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-01-0013

<Begin Segment 13>

CN: Now during this time you're going through elementary school, you went to... was Ramsey also a junior high school?

JM: No, Ramsey was grades kindergarten through eighth grade. It was a neighborhood school, and I remember that we still maintain friendships with people that went to elementary school. I went then from there to Central High School for grades 9 through 12. And sometimes we've had class reunions for high school but then we have kind of a sub-class reunion for Ramsey. And those are almost more fun because we were a closer-knit group.

CN: Were there very many Japanese students?

JM: There were no other Japanese students at Ramsey. And I believe that there was maybe one or two at... I know there was at least one in my class, but there may have been another one or two at Central High School.

CN: And how do you think you were received at Central High School?

JM: Well, I think that of the things about growing up in Minnesota back in that time is that I don't think I ever really felt the discrimination, and I think that it's partly owed to my parents. The other thing I think that maybe helped it at that time was there was kind of a rising interest in things that were Japanese. So people in the Midwest, because there weren't that many Japanese, they tended to be very interested in Japanese culture. I know that there was probably some barriers for us, but it wasn't that evident. What tells me that there were probably some barriers is the fact that -- as I told you earlier -- when my parents went to buy the house, the realtor didn't want to tell the next door neighbor that Japanese Americans were moving in there, so there must've been some fear that we would not be accepted.

CN: And you found plenty of friends, you felt accepted at Central High School.

JM: Yes.

CN: Okay. And after that... and during that time you participated in activities at the Japanese Center?

JM: Participated in... there were some young people. The other thing that, around that time, in the '30s, 1930, the Twin Cities in St. Paul had this festival that was, I don't know if it was called the Festival of Nations, but it was the precursor of the Festival of Nations sponsored by the International Institute in St. Paul. It's still in existence in St. Paul. And they... the Japanese at that time, I don't believe were participating in there because there wasn't much of a Japanese community in the '30s. But around 1945, '47, the Japanese did begin participating in there. And my Aunt Ruth, who was working for the YWCA and was also involved with the International Institute, helped to put together a food booth and a demonstration booth, and they also had a grand parade, a procession.

CN: I'm going to hold up a photo of your Aunt Ruth at the Festival of Nations.

JM: And that's me.

CN: And that's you? Okay.

JM: That's me when I was about six years old.

CN: So you participated as a dancer?

JM: At that point I didn't do the dancing, I think I was part of the processional.

CN: Oh, okay.

JM: And I believe that my aunt felt that we really needed to kind of go overboard in going all out in showing the kimonos and all the culture and the food. So it was quite successful, and we've been in the Festival of Nations ever since that time.

CN: So at Central High School you participated in the usual things like homecoming? You were probably in the academic, were there academic....

JM: No, they had, we called it Y Teens, and there was a... different groups like the girls' clubs, and so I joined one of the Y Teens groups. And I was involved in the Spanish club and different kinds of clubs like that. One of the memories I have of my academic side was when I was a junior in high school I had a high school history teacher, a social studies teacher who encouraged students to, or required students to write term papers. And I was curious about the relocation, the evacuation, because my parents never talked about it. I wanted to learn more, so I wrote my paper on the relocation and I think I called it, "Americans: First or Second Class?" with question mark after it. And I remember going down to the James J. Hill Library and spending hours and hours writing this paper. It was actually quite involved. And the resources at that time were kind of limited because, of course, this was just a few years after it had happened. And I remember that one of the conclusions that I came to was that in spite of everything, it was really... in spite of all the difficulties and the hardships that the people endured, for many people it was kind of a blessing in disguise. For us it was kind of that way because it helped us to disperse a little bit, quite a bit more. And so in our case of coming to Minnesota, we were able to have more opportunities because there were fewer Japanese Americans at that point, and so we were, even though there were still barriers and there were still hardships, we did succeed, and my father was able to do well as a pharmacist and a buyer for Gray's Drugstores. My mother had both Japanese and Caucasian friends, and we didn't feel that we were... it was almost like when you have a lot of people who are living closely together and you're so distinguishable because of your looks, your nationality. It was a difficult thing right after World War II even, but for us it was more of a... not necessarily a plus, but it certainly allowed us to spread our wings a little bit more and do well.

CN: So you did do well at Central and you went on to the University of Minnesota? Any particular, what was your academic career there?

JM: I went to University of Minnesota from '58 to '62, and then I went on and got a master's degree after that. Both of my degrees are in education. And I ended up teaching in... well, when I graduated, I taught at Mounds View for a year and then got pregnant with our first child, and at that point, the superintendent of the school district did not allow anybody who was pregnant to teach, and you could not teach if you had a child under three. And so I didn't go back to teaching, I went and did part-time teaching through homebound teaching while I had three more children, so we have a total of four children.

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