Densho Digital Archive
Twin Cities JACL Collection
Title: Pearl Yoshikawa Interview
Narrator: Pearl Yoshikawa
Interviewer: Carolyn Nayematsu
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Date: October 12, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-ypearl-01

[Ed. note: Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

CN: My name is Carolyn Nayematsu, I'm with the Twin Cities Japanese American Citizens League Oral History Project. And today we're here to interview Pearl Yoshikawa. Pearl, where and when were you born?

PY: I was born in Vancouver, Washington, on April 25, 1926.

CN: Okay, and what was your name at birth?

PY: It was Pearl Yoshiko Takaki.

CN: Takaki, okay. Pearl, you have a, your family background is one that's a lot older, it goes back into the 1880s. You are a direct descendant of the first Japanese pioneer in Oregon. So we'll spend a few minutes talking about the first Japanese American pioneer to Oregon who was Miyo... what's her name, Miyo?

PY: Iwasaki.

CN: Okay, and she came into Oregon because a Scots person, McKinnon brought her over. Andrew...

PY: Andrew McKinnon.

CN: Andrew McKinnon. And they brought Miyo and her...

PY: Tama Nitobe.

CN: Who was considered her daughter right?

PY: Yes.

CN: There is some question as to whether or not she's adopted. You believe that she was her daughter.

PY: I think so.

CN: Okay. And Tama had four children, am I correct?

PY: Yes, four, no five. He had about three daughters and two sons.

CN: And you are, one of the sons is your...

PY: The oldest son is my father.

CN: Is your father. And your father's name was?

PY: Maxwell.

CN: Maxwell. And can you tell me a little bit -- okay, so that's your father's side. Your mother's side is, your mother actually grew up in Japan, correct?

PY: Right, apparently she was born in Japan and they went over to Hawaii and that's where her mother passed away. And so she was taken back to Japan and brought up by her grandmother. And so she remained in Japan for about sixteen years, and by that time Grandpa Uchida had remarried to a younger wife and moved over to America and eventually settled in Gresham, Oregon.

CN: And Miyo Iwakoshi settled also in Gresham, Oregon?

PY: Yes, outside of Gresham.

CN: Is that the place that's called Orient?

PY: Yes, apparently they named the area Orient. Because of them, but they're not quite sure whether the name was already settled as Orient or whether they acquired.

CN: And recently in the last few years there has been some attention about Miyo, and discovered Miyo, is that correct?

PY: Right, they're trying to figure out the origin of the pioneer in that Northwest area. And some people were very much interested in looking up their background and they even traveled to Japan to find out some of the roots and I really admire them for doing all that.

CN: Right. Because to come to Oregon or to the United States in I believe it was 1880... there were no other Japanese here, correct? Now when you remember your great-grandmother, did you speak Japanese to her? Did she speak English?

PY: I think they spoke English most of the time but we were able to speak Japanese, because our parents only spoke Japanese. Well. I don't know, my biological father, I don't know whether he spoke Japanese or English.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

CN: Your parents divorced when you were a baby, is that correct?

PY: Right, so I hardly knew him, but they were in partnership with Hirata, running this vegetable farm in Vancouver, Washington, so I'm sure Hirata took care of me a lot. I remember him very much because he really did take care of me.

CN: And what did they do?

PY: Truck gardening. Lettuce and celery were their main products and then they had green pepper and spinach and cabbage and all the other little...

CN: Your mother and Hirata then eventually were married, and so he's your stepfather.

PY: Yes.

CN: But they had no children.

PY: Right.

CN: So you and your brother Robert and your sister Minnie.

PY: I had two brothers and a sister, my sister was the oldest and the next brother, he was about five or six years old when he fell out of the car, an accident, and he fell out and passed away. And then I had another brother and myself.

CN: You were telling me that your sister and your brother both went back to Japan to study, correct?

PY: Yes. My brother was about sixteen and my sister graduated high school here and then was sent to Japan. I don't know for what reason my parents decided to send them to study over, I don't know. But they, of course, their future was uncertain too and so I imagine they were preparing us for either situation.

CN: Your sister, you said, really did know there was going to be a war.

PY: She tried to alert my parents, saying that there will be a war, but my parents really didn't think that Japan would attack America so they got caught over there.

CN: Just to backtrack a little bit about Miyo's daughter Tama.

PY: Tama.

CN: Tama, you said five children? Six children, but there was some tragedy in your family, wasn't there? Unusual for Japanese families.

PY: Right.

CN: Of the six children, one was murdered, right, by a Japanese person?

PY: Yes. She was promised to be his wife and he was waiting for her to be his wife, but she refused him and so he apparently killed her while she was asleep and then he killed himself. But they say that she was one of the prettiest girls of the family.

