Densho Digital Repository
Friends of Manzanar Collection
Title: Grace Hata Interview
Narrator: Grace Hata
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: West Los Angeles, California
Date: March 16, 2012
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1003-10-1

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MN: Okay, today is Friday, March 16, 2012. We will be interviewing Grace Shizuka Hata. We have Ann Kaneko on the video camera, and I will be interviewing. My name is Martha Nakagawa. Grace, let's start with your father's name.

GH: My father's name is Goro Hata.

MN: Which prefecture is he from?

GH: He's from Fukushima.

MN: Do you know why your father came to the United States?

GH: Yes. His family home is in the mountains, he comes from a family where they have onsen, hot spring, and one year the, one part of the wing of the hotel was washed away and there was no one in his family who would help with the rebuilding. And so my father, one of fifteen children, volunteered to send some money, so he was the one that came over to America. And he worked, I think, on the farm in Imperial Valley and very religiously sent home money for them to rebuild the wing. And it took a long time for him to do that. When he was finished sending money for that (he sent) his mother and father, (and) my mother's father and mother, until they died (...). And when they all died, then he sent money on Bon and shogatsu to his only aunt, which was something he did religiously from, out of love. Yeah.

MN: So he's sending money, and going back before he started, you talked about your mother's side, that he started to send money, but he is farming. When did he decide to get married?

GH: I think when he was almost thirty, he contacted my mother's oldest sister, who was about his age, and thought that, "If the sister's gonna come over to be my bride, I guess that's okay. She must be good looking." So he said send her over. So when Mother come to San Francisco she was pleasantly plump and not as he thought she might be, and he was a little bit disappointed 'cause he thought himself a very handsome man. But I think that haunted him most of his life because she resented that. [Laughs] But she was a worker and she was very, very good to all of us and quite encouraging to become what we became, I guess.

MN: What is your mother's name?

GH: My mother's name is Yoshi Hata.

MN: Her maiden name is also Hata?

GH: No, Kubo. Kubo was her maiden name.

MN: And which prefecture is she from?

GH: She's also from Fukushima, just the next village over from my dad's.

MN: Can you share a little bit about what your mother did before she got married, what she did in Japan?

GH: She comes from a large family too, and she and her sister, after graduating elementary school -- I guess they went up to eighth grade or ninth grade -- she went to Tokyo, and her sister and she were nursing in, nurses I guess, in a tuberculosis sanatorium before she got married. And I think she and her sister also were sending money home.

MN: Now, after your father got married he quit farming. What did he do after that?

GH: They had a fruit stand and a restaurant on Main Street in Gardena, and he had Hawaiian people, a couple, running the restaurant for him, and I think he and Mother ran the fruit stand. He'd go out in the morning to get all the fruits and vegetables. And my oldest brother, Thomas, was born by then.

MN: What year was Thomas born?

GH: In 1920.

MN: Was he born at home?

GH: I'm not sure about him. I believe he probably was, yeah.

MN: Now, your parents are in a business where they have to interact with a lot of people.

GH: Yes.

MN: Did they both speak English and did they pick up English names?

GH: Yes, my mother, the customers used to call her Mary, and she was so good in adding up everything in her head while she was preparing the food they, the people chose that by the end of it she always had the total price for 'em. And they were amazed at her and so, yeah, they used to want her to wait on them.

MN: So she could calculate in her head.

GH: Yes.

MN: So your father didn't pick up an English name? He was always Goro?

GH: I think they called him George. [Laughs] But it's not legally, on any kind of paper that way.

MN: Now, your parents moved from the Main Street business to another street. Why did they have to move?

GH: That's a story that I've heard, that my father insisted that he wanted rice for lunch and my mother said that's the busiest time, so she said that if he could just wait until dinnertime she'll make rice. No, no, no. He had to have it for lunch, and so he went and put on the rice himself, but as usual, it got busy and, of course, they had a fire and the whole place burned down. And so they had to move and they found this location on Western Avenue in Gardena, and at that time my father and mother could not own property. They had to lease, and so they leased the property from a Mr. Tobias and he was very happy that even during the Depression, he said that he never had to ask my parents for the rent or anything like that because they always had everything ready for him. And he was very, very impressed and pleased with doing business with my parents.

MN: So it sounds like the Great Depression didn't affect your parents' restaurant too much?

GH: No, it didn't. They somehow managed, and my father still managed to do what he came to do and sent money back, and also raised us, so I think he, they did a good job.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.