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

<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.

<Begin Segment 2>

AI: What language did your parents speak with each other and with you?

DT: Oh, they spoke Japanese, Nihongo.

AI: So you grew up speaking strictly...

DT: Pardon?

AI: You grew up hearing and speaking strictly Japanese?

DT: More or less, yes.

AI: How --

DT: Isseis, they spoke to each other in Nihongo, Japanese, you see, and the Niseis, they picked up Japanese words, but when they first got to grammar school, they had a difficult time adapting because they couldn't speak the English language. I still remember getting to that first class at Henry Duran School, where I couldn't speak English, you see.

AI: How did you feel when you went to --

DT: I felt terrible. Felt terrible to think that you're, you got to school, and you can't speak the language. That's because your parents spoke nothing but Japanese.

AI: And when you were in school, how did you get some help with the language?

DT: Well, naturally, you adapt, and you start talking with your classmates, and we gradually learned to speak English, but it was difficult.

AI: So it was strictly Japanese at home, and then you go to school and it's almost exclusively --

DT: Yeah, it's all English. There's no Japanese at school.

AI: So you've become bilingual.

DT: Right.

AI: Okay.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

AI: How was your family involved in the Japanese community, such as with social, religious, recreational kinds of things?

DT: Yeah, well, you see, we lived right in the heart of Japantown, on Buchanan Street, near Post Street. And so they're involved, I believe, in the Buddhist Church, and, but they were involved in Japantown activities mostly.

AI: Okay. Did your family shop or do business with white or non-Japanese Americans?

DT: Oh, yes, we did that all the time, of course, you know, because we lived -- although we lived in Japantown, the outside was all white, and so you'd shop with Caucasian people, too, although you had your own Japanese grocery stores and Japanese shops, but you still went outside the Japantown area to do some shopping and all that.

AI: Okay. Did your family experience any prejudice or discrimination?

DT: Well, I think all Japanese American families felt the sting of prejudice. I think... they call it haiseki in Japanese. Haiseki, discrimination. And I guess that happened to Japanese people, but it happened to other immigrant groups, too. So, you see, it wasn't only the Japanese, but because we're Japanese Americans and we looked different, we didn't speak the language well, they had race prejudice, prejudice against us. But as we grew up, you see, and adapted to the surrounding area, and we had Caucasian friends, my best friend was a German American youth in junior high school. And so through that, we gradually evolved, you see. But it took a long time, because we lived in such a closed Japanese community, that you didn't go out, but later you joined the YMCA and the Boy Scouts, and the churches, and you gradually branched out, but it took some time.

AI: You said that the Japanese Americans experienced this racial prejudice whether it was overt or pretty subtle. Can you give me an example of what kind of racism?

DT: It's difficult to pinpoint right now, but... it was subtle, it was very subtle. They didn't say, call you by names and all that, although I think, I hear that there were times when people were called names and all that. But it was very subtle. Race prejudice is a very subtle thing. They don't do it overtly, openly, so, but we felt it.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

AI: Okay, now I'm going to use you in this next segment for prewar experiences. So this is a time when you were between ages sixteen to twenty-eight, approximately. Dave, when and where were you born?

DT: This is a very interesting story. They said that I was born in August 18th, in San Francisco, 1913, but my dad used to tell me that I was born in Japan. And sure enough, one day I found a diary, his diary, and it said "March the 31st, 1913, Masaharu, born." Well, if that's the case, I was born in Japan. And I still to my -- I'm sorry that I didn't question my dad more on the details of the thing, but, so actually, there was a picture, my sister had a picture of my grandmother carrying me from Japan to the United States. And so there's evidence that we were, I was born in Japan. But you see, I was more or less recorded as born in San Francisco on August 16th. And so I have a citizenship from August of 1913. And then the very strange thing is the, on the birth certificate, it says, "Admitted to San Francisco on March the 15th of 1913" on the back side, signed immigration officer. I can't understand that, why that would be there, but it says, "Admitted to San Francisco" -- and I wasn't born 'til March the 31st -- "March 15th." It's a crazy thing. And then on top of that, the birth certificate, if you turn it over, it says, "Sex of child: mail," M-A-I-L. [Laughs] So I was a fast mail.

AI: So you get two birthday celebrations every year. [Laughs]

DT: Yeah, but I use March the 31st.

AI: Okay, so that's your official one.

DT: Yeah.

AI: Okay.

DT: Although to get social security, I had to wait 'til August.

AI: Huh, okay. Well, that is a very interesting story.

DT: Oh, it is. It's odd.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

AI: And Dave, what about your education? What schools did you attend?

DT: Well, I went to grammar school in Japantown, then I went to... then in junior high school, Hamilton junior high school, I was very active then. I was president of the student body, and I was a, a editor of the school paper on my low ninth year, and I was, on my high eighth year, I was a debater for the school, and I used to go to the junior high school to debate. So we were very active in junior high school. And incidentally, that was a time when I was living alone, you see. My father, the whole family went to Japan in 1924, right after the great, 1923 earthquake. Then my dad brought me back alone to San Francisco, and left me in care of the, a guardian who was running a San Francisco store. Only thing is, he was a drunk, and he would drink morning, noon, and night. And can you imagine at the age of thirteen, fourteen, I was eating my dinner in the corner restaurant every night, with a meal ticket. And so people don't know that. They think, "Oh, gee, Dave had a wonderful, easy time of life." But you see, so I had a very difficult time, and finally the meal ticket ran out. So what did I do? I went to Hojo grocery store in the neighborhood, and I said, "May I charge, tsukete kudasai, charge my food until my parents come back from Japan?" So I, at the age of thirteen, fourteen, I was cooking my own dinner, sukiyaki, tempura, all kinds of food that people -- that's why people are surprised that I could cook well. At the age of thirteen, fourteen, I was cooking my own dinner. 'Til finally, what happened? The bill kept on mounting, and my parents hadn't come back. So they said, "Gee, we're sorry, but the bills are stacked up quite a bit, and we don't know when we'll be paid, so we'll have to stop it." Then at that time, I had become active in the Japanese YMCA, and Fred Koba, the executive there, heard about it. "Dave, you come and eat at my house." So every night, I used to go to the Koba family, and Mrs. Koba used to feed me. What a story. I mean, average person don't know that.

AI: That is...

DT: "Oh, Tatsuno-san, Nichibei Bussan, had it easy, soft." You see? But they don't realize the real stark story of my childhood. I don't know if I should say any more.