CN: That's right, when I was reading about your family in the Oregon papers, it's interesting. And then another brother, a son was killed in Idaho.

PY: Yes, for what reason no one knows. They have no story about him. But that was after the war, after they resettled in...

CN: Even though your parents divorced, did you kind of keep up contact with your grandmother and great-grandmother?

PY: Yes, my mother always made sure we made an annual trip to see them in Multnomah where he was caretaker of that building. And my great grandmother, I remember her as being ill towards the end of that time that we used to see her. So we kept in contact and my grandmother and grandfather, they were in Minidoka also. I used to see them once in a while, but I never stopped to talk to them. I'm sorry, I kind of resented my father for leaving us. I just never, I should have taken time. I regret it now.

CN: You said later that you didn't realize it at first but your father did come and visit the neighbors.

PY: Yes. He used to come over on him motorcycle and leather high top shoes and leather coat and he would visit our neighbor Mr. Ida. And later on at one of the reunions I found out from my neighbor friend that, "Oh no, he wasn't coming to see my father, he was coming to see you people." So I didn't realize that he was checking up on us.

CN: Well, and in a way your father was a lot more westernized than the other Japanese at that time, wasn't he, because he'd been...

PY: Right, he was an American. [Laughs]

CN: Right, he was an American, he was born there and for the generation that is in my head, I keep thinking they were sort of new. But in your father's case he wasn't.

PY: As a matter of fact, there was another sister, sister Margaret, I didn't know her but apparently she died early also, but my sister, who is six years older than I am, I just spoke to her recently and she said she was a flapper girl, you know. [Laughs]

CN: Interesting.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

CN: What was life like for you in elementary school? You went to a regular...

PY: Yes I did. But I was the, I and, let's see... two other kids of Japanese descent, they were in our grade school. So we associated, I associated with Caucasians most of the time. I hardly associated with any other Japanese kids during my grade school, junior high school years.

CN: I'm surprised, I thought there were a lot more Japanese at that...

PY: No, because we were in Vancouver, Washington, and the Portland people, they gathered together a lot more than we did. We, in Vancouver side which was just right across the other side of the Columbia River, there were only about six other Japanese farm families and we were really scattered. And the Ida family, which was right next door to us, they were the only ones we really associated with as Japanese kids.

CN: Your mother and your stepfather then ran the farm?

PY: Yes.

CN: What was that like? It was a farm...

PY: Yes, my father Hirata, he did all of the bringing things to the market and making contracts with the other companies and so he would take all the orders and go to the market. They did very well. We always had hired hands, about four or five men. Most of them were Kibeis.

CN: Oh, Japanese who were, Kibeis were born in the United States but went back to Japan?

PY: Uh-huh, and then came back. And so it made it a real nice situation for them I think for them to be able to have a job and my mother always cooked for the hired hands so we got along really well.

CN: And you raised...

PY: Lettuce and celery, mostly.

CN: Then, so elementary school you were there. Did you attend Japanese school?

PY: Yes, on weekends, on Saturdays for about two to three hours. We converted one our packing barns and they set it up, and made a little classroom there and a teacher from, Japanese teacher from Portland would come over Saturday mornings. And he was practicing to be a dentist and then one summer for about three or four years, there was a lady that just roomed over in our little barn, they set up a little bedroom for her. And she stayed for quite a few years. She was a single lady from Japan.

CN: How many students were in your class?

PY: Oh, let's see. They would gather around from the other farms in Vancouver and so we may have had about fourteen, fifteen kids so we had fun gathering together at that time and we'd play a little baseball, or some game together.

CN: Then you went to junior high school in Vancouver and you went to high school when the war broke out?

PY: Yes, just started high school. But there was one girl, Caucasian girl, she was so faithful and she collected all the senior pictures and everything, you know, class pictures for me for my friends and she sent it to me. And the strange part was that she came from Minnesota, Watertown, Minnesota, to Vancouver when I was in the sixth grade and struck up a friendship and she's been my best friend since.

CN: That's interesting.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

CN: So it sounds like you had a fairly active social life. Did you have to work a lot on the farm too?

PY: Yes, we were able to just hang around with the kids until we were ten years old, and then from ten we were all sent to do some chores in the field. I grew up with the Ida kids and we used to just tramp around the fields and hills and creeks and have fun together. But after we were ten years old, that was it, we had to go to work on the farm.

CN: What kind of social life did your parents have?

PY: Well, they got together with some of their neighboring Japanese friends, and especially two families, the Okadas and Takahashis, and they had about three or four children each about the same age so when we got together on... oh we would go to picnics together or on New Year's we, all the Japanese families, which consisted of about five or six families, we got together. And they built a social hall later on and so we would gather there and have a potluck and have a real good time and they would sing and do the traditional Japanese things.

CN: I can remember my grandmother getting these rather violent films from Japan, the samurai films, did your families do that?

PY: We went to Portland for movies and films, Japanese films, they would have it in their halls. I can't remember if it was the church hall or just a community hall but they would have programs and so we would go there on weekends, you know.

CN: Did they do things like have mochi on the holidays?

PY: Oh, yes. We got together with the two families that were closest to us and my mother would be the one that turned to mochi over between the slamming of the mallets.

CN: Mochi is you would cook the rice for a long, long time...

PY: Steamed it in our woodshed and they made a little, I can't remember what they called it now, but with a log, a little usu, I think they called it usu. And then they made the mallets. Two fellows would pound that rhythmically and they would sing. My mother was, loved singing so she would...

CN: Was it easy to get some of the traditional Japanese items like food because Oregon I would have thought you would have.

PY: Portland.

CN: Portland.

PY: They had a little Japanese town there and they had a fish market and restaurants and variety store and so I don't think they had any problems in getting a lot of their food products.

CN: So they didn't feel too isolated?

PY: No, if it wasn't for Portland, well, we would really be stranded for good food.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

CN: Okay, so now we're getting close to December 7, 1941, when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Do you remember that day?

PY: Oh, yes, I remember my father was working with a water pump and I heard it on the radio. It was just about 12 o'clock and so I went to my father and I said "Pop, they bombed Pearl Harbor," and the war had begun, and he just dropped the wrench down on the floor and he came up. So sad, and it was hard you know because we had the two, my brother and sister were still over there, you know. And then the relations with the families, their personal families. So it was hard on us at that time.

CN: What about neighbors, Caucasian neighbors, do you remember?

PY: They weren't, we had no problems with them. As a matter of fact, I think they were rying to help us out as much as they could, but my father was disappointed that they really did take advantage of purchasing all our equipment and my father...

CN: They immediately know that you were going, because evacuation started...

PY: Well, we started getting all these notices posted here and there and we had to, we were restricted with curfews, you know, nine o'clock and then they started coming around inspecting to see if we had any guns or all those, radios or whatever. So we knew then. There was a radio tower nearby our farm and they had soldiers protecting that. But we made real good friends with them and eventually they were playing basketball with us and things like that.

CN: You were how old at that time?

PY: I was about sixteen but our neighbors, they had older boys there so we would get acquainted with them, you know. But my father had just purchased a brand new Chrysler and so he was so proud of that. But our lawyer, he purchased it for a minimal fee and so he was really disappointed that he wasn't as trustworthy as we had hoped would be. But our banks and all, we were able to keep our funds there and then by the time we were getting rid of all our things, I think the bank over, county --city hall or banks, I can't remember, but they allowed us to keep a trunk full of things, our personal things. This is why we were able to keep our pictures, films, you know, and a few of our personal items; they were allowing us to store it down there. So I thought that was very nice of them.

CN: Did you continue to attend high school after, for a while...

PY: Yes, you know, I can't remember too much about that but I think we attended as

long as we were able to.

CN: Do you remember how they treated you?

PY: No, they were very friendly as far as I remember. As I say, my girlfriend, she just kept in touch with me all the time.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

CN: So when you were living in Vancouver during Pearl Harbor, but when you evacuated, you were sent, your family was sent to Minidoka?

PY: Yes, that was because just prior, about a month before evacuation, we had already gotten rid of our things and so my grandfather in Gresham, Oregon, told us to stay with them 'til evacuation. And so, thinking that we were, the Vancouver people would be evacuated with the Portland people because it was a small group, but it didn't happen. They went down to Tule Lake and we went to Minidoka. First, of course, we went to the county fairgrounds, which was a terrible situation.

CN: How many of you were at the county fairgrounds? A lot?

PY: The whole Portland, let's see, we went in with the Portlanders, and so it was a large group.

CN: I forgot to ask you about your farm. What happened to your farm?

PY: Well, it was on lease, and so I don't know whether we... I don't think we started to plant anything because we knew before that that we had to be evacuated.

CN: Did you dissolve all of your possessions other than the trunk, everything else?

PY: Yes, all the equipment, yes.

CN: Okay. So you and your, mother, your stepfather went to Minidoka as well as your grandparents.

PY: Yes. But my stepfather, no, he was in California by then, all those years, so he didn't evacuate with us in Minidoka, to Minidoka. But my grandparents, yes, they were there.

CN: Oh, so your stepfather went to live in California?

PY: Oh, no, I'm sorry. Stepfather, yes, went with us. My...

CN: Your father, he went to...

PY: He was living in California so I don't know whatever happened to him.

CN: And your sister and your brother stayed in Japan during this time. Were you able to be in contact with them very much?

PY: My mother, yes, I think they were able to write letters. I don't know how they worked that out, actually. But my brother was eventually drafted into the Japanese army and lost in the Philippines.

CN: You said your sister was living in Tokyo at that time but she kept going south?

PY: No, then she was in Tokyo but the bombing started to become so heavy I think she then went to my stepfather's family's home in Okayama. But things were very, very difficult down there, an extra mouth to feed and everything was struggling so much in Japan and they were even taking all the hinges and doorknobs and things like that for metal. And she remembers having to start eating grass and wild plants and things like that. She had very bad memories of Japan.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

CN: Meanwhile, you and your family spent how many, how long were you at the fairgrounds before you were sent to Minidoka?

PY: We were evacuated in May and then we were sent to Minidoka in about August I believe it was. And that trip was really something else, it was right in the middle of the night and they pulled all the shades down and we were in these little trains with fringes, those old time trains that they had put in reserves.

CN: Minidoka is in Idaho?

PY: Middle of, just a little north of Twin Falls, Idaho, I guess.

CN: It's kind of a desert area, a high desert.

PY: Oh, it was. Very much. It was all sagebrush and rocks and so, but we saw the beautiful mountains in the distance. And now you go back there, we visited the monument there. It's all farmland over there now, it's amazing. I guess they knew that, once you clear off the land and you give it some water you could...

CN: Grow something there.

PY: Right.

CN: So what did your, what was life... now, your family spent how many years in Minidoka?

PY: From '43 to... no, '42 to '46, or so.

CN: What was life, how did they cope?

PY: Well, my father always volunteered to go out and work on the potatoes and the sugar beet farm, and so he was out quite a bit. And my mother, she volunteered for a nurse's aide so she was working in the hospital most of the time. But prior to that, well, she had me assigned in all these craft classes and I, with all the older ladies, to me they were older, you know, and I didn't care for that but I think I'm glad I did take some of those, like flower arrangement and embroidery and dressmaking and all those classes she made me take, and so I'm glad she did.

CN: You were about, now you were sixteen, seventeen years old in camp, and when you were growing up in Vancouver you were, you around only about sixteen or so Japanese children, so what was it like being all of a sudden to be in a big Japanese camp?

PY: [Laughs] Well, I thought I was going to a party -- no, you know, it was fun meeting all these different people, to tell you the truth, and yet in the back of your mind you didn't know what your future was going to be. And so there's kind of a mixed feeling but I did enjoy meeting a lot of Japanese...

CN: How were your parents? Because before they only had three or four Japanese families but now they had lots?

PY: Well, I really don't know how they felt. I think everyone tried to make the best of the situation and not knowing what their future was going to be you know. And in that respect, as I say, they made the best of it.

CN: And then you said that Miyo, your grandmother and your great-grandmother were in the same camp.

PY: Not great-grandmother, she passed away before, but grandmother. One of my grandparents, the Ochidas, they didn't stay in camp very long. They volunteered to go out to eastern Oregon and start a farm there. So they left quite early. But my grandparents, I don't know what they did, the Takaki side, I didn't keep track of them at all.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

CN: So you were able to, you left camp then, you went to New York City.

PY: Well, I finished school, graduated. and so then we were told we can choose anyplace out east to go to school and so, or to even leave camp, I think, they offered for a, my girlfriend's sister was already attending NYU and she told us to come out and so I, looking through magazines I found this fashion school, the Traphagen fashion school and so I went out there for that.

CN: And you were hoping to become a dress designer?

PY: Anything in that field.

CN: Is that the skill you picked up in camp, how to sew?

PY: I loved sewing from the time I was making my clothes from the time I was able to run that sewing machine with a pedal, you know.

CN: Okay, so you went to New York City, where did you stay in New York City?

PY: Oh, at the YWCAs, we always chose that, the safest place.

CN: So it's you, your girlfriend and her sister.

PY: Uh-huh. So we did that.

CN: And you stayed there for three years you said?

PY: Well, my first, the location of my first YWCA, the United Nations stands there now, and so we had to move out. And so I went down towards Greenwich Village, the YWCA, they relocated us. And then my girlfriend, she went back home and she got married and then the older girlfriend, the one that was attending NYU, she went to another YW. So I felt very much alone and being the youngest in our family, my mother did a lot of decision-making for me so it was hard for me to be on my own. But I managed.

CN: So you were in New York City, where were your parents then?

PY: Eventually, after about a couple of years, they were beginning to close the camps and so my uncle was one of the MIS soldiers and so he found a place in Minneapolis for them, and so they got themselves relocated out here. That's the start of our...

