Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Toyoko Okumura Interview
Narrator: Toyoko Okumura
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Denver, Colorado
Date: July 6, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-otoyoko-01-0023

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: Eventually, you moved to Denver. Why, why Colorado?

TO: Oh, there's the 20th Street Cafe, the owner was Okuno, very close relative of ours. She had cancer, Mrs. Okuno had cancer. She was... she was in her early eighties, and she called me from here asking me if I could help her out, 'cause she had cancer, and she knew I'd drive. So she says I could take her to the hospital for her treatment and things like that. I said, "Oh, I'll be more than happy," to take care of her. So that's how I came to live with her nine years, and then she passed away.

TI: And how was Denver different than, say, Los Angeles?

TO: Well, I'd been here before that, too, in between.

TI: So you were pretty familiar with Denver.

TO: Yes, uh-huh.

TI: And how do you like Denver?

TO: Love it.

TI: And what is it about Denver that you love?

TO: Oh, people are very friendly, helpful. No discrimination, I never noticed anything like that here.

TI: Good.

TO: You still have that in California, I think, little bit left. What do you think?

TI: I think it's in pockets everywhere. I think when you're in the cities, for me, it feels like there's less. But if you move into the outlying areas, sometimes, I think I see more of it. So like in a place like Denver, I think maybe it's not as much, but then if you maybe just drive an hour outside into the smaller communities, there might...

TO: They wouldn't know.

TI: Perhaps not seen as many. This is, this has been wonderful. I've learned so much.

TO: Oh, have you?

TI: Yeah, your experience is pretty unique. Is there anything else that I haven't asked you that you'd like to share, like a good story that I didn't ask about? Is there anything else?

TO: Well, I spoke a little Japanese, and then being, I had to work as a dietitian at the hospital, I would visit some of these Issei ladies and with a little Japanese, I was able to carry on a conversation. They just loved it. They would always wait for me to make a visit. That was nice, nice feeling, that it made them happy. And I tried to fix a meal that they would like.

TI: And when you talked with these Isseis, how would you describe their lives? It must have been, I think, I wonder how difficult it was for the Issei generation. Because I never spoke Japanese, so I never really could communicate with my Issei grandparents. So I was wondering, what did they think about the United States and their, sort of, reasons for coming, and did they ever talk about that?

TO: Well, they thought America was a land of opportunity, so that I think that's where they... my great grandfather, he has friends in Tokyo in the foreign office, so that's what started in our area. And he sent about twenty families over to the L.A. area, and that started immigration.

TI: Well, Toyo, thank you so much. This has been, I hope it's been okay for you, but this has been really, really a lot of fun for me just chatting with you. So thank you.

TO: You're welcome.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.