Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Shirley Nagatomi Okabe Interview
Narrator: Shirley Nagatomi Okabe
Interviewer: Alisa Lynch
Location: San Jose, California
Date: January 30, 2013
Densho ID: denshovh-oshirley-01-0013

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AL: What about your parents? I mean, other than childbirth, did any of your family go to the hospital there?

SO: I don't think so.

AL: Do you know if your father had any kind of ministry with the hospital?

SO: I think he used to go to visit, and I know he always took members during celebrations to go visit the hospital.

AL: Do you recall any of the situations, like for instance, in the summer of 1942, Ruby Watanabe, who was Buddhist, died in the hospital. She was giving birth to twin girls, and both the girls died as newborns. And there's a picture of your father and large casket with two little caskets. Do you remember any of those funerals?

SO: No, I don't remember them. I just remember the one of a soldier. In fact, the funeral was double... Munemori, and I think another soldier had passed away, so I think it was a double ceremony funeral.

AL: There are pictures of that.

SO: Right, right.

AL: And I think the speech from your father. Yeah, I think it was private, Robert Nakasaki.

SO: Yes, that sounds familiar.

AL: In the auditorium.

SO: Uh-huh.

AL: Did you ever go to any of the funerals, though?

SO: No, I didn't, no.

AL: Or weddings?

SO: I used to go to, I was a flower girl in a wedding, but other than that...

AL: Whose wedding?

SO: It was (Suiko Hori and Dennis Shimizu), her husband, they had, what was it, a shoe store or something in Los Angeles, it was right across the street from Toyo Miyatake's. I can't remember their names.

AL: When people wanted to get married in the church, did they have any sort of preparations that they had to do, like pre-marriage counseling, or did they have to apply?

SO: No. I think they just came and said, "We would like to get married," so they set a convenient date. There were many.

AL: Could you explain for people who aren't familiar with the tradition, exactly what a baishakunin is and how that works, and how often did your father do that?

SO: Well, basically a baishakunin is someone... is like a go-between, you know, they see a girl and they think that she would like this gentleman who's appropriate. But most of the time now in America, even back camp days, the couples find each other and then they come and ask to be married. But then they always had a baishakunin to represent the bride's side and groom's side, you know, or perhaps one person who knew both families.

AL: That's what I was gonna ask, would it be one person for both or each person has their own?

SO: It could be either.

AL: Was there any kind of a fee for serving as a baishakunin?

SO: No, no.

AL: Just an honorary title?

SO: Yeah, right.

AL: Do you know if there were ever times when it didn't work out, where people turned down the advances?

SO: Oh, yes.

AL: Was that considered rude?

SO: No, not really.

AL: Acceptable?

SO: Yeah, yeah.

AL: Isn't that part of the reason you have that person, so you can broker with them?

SO: Perhaps, perhaps.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.