CN: That's the start of Minnesota. But meanwhile in New York City, is where you met your husband?

PY: Yes.

CN: How did that happen?

PY: Well, he was, the port of embarkation for those fellows to go overseas was in Newark, New Jersey, and weekend passes, they used to come to the different Ys because that's where most of the camp girls were.

CN: Speaking of the Y, how many camp girls were probably there?

PY: In our Y there were about seven or eight of us, and some of them, they knew some of the boys in the service and so they would come over. And that particular night that, I was sick, I mean I had a bad cold and so I refused to go out. And so my roommate, my girlfriend, she says, "Come on down, there's a guy I want you to meet." And I said, "No, I'm not going out." And so she went down again, and she came up again. She came up a third time and I said okay, okay, and so I got dressed and we went out and we met him and several other fellows too, there were about six fellows there from Hawaii and different places. It was a real fun time, fun group, you know. But I guess it's kind of love at first sight or something that you might call. [Laughs]

CN: Did you feel any discrimination wandering around New York City or going to these parties where there'd be a group of you?

PY: Not really, not outward, no. I didn't feel any of that. However, I myself felt like, you know, hesitated a lot because of what went on prior with all these evacuation notices and everything that went on prior to our evacuation. I felt like I was, they would discriminate me or, very sensitive to it maybe.

CN: Then at school you never, New York City was much more international...

PY: They didn't even know about any evacuation, no one knew anything about it and so, and they were all in the same -- as a matter of fact I was working as a side job in the cafeteria at the YW and there was a Hungarian lady that was cooking, I think she was Hungarian but she would just weep and weep and mourn about the family members in Europe, what they were going through, you know, it was so much worse than what we were going through as far as tragedy was concerned. She was very sensitive to our situation so she just treated me so nicely and I really appreciated that. But I felt sorry for her, she was just crying.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

CN: So then you met Ed who was in the 442nd?

PY: Yes.

CN: Okay, so he was going to, was he coming back or going out?

PY: Going out. So we corresponded while he was overseas. Our courtship was through mail, letters, more or less. Most of it.

CN: He must have been gone for how many years?

PY: A year...

CN: A year or so.

PY: A little over a year maybe.

CN: And with the 442nd he was in Italy?

PY: Uh-huh, mostly Italy that he...

CN: So that when he came back did you have to get permission to get married, or did the families meet?

PY: No, he was going to school in Michigan.

CN: Michigan.

PY: Michigan? But anyway, he used to come and visit me on all the holidays and eventually I finished my school and so I went home to here, to Minneapolis, and then he would come visit me there and then got to know my parents to and so then eventually...

CN: Ed is from what state originally?

PY: California, Sacramento.

CN: And he went to which camp, his family?

PY: Tule Lake. And then eventually they went to Topaz, when Tule Lake was split for the concentrated "no-no" people.

CN: And so after meeting Ed, how many years did he go back before you got married, a couple years?

PY: Would it be a couple of years, yes, I think so.

CN: And you started your family here in Minnesota?

PY: Yes, we finally, we got married, and he finished his last year in college at Augsburg College here.

CN: Here? Okay.

PY: We married and so he finished it here.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

CN: Just to backtrack a little bit about your New York City, you were studying three years in fashion design, or what was your major?

PY: It was dressmaking and fashion artwork. Fashion art.

CN: What kind of, were you able to get a job, you said you were working in a cafeteria or something, were you able to do dressmaking work?

PY: Not over there, no. After I finished school then I came right back to Minneapolis.

CN: What kind of training was that? You had to learn how to make patterns and things like that...

PY: Yes, draft and drape and then advertising art and all the chemicals, art, just black and white, no color work or studies. But I did work in, as a side job in between at a fashion, she was a designer and she had little pamphlets that she would send out and so we worked in, there were about three of us girls and we worked on this catalog or whatever you want to call it for her.

CN: During the war, fashion wasn't probably a big area, but after the war...

PY: Yeah, well...

CN: Was it still?

PY: I think so.

CN: Houses and things in New York City that...

PY: Oh, yeah, their coat, the designer that I worked for, she did most of the coats, coat line. And so we just, she just printed out her designs and then we just added a little color to it. It's, during those years everything was, they didn't use photography very much. It was all artwork; all the designs were done in artwork, handwork.

CN: And you were an artist?

PY: Well, I try. [Laughs] I was working in Donaldson's for a while but then we decided to raise a family and so it was more difficult. And so I did some artwork for Strutwear catalog, all the lingerie and everything, I used to copy that and make a little sample catalog for them. And then after Strutwear closed then I started to do dressmaking at home, and then after our children all graduated and got married, well then my time was more free so I went out and worked at Schlampp's for a year and designed dresses, and then they closed after the fur objectors started. Yeah, they really made it difficult for Schlampp's for a year. And then I went over to Sonnie's.

