Densho Digital Archive
Twin Cities JACL Collection
Title: Helen Tanigawa Tsuchiya Interview
Narrator: Helen Tanigawa Tsuchiya
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Bloomington, Minnesota
Date: June 16, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-thelen-01-0001

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MA: So today is June 16, 2009, and I'm here in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I'll be interviewing Helen Tsuchiya today. I'm Megan Asaka, the interviewer, and the cameraperson is Dana Hoshide. So, Helen, thank you for coming and doing this interview with us. I wanted to start by asking where you were born.

HT: I was born in the farmhouse in Selma, California.

MA: And when were you born?

HT: December 25, 1924.

MA: Christmas.

HT: Christmas baby.

MA: And what was the name given to you at birth?

HT: Masami Tanigawa.

MA: And I wanted to talk a little bit about your parents.

HT: Yeah.

MA: Oh, I'm sorry. Your mother, in particular. What was her name and where was she from in Japan?

HT: Her name was Kazu Kireto before she became Tanigawa and she's from Hiroshima. And my father was the same. He was from Hiroshima. Heishiro Tanigawa. And he had one sister. They had a little store in Hiroshima and that's all the relatives he had. And my mother had several boys, but the two boys, two brothers I should say, were killed in the atomic bomb. So I, when I do, give talks I always tell them it was bad for both sides. When I tell them, Hiroshima, it's, "Oh, no." Kids are just shocked to hear that, but, you know, it's just one of those things.

MA: So how did your father come to the United States? What was that story?

HT: Well, all the young boys, I think he was seventeen when he came, all the young fellows, they said they heard about they could go and make a lot of money in the United States. And that's what he wanted to do, come and make some money and go back to Japan. But, when he came, there was no jobs, there was a lot of, I would say, they were against Japanese and Chinese, I believe, and so he got like a houseboy, or work in the farm. That's about all. And they didn't get money at all. My mother was a "picture bride." You know, when I tell that to the people, "I can't believe it." I say, yeah, they were married for over fifty years. "How can they do that?" I said, well my mother was quite a woman. I just loved her. She was really something else.

MA: What was she like? Can you tell me a little bit about her personality?

HT: She was, she was so good to us. She didn't want us, she didn't learn Japanese, I mean, English, and my dad learned a lot of English but they were not very nice English. You know how the guys would teach him certain bad things. One time my (sister) was, when we were in grade school, she went up there and did a little Japanese dance with an umbrella and a little music. And we were watching her and said, "How does she know? Nobody taught her anything." So after a while the parents came up and said, "That was so nice." And my mother said, "Of course." And I say, "Mom, you shouldn't say, 'of course.'" She just knew just a few words and we laughed. So that means, "of course," that doesn't sound very good. And we laughed about it. She wanted to learn but as long as we were speaking Japanese that was good enough for us also.

MA: And what about your father? What kind of person was he?

HT: He was very nice. He was, he could have been an actor. He knew all the Japanese stories, samurai stories or whatever. Every night we would all lay in bed and he would tell us a story. And we'd listen and listen and then he'd say, "Oh, time to go to bed. Continue tomorrow." And he'd say that in Japanese. "Oh no." And then we'd go to bed. But then the next night he'd continue. He was very, very good in doing that stories and he would, we thought he could have been an actor, but we still talk about... I have just one sibling left, my younger sister. But he was always so good. He worked so hard, too.

MA: What type of work was he doing around the time you were born?

HT: Well, it was farming. And it was grapes. And I think at that time we were out in a different area near Selma. And I think he was out in the farm. He would prune the grapes, the grape vine and then nourish it, and then have, he used to have irrigation pipes that he would plant. He was very good and farming was just a beautiful work that he did. Because in those days you have pipes, you have to bury those and get the water. Water would come from a ditch, it would come. The neighbor would use it first and they would close it, then they'll come to us, so everybody had to be nice to each other. That's the way, we didn't have pumps or anything at that time.

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