Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: George Yano Interview
Narrator: George Yano
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda, Steve Fugita
Location: San Jose, California
Date: December 1, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-ygeorge_4-01-0009

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: So why don't we get to the point, how did your parents meet?

GY: Well, it wasn't a meeting, it was an arrangement. My grandparents, both sides, who knew each other very well and did, they were in America together, said, "We're gonna have Toshikazu and Mutsuko get married." And they were supposed to get married later, but this was 1941, and even though Pearl Harbor might have been a surprise to many, it seemed like a lot of people knew something was happening. And so he went, my dad and family went back in March or so of 1941, they got married on April 1st, and then they came back here on either the last or second to the last ship that was coming to America. They had to make that ship. So people knew what was happening. Even the ships weren't allowed to be coming into America anymore. And I don't know the details on that, but that's what I heard. It's that they made either the last or second to the last ship to be allowed to come back to America.

TI: So do you know who in your family had the foresight to say, "We got to do this now," in terms of March 1941?

GY: Well, I don't.

TI: Is it like Kameo or...

GY: Well, Kameo was told, and it could have been Mrs. McDonald again, I don't know. But Kameo was told, and that year, 1923, I guess, was a lean year. So he only had so much money. So my grandmother said, "He said he's gonna go back." So he left her a few bucks and said, "If you have any problems, we have some relatives, go borrow from them or whatever, I'll be back." And he took off. And he brought Dad back. And meanwhile, during that trip, my grandmother was harvesting mushrooms on the pasture around the farm. And she made enough money to save, I think she said a hundred dollars or something. It's in my report. But she came out on the positive end by working, by harvesting wild mushrooms.

TI: So she did okay with your grandfather gone.

GY: [Laughs] All by herself.

TI: Interesting.

GY: But she said one of the things that happened was there was a drought, and the well went dry. So she had to carry water from an adjacent farm to theirs, I think, for cuttings. They were doing cuttings, and she had to do that. She said her shoulder swelled up by carrying the water over, stuff like that.

TI: So your father and mother married in 1941, arranged marriage. I guess in Japan that would be common...

GY: Common, yeah. Everybody's, probably over 90 percent was arranged. There was very, in those days, very few what they called "love marriages."

TI: But your dad was kind of, essentially, raised as a Nisei, and so in the U.S. it wasn't as common to have arranged marriages at this period. Did you ever hear your dad talking about that and how he felt about an arranged marriage?

GY: No, no. Because I think back then, even though you're Nisei, unless you were in one of the groups -- and I think a lot of the groups were around different communities or prefectural groups -- that you're not really into it. And he was on the farm most of the time. Like with Yoshio, who was also educated in Japan, and other relatives who came and were working on the farm. So he might have grown up sort of Nisei, but more of a hybrid type Japanese and Nisei.

TI: Interesting, okay.

SF: What was your sense of how common the arranged marriages were among the Nisei, say, in San Jose?

GY: I think in Japan that was the way it was done. Marriages were arranged. I don't know. Among, like on my wife's side, the parents, they started dating, going to dances, it was more of the, quote, "Nisei life." So it was probably rare. It was probably rare when you think about it. But in my grandfather's side, it was, I guess they said, "You're gonna marry such and such," and there was no argument. And my mother was only, when she was married, she was only fifteen, 'cause they had to hurry it. And she was just told, and she just accepted. And we've got pictures of the wedding and all of that. And when she left her village in Yawatahama to, I guess they left by ship to go around to go to Kobe, she said, I said, "Geez, how'd you feel?" She said, "Oh, nothing." It was like they were told to do it, that's what they're gonna do. So there was no choice or regrets or anything like that. [Laughs]

TI: So your mother comes as fifteen years old, did she ever tell you what, how she felt about that, when she came back to America and what was that like?

GY: Yeah, well, some. She was very well taken care of. Ms. Overfelt, she was a schoolteacher, taught her manners, how to cook, and she had, it was like a mother-child relationship. Mrs. Overfelt was helping her as much as she could, she'd like to maintain that relationship. My grandfather was renting Overfelt land at that time. But the war split it all up, but she used to send presents to my mom, Christmas presents and things like that. So, but she didn't live... I wouldn't think that, she was already married, so she doesn't know the Japanese American life at that time, what was happening in San Jose or the surrounding areas, 'cause it was mostly family.

TI: Because I'm thinking, for your mother to have come from Japan at this time period, there'd be so few people coming from Japan at that time. And so it was just kind of a... not necessarily, I mean, it'd just be kind of a rare situation.

GY: Yeah. When you think about it --

TI: I mean, not many peers to really talk with.

GY: It was more common, say, a generation before, twenty years before, twenty or thirty years before, because most of those were arranged marriages. Lot of the Isseis were arranged.

TI: And all before 1924, kind of. And so it's almost like you're right, so like twenty years earlier, it was common, but your mother's experience is not as common.

GY: No. But it was like time warp. The older people decided, so it was decided that she would marry Toshikazu. And in those days, they said yes, no second thoughts. [Laughs]

TI: Now, did your parents ever talk about December 7, 1941, and what happened on that day to either one of them?

GY: No. I mean, it was probably a shock to every Japanese American or Japanese, but one of the things I missed so far.

SF: How do you think your parents felt about America and Japan, your mom and dad?

GY: I don't know. They, like my grandmother was pro-Japan, my grandfather was pro-America. And I think they just lived the circumstances of the time and there were, they were probably in an environment that really didn't nurture those kinds of feelings. The younger people didn't have much say, so they probably just followed along. Yes, I don't know. I wish I would have had this interview before, then I could have asked them.

TI: [Laughs] Asked all these questions.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.