Densho Digital Archive
Twin Cities JACL Collection
Title: Judy Murakami Interview
Narrator: Judy Murakami
Interviewer: Carolyn Nayamatsu
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Date: October 13, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-mjudy-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

CN: I'd like to welcome Judy Murakami, and my name is Carolyn Nayematsu on behalf of the Twin Cities Japanese American Citizens League Oral History Project. We are here to interview Judy Murakami. Judy, where and when were you born?

JM: I was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1940, June 18, 1940.

CN: And what was your name that was given at birth?

JM: Judith Emiko Nomura.

CN: Now your family is one of the early descendants to Portland, and so let's talk about your, on your mother's side. I'm holding up a picture of your grandparents on your mother's side, and we are going to explain...


JM: On my mother's side, her father was named Gensaku Somekawa. He was born in Japan in 1875. And the interesting thing about my grandfather was that he was not originally a Somekawa. He was actually born into the Tawaru family. In their family they did not have, they had four sons. They had some friends or relatives who did not have a son so he was given in adoption to this Somekawa family.

CN: Your father, your grandfather, I should say, had an interesting courtship. He came to United States and then he went back, right, to Japan?

JM: Yes, he was born in 1875, then he was about twenty in 1895 he came to the United States and he began to work for a short time. And around 1911 he went back to Japan and at that point he met my grandmother, his future wife and asked her to marry him. And she refused a couple of times, but eventually they did get married and they came to the United States about 1911, 1912.

CN: And what did they do in the United States? They went to Portland right?

JM: They went to Portland. My grandmother, Yone Somekawa, was actually a fairly well-educated person back in Japan. When she was in Japan she had gone to school, quite a bit of schooling, and became a registered nurse. She graduated from a place called Kyoto Imperial University, which is now the University of Kyoto, in nursing. And she wanted to become a nurse, and I think at one point she was actually working as a surgical nurse in the Kyoto University Hospital. She did not want to marry my grandfather because she wanted to pursue her own career, and she wanted to take care of her widowed mother. But they did get married, and they came to the United States in 1912. They settled in Portland, Oregon, and my grandfather Gensaku Somekawa began a mercantile store where they sold goods that were imported from Japan. Eventually it was called Nichibei Store in Japantown in Portland, Oregon.

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