CN: Is Sonnie's a dress shop?

PY: Yes, they have about four dress shops here in town. And then I retired, completely retired.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

CN: Okay, you and Ed met in New York City and he went with the 442nd over to Europe, came back and finally you got married and came to Minnesota because your parents were here and Ed decided to go finish his school here because you were here.

PY: That's right, and it made it very difficult. He probably wanted to go to California, settle over there, but I was the only daughter and my mother and father relied on me a lot, and so my sister got married but she married a fellow from California, Sacramento, so she was living in Sacramento.

CN: When did your sister, when was she able to leave Japan to come back?

PY: I don't know what year that was, but I was still in New York at the time. So she came out to New York and lived with me for about three months and then she decided to go to Sacramento where my uncle, they had a noodle factory down there and so she, they summoned her to come out, go out there, and I guess they introduced her to a fellow and so she was married over there and settled over there. So I more or less was sticking with my mother quite a bit at the time all during the evacuation and everything so I just couldn't leave her, my mother and father.

CN: What were they doing here in Minnesota?

PY: Well, my uncle found a place for them, and so they lived in a real dingy little apartment at first.

CN: What section of Minnesota, Minneapolis?

PY: It was right off Lindell near Munsingwear, but then that was a real low area, you know, section of town, but she had, they got jobs at factories. There were a lot of factories here in Minneapolis at that time, and so she worked at a candy factory. She would take on two jobs. My mother was a very ambitious person so she went from one job to the next and she also worked at a baby clothes factory, Knickerbocker or someplace like that. And eventually all the factories closed down because of international, you know. And so, she kept herself busy and eventually she went to Abbot hospital and was a nurse's aide over there. And then my father, St. Mary's was always open to the minorities and so they hired my father as a cleaning...

CN: Did they ever miss their farm?

PY: There was a lot of headache that's, you know, farming is not that easy because of everything on the weather and everything so I don't think they really missed that because they were getting enough when they both worked to afford an apartment. So it wasn't a fancy apartment but it was very nice.

CN: And so Ed started working at Munsingwear, he said?

PY: Uh-huh.

CN: Okay.

PY: Well, he graduated from college as a teaching major but they required first time teachers to establish themselves two years out in a rural area, and we didn't have a car, we couldn't get -- so he walked the streets and found a job outside, that's how we ended up at Strutwear and then eventually over to Munsingwear. He did other odd jobs, too.

CN: And you raised how many children?

PY: Three children.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

CN: What was life, when you first came to Minnesota, what was it like in terms... I mean, Fort Snelling, did quite a few people around you know about evacuation and the MIS?

PY: No. The majority of the adults we spoke with didn't know anything about the evacuation, and I don't know what their reactions were with all the MIS boys here because I wasn't here during that time that the school was open here. But outside of that... but we've found that most Minnesotans are very cordial and they didn't show any kind of prejudice outside of housing. Then you were limited to an area. And then we found out too before we settled in the southwest area the neighbors were contacted and, to get their approval.

CN: Oh, really, this was southwest Minneapolis?

PY: Uh-huh. And we read Edina was strictly no.

CN: No Asians allowed there?

PY: No, they didn't allow it. So you felt the prejudice there. And then feeling, I don't know whether I was more sensitive to that or not but I always felt that going out to the rural areas, I think you saw some people turn away. They didn't walk out on you but you could see on their faces.

CN: Because they weren't used to...

PY: No, Orientals out there, Asian people are here. I kind of felt that.

CN: What areas of the Twin Cities were the Japanese welcome? You said southwest Minneapolis was okay.

PY: It was okay, and Richfield and all there. All the areas seemed to be all right except for Edina. I don't know how it was; I know St. Louis Park was mostly Jewish people there so -- so there was a little racial tension here in town.

CN: So when you came to Minnesota, you were early pioneers to Minnesota, you were part of that group, what was it like I mean in terms of, did you associate mostly with other Japanese folks? Did you attend any churches?

PY: Well there was a Japanese center, which was an old large building that was donated through the Episcopal diocese and we gathered there for all our social activities, which was very nice for us to feel as a group, you know. But there was a Father Dai, Daisuke Kitagawa, who encouraged us to desegregate ourselves, you know, and fall into the community. So Ed was working at Strutwear at the time and we didn't have a church and he was looking for a Methodist church. And so then we asked about a church and this fellow introduced us to a Baptist church that he was going to. But from then on they were pleasant to us and welcomed us a lot into all the activities and everything so we started to develop our roots around those people mostly. And then every time, when there were some Japanese American gatherings or meetings, we would go to this center.