AI: Well, that is a very fascinating story, but it also triggered in my mind, if you were supposedly born in San Francisco and then went back to Japan and returned, is that not the definition of a Kibei, and what do you call yourself? Nisei, Kibei?

DT: Well, no, I was there only about nine months, you see.

AI: Oh, okay.

DT: And then I went to school there for five months. And, you know, going to school there at the age of ten, I became a Japanese in the five months that I... all the classmates, Tanaka-san, Takaoyu, Saburo, they became such good friends in Tokyo. And so when I came back to the United States, I really missed them. I really missed Japan, 'cause I was ten years old then, you see.

AI: Sure.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

AI: Dave, you mentioned elementary school in San Francisco, and Lowell High School. Beyond that, your education included...

DT: Well, then I went to Hamilton Junior High School, then Lowell High School, and yet I went to Cal. And I was at Cal for four years.

AI: And which campus was that?

DT: Oh, the Berkeley.

AI: Berkeley.

DT: And the thing of it is, after I finished Lowell High School in December of '31, I couldn't continue to go to Cal University directly because of the Depression. Oh, it was quiet. Our store, some day you would sell fifteen dollars, you know? It was really bad. And so I stayed out one year and worked at the store, helped with the store. And then finally in January of '33, I went to Cal. January of '33, and I commuted on the ferryboat four years. There was no bridge. They had just started the bridge construction January of '33 when I started the ferryboat excursions, and then they finished the bridge and opened it to traffic in 1936, November. I finished December '36. So I saw the whole Bay Bridge go up in four years, from the ferryboat.

AI: How long was that trip each day that you went to school?

DT: Pardon me?

AI: How long did it take you to get to school?

DT: Oh, it took twenty minutes.

AI: Okay.

DT: Twenty minutes.

AI: And your major?

DT: Oh, and then I majored, naturally -- you know, I wanted to go into diplomatic service and all that, and then some people said I should become a minister, because I was very active in the church work. But, you know, we had a store to run, so my major was business administration. But, you know, I minored in public speaking. I took four years of public speaking, and had some great -- in fact, I used to get "A's" in public speaking, and so, and at Topaz, I taught high school seniors, five classes, public speaking. And some of the classes were small classes, but some of 'em were thirty, thirty students. And that was kind of experience, and I still wonder how I got the material to teach with. Because there, but somehow I managed it, and I had the five classes.

AI: So you were a teacher, too, like your mom. And how did you do in school?

DT: Well, I guess in school I did all right. I was not a scholarship type of a person, but I didn't do too bad. Oh, incidentally, at Cal -- remember now, I was commuting for four years on the ferry, I was helping at the store, and I was active in conferences -- and I came out of Cal with straight "B's." And that isn't bad, because Cal is not as easy, but, so I was an honor student at Cal. Four years, straight "B."

AI: Good for you; that's great. And while you were in school -- not only at Cal, but throughout your education -- was there some parental pressure to do well in school?

DT: Not, not really. Well, I mean, the average Issei parents would more or less encourage the children. But in my case, as I said, I grew up like an orphan, and so I had my own initiative to... so the parents didn't have to tell me to study and all that.

AI: So you were a self-starter.

DT: Yeah, oh, yeah.

AI: Okay. We talked a little bit earlier about the fact that you grew up speaking strictly Japanese, and then became bilingual, spoke English also.

DT: Yeah.

AI: Would you describe your language development as you went on through the grades?

DT: Well, I still remember, I was in the first grade, or was it... yeah. Teacher was a very cranky teacher, Ms. Hill. And I remember I couldn't speak any English at that time, when I got into the class. But as you went to class, you know, children adapt, and then you start to speak English, and so you finally mastered the language, but you had to do it the hard way, you see.

AI: Well, you, you obviously have done a lot of public speaking. Do you also speak in Japanese when you do the public speaking?

DT: Not really. My Japanese is -- except for the short period I stayed in Japan, was mostly Japanese language school, and you didn't speak the language like Nihongo that well, so I didn't speak much in Japanese. It was all in English.

AI: Okay.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

AI: What group activities did you participate in?

DT: Well, I was very active in the YMCA, and YMCA became my father and mother. I played track, basketball, swimming, YMCA camp, I was a camp counselor for four years until I went to Cal, and so the Y kept me real busy. So it's amazing but, how my life revolved around the YMCA.

AI: Were there any church groups or community groups that you belonged to?

DT: Oh, yes. We went to... well, strange, I first went to Catholic Church -- no, well, I first, as a little tot, I was in the Buddhist Church, then, then my junior high school days, I guess it was, my next-door-neighbor went to Catholic Church. So went to Catholic Church, and I was even baptized a Catholic. And then later on, I became active in the YMCA, Fred Koba was active with the, superintendent of the San Francisco Church of Christ, but a Protestant. And so I left the Catholic Church, which was, I'm damned to eternal, eternal condemnation for that. I went to a Presbyterian church, and became active in the Protestant, then I got, became active in the YPCC, Young People's Christian Conference movement, and so I became Protestant. And so I was a Presbyterian at that time, then when I moved to San Jose, there were no Presbyterian churches, but I knew Reverend Osuga of the Methodist Church, so I became a Methodist. So it's been a transformation.

AI: A variety of religions, yes. Dave, would you please describe your friends, who you hung out with all this time, their ethnicity, gender, age group?

DT: Well, you see, at the time that we were, say, in junior high school and high school, our friends were Nisei, except for that one gentleman of American youth that was my pal. It was all -- especially when you go to the YMCA. It was a Japanese YMCA, so it was all Niseis that you hung around with. And then even at Cal, you had the Japanese student club, so you're involved with Japanese Americans, Nisei. So we led a rather -- not a sheltered life, but we were dealing with fellow Niseis, see? Not too much Caucasians, although later when I became active in the YMCA as president of the YMCA for five states, I was on the YMCA board, and National Council, I went to the national meeting back east four times. I flew a quarter of a million miles for the YMCA, then became involved with non-Niseis.

AI: Okay.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

AI: Would you please describe your family gatherings, and/or interactions which describe relationships between your parents and family?

DT: Well, we had our social occasions among the family, you know, but nothing special to talk about. Nothing really special. Not... I'm wondering what you're trying to drive at, but...

AI: Did you see each other very often?

