Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: M. Jack Takayanagi - Mary Takayanagi Interview
Narrators: M. Jack Takayanagi, Mary Takayanagi
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: July 11, 2012
Densho ID: denshovh-tmjack_g-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

KL: This is Kristen Luetkemeier, a park ranger at Manzanar National Historic Site, here in the DoubleTree Hotel in Portland, Oregon, with Mary and Jack Takayanagi, to talk about their experiences in Los Angeles before World War II as children, and their experiences in Manzanar during World War II, and then their life and career after Manzanar and Iowa and in New York and other places. With us also is Tamiko Takeuchi, and Steve Kammeyer is operating the camera. Before we begin, I wanted to just ask for your permission to conduct this interview and make it available to the public through the Manzanar library. Is that okay?

MT: Sure.

MJT: Yes, sure.

KL: Okay. Well, thank you very much for agreeing for that, and for coming, and I have a list of questions, but I'll just start out with asking Mary to talk a little bit about your parents and how they came to the United States.

MT: My parents were college graduates in Japan, which was quite unusual, I'm told. And they left their home in Kochi, Japan, which is down in the crescent island, Shikoku. And lived on opposite ends of that, and I'm told that my father had traveled before, but he went back to Japan. And when he was presented with two ladies, he was given a choice of marrying one of them, and I was told by an auntie when we visited there in '76, that my father chose the more intelligent one rather than the really attractive one. And she had a laugh out of it, that he could have chosen the real pretty one. Well, I saw a picture of her, and she was very good-looking. But evidently my father knew that my mother had a, had gone to university, and so he chose her. And so my auntie had a laugh out of it, that I could have had another mother from the one I did have, and we laughed. But my folks came to the United States in... well, we're not really sure. We know now that we should have asked a lot of questions of our parents before they passed on, but it's hindsight and we just have to put bits and pieces together.

KL: What university did they attend, or universities?

MT: I should have written it down, but they were Japanese established universities in Tokyo, Japan. So they went many miles away from home to go to school. And my father was twelve years older than my mother, so there is that age difference. (My father's university was Takushoku Daigaku, 1899? And mother's was Nihon Shingako, 1914?)

KL: What were their fields of study?

MT: I'm really not sure, but it was higher education from the normal schooling that you would get. And evidently, they were there long enough that each of them, their Japanese language speaking actually was refined by the Tokyo... it's like another dialect, or another, just like between New York and the west, there is a difference in the way people speak. And I was told by relatives that their speaking was much more refined after they came back from schooling. And when I was there, I could notice the difference. There was a kind of roughness and a gruffness in the language that some of the relatives used, and it proved to me that their university experience was, enhanced their, it was an education. So that was kind of interesting to hear. So they came in, somewhere in 1918, about then, and because my first sister was born in 1920, and shortly after, they had another, a second child, was my brother, Ken, and then I was the third child. And then there were two others below me, a girl and a boy. And so the only ones who survived now are my sister and myself, my younger sister and myself. So my father was the third, actually the fourth child, but there were all together eight children in their family. And my father was the third son, and so according to culture and tradition, the older son takes over the family. So I imagine that played a role in their immigrating to America. And the, another brother underneath my father, he also came. But they were the only two Takemuras who came to this country. And they lived together so that our, they had five children and my father and mother had five children, so after a while, we moved out to Sawtelle, to West Los Angeles.

KL: Where were they before?

MT: We were in Los Angeles proper, and they had a nursery there, a plant nursery and florist. And so they all worked together to make that successful. Then when we moved out, actually, to Brentwood, California, we understand now that it was a closed community racially, but we didn't know that then. But so we were the only Asians in Brentwood at that time.

KL: When was that move?

MT: That move was in... let's see. It must have been '27, 1927.

KL: And you said that was, you had moved to Sawtelle and then to Brentwood?

MT: No.

KL: Oh, Brentwood was first?

MT: We moved directly. The Caucasian owner had property that could be developed into growing flowers, so my father got a horse to plow the land and began raising flowers for the wholesale market, flower market, and hired people to work for him. And she rented us this beautiful big house to live in, so there were only four of us then, and I know they had the fifth child there in Brentwood, so it had to be 1927.

KL: Tell me everybody's names, your parents...

MT: My mother's name is Kisei, K-I-S-E-I, and my father went by George Saburo.

KL: What was your mother's maiden name, do you know?

MT: Arao, A-R-A-O. And she had only one brother, and my father had one sister and several brothers.

KL: And your siblings' names?

MT: Florence, Ken, I was the third, Mary, Martha, and Herbert. And there were, I would say ten years between the first and the last.

KL: And what year were you born?

MT: 1923.

KL: And then when did you move from Brentwood to Sawtelle?

MT: We actually didn't move to Sawtelle, we were up at the upper edge of West Los Angeles and on Wilshire Boulevard, which was a few miles away from the center of Sawtelle.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2012 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.