Densho Digital Archive
Twin Cities JACL Collection
Title: Isao East Oshima Interview
Narrator: Isao East Oshima
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Bloomington, Minnesota
Date: June 17, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-oisao-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

MA: Okay, so today is June 17, 2009, and today I'll be interviewing Isao East Oshima. We're in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I'm Megan Asaka, the interviewer, and our cameraperson is Dana Hoshide. So East, thank you for coming to do this interview.

IO: Well, glad to do it.

MA: I wanted to start by asking where you were born.

IO: I was born in Berkeley, California, April 20, 1921.

MA: And how did you get your nickname, East?

IO: Well, lot of, several people, the "Isao," got from "Isao, "East." That's how it come about.

MA: And it just stuck with you your whole life?

IO: People just called me East and I went with East. First it was Ease and then it became East.

MA: And a little bit about your father. What was his name and where was he from in Japan?

IO: Oh, his name was, he was Tadao Okuda. And the reason he said Okuda, that's his name, he's a family of ten children, and he's the fourth one in the family. And the tradition in Japan is that the man, if he's not the oldest, takes the name of the wife if the wife is only girls in the family. So there were no boys to carry on the name, so that's how it come about, Oshima.

MA: And do you know where he was from in Japan?

IO: He was from Tango, Kyoto, Japan. I found that the Kyoto is prefecture as well as city. I didn't know that, you know. Here I thought I was going to go to the city of Kyoto when I went to visit, and heck, we go out in the country in a train for about four or five hours, out to Tango, which is on the other side of the, it's over there by the Sea of China.

MA: What did his family do? What type of work?

IO: Well, his father was a big landowner, and they had, I don't know how much acreage they had, but they had a lot of sharecroppers. And, of course, their family was fairly well, so all the boys were going to college. Of course, Japan had a compulsory military training, so he got a deferment to go to college. But when they did that, they had to pay room and board to the government when they went to the service after they finished college. And he went to college in Tokyo, Japan. And that's where my mother comes in. He had room and board at her place. Her parents had a place for him to stay, room and board, and he went to the college there. So that's the story there, how they met.

MA: And how did they end up in the United States?

IO: And then my father came to the U.S. about 1915, I guess, during World War I. And he came as a student with a college degree, he said he wanted to get more advanced college education in the U.S. Only instead of doing that, he started to work. He said he could get easy money, he thought. [Laughs] So that's what he did. And he went different parts of southern California first, and then he somehow ended up in northern California, up in Oakland or that area, Berkeley area. And he was working at mostly nurseries where they raised roses. So he was in that business, flower, all the time.

MA: And did your mother work as well?

IO: Well, my mother came in 1920, on the last ship from Asia as far as immigration to the U.S., 'cause the U.S. immigration law, they passed a law saying there were no Asians going to be allowed in the U.S.

MA: Right, the Immigration Act, yeah.

IO: So she came on the last boat in 1920.

MA: And were they married in Japan first?

IO: That I don't know. But all I know is that he took the name of Oshima after she got here, I think.

MA: And that was your mother's name.

IO: Yeah, that was my mother's name, Motoko Oshima. She was the only girl, surviving girl in her family of three children. So the others died when they were fairly young, her sisters.

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