DT: Oh, yeah. It was a normal growing-up period with the family, and then with friends, and with conferences and with athletics, track, football, basketball, swimming.

AI: How about like New Year's?

DT: Pardon me?

AI: New Year's, any of the holidays.

DT: Oh, yeah, but it was always spent with the family, usually... family.

AI: Dave, I can't imagine you ever having to be disciplined as a child, but...

DT: Pardon me?

AI: I can't imagine you ever having to be disciplined as a child, but if you were, what was the reason and what was the punishment?

DT: Well, I think as a child, I don't remember too many spankings. But the Issei parents were very strict, and if you did anything out of the ordinary, they would spank you.

AI: So you would consider your parents as being strict with child, childbearing?

DT: I think so. I think Isseis tend to be strict with the children.

AI: So you got a few spankings now and then?

DT: Oh, yeah, oh, yeah.

AI: Okay. Before the family evacuated, what were your career aspirations?

DT: Well, you see, before the family evacuated, I was already running the San Francisco store. I had finished at Cal, business administration major, and we were operating the store. That store was open 1902, and we had to close it in 1942, during the evacuation, you see. So I was occupied with that.

AI: And you mentioned just a little bit about ministry and diplomatic service?

DT: Yes.

AI: What prompted that?

DT: You know, you had, not childhood, but youth. I was active religiously, so some people said, "You should become a minister," and then a diplomatic service and all that. But when you come right down to it, we had a store, Nichibei Bussan, to run. And I was the oldest son, so naturally, I had to carry that on.

AI: Okay.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

AI: We're going to move on now to wartime experiences, and this would put you at, oh, approximately twenty-eight to thirty-two years of age. It's Sunday, December 7, 1941. Would you please recall the precise moment that you heard about the bombing of Pearl Harbor?

DT: Oh, yes. I can tell you that precise moment was... you see, it was December, of course. And the wholesalers downtown were open Sunday. So we had been going down to the toy wholesaler to buy toys for our store. And on the way back, on the radio, says, "Pearl Harbor has been bombed by unidentified enemy planes." And that's when I first heard about Pearl Harbor.

AI: How did you feel when you heard that?

DT: Well, naturally we're shocked, number one. Number two, you see, in our store, we had customers come by on the way to Japan. The ship was, from Los Angeles come to San Francisco and dock, and the customers would come in to buy merchandise to take to Japan. And the way they acted, you see, that there might be something untoward happening. And so I had kind of a funny inkling of, that there might be something going. And sure enough, Pearl Harbor.

AI: Would you describe what it was like when your family was forced to move upon short notice? How did everyone feel about having to move?

DT: Well, that's a very, very easy answer, easy question to answer. That here we were, innocent, we didn't do anything wrong, and we're asked to go behind the barbed wire, with hardly any preparation, with hardly, with very little luggage to take, and then, you see, my dad, he's Issei, and he was saying that, shikata ga nai. Pearl Harbor was such a big blow in history, that the Japanese Americans were affected by prejudice or hysteria, war hysteria. That you have to get -- well, actually, very interesting, I went to the hearing by the Tolan Congressional Committee, because at that time of Pearl Harbor, I was president of the San Francisco JACL. The former president was Henry Itani, and he took the job of taking over as a paid worker to help the evacuees, so I became the president. And I still remember we went one day to the Tolan Congressional Hearing, Mike Masaoka, Henry Itani and myself. And as we sat there, they said, "Did you know that they cut sugar cane, they cut arrows in the sugar cane pointing toward Pearl Harbor? Did you know that one of the Jap aviators shot down had a University of California class ring?" All we could say is, "We weren't there. We don't know anything about it." They were not true. They were not true, but that's what they told us, you see. So, what a shock.

AI: I'd like to follow up on what you just mentioned, being president of the San Francisco JACL at the time of Pearl Harbor. Did you have certain responsibilities or actions that you felt you needed to voice or, or do as president of a civil rights group?

DT: No. At the time of Pearl Harbor, you couldn't see anything. Everything was turmoil, you see. It's not just like a ordinary peacetime. It was a terrible, Pearl Harbor was a terrible disaster and a big blow. And what could you say? What could you say, really?

AI: What about the membership of the JACL? Were there people stirring up some, some thoughts about what happened?

DT: No. Everybody was cowed. Remember now, bang, out of a thunderbolt, Pearl Harbor happened. We were shocked, we don't know what to do, you see? It's nice to talk about it historically now, but when it happened, oh, it was quite a blow.

AI: So you were numb.

DT: Yeah. See, people that study it now as history, you could look at it objectively. But not then. We were right in the middle of it, subjectively. So wow, Pearl Harbor.

AI: And did, did you carry this leadership role for JACL into camp? Did you continue that --

DT: No, no, I was just president at that time, and then in camp, see, I was, that was San Francisco JACL, and in camp, they didn't have, for a while, I don't think they had JACL. But I was active, very active in camp. See, I taught Sunday School, I taught young people's classes, I did a lot of things in camp. Kept me busy, plus the fact that I was manager of the co-op dry goods store, and I had to go back east three times to buy. Can you imagine buying in the wartime atmosphere? And what happened, I was running the -- because I had the previous dry goods experience, at Topaz when I got there, they called me and said, "Dave, will you help manage the new co-op dry goods store?" And well, they said I had dry goods experience. Well, the first thing that happened was this: the people, the WRA people in charge of co-operatives had a meeting in St. Louis, and St. Louis, they have two big stores Ely 'n Walker and Rice Stix. And they said, "You know, they're gonna have a camp co-op store. Maybe we could find some merchandise." Now remember, these directors had no dry good experience, no experience with Japanese Americans, and so now the fellow that, in camp, Mr. Honderichs, nice fellow. Very nice fellow. But then they took him around, saying he should buy some of this, buy some of that, buy... and you know what? They said, "Hey, this is a chance to get rid of your dead stock. So sell 'em all the dead stock that you can." So he went around, and gee, the bill was way up high, and they got scared. So they said they'll cut in half and send half of it. So what happens? They ship it to Topaz. In the meantime, I, they asked me to be store manager. "Oh, the merchandise has come in to the warehouse. Would you go take a look at them?" And I look at it, and what happens? Size 17 collar shirt, no Japanese would wear that. I could see that all the stock was dead stock, they wanted to get rid of it. And I said, wow, we have to sell it at the store. Well, no matter how hard you try, you can't sell a 17 collar, big shirt to a Japanese American.

