Densho Digital Archive
Twin Cities JACL Collection
Title: Lucy Kirihara Interview
Narrator: Lucy Kirihara
Interviewer: Steve Ozone
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Date: October 13, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-klucy-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

SO: Today is October 13, 2009, and we're here with Lucy Kirihara. I'm the interviewer, Steve Ozone, Bill Kubota is the videographer. So Lucy, tell me where and when were you born.

LK: I was born in Portland, Oregon, February 27, 1931.

SO: And what was your birth name?

LK: My birth name? Lucy Isako Torii. And the reason I got my middle name is I come from a family of three girls. And so by the time I was coming they were hoping for a boy, and so they had a name picked out, it was going to be Isao. But I don't want to say I was a disappointment, but it was a girl again, so he just changed it from Isao to Isako, so that's my middle name.

SO: And so how many siblings did you have?

LK: I have two older sisters. One is Esther, the oldest, and she's five years older than I, and Eunice, she's three years older, and then Lucy, myself.

SO: And are they still living?

LK: My oldest sister is dead, but my other sister lives in Chicago. My mother, since she was from Japan, didn't know what to name us so she had this person name us. And so she didn't realize that Japanese people couldn't pronounce some letters. So they named Esther, Esther, but they could only say "E-soo-ta." Then Eunice, and they would call her "Yu-na-soo." And Lucy was "Ru-shee," so they should have given us names like Ann or Mary or something like that, but anyway, that's how we were named.

SO: What was your mother's name?

LK: Tomaye. And my grandniece is named after her, Tomaye. That's pretty.

SO: Uh-huh. What was her last name?

LK: My mother's?

SO: Yes.

LK: Tamaki.

SO: And where was she from?

LK: My mother and father were both from Wakayama-ken. That's sort of in the middle part of Japan, near the coast. It's very difficult to get to by train, unfortunately. Many times we've gone to Japan and I've never been there. Just haven't taken the time... too difficult.

SO: Do you know what type of work your father did?

LK: I think he was a Shinto priest, he didn't work. He really didn't work I don't think, and he used to raise birds of some like a hobby, I guess, but I never heard her saying that he worked or anything.

SO: What about your mother?

LK: I'm sure she didn't. I don't think they worked.

SO: Okay, do you know how old she was when she got married?

LK: She was eighteen years old.

SO: What was she like when you knew her?

LK: She was... what should I say? She was very organized and she wasn't as warm, I mean, she was a wonderful mother, but she wasn't like our father who was just always telling us stories, taking us here and there. She was always busy. She was a good seamstress and she so she knew how to sew, and she would sew kimonos for people. I think that's how she made some money, too. And so she didn't really have any leisure time, whereas my father would, he seemed to be going from place to place, different places. He would write the Japanese newspaper, they had a little weekly newspaper, and so we would go with him to deliver it from house to house in Japantown. So he knew people and we were always with him, it seemed. We had more of a connection. He was always so proud of us. He would always say that we were "A-1." He's the one that encouraged us, gave us self-confidence and built up our self-esteem. Like my sister said he saved all of our papers that we would bring home from school. When we were evacuated we had to destroy everything and so he burnt them. It just broke his heart -- all the papers that we had done. Education was his prime goal for us.

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