that they were very supportive, because as I said, I really gallivanted a lot. You had to go to meetings and -- well, for instance, in reactivating JACL, I was one of the very few women at that time with a group of men. But it didn't bother me. We were all working for a good purpose. So even now I still attend the national conventions held all over the United States. And oh, I tell you, many of my age group people aren't attending anymore. They're, I guess, if you hit 80s, even the menfolks have to stay home with aches and pains, and broken hip, or their spouses are sick. Just a handful of us left.

BK: Going strong. Good, good. Wonderful. Yeah. You refer back to your mother often, as well as your dad, but your mom, in terms of giving you that kind of support, and I keep thinking she must have been a very special woman. Here she was the daughter of a Zen Buddhist priest, yet you're so active in the Baptist community. What kind, or how did she resolve that difference, or was there any problem at all?

SU: No problem, really. Of course, you know the Zen Buddhists don't have a church here, because the Buddhist church here is the, the new one.

BK: Shin sect.

SU: Shin, they call it. So she never felt at home there. And they didn't have service. The only time the priests were active in their temple was when they had funerals. See, they didn't participate in any weddings or anything. It was the funerals. So grandpa, I guess, just went to those things. And I don't know if people came him for, came to him for consultation or anything. I don't know about those kind of things.

But my mother lost her mother when she was still very young, so she made a very good mother to us. Provided all that love and support, although the Issei people did not express their love as we do. Well, even I'm, I'm sort of laid back, when it comes to showing affection to our children. But you could tell by their actions. When I would come home from school, I remember right away my mother would ask, "Would you like to have this and that?" She knew my favorite dishes. She was the same with my brother, who went to WSU. And when he'd come home from vacation, she'd always have the kind of things that he liked or we liked. In that way, she showed us how much she loved us.

And then I told you she sent me to Chicago with that promise that every week I would write to her. Well, my Japanese is not good. I hardly knew the kanjis. So here I'd have the dictionary beside me, and write it in hiragana. But I would tell her all the things that would be happening in that one week. And my goodness, in my letters to my mother and father, I would, I started writing about how I had met Chick from Seattle. And there's so much Chick in the end, in the letters, that she knew right away that I was determined to marry him or something, because -- and then when -- so it was very easy for me to tell my mother that we would like to get married. And she said that, "He hasn't asked me for your hand." Told my husband, "You better ask my mother." "Oh, she knows we are going around every day." And then, what do you know, when Sheila started going around with Richard, my husband would say, "They haven't said anything to me." And I said, "You didn't either." [Laughs] So none of us had baishakunins or anything. My, girls, in my age, so many of them got married right out of high school to men that their parents had arranged.

BK: Arranged marriages.

SU: It was very common at that time. Of course, I think it was very good for some girls who were shy and bashful, and would never have found somebody on their own. So when their husbands were chosen by the family, they went into that marriage. In fact, when I went to Japan in 1940 with a group, I met some Seattle people who had gone to Japan to get married over there. And one of first questions they would ask is, "Are you married to a Seattle, American-born Japanese?" And then when I would say, "Yes," they said, "Oh, you're so lucky." It was someone that I chose, instead of chosen by the family.

BK: Right. Right.

SU: Yeah.

BK: That's wonderful.

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