AI: So you were continuing your retail skills in camp.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

AI: But I need to back up in time, just a little bit. After you were notified about the attack in Pearl Harbor, your family needed to move. Were they kept together?

DT: Who is this?

AI: Your family. Were they kept together or were they split up when they had to move on?

DT: Well, first we went to Tanforan racetrack, and then we stayed there for five months.

AI: Together, your whole family.

DT: Yeah, all together. We were in barracks, of course. Now, the people who got there first were sad. They were housed in horse stalls, and my wife's father and mother, they had to stay in horse stalls. We got there later, they had new barracks that they had built, so we got in the new barracks. But that was sad, going into horse stalls. Stench of all that.

AI: So the first arrivals were in horse stalls because the barracks were not complete?

DT: Right.

AI: Is that...

DT: Right.

AI: And this was at Tanforan.

DT: Tanforan.

AI: And when was it that you went to Tanforan, and how long did you remain?

DT: Well, we got there on May the 11th, I think, of '42. And then I left for Topaz in September of '42. And before that, you see, what happened was this: we were scheduled to be moved to Topaz, but what happened? We had rented our house in San Francisco to a couple. We didn't know, we're in a rush to get out, we had to have somebody come in. And so we didn't know this couple, we rented it to them, and they seemed like a very nice couple, and they came to Tanforan with a gallon of hot chicken soup, the first time. Two weeks later they come with a crate of strawberries. And we said, "Gee, these are nice people." We don't know, didn't know them from Adam. Well, one day an announcement was made that, "Those of you that have property in the Bay Area, there may be an opportunity to check with a guard." And I said, "Huh. These are nice people, I don't have to go. Hey, I want to eat some chow mein at the King Inn Restaurant in San Francisco," so I signed up. Well, the whole story short, I got there, found out they had broken into the back and broken into the basement, they were selling some things. It was a long story, but I found out. And so anyway, it was quite a story.

AI: So you had some losses?

DT: Pardon me?

AI: So you had some big losses.

DT: No, we didn't. We got there just in time to catch them before they had gone into the complete, the cellar. Now, if we got there after the war, three years afterwards, it'd be like many other people, nothing left except albums.

AI: So this was during the assembly center time?

DT: Assembly center time.

AI: While you were at Tanforan.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

AI: So from Tanforan, you already mentioned that you were sent to Topaz? How did you travel to get there, and about how long was the trip?

DT: Oh, I mean, old trains. Old trains.

AI: And do you recall about how long it took to get there?

DT: I think it took about a day and a half.

AI: So Topaz is in...

DT: In Utah.

AI: Okay. And Tanforan to Topaz, Utah?

DT: Right.

AI: And it was a day and a half, approximately?

DT: That's right.

AI: Okay. So after about a day and a half of traveling in this train, you arrive at Topaz. Would you please describe your first impressions, such as the type of weather, the environment, the living conditions?

DT: Well, you know, it was very dusty. Remember now, Topaz is in the desert, and they dug up all, all the sagebrush to build the barracks. And so it was full of dust, and we had dust storms. And as someone said, "Dave Tatsuno said like coating face powder," you see. That's what it was.

AI: So besides dust, what other environmental kinds of things can you say would describe the Topaz experience?

DT: Well, actually, we were in barracks, ate in mess halls, and so there was really no, very little privacy, you see. So it was a regular, living in a concentration camp, that's what it was.

AI: And what was a typical day at camp like? What activities did you get involved in?

DT: Well, see, you can't talk about me, because I was very busy. Not only did I teach Sunday School and help with the church group, I started the YMCA, and then I was a buyer for the camp, camp store. And I made twenty thousand miles around the United States buying for the co-op store. Now, how many people got out of camp to do that? I was in... see, I bought merchandise in Salt Lake City eleven times. I went to Kansas City, Denver, Chicago, St. Louis, three times to buy merchandise. Now, people say, "Gee, you mean they let you out to buy merchandise?" I said, "They had to." Here we had a store in camp, and we write purchase orders out, they say, "It's wartime, a war going on. There's a shortage. Who's this out there in the desert of Utah? Don't send anything." So what happened? They said, "Dave, you have to go out and look for merchandise." So I went out three times. Eleven times to Salt Lake City, and you know, you had to beg, borrow, and steal. You get there and they say, they say, "Where you from?" "From behind the barbed wire. Japanese American." Then they, you start working on their sympathy. Say, "But we're Japanese, we're citizens. We didn't do anything wrong. I had a store in San Francisco that we had to close. We were behind barbed wire, barracks. My family's living in a barrack." And they start feeling sorry. They said, "Gee, if that's the case, we'll give you some of this merchandise." Merchandise that's very scarce wartime, and that's how I got merchandise. And I did that in Kansas City and St. Louis and Chicago. It was hard work. Real hard work. But on the other hand, I got to eat food. In camp they were getting beef heart, kidney, and all that. But outside, there was no cafeteria, and boy, a tray full of food you would get to eat, because...

AI: As a buyer, you said you worked for the co-op stores. What does that mean, a "co-op store"?

DT: It was a co-op formed by the people in camp. They put up dollars and made an enterprise: Topaz Consumer Cooperative Enterprises. So they had the canteen, the dry-goods store, the barber shop, movie, beauty parlor, I guess. They had different, different enterprises. That's what it was.

AI: Do you know if this was unique to Topaz? Did other camps have such co-ops?

DT: Oh, yes, other camps had it, too.

AI: Uh-huh.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

AI: And then you also mentioned forming a YMCA. Can you elaborate on that?

DT: Well, you see, they sent the fellow from the national office named George Corwin to help us start a YMCA in Topaz. And it was not a -- remember now, we had no building, so we had clubs. And in my movie that I -- there's a movie of my, one of my, the Topaz Hi-Y Club, and then we had a camp out in the desert. And I have some of the religious services that we had in camp, the mimeograph sheets, but it was not an extensive YMCA. You didn't have a building, you see, but we got these small groups organized; that's what we did.

AI: So did the national YMCA support it in any way?

DT: Oh, yeah. They sent a fellow named George Corwin all the way from the national to get us started.

AI: And was there funding from them?

DT: I don't remember what it was now, but there must have been some funding. I don't remember the details now.

AI: So you were a YMCA executive director? Is that the...

DT: Well, not executive director, but a officer of the Y. Yeah, got it started.

AI: How large was the group and what did you do?

DT: Huh?

