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-1003-10-8

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MN: So now you're getting older, and as you got older you have to spend your summers in Little Tokyo. How old were you when that started to happen?

GH: Well, with Corinne and myself in our bathing suits, running around, my mother thought that I was going to turn out to be a wild girl, so she made me go to a boarding house in Little Tokyo. And the place was called Fukushimaya, (...) it was a boarding house and I was sent there to go to, take Japanese dancing lessons from Fujima Kansama at her studio in Little Tokyo. So in the morning -- there was a daughter there, Yo-chan, Yoshiko-chan, and Yo-chan was much older than I. Of course she was a grown person, and she was taking Japanese dancing lessons from Bando... I forgot, something, Bando something. And so I would practice with her and then also have lessons with, my own lessons, but I'd get up in the morning and we had to go pray to all the gods and shrines they had there because the owner was a Shinto priest. And he had a shrine, and every room had a Shinto shrine and a Buddhist shrine, so we had to go round and do our prayers in the morning first. Since it was a boarding house, the Missus made breakfast and things. She'd make all the meals and we, Yo-chan and I were to help with either serving or getting the things ready, and so I helped Yo-chan do that. And then in the afternoon I'd go to my lessons, and then when Yo-chan came back in later afternoon or the evening and I'd, I'd practice with her. But I was very lonely there. They're all grown up. I was the only child there. So like in the evenings, the boarders would be playing cards and things at the big tables, so I learned solitaire and these games quite early. [Laughs] But I was very lonely. One time I gave my father a problem because I told him I wasn't gonna go unless Reiko went with me, and so my father had to take us both and he did his shopping, then next day he had to come pick her up while I was practicing when I went to my lesson. So that was so lonely. I didn't, I didn't like that very well, but that was a lesson I had to learn when I was, I don't know, maybe eight, seven, eight or nine, something like that. Every summer I had to go.

MN: What kind of boarders were at this boarding house?

GH: They were young men and they had day work, I suppose.

MN: So mostly bachelors.

GH: Yes.

MN: I'm gonna change the subject a little, ask you about special occasions. You mentioned Christmas, so your parents weren't Christian but your family observed Christmas?

GH: Well yes, we did. Yeah, come to think of it, we did. We had a big Christmas tree in the dining room there. And we exchanged gifts, birthdays.

MN: Can you share with us about the time your younger brother Hugo got a train set?

GH: Yeah, Hugo was always saying that I was the luckiest one always, everything was for me, but he was the youngest, was just as spoiled as I was. And one year he was into trains, and my father even had to take him to see the real trains downtown, and so one year for Christmas he got a whole train set. And all the adults, the cook, my father, and all the customers, they set up this train track on one of the big tables in the dining room, and it worked electrically and so he, Hugo wanted to play with it -- that's my youngest brother -- but, "No, no, no, wait. We have to do it." So he didn't get to play with his own toy. All the grownups were playing with his electric train track, train toy, and they got it all set up with the little town and whatever, with trees, all the background. It had an elaborate set there for him, but he hardly got to play. When everybody was sleeping -- my folks, their business is at night, so they sleep in late -- so when nobody was there, that's when he went there to play with his train tracks, the train. He had all sorts of trains. He had several different models, and he just got to play when everybody else was sleeping. [Laughs]

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.