Densho Digital Archive
Twin Cities JACL Collection
Title: George M. Yoshino Interview
Narrator: George M. Yoshino
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Bloomington, Minnesota
Date: June 17, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-ygeorge_3-01-0005

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TI: So I'm curious, growing up in Bellevue, did you ever get over to Seattle very much?

GY: Oh, yeah, I got over to Seattle. Took the ferry across from a place called Medina into Seattle, Yesler Place, and from there we took a cable car and went downtown.

TI: And what would be the occasion to go to Seattle?

GY: I don't know, shopping, funerals, weddings, that's about it. I don't know. I liked to go to funerals and weddings, because we always went to it, they always had Chinese food, and represented the family.

TI: Now, when you would go and get the Chinese food, would it be at a Chinese restaurant?

GY: Yeah, Chinese. Different from now. Now, you don't find a restaurant very often, buffet, that's all you have. But them days, we went to a restaurant, Chinese restaurant, and had a feast. It was good.

TI: Now, do you remember any of the names of the restaurants that you would go to?

GY: No, I don't know.

TI: Okay, I was just curious.

GY: I don't know. There was a couple of them downtown, I don't know, Kinka Low or something like that, I don't know. Gyokoken or something like that. That's about all I could tell you, I don't know.

TI: Now, when you went to Seattle, there was a large Japanese community in Seattle. How would you compare the sort of Seattle Japanese community to the Bellevue Japanese community? Were there differences between the two?

GY: Well, I don't think there was too much difference. The kids, Nisei kids went to school. And of course, in town, they went to Japanese school after the English school. So in the country, we only went to Japanese school class on Saturdays. But as far as speaking the Japanese language, I don't think we did it between ourselves. With the folks, yes, but not the young people together. We were out there carousing around, it'd be all in English, not Japanese. That's the difference from what it was today. Today is different.

TI: How so? Why is it different?

GY: Well, the immigrants, this is today, the young people talk amongst themselves all the time. We didn't do that. We stuck to English only. Of course, when we were home, we talked Japanese for the parents. But nowadays it's different.

TI: Well, let's talk about your case because you were the oldest, and I'm imagining that you learned Japanese first at home, that your parents taught you Japanese?

GY: Well, as far as learning goes, you just, you pick it up, you know, just like anything else.

TI: But when you were first being raised, did your parents talk in Japanese or English to you?

GY: Japanese. Japanese all the time.

TI: And so when you went to school the first day, did you know any English?

GY: Oh, yeah. Because as kids we were talking with the neighbors and everything else. So we knew English, and that's what we spoke.

TI: And so around, like, the dinner table, when you had Kenji, Hikaru, Shizu and then your parents? What language would you talk in?

GY: Japanese, yeah.

TI: Okay, so at the home you talked Japanese, but outside with your friends you talked English.

GY: English, yeah.

TI: And you mentioned earlier how in the city, the kids had to go to Japanese language school every day, but in the country, only Saturdays. Why was that? Why didn't you go every day?

GY: Because we only had a clubhouse, and the instructors came from Seattle.

TI: Okay, so the same instructors that were doing every day in Seattle...

GY: Probably, yes.

TI: ...on Saturdays they would come to Bellevue and other places. That makes sense. You mentioned clubhouse, what was the clubhouse?

GY: Clubhouse was the, they built it. The Japanese people in Bellevue and that vicinity got together and built a great big building where we held school, shows, movies shown there, everything there. It was just a place where we come together. Picnics, all the same place.

TI: And so you had picnics, and this is also where the Japanese language classes...

GY: Yeah, yeah. We had judo classes there and everything, kendo classes, a little at a time.

TI: It sounds like a wonderful, kind of, childhood experience. How about with other races? Did you mingle with other non-Japanese in Bellevue?

GY: Well, yeah. Most of the time was during school. But aside from that, ordinary living, I don't think we mingled with them that much, you know. In school, yes. But amongst ourselves or within the community it would be just Japanese, that's all.

TI: But in general, when you look at Bellevue, how would you say the race relationships were between the whites and the Japanese?

GY: I think they were okay. I had no trouble, no. No trouble at all. But after Pearl Harbor, yeah, that's something else. But before that, I don't think we were called "Japs" or anything like that, not that I remember. They could have called us that, but I don't remember that much.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.