AI: How large was your membership and what did you do?

DT: It wasn't large. It wasn't large. They had Hi-Y Club, and we had Y camp out in the desert. That's the two thing I remember now.

AI: Okay.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

AI: What are some special events or incidents that occurred in camp, both good or bad? Are there any that stick in your memory?

DT: I guess if you go back to the Topaz Times newspaper, you find all kind of activities that they had. They had dances, they had baseball. You see, remember, they're behind barbed wire, and they had to amuse themselves. So it was not easy; it was not easy. And, 'course, most of the Isseis, they were taking life easy, you know. They're behind the barbed wire, and so you try to make the best of it, but it was not easy.

AI: So what were your parents doing? When you say the Issei were "taking life easy," were there some hobbies that they started or continued?

DT: Yeah, the Isseis had the hobbies of making things out of stone out in the desert, all that. They had different classes, I remember.

AI: Okay. Did any family members volunteer to serve in the military while being incarcerated?

DT: Well, a number of fellows went out from camp. Now, one of them story is a fellow named Nobu Kajiwara of Oakland. He wanted to volunteer and was the only son. And the parents said, "Oh, Nobu, wait for the draft. You're the only son; don't go." But he says, "I must go." And so he signed up, and he was in the 442 combat team, and he was killed while crossing the Volturno River. And this is the story... only son. So Gladys Bell, the wife of the associate project director who was very friendly to evacuees, and Roscoe Bell himself used to come to our church service. And so Mrs. Bell said -- after Nobu was killed, he, she went to see Nobu's mother and said, "Gee, I'm sorry to hear about Nobu's passing, especially he was the only son." And you know what Mrs. Kajiwara said to him? "Mrs. Bell, many mothers are losing their sons, some their only son. Why should I be any different?" I gave that at a talk at camp, I remember.

AI: How about your own family? Did --

DT: Well, my, my brother was in the University of Utah, student relocation, then he was drafted and he was to replace the 442 combat team, and the war ended. And then so he went to Japan with the occupation.

AI: Can you explain that a little? You said your younger brother was in the University of Utah, student of...

DT: Well, you see, they had what they call a student relocation, so that some of the Niseis, people could go to college back east and all that. And so he was at the University of Utah, and you know what? Very interesting -- I just got a tape in the mail yesterday. He was -- at the University of Utah, he was on the basketball team that won the national championship. And although he was allowed to go back east to play, they had another Nisei named Wat Misaka, a Utah young man, and he was number five man. And so they won the national championship. But as I say, my brother didn't get to go, because he was not a native Utahan. And so I just got the tape yesterday from Wat Misaka showing some of the historical moments. And well, my brother's not around to see it, but I thought I'll give it to his son, see?

AI: To your knowledge, did many students pick up on that offer for the Student Relocation Program?

DT: Well, I can't give you the number, but there were quite a few that did go. They went to college back east and all over, but I don't have the exact number.

AI: So if they were in a college or university at the time --

DT: Yeah.

AI: -- then they were allowed to, to remain there and continue?

DT: Well, I guess... I don't know whether -- "student relocation" they called it, and they applied for going out to, say, whatever colleges back east and all that. And my brother went to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

AI: Okay. While you were incarcerated, what were your dreams and concerns about life after camp?

DT: Well, you look back on it now, and all you hope for was that you can get back, you see, and reestablish life again. And then, you know, I felt sorry for so many people, they had nothing to go back to. You see? They lost their job or whatever it was. It was a very bleak time. And so the people in camp, the uppermost worry was what's gonna happen to them after the war, back of their mind.

AI: And the final question for this particular era: what financial resources were your parents able to hold on to through the camp period? You mentioned a little bit about the property loss --

DT: Yeah, well...

AI: -- at Tanforan time.

DT: What cash you had, they didn't take it away. You had it in a savings bank, you see, but otherwise, many of the store or property and everything else, you lost so much, because you didn't convert it into cash. But we were able to hold onto some cash, but not much.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

AI: Okay, Dave, we're going to move now into the resettlement era. And this puts you at about thirty-two years to adult. Okay? When did you leave Topaz?

DT: We left Topaz in 1945, I remember. Yeah, 1945, and we went to San Francisco. By the way, we did not go with a group; we went just as a family. I had a special permit to go back to California. I wrote to the commanding general and I said, "Here we are, we have done nothing wrong, we've been in the desert for three years, and it's silly for us to stay in camp." And by golly, the army answered in saying, "We're gonna let you go home." Well, right after they said that, they opened the coast to the Japanese Americans anyway.

AI: Oh, so you went back a little earlier than some of the others?

DT: Not necessarily earlier, but by the time I got the permission to go, they said that California was going to be, people were gonna go back to California anyway. [Laughs]

AI: And so you resettled in San Francisco where you...

DT: Well, we went, we went to our home. You know, we had our home there.

AI: Right. Back home.

DT: And we were very fortunate. Many of the people, they didn't know what to do. They go out of camp with twenty-five dollars, and what do they do? I ran a hostel at the Church of Christ for people to stay and all that. And, and in fact, what I did was after I got back to San Francisco, I helped resettlement for a year-and-a-half, under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church and the Reform Church, and I helped people try to get jobs, find places to stay. And then I spoke at the University of California Berkeley, I spoke at San Francisco State College. I was, I was, kept busy. I have a list of (...) hundreds of things I did during that time.

AI: I'm going to back up just tiny bit. You traveled back home to San Francisco how?

DT: By train.

AI: Okay. Was this ride any different from the train ride going to camp?

DT: Oh, it was different because we were just our family only, going back, not as a group. And let's see... my father and Alice, and three children. So we had our own little compartment, and we went back that way.


AI: So upon disembarking from the train, what were your thoughts and feelings about coming home?

DT: Well, I think I wrote about that period, the feeling of coming home. It was naturally quite a emotional feeling, after being in the desert for three years, and then to come back, to see San Francisco, for example, on the ferryboat crossing the bay. And then there's a, in my private movie, there's a shot of our family entering our home on 1625 Buchanan Street, my father, too, and that's not in the movie that I show of Topaz to other people. It's the private one that I kept aside. It was too, too personal. But there's a shot of my dad and us going into the home on Buchanan Street.

AI: So it sounds like you've documented quite a bit of your experiences. You mentioned the movie, and you also mentioned that you wrote about coming home. Did you keep a journal or some kind of a account?

