Densho Digital Archive
Japanese American Museum of San Jose Collection
Title: Dave Tatsuno Interview
Narrator: Dave Tatsuno
Interviewer: Aggie Idemoto
Location: San Jose, California
Date: January 20, 2005
Densho ID: denshovh-tdave-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

AI: This is a visual history interview with Dave Tatsuno, owner of Nichibei Bussan Department Store in Japantown, San Jose. The interview is being held at the Tatsuno residence, 920 North Second Street, San Jose, California, on January 20, 2005, and is being conducted by Aggie Idemoto. This is a chapter in a visual history project called "Lasting Stories: The Resettlement of San Jose Japantown," a collaboration between the Japanese American Museum of San Jose and the Densho Project of Seattle, Washington. The project is funded by the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program.


AI: Thank you, Dave, for volunteering to share your life story. As noted in the title of this project, we will focus the interview on the post-World War II resettlement era, and the Japantown retail business which you owned, Nichibei Bussan Department Store. The time sequence will be in three phases: pre-World War II, wartime, and lastly, the resettlement era. We will begin with the prewar background, and this is about your parents, okay? We've established that your parents came from Japan. From which prefecture or ken in Japan did they come, and when did they come to the United States? So it's two parts.

DT: Well, my dad is from Nagano, Nagano Prefecture, and my mother is from Kyushu. And my dad came in the, oh, he was a young man yet, you see, so I think he came during the late 1800s, around 1890 or something.

AI: Okay, thank you. Where did your parents live before evacuation?

DT: Before evacuation we lived in Japantown in San Francisco, on Buchanan Street, just a half a block away from our store, which was on Post and, corner of Post and Buchanan.

AI: Okay. As was the custom for so many marriages in Japan, there were arranged marriages involving matchmakers. When did your parents marry, and was theirs' a love marriage or an arranged marriage?

DT: Well, I can't give you the dates right now, but my dad went back to Japan to find a bride in Kyushu, and that's how he married someone seventeen years younger. Seventeen years younger. [Laughs]

AI: Okay. And was it a love marriage or an arranged marriage?

DT: I think it was a Japanese arranged marriage.

AI: So a traditional...

DT: See, he didn't know her before, and met her in Japan, and actually, he went back to find a bride. And so it was not a love marriage.

AI: And their highest level of education?

DT: Oh, my dad? My dad's education, he came from Nagano-ken, Japan, when he was still a, almost a teenager. So his education was not... well, he didn't go to college, probably more grammar school and high school, but not college.

AI: And your mother?

DT: My mother, I don't know too much about her education.

AI: Okay. What kind of work did your father do?

DT: Well, at first, like so many of the Japanese Americans, they were houseboys, and they were working -- in fact, he told me one incident where he was supposed to roast the turkey. And he didn't realize that he was supposed to take everything out of the stomach, and threw it in the oven as it was, and he got fired from the first job. [Laughs]

AI: And then other occupations?

DT: No, and then after that, he started the store, you see, in 1902. And that's, that's how the store got started before the earthquake in 1906. And he, actually, quite an interesting story. He lived next to a tall, brick firehouse, and when the earth shook in 1906, it fell one way, he lived on the other side. If he had... fallen the other way, he wouldn't be around, and I wouldn't be around.

AI: He was one lucky person.

DT: Oh, yes.

AI: And was your mother employed?

DT: Pardon me?

AI: Your mother; was she employed?

DT: Well, employed in the sense that she was a housewife, and later she started a sewing school in the basement of our home on Buchanan Street, and she became a sewing school teacher.

AI: So she owned a school and was a teacher there?

DT: Oh, yeah. It was... well, let's see. They had... of course, in those days, they were all Isseis, but she had as many as fifteen, twenty students. And it was in the basement of our home, and that's how she got started. And then when she went to Japan in 1924, she started her school, and it became a very large school with many pupils.

AI: So you had an educator mother and a retailer father, correct?

DT: More or less. [Laughs]

AI: How would you describe your parents' financial situation?

DT: Well, I don't think he was really a very wealthy man, ever. He had this store that he had... let's see, he started in, way back in 1902, and then the earthquake destroyed it, and in 1907 he went to Gough Street and started another shop, and then moved to the new Japantown. And so during the 1915 San Francisco World's Fair, he had a shop in Japantown, on Buchanan Street. And that's -- then, let's see. That was 1915, and by 1920 he had moved to the corner of Post and Buchanan to a larger store, and that's, that store from 1920, was open 'til the evacuation in 1942, see. But I don't think he was really a very wealthy man. For example, the store that he was in on Post and Buchanan, he didn't own the building. And sad to say, the man who ran the store across the street, Nakagawa, bought the building, so he was really upset over that. So if he had the money, he would have bought the building himself, see.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.