Densho Digital Archive
Topaz Museum Collection
Title: Bob Utsumi Interview
Narrator: Bob Utsumi
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Emeryville, California
Date: July 31, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-ubob-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

MA: Okay, so today is July 31, 2008, and I'm here with Bob Utsumi. I'm Megan Asaka, the interviewer, and the cameraperson is Dana Hoshide. And we are in Emeryville, California, interviewing people for the Topaz Museum. So Bob, thanks so much for doing this interview with us.

BU: You're welcome.

MA: So I wanted to start with just some basic questions. So when were you born?

BU: November 12, 1928.

MA: And where were you born?

BU: Oakland, California.

MA: And what was the name given to you at, at birth?

BU: Robert Sakaye, S-A-K-A-Y-E, Utsumi.

MA: And a little bit about your, your father. What was his name?

BU: Kinji, K-I-N-J-I.

MA: And he had an interesting story because he actually came over to the U.S. as an infant.

BU: Yes, when he was an infant, just, I'm not sure how many months old, but he was less than a year old. He and his older sister and mother and father came from Himeji, Japan, and I think directly to Oakland in 1901.

MA: Okay, so he came with his parents and his sister.

BU: Older sister, uh-huh.

MA: And so does your father, did he identify as being an Issei or a Nisei, or how did he identify?

BU: You know, I would say he was more like a Kibei-Nisei in that he lived until, in Oakland until he became school aged, he and his older sister were sent back to Japan to go to school. And he went all the way through high school in Japan. And when he returned, there were four other children that were born here in the United States who were all Nisei. And so, and he never really bonded, I don't think, with the other four. But he and his older sister were fairly close. We used to see a lot of them together growing up. There was just never a close bonding with the other four.

MA: So he really considered himself kind of a, he had a Kibei experience, I guess, yeah.

BU: Yeah, and I just get the feeling, although he was the oldest son, he really never had that role of being the elder of the... what do you call it? Chonan, you know, being the oldest son. He never had that role.

MA: And when did he come back to the U.S.?

BU: He came back in 1919, right... I think 1919, right after World War II -- World War I, when he was eighteen.

MA: And what were his parents doing in Oakland? What type of work?

BU: Okay, my grandfather, his father was a dentist, and although officially he was a dental technician with his son-in-law who was a dentist, a licensed dentist, but they both had an office in the same building. And my grandfather saw patients and performed dentistry. And it was mostly, again, Japanese clientele.

MA: And how did your father and your mother meet?

BU: I'm not real sure. My mother was a Nisei, and she, her father was Tsunezo Minami, and he had a nursery, growing roses, I think, at that time.

MA: And what area was this?

BU: In Oakland, east Oakland. He had a small, two-acre nursery, they were living in a house that he built himself, and I was born in that house in east Oakland, on Ninety-Sixth Avenue.

MA: So your mother's father built the house that you ended up living in.

BU: Right, and my mother was the oldest of that family, and there were six children in that family, and she was the oldest. And I'm not real sure how they met. I do know that my mother went to my grandfather as a patient, and she had... so perhaps that was the way they knew of each other and had a, you know, had the nakaodo get together, got 'em together somehow.

MA: And what was your mother's name?

BU: Actually, everybody called her Margaret, but she was born Matsue Minami, M-A-T-S-U-E, Minami. There were four girls and two boys in the Minami family, and on the Utsumi side there was four boys and two girls, just the opposite.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.