DT: I have it someplace, things I wrote. Not exactly a journal, but some of the thoughts that I had at that time. In fact, I wrote -- just before we were evacuated, I wrote a piece, and it's someplace around there. It might be in that box of evacuation material.

AI: So those have been for your own personal use, or have they been published?

DT: They haven't been published, no.

AI: Anything else that you wrote about that's a big part of your experience?

DT: Well, we, as I said, my experience was unique in the sense that I traveled twenty thousand miles on the United States buying for the co-op store. How many people had the opportunity to be running around the United States during wartime? And talk about unique experience, one night I was on a train going to New York for the first time. And I was, of all things, I was sitting next to a beautiful blonde, and she was a lovely person from Iowa. And she was going to New York to meet her husband at the merchant marine. And so we had, both of us sleeping together. I don't know if we had one cover or not. And two sailors were just returning from the Battle of Tarawa Island -- it was very bloody -- came, and she was very pretty. So they sat in front of us and turned around and started talking to her. Then they said, "Oh, here's a Jap flag that we got during the invasion of Tarawa, and here's a picture of a dead Jap soldier." He shows it to me, too, you know. And they didn't realize that I was Japanese American. So it was a very unique experience. That happened on that train.

AI: Okay.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

AI: What type of support system did your family have when you returned? You provided a lot of support for others by forming this hostel and trying to find jobs, but what about a support system for your own family?

DT: Well, you see, when I got back, first of all, we were fortunate that we had a home at 1625 Buchanan Street. And then the church -- because I was active in church -- asked me to do, help the evacuees come back. So I did that for about a year and a half. And actually, they paid me to do that, you see. The Presbyterian Church and the Reform Church combined, and the man that was in charge was Dr. Gordon K. Chapman, and he said, "Dave, we want you do that; help evacuees." And so I did that for a year and a half, and I got sick. I was so busy that... not a nervous breakdown, but I had kind of a breakdown. And so after a year and half, I figured that I had helped enough. And then I decided to reopen my store in Japantown. And then I had no location, because the corner store was rented, and it was occupied. So you know what we did? Next to the corner store was a three-story house. We jacked the whole house up and made a store in that, in that building. And at first, when the idea came up, I was talking to Mr. Honda, the Issei carpenter. And he said, "Tatsuno-san, why don't you jack your house up and make a store underneath?" I said, "Can you do that? Oh," I said, "how much does it cost?" "Oh, about two thousand dollars." [Laughs] It finally cost six thousand, but it was worth it because we had no rent after that. And so we had this house, we were living upstairs, and jacked up just enough height for the store, and the garage became a store. And that's how we started in 1946. All kind --

AI: And how were --

DT: -- all kinds of stories.

AI: So your store in San Francisco was established in 1946. What about the store in San Jose?

DT: Well, what happened was this: in 1946, we reopened the store underneath our house. In '47, just when we were gonna celebrate one year, we took our oldest son for a tonsil operation, to the Stanwood Hospital, and he died of a tonsillectomy. Anesthetics death, and he was almost seven. Very bright boy, he was loved by everybody; big eyes, long eyelashes, and we couldn't stay in San Francisco after that. So that's why we moved to San Jose, and came looking around for property, and little Japantown in San Jose, I didn't know too much about it. How are you going to find a location for a shop? Well, again, a funny thing happened. I walked into a grocery store run by Italian couple. And I asked them about location, and they gave me some suggestions, "Go downtown, go down to see the city manager," and everything, all that. Well, I came back, and I said, they said, "Why don't you use this place for a store?" But I said, "You people are running a business." "Oh, no, no." See, the new market had opened across the street, and so they were dying a slow death, and so they wanted to get out, you see. And so we rented that place, I negotiated for rental, they said they wanted two hundred dollars a month. I said, "One seventy-five." "No, two hundred." And so finally, I went back to San Francisco, and one month I didn't come. Then when I came back, they were surprised to see me, and so I said... finally, oh, I said, "One seventy-five," they said, "Two hundred," and then I went out to eat lunch. And I told 'em, "I'm going to eat lunch and come back and make up my mind by then." Well, when I came back, the man said, "You won't pay more than one seventy-five? You're very weak." And I said, "No." So we got it for one seventy-five with a three-year lease. And that's how we got started in that building.

AI: Good negotiating.

DT: Yeah, so it's, lot of stories about what happened.

AI: So with the tragic death of your brother in 1947, you, you just moved away from those memories and established --

DT: No, no, no. That was my son, not my brother.

AI: Your son, your son. Okay.

DT: Yeah. So we moved to San Jose, and we started the shop in San Jose on the day he died, a year after. July, we opened it in San Francisco, July he died in San Jose -- in San Francisco, and we moved to San Jose and opened July 11, 1948. So we've been there since 1948. And in the meantime, what happened? Would you believe this? That I'm very active in the YMCA, and I ended up by flying a quarter of a million miles for the YMCA in memory of my son. And I was in Geneva, Switzerland, for the world meeting, I was in Tokyo for the world meeting, I went back east a number of times as a living memorial to my son. And that happened when I -- at the YMCA of San Jose, they had a Youth World Committee, and the chairman was Dr. George, a professor at San Jose State. And his program became such that he couldn't continue, so they asked me to be chairman. So went to this committee of ten or so, I told them that I'd like to dedicate my Y work as a living memorial to my son, and I ended up a quarter million miles flying for the YMCA. I mean, it's, it's quite a story.

AI: It is.

DT: Yeah.

AI: Very heartwarming.

DT: Then, of course, scuba diving, how we started diving, I started the course at the Y, and we taught six thousand divers without an accident, but I'm not an instructor; I just got the course started, you see. And so one thing leads to the next.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

AI: In terms of your move to establish the store in San Jose, why did you choose Japantown to start a business rather than anywhere in San Jose? Why Japantown?

DT: Well, I think we had come once before, and we saw Japantown first time. And so we said, "Well, maybe this would be the best place, naturally. We started a shop in San Mateo, it was no good. That thing go, my brother was running it, but San Mateo was not the place.

AI: Was it because of the kind of product you were selling? Was it Japanese, ethnic --

DT: No, it was right close to downtown San Jose -- downtown San Mateo. We had no chance.

AI: When you established it in San Jose, what were you, what kinds of things were you selling?

DT: Oh, we were regular Nichibei Bussan, Arrow shirts, Levis. American goods. And then what happened? My brother was running the San Francisco store, and he said, "You know, people that come from back east, Japantown and San Francisco, they don't want Levis, they want Japanese goods." So we converted the store in Japanese goods, they sent all the American goods to us. In the meantime, over here, big shopping centers opened up. And so die a slow death. And we said, "Ah-hah. We have to change our whole tactics." And so we went into Japanese merchandise, we got rid of all our American merchandise, and that's how we survived. The department stores downtown, two of 'em, big ones, closed up. They couldn't beat the shopping store competition. But we had things that they didn't have, you see. Kimonos, happi coats, martial arts, that's what happened.

AI: Was there anyone else, Japanese American or non-Japanese American, who helped you starting up your business?

DT: Where, in --

AI: Here.

DT: Here?

AI: We're now in the San Jose part of your life.

DT: Not really. I think, as I said, we found that grocery store location, it was a gamble. We didn't know what the future was going to be, but we got in there and before we knew it we were to buy the place, and before we knew it, it expanded in '52, and in '58 we expanded again. We bought the lot behind us. So it just so happened that everything went very well, you see. But we didn't know it was gonna be that way.

AI: So did your family have to rely on any financial resources?

DT: Oh, well, naturally, you go to the banks to borrow money to do all the remodeling and the expansion. You can't do it on your own cash; you borrow. Sumitomo Bank or whatever bank, and then you're paying them, you know. Without the bank's help, you couldn't do it.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

AI: What was a typical day like in the retail business? The hours, number of days a week?

DT: Well, you see, we were running a small dry-goods store, and so the hours were about nine in the morning 'til... I knew we used to open at night, 'til eight at night. And then we open on Sundays, and I said, "I'm not going to work on Sundays," and I got college students to work on Sundays. So we had a shift of three college students Sunday, Sunday 8 a.m., 3 p.m. and they, I said, "You fellows run the store." So they did a good job, college kids ran the store for us. But I said I wasn't going to work on Sunday.

AI: So those were long hours. Nine to eight? Those were your work hours?

DT: Well, so we had it grouped into two, two groups, you see. Morning and afternoon group, and then the following week I had another shift of another morning/afternoon group. So the college kids ran the store for us on Sunday.

AI: So the store was open seven days a week, but you took one --

DT: Yeah, at that time it was. It was.

AI: And then you took one day off?

DT: Yeah, I guess so. Of course, I took quite a bit because I was flying for the YMCA all over the place.

AI: That's right. And how much interaction did you have with non-Japanese Americans in running your business?

DT: Pardon me?

AI: How much interaction did you have with non-Japanese Americans in running your business?

DT: Not too much. I think it was mostly among Niseis. The only interaction was when the wholesalers sell us, but otherwise, we didn't have too much interaction.

AI: And would you describe the ethnicity of your clientele when you started the shop?

DT: Well, yes. When we first started, we depended on the farmers, the Japanese American farmers, Isseis and Niseis. Well, as the things changed, the Isseis are dying off, the big shopping centers, the Niseis could go there anytime; they don't have to come to a little shop like ours. And so then we changed over to a different format of selling imported Japanese merchandise, and so our customers became more and more non-Japanese, Caucasian, which is better. Then you're not limited, you see. If you're just selling to Japanese group, it's limited. But if you're, anybody... expand, you see. So that's what happened.

AI: So you had primarily Japanese American customers, but other, other groups, too?

DT: No, no, no. No, not anymore. I think most of our customers are non-Japanese now.

AI: Oh, okay. And did you ever experience discrimination, personal or workplace?

DT: Not really. I think lot of it is attitude. Lot of it is the way you act. And so I worked in the YMCA all over the world, and I've done so much work with people, it's the way you act, lot of it. People tend to think of discrimination, but if you don't concentrate that, on that, and work positively, that's important.

AI: So you taught these values to your, your own children.

DT: Oh, yeah.

AI: What did you say or do to teach them this attitude?

DT: Example. You don't have to lecture to them. If you set a good example, that's important.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

AI: Dave, the YMCA keeps occurring in our conversation, and it's obvious it's an important part of your life. Can you elaborate a little bit more about the Y and...

DT: Yeah, well, as I told you, when I was a young boy, thirteen-year-old boy, a lonesome boy, I went to the YMCA, Japanese YMCA at 1409 Sutter Street, and that lonesome little boy got involved in the YMCA program. And then at the Y, Mr. Fred Koba, who was the youth director, knew about my background, that I was a very lonely boy, parents in Japan, living with a drunken guardian, and so he took me in tow. And as a young boy, fourteen or something, he made me an assistant leader of boy's club. And so that's how I got into the YMCA program. And some, just to give you an example of this little, one little boy that was in my club, and he was also in my tent at Y camp, he had to go to -- middle of the night, he had to go to wee-wee, and he wakes me up, and he said, "Wait a second, I got to get my pants on." In the meantime, he's kind of jumping up and down right outside the tent cabin. And suddenly, I hear a voice saying, "That's all right, Mr. Tatsuno, I'm all through." Well, I said, "That boy is not all through." That boy designed the world's largest airport, the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. He designed the national space center, and now he's not that little boy. At that time I was a leader at eighteen, he was ten years younger, eight years old. Now, he is... I'm... well, he's still around, and he is now, I think, eighty-two or -three. And I had correspondence with him recently, and I sent him some snapshots that I had from Y camp. And so those are memories that are very precious. And I had many, many boys in my club at the Y. Of course, sad to say, some of them are younger than I am, but they're starting to go. And it's part of life.

AI: Well, you're being very modest, because I do know about some recognition and awards that you received from the YMCA. And some of them are very, very prestigious. Can you tell us about some of them?

DT: Well, I would say this; that about five years ago, they had my wife and I fly to Chicago to give me an award for the YMCA. And I made sure that it never got out in the paper. So it never got out in the local paper, it never got out in the Japanese papers at all. But you see, I don't believe rooster crow. I believe that you do things, and you do it because you want to do it, not because you want publicity, and I've never wanted publicity. It's very, very shallow.

AI: And the awards that you got were at this regional level, and I know, national level. What were those?

DT: Oh, yes, I was president of the YMCA for five states in 1960, and I went to speak at the YMCA in Honolulu in 1960. Then, of course, I'd been active with the International Committee of the Y, and as I said, I flew a quarter of a million miles for the YMCA as a living memorial to our son. So it's really had an impact on our life.