CN: There were quite a few families there by then weren't there?

PY: Yes, because of the MIS, that a lot of people settled here. But I suppose in about five or ten years about half of them left for the West Coast.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

CN: Ed sounds like he was Methodist, I forgot to ask, was your family religious at all?

PY: Very strong Buddhists, but I was in search. I said, what is this life all about? Give me a reason. Before I knew it, well, then Ed, he fell into my life and he gave me a Bible, and from then on, it was amazing how the Lord just worked different Christian people in my life, and they just really, I just can't help but think that He had his hand upon and answered my...

CN: Your, just thinking back to Oregon life, were most of the people around you Buddhists?

PY: Oh, yes.

CN: They were. But it seems like a lot of people over here that became Christian? Oh, there's a Japanese Buddhist church here...

PY: No, but the majority I would say are Christians if they are religious in any way. You know, I would say that. Mostly.

CN: I do remember hearing about the Episcopal father...

PY: Father Dai? Kitagawa? Otani?

CN: Otani. When I came, it was...

PY: Father Otani...

CN: Father Otani. And I do know it was the Japanese Buddhist church.

PY: Yes. They still are in existence.

CN: Are active right?

PY: Yes, they are very active.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

CN: So your three children then went to school here in Minneapolis?

PY: Uh-huh.

CN: Which schools did they go to?

PY: University, my oldest daughter, and then our son went to Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. And then our daughter started at the Art Institute but she didn't finish it. She got married before...

CN: They still have kind of the art background...

PY: Oh, well, my daughter ended up, she first took up med tech and she said, "Oh this is boring, I don't even get to see the patients get well." So she went back to school and took up architecture. She finished three years and then as she was having her things printed up, then some design, graphic art design company asked her to work for them and so she went to work for them and then she met another girl there working as an artist and they decided those two were doing all the work and so they took off on their own. So they've been together, they named themselves the Design Company for thirty-one years; they're still at it together. We just saw them the other night and they were laughing about it. "How did we ever -- the husbands can't figure out how we stick it out together all these years," but they're still doing okay.

CN: So your daughter is here. Your son is here in the Twin Cities?

PY: He's in White Bear Lake in the area.

CN: And your other daughter is here too?

PY: Uh-huh. So we keep ourselves busy with all the birthdays and holidays.

CN: And your parents have passed away?

PY: Yes.

CN: Did you think they were satisfied living in Minnesota?

PY: Yes, my parents were. And we would visit Ed's parents first, every other year but then every year we would go out to Sacramento.

CN: Have you kept much in contact with the Oregon, because you don't have anybody left in Oregon?

PY: Well, my grandparents, my cousins. They're still out there. We don't keep in contact with them personally, but my uncles and aunts, once in a while we would write and inform what's going on especially at Christmastime.

CN: Did your family, your parents find a community when they moved out here? I know they were busy working but they found...

PY: They were very well-accepted and even when we were working anywhere or even the neighborhood I was invited to all their little coffee klatches and they were very nice. I didn't feel any kind of prejudice here, working with people.

CN: Were they able to keep up with, find friends and things?

PY: Our children?

CN: No, your parents.

PY: Oh, well, they just kept in contact with mostly their Japanese friends around town. They would go to some Buddhist gatherings and, well, they -- but we kept them busy too with all the children and grandchildren. Ed liked, one thing about Ed, he loves to do things and he doesn't like to just sit around too much outside of taking care of the house and yard. And so he would take us out on little trips with mother and dad and with the three and so we just roamed around Minnesota quite a bit and my mother would make the picnic lunch.

CN: Did they drive, your parents?

PY: No, he never did buy a car. He depended on Ed. And public, yes, transportation.

CN: I came, it's been about twenty years since I arrived, but I don't remember there being a lot of Japanese restaurants and things.

PY: No.

CN: It must have been harder to get some of your Japanese...

PY: Oh yes, it was very difficult for us so we would go to Chicago and buy or my sister would send things or every time we went to California we would stock up with food. But now, my goodness, with the Asians coming in you have it all over.

CN: Right, because I remember for a big city it was a little harder to find things then I thought it would be. But now...

PY: But the Japanese restaurant, the Fujiya, she started to develop this whole river area. I was really, I would say that they were instrumental in getting this city beautified. She was...

CN: And you were active in your church, were you active in the JACL, the Japanese American Citizens League? Where was that?

PY: To a degree we were. But we found ourselves very busy with our church activities and so we concentrated on that, mostly.

CN: And your children's probably school activities.

PY: Right.

CN: Did your children feel pretty accepted in their schools?

