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-01-0003

<Begin Segment 3>

SO: How did your parents meet?

LK: When in 1924, the law was passed that no more Japanese could come, my father decided he needed a bride. He's forty-three years old now, so he goes back to Japan and it must have been a match-making deal, and he was, my mother was chosen for him. She was the oldest of five children and she was born in the year of the fire horse. That's not a popular year to be born in, because the saying goes that whoever marries them will have a short life, but that wasn't true because my father lived to be ninety-four years old. And so she married him and they came over in 1924. She was eighteen. So he was twenty-five years older than she, and then by the time I was born, he was fifty years old when I was born. He was even older than my grandfather, so that's sort of different.

SO: So what was he like when you were growing up?

LK: Oh, he was a very gentle, kind person. And even when I talk to my husband about his father, he really doesn't have much to say about it. I mean, he was a grand father, but he didn't interact with him. Our father used to tell us stories about "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves," and he had so much expression that we'd just sit there mesmerized. I remember he was so good and tell us about the barrels they would hide in. I don't know if he made it up or whatever, but anyway, it was good, and we'd always say, "Tell us a story." And then since we didn't go to Japanese school, then he tried to home school us. I still remember those little booklets that he would teach my two sisters, I was a little young then. But then when I would yell out the whole page from the bedroom, my sisters got so discouraged that it didn't last too long at the Japanese school. But he tried. And every time we had a ken group, he was always the master of ceremonies. He was a people person, is what I'd have to say. Everyone came to him for advice. So he was very reassuring, and if someone wanted to go into business they'd come and he had some kind of cards and sticks that he would mix up and throw on the table and then he'd always say, "Yes, that's a wise decision." They just wanted that reinforcement I think. I don't think he had any insight. And then he named a lot of people, too. I think he had a very creative mind and he loved to tell stories. He was a good writer.

And then another good trait about him is when I talked to my sister the other day she said, "Oh I know I was the favorite of Dad's." And I said, "That's strange, I thought I was the favorite." Then my oldest sister, when she was alive, said, "No I was the favorite." So he had the knack to make us feel very special. We knew that my oldest sister was a favorite of my mother. That was just obvious because everything Esther did was right. Of course, Esther taught my mother a lot of things about how to live in America and she'd always say, "Well, ask Esther," or so forth. But my father had that knack so I thought that was sort of interesting. I hated telling that to my sister, because she thought she was... [Laughs]

SO: We got a little too far along that... can you talk about this picture?

LK: Oh, that picture is when my father must married my mother. They're the two in the back, and then the other children are her brothers and sisters. And the father, her father, is the one that's carrying that rooster and then the mother, her mother, is the one carrying her little sister. And her little sister is still alive, so that would be Aunt Fusemi.

SO: This one?

LK: No, the carried... yeah, right there. And so that must have been when she was eighteen and he was forty-three.

SO: And this is in Wakayama?

LK: Right, correct. And my sister still writes to Fusemi, that sister, because I think my mother was seventeen yeasr old, because she must have been only one at that time.

SO: Do you know the significance of holding a... oh, is a rooster good luck?

LK: I don't know. Maybe it is.

SO: There are three of them.

LK: Are there? Oh, I don't know. They must have just raised them. Maybe they had the hens and maybe they gathered eggs.

SO: Oh, talk about, let's see. Your father was older than your mother.

LK: Right.

SO: Then his wife's father was older?

LK: Maybe he could have been a year older. Maybe he was forty-two, that I don't know, but he was older, I remember. I don't know his exact age.

SO: So back in, after your parents were married, what did your father do for his job?

LK: He was, I think before he was married he was some kind of secretary for the farmers/growers organization in Oregon or Portland. He must have done some book work or something for them, but after my mother came back I remember him working in homes where he was a gardener and she was a cook or a maid, which was really good because then you sort of learn the American way of living. I don't know if they lived there or whatever. And they were forced to speak a little bit of English so they could understand and communicate. And then finally, they were able to save enough money to lease an apartment building and then they rented out rooms. I suppose you'd call it like a hotel, but I remember some people staying there a long time and yet there were some people who would come in for one night or whatever. Close to Japanese town on First Avenue. We went back there years later and it's gone, because they made a freeway going through there. It's right near the Willamette River.

SO: Did they have children right away after they got married?

LK: Well, she was eighteen and she must have been twenty -- two years and then she had Esther.

SO: All right.

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