Densho Digital Archive
Twin Cities JACL Collection
Title: Ed Yoshikawa Interview
Narrator: Ed Yoshikawa
Interviewer: Steve Ozone
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Date: October 12, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-yed-01-0014

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SO: And then back to Munsingwear, you were saying that kind of by default, you ended up the liaison between people in Japan and Munsingwear.

EY: When I started working at Munsingwear it was in the data processing department. And then, I believe it was about 1953, there was a group of Japanese interested in signing Munsingwear, as a licensing program with Munsingwear. And this Japanese group consisted of three major companies, C Itoh Trading Company Finances, Toyobo Knitting, and Descente Sales Organization. These three representatives came and negotiated with Munsingwear, and since I was the only one that spoke Japanese, although there was another fellow named Jim Katayama who was working there as a warehouse manager, he did not speak Japanese at all. So I got involved in this area and was asked to help entertain and take care of their Japanese needs. So when the negotiation was completed they were relieved, it was under much pressure, so on the way out to the airport I said, "Let's stop at our house for a little refreshment." So we stopped at our house and around the dining room table we served some hors d'oeuvres and a round of sake. And we said, "Let's kampai for the occasion," so we said kampai and took one. Right after that one drink they said, "Eddie-san, do you have any scotch?" [Laughs] So it happened that my father in law drank scotch so we had a bottle, and I took that out and started drinking, kampai-ing several times with scotch. And the guy said, "Eddie-san, one of these days you'll have to come to Japan. You have never been to Japan, no? You have to come." And after a few more drinks he says, "You and your wife will have to come." And then a few more drinks and it's time to go to the airport, the top man in that group, top management, he said, "Nah, Eddie-san, you stay home, just your wife come." [Laughs] So we took them to the airport and I found out later that they were flying to New York and this Kobayashi-san, the head man from this group from C Itoh, slept all the way to New York.

And the following years we have many visitors come from Japan, the representatives of these different companies. They would go to New York first. And they're pretty much on their own in New York City. Everybody's busy. So they would stop in Minneapolis, and when they arrived in Minneapolis these guys often said, "Anshin shimashita, anshin shimashita," that means, "Now I can relax and feel comfortable, Eddie-san's here, he'll take care of everything." So it was a fun occasion for me.

Anyway, I started working in the data processing and then someone in merchandising wanted my service so I moved out of data processing to merchandising. And I had several other jobs. I had one job in customer service department, and it's amazing, a name like Yoshikawa can do a job like a sales correspondent or customer service. Whenever there's an irate customer, I would get the phone. I request to call them. So I would call them, said, "This is Munsingwear calling, my name is Ed Yoshikawa." When I say Yoshikawa they all laugh. So immediately the term is a pretty good level.

SO: It's a good icebreaker then.

EY: Yes. From there I went into one might say production control with contract merchandise, merchandise that we had other companies produce for us, and that meant I would be traveling down south to different plants that produced garments that we ourselves did not make, like trousers and jackets, we were mainly knit house, T-shirts and golf shirts. So that took me out, and that even included some out places in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, so that all tied in with my relationship with the Japanese company.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.