PY: Oh, yes. No problem. As a matter of fact they all married Caucasians so... I think all of the families, most of the families ended up that way with their generation.

CN: You said when you first lived here you lived in, where did you and Ed first live? Your parents lived in southwest Minneapolis?

PY: No, that's where we moved to.

CN: You moved.

PY: We all lived in a small apartment together for a while. My parents had rooms a floor above us and we took the middle floor, second floor. And eventually we decided, we've got to get out of here, so we were able to purchase a home.

CN: By that time it was easier for you to purchase a home?

PY: Yes. But limited areas, yes.

CN: You said Ed was working at Munsingwear and he was, but they were the ones to come up with this logo?

PY: Munsingwear was, yes. And and then the Japanese company, because Munsingwear did start off with the logo sport shirts, that they were pretty well known at that time and so the Japanese company came over and wanted to get them, get sort of royalty, I mean not royalty, some sort of connection with Munsingwear and Ed was able to speak a little Japanese and so that came in handy. He got involved that way.

CN: Just thinking of Japan, did your family have, well, your sister went back and lived in Japan for a while but you never did, right?

PY: She did... no, she did not. After she came back here, she had never gone back for a long time. She refused to go because she had such a bad memory. But my parents went to visit occasionally even prior to the war but they found it difficult to be able to live that style any longer so they, I don't know what they would have done, really.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

CN: So both of you are retired now?

PY: Yes. We're hopefully retired. And we lived, we moved over to Apple Valley to the townhouse because our driveway in the south Minneapolis was such a long driveway to the garage and it was so hard for him to shovel all that during the winter months and our house was getting older and a lot of changes to be made, eventually. It was okay at the time we sold it. We moved out to a townhouse, which we really appreciate now.

CN: It sounds like you have made some effort to go back -- you went to Minidoka and then did Ed go to Tule Lake to see, to the reunions there?

PY: Oh, yes, every time they had a reunion which was almost every year, we went to Tule Lake and I went to the Minidoka reunion a couple of times but people, the Tule Lakers, they had reunions a lot more than the other camps, I think.

CN: There's a lot of them, your friends, because, your town.

PY: Right. That's probably another reason why I wanted to go too. Because that's where I got to see my old neighborhood friends, Vancouver.

CN: Minidoka has changed a lot. I suppose Tule Lake area, too, correct?

PY: When we went to visit Tule Lake area, nothing was being done at that time. But I think they have a plaque there now. And then Minidoka, first time we went it was bare but now, which we, about five years ago it was all corn fields...

CN: Oh really?

PY: Uh-huh, agriculture fields.

CN: When you were in camp there, there was nothing, it was pretty barren? The Japanese had to kind of start it, kind of, the gardens.

PY: Right. The camp had a garden and they grew some of their things there and I suppose they kind of gave some incentive for the people around them that they could grow things too if they would clear the land and give it some water, you know. And Ed went to visit, we went to visit Topaz area not too long ago and that was pretty, well, there was some farming done nearby but it was pretty barren. We ran into Manzanar area and that was, I think there were some activities around that camp except where the camp was is pretty barren. So...

CN: Well, I have, did you have anything else that you would like to relate that I have not covered?

PY: No I think you've covered quite a bit more...

CN: You said your children are not too interested. Of course they're kind of young yet...

PY: Well they're not so young. They're nearing sixty now.

CN: Have they gone on the pilgrimages with you?

PY: No, no. Well one of them did. To Heart Mountain. We were nearby. We went out together to the Black Hills and then we went out to Cody and Heart Mountain is not too far from Cody, Wyoming.. And so we did a lot with our children, especially Joanne and Mark, the oldest, their family. We went on trips a lot together and so we happened to come close to Heart Mountain so we stopped there for a bit. And so she showed emotions to think that we were in camps, you know.

CN: Well, if you're like my mother, when I was growing up, I thought camp was a fun place. It wasn't until I was a teenager that I really realized that that wasn't what the reason was.

PY: But you know, you talk about being in camp and incarcerated and it sounds terrible, but the government didn't really treat us that harshly. Yes, there was a barbed wire and guards around but I don't know if they continued to have guards but I can't compare ourselves with the situation with the Jewish people. So I don't have that have that hard of feelings against America. I think through panic they did what they did and our parents were not citizens so they had their little questions about that, you know. They didn't understand so neither did we. So what a reaction. But I'm sure we wouldn't have tried anything against America. No, I don't think so. But it's one of those situations.

CN: Right. And plus you had siblings over in Japan so I imagine that was hard.

PY: Yes, it was difficult, I'm sure our parents and all the other Isseis really had a mixed reaction about the whole thing.

CN: Well, thank you for your interview.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.