AI: It certainly has.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

AI: We're going to go back now to your retail business as far as our discussion. What were some of the most important factors that kept you in the retail business and stay in Japantown?

DT: Well, actually, it was more of a necessity. I graduated Cal, took over the business in 1937, closed because of the evacuation, and then we reopened in San Francisco and after the war. And then I lost my son, and I came to San Jose to more or less get away from San Francisco, and we've had -- here in San Jose, we were very fortunate to be able to not only lease the property, but to buy the property, to expand the property, and then to buy another lot next to it and expand the property again. And so we've had students, many students -- well, actually, we opened on Sundays in San Jose, and I asked the students to work out -- I wasn't going to work on Sundays. And so we had a shift of three students in the morning, three shifts in the afternoon. The following Sunday, another group of three, and three in the afternoon. And so that's how we carried the thing on. But now, of course, I'm retired. After all, at ninety-one, why, you're not supposed to be around the store anyway, so I'm retired and thankfully my oldest daughter, Arlene, has been carrying the ball. Because my two sons, one of them is a ski instructor at Sun Valley, Idaho, he's sixty two, and he's still a ski instructor. And my other son, Sheridan, is in his own work, you see.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

AI: And Dave, what are your strongest memories of resettlement? Your strongest memories of resettlement.

DT: Well, I think the fact that we came back after the war, we were supposed to be part of the "enemy" culture, Japan, and the fact that we're able to make our way again and reestablish ourselves. It took hard work, and yet, difficulties are stepping stones of success, as they say. And so we made the best of it and did what we could. And you look at the life of the Niseis, now, I'm sorry to say they're, of all the Nisei friends I have, I'm the only one left, you see. I had twenty good friends, and not one of them around. But you look at their lives, and I think you'll find out that they led a real rich life. It's... the way, I mean, life is such that you're not gonna be here forever anyway, so you do the best you can and be thankful that you had the opportunity for service, or opportunity for friendship, opportunity for enjoying life as a whole. And as I said, I was a diver, went down, hundred feet down and took video. And so my videos, I can look at anytime and see the sharks and all the different shots. But life is what you make it.

AI: You mentioned your twenty Nisei friends. What opportunities opened up for the Nisei, and why do you think that happened?

DT: Well, they were in all kinds of occupation activities, some of them were in business, some of them in import/export, some of them were in the academic field, all kinds of activities.

AI: And they were very successful at whatever they...

DT: I think they made life worth living.

AI: Were there some cultural values that maybe caused this success that you can think of?

DT: Possibly so, possibly so.

AI: What might they be?

DT: Well, as I said, they're all Japanese Americans except for the one Caucasian young man that I knew in junior high school. So I think -- and many of my Nisei friends had, were well-educated, went to Cal, Berkeley, and Stanford. And so they made their way.

AI: Uh-huh. Now, on the flip side, some businesses, which were started right after the war in Japantown, did not make it. Do you have any ideas about why they did not?

DT: Well, if they didn't make it, they didn't have enough business, that's why. So if there wasn't enough business, why, it was not needed.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

AI: And what have been the greatest rewards of having a business in Japantown?

DT: Well, I think one thing is independence. You had your own independence. Another thing, we had the fellowship of merchants, and then we had the -- I wouldn't say friendship -- but the people who came in, both Japanese American and non-Japanese Americans, they helped to make life most interesting.

AI: And what have been the greatest difficulties of having a business in Japantown?

DT: Well, when you say difficulty, like in any business, there's a time to make it profitable, especially with competition being so keen, and with big shopping centers. But at the same time, we offered something that the big shopping centers didn't have.

AI: Looking back, knowing what you do now, would you choose to run the same kind of business in Japantown, or would you do something different?

DT: That's pretty hard to say. We took life as it came, and we did the best we can, and now, as we look back, it's hard to say what we would have done. But we... did the best we can, we could, with the experience and the ability and talent that we had. But it would be difficult to say what you would do again.

AI: What do you think the future holds for Japantown businesses?

DT: Well, that is a big question. When you say "Japantown business," you're talking about San Jose, I'm sure.

AI: Yes.

DT: Right now, it's changing the guards. All the Niseis are now starting to retire, and the, whether the Sanseis would like to carry on, we don't know. It's a big question mark right now. If you notice, you look around Japantown now, and look at all the new buildings going up, all the new housing. And if they could harness some of that... of course, things are rather bleak right now for the economy, but who knows? If that starts to fill up and they need services, we get people coming from many of those apartment houses that they're building right now. But right now, it's kind of an iffy situation right now. We'll see what happens.

AI: You mentioned earlier that your daughter, Arlene, has taken over the store management. Was this always an expectation that your children would carry on the family business?

DT: Well, I wouldn't call it expectation, but it naturally fell that way, you see, because Arlene became active in the store, and she learned how to manage -- in fact, many of the things she does, she does better than I do, yeah. And the newsletters she writes, and the schedules that she makes, I think she does very well. So I give her a lot of credit.

AI: So she'll carry on the business and the family name.

DT: Yeah.

AI: And how did life change for you as compared to the initial resettlement era? Any difference?

DT: That is hard to say. I mean, "initial resettlement era," era. Now, I don't know what you're trying to...

AI: Well, when you were a startup --

DT: Yeah?

AI: -- in '48, versus now.

DT: Well, first of all, we were very young, you see. Not even in our forties, so we tried to meet the challenges and do the best we can. And now, at our age, why, we're looking back, we're just happy that we had the privilege of living life to the hilt. And I think we are very grateful for all the things that have happened.

AI: Dave, is there anything else about your life or your business that you would like to share that I did not ask you?

DT: Well, you've asked a lot of questions, and all I can say is that, in a nutshell, I personally am very grateful for all the things that have happened in life, the good and the bad. Losing a son, the earthquake in San Francisco, the evacuation. The test is how to meet the challenges that come up, and we were given guidance to make our way. And not perfect, but I think we enjoyed life to the hilt.

AI: Well, thank you. That concludes this interview, and we thank you, Dave Tatsuno, for sharing your colorful life and the history of the Nichibei Bussan department store. You're now a chapter in the museum's visual history project, "Lasting Stories: The Resettlement of San Jose's Japantown." The story you narrated will help to teach future generations about the Japanese American experience. It's been a pleasure interviewing you. Thank you.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

[Present-day exterior and interior shots of the Nichibei Bussan Department Store in San Jose, California's Japantown.]

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.