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-01-0002

<Begin Segment 2>

SO: Let's back up a little bit. What was your father's name?

LK: His name was Tokichi Torii.

SO: And he was from Wakayama too?

LK: Correct.

SO: What do you know about his father?

LK: His father was a carpenter, so he had a profession. But his mother died when his little sister was born, and so the father had, the mother died, and then the little girl died too. So he was really like an orphan because his father had to go out of town to be a carpenter. So he was entrusted to his aunt. And the aunt had a child and her name was Otomo and she was very, very cruel to my father as he was growing up. And they would give him the brown rice and they would eat the white rice. But as my sister said, that's why he lived to be ninety-four years old, because he had all that good nutrition. And then my father would pay them for it, for his lodging and so forth. It sounded like a very sad childhood. When we were little we'd always say to him, "Oh, tell us about Otomo, Otomo, tell us about her." And I sort of think he liked telling us about her, trying to relate to us how lucky we were that we weren't orphans. I sort of see the psychology of him bringing us up, I really do. And that he would say how mean, and that he survived all that, they would be so mean to him.

And when we used to fight when we were younger, he used to come home and say, "Oh, if you could only be like the Teraji sisters." And we said, "Who are these Teraji sisters?" we got to hate them because he said every time he went over there they never fought. And we thought he just made it up because we didn't know who they were. However, about fifty years later when I went to a reunion in Portland, I saw the name Teraji and so I thought, "Oh, my gosh, I have to meet these girls." And so we met them. They were older than we were and so I said, "Oh my father used to rave about you when we were little and he said you people never fought and we must have been fighting all the time, I don't know." And she said, "Oh, we fought, but why would we fight in front of your father?" It really was true I guess. But again, he would use that kind of psychology on us. It didn't work, though, because we got to hate them. [Laughs]

SO: So your father had to pay rent?

LK: No, he had to pay his, whatever relative it was, to take care of... my grandfather had to pay for them to take care of my father, otherwise they most likely wouldn't have done it. I don't know what would have happened to him.

SO: So why did your father come, why did your father leave Japan?

LK: Oh, he left in 1881. He was twenty-two years old, and my sister sort of thinks that maybe there was a war on at that time, the Russians? So maybe he was trying to avoid the draft. Not only that, he didn't have anything, a future in Japan, and he must have thought America was going to be a place where he could make a good living, so that's why he came. I think he went to Canada first and then he ended up in Portland, Oregon, and he settled there.

SO: Do you know what he was doing before he left?

LK: In Japan?

SO: Yes.

LK: Yes, he had a civil service job in Japan. And again, since he was like an orphan, growing up, he must have been a good student because he used to tell us how he didn't have enough money to buy books to go to school. But then he would copy his friends' books and he would make his own books and he would bind them together, I thought that was quite amazing. And he must have had enough education. I don't know how far he went, but he was able to pass a civil service test and then he had a job. I don't know exactly what he was doing. Whereas my mother was fortunate enough to finish eighth grade and high school too, because she was certified to be a teacher, too. When she came over here she could have taught in the Japanese schools but she didn't choose to do that.

SO: Do you know how your father got over here? Which ship it was?

LK: No, sorry, I don't know any of that, how he got over here.

SO: Do you know where in Canada he was?

LK: No. A lot of things that I know, too, my sister had to tell me because she's older, five years older. And so that's how I would know the background.

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