Densho Digital Archive
Preserving California's Japantowns Collection
Title: Louie Watanabe Interview
Narrator: Louie Watanabe
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary); Jill Shiraki (secondary)
Location: Sacramento, California
Date: December 8, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-wlouie-01-0021

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: Okay, I'm going to actually go back a little bit more and stay with a few more prewar things before we go into to the wartime. Actually, I wanted to ask about other sort of Japanese sort of holidays or celebrations. In particular, like New Year's...

LW: New Year's was a big thing for Japan.

TI: It was a big thing for Japan. So what happened in Walnut Grove?

LW: Oh, Walnut Grove, what they do, all the family, they cook enough food for one week now. Not one or two days. So when they first start a new year, it seemed like that whole week, nobody worked. Or all you do is eat and drink. And that time, they made food, but they seemed like they don't spoil, they last a long time. Like mochi, they have a mochitsuki, each family have their own group together and tsuku mochi. That was a big thing, too, New Year's.

TI: And so people would make all this food, and so would it be common for you and others to go to other places to...

LW: Well, what happened is, see, everybody make their own, the family, right? And like they do now, you could go there and eat, kind of socialize, start the new year right by go see them. You don't have to get invited. And that time it's one house or another, there is no way you could make a round. You can stay one, two, three places, and that's it.

TI: So for you, were there certain places that were extra special that you always wanted to go on New Year's?

LW: No. Usually it's the custom, I think, that you were supposed to, New Year, you're supposed to go see your friends and wish you a new year. The Issei used to do that.

TI: Now, in the front part, where there's all these businesses, would the businesses do anything special in terms of special treats or anything?

LW: No. Only thing they did was the New Year time, well, like Christmas to New Year, but mainly it's New Year. You know, they exchanged gifts. What I mean is give like a sack of rice or sack of shoyu or something like that. If you're friend that help you...

TI: Or how about the case where, like, say earlier you mentioned how you and your family were big customers of the bathhouse.

LW: Yeah.

TI: Would, like the bathhouse give something for --

LW: Well, bathhouse give you a gift, some kind of a gift. So that's the only time most of the, all the kids go there because they know they get a gift. That's the custom. Anybody, then that day you don't pay anything. It's on the house. They give you a gift, so when we were kids, we looked forward to.

JS: What kind of gift? What did you get?

LW: Well, you know, something, towel, something like that. Nothing really expensive, but still, we look into that, first of the year. That's the custom the bathhouse had: free bath with a gift. That's for the kids, for the gift, but for the public, free bath.

TI: Now, when that happened on New Year's...

LW: New Year's.

TI: ...did you then go to --

LW: New Year's Eve.

TI: Did you go to other bathhouses, too, or just that one?

LW: Just two of 'em, yeah. But most of the time, I go to two of 'em because you know them. But if you don't know them, you can't just go there when it's free.

TI: Yeah, that would be... [laughs].

LW: But that's, that was the custom for the bathhouse, New Year's. New Year's Eve, you're supposed to go to the bathhouse and take a bath and get a gift.

TI: Well, how about your parents' restaurant? Did they do anything special during the holidays?

LW: No, no. We didn't do anything special like holidays. Strictly American restaurant. In fact, my folks, they never made all that stuff like Japanese food and all that. So we used to go to the friends' place and eat.

TI: How about decorations? Did your parents do anything special with...

LW: No decorations. Oh, well, they had that osani? Tasani? You know that mochi and the tangerine on top? They, every house had that. That's the custom.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.