Densho Digital Archive
Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL Collection
Title: Shoichi Kobara Interview
Narrator: Shoichi Kobara
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Watsonville, California
Date: November 18, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-kshoichi-01-0016

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: So here's another thing I wanted to ask about your father. This is kind of switching gears, but did he ever talk to you about sort of being Japanese or Nihonjin and what that meant? Like did he ever talk about that Japanese had to be a certain way or anything?

SK: Yeah. He said, "You should always think you're Japanese." He says, "Don't envy somebody, 'wish I was white.'" He said, "Always think you're Japanese. And you have to do a little bit better." If anyone does anything, do a little bit better than the guy if it's humanly possible. You know, never say, 'I'm Japanese, I got no rights," or something like that. Don't think that way.

TI: Did he ever talk about, perhaps, even the Japanese being even better than other races or people?

SK: Well, we should have a better standard, he was saying. Don't say, "Just because I'm Japanese, I'm better," no. He said, "Improve yourself. Do a little bit better." Whatever you do, work, any kind of work. 'Cause all the years, well, worked, every place I've been, they usually compliment me on whatever. 'Cause I remember when I worked about six months in Utah, this family had a small coal mine. And went there in about the '20s. And then I never drove big trucks, but they had, I didn't work in the coal mine itself. 'Cause there were a lot of Japanese working around there in the coal mine. And I used to just drive truck up and down the hill all day long. And got about two, three months into it, the owner really liked me and said, he used to have me come to his home and help him in the moving things and stuff like that. And he always told me, my uncle, my mother's uncle, was running a restaurant there. He was about my age when I went there. And he was telling me, "I didn't know your uncle was a Japanese. When they get old, they all look alike," he says. And I found out Salinas, there was a Cominos family that run the hotel there, and he says, "Yeah, that's Greek." He was Greek, too. "Yeah, I know them," he tells me. So I got really friendly with them. He treated me real good, too, but six month I had to, my father was pretty sick. That was another thing.

TI: Yeah, we'll talk about your father's sickness. But before we go there, did your father ever compliment you? Like when you did a good job in school or work, did he ever compliment you?

SK: You know, the Japanese saying, "Oya baka ko baka"? That means you don't compliment your sons or daughter. Somebody else compliment them, that's the best thing you could, parents could hear. But you don't go out there and say, "Oh, my son got a good grade," or something. They don't brag. That was the old Japanese way. As far as, you know, we never, like nowadays, they hug you and stuff like that, we never, that kind of thing wasn't done then, when we were young.

TI: And do you think that was a valuable thing, a valuable trait to, for parents not to do that?

SK: I don't know. Nowadays, kids, grandkids, they hug you and everything. I think that makes you feel good. Which, when we were young, we'd go to Japanese families, they'll say, "Hi, how are you?" and all of that, but nobody hugged anybody or anything that I knew of. Maybe some of 'em did, but the obasan would come and say, "How was everything?" and stuff like that. "Do you study hard at school?" and stuff like that. Nowadays, it's different. I enjoy it when my grandkids come and hug me.

TI: That's good. That was really well-done. I've never heard that. But I've always felt that the Issei parents never complimented their, their children.

SK: Yeah, see, 'cause of oya baka ko baka. Parents compliment their own kids, that's considered bragging, and you're not supposed to brag.

TI: That's good.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.