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-01-0002

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AL: So you said your brother was born in 1927. Do you know anything about their lives in Japan before they came over?

SO: No, I don't, no.

AL: Do you know why they came?

SO: Well, when my father finished the university, his brother had that temple, and my mother's father was still living, so he was the head minister at that temple. So I think one of... my father told me once that one of his friends had come over to America to become a missionary, and so I think he asked my father to try coming over here. So I think that's why he came, really for a job.

AL: Do you know where he came to?

SO: Uh-huh. Well, first he came to Canada, and he stayed there for about three years, then he back for a visit to Japan, then came to San Francisco in 1930... no, later than that, about 1932, maybe. And when he came to America, he went to the L.A. Buddhist Church.

AL: Did your mother go to Canada with him?

SO: Yes, yes.

AL: So they immigrated together?

SO: Yes, my older sister was born in Canada.

AL: What's your older sister's name?

SO: Dee Hideko.

AL: Do you know what year she was born?

SO: Yeah, 1934.

AL: And so how long were they in Canada?

SO: Just about... I think almost three years.

AL: Did you hear anything about their experiences in Canada, like what life was like for Japanese people in Canada?

SO: No, I never did, no. I know they had a Japanese congregation there, and we went online, we googled the Buddhist churches in Canada and we did find a picture of him in Canada, but I think that church no longer exists, it moved.

AL: What part of Canada did they go to?

SO: Raymond, Alberta. I think now it's changed to Etheridge, I think it's still in Raymond, I'm not sure. I think it's still in Alberta.

AL: So when they were going there, do you know if they were going... you said he was a missionary, was he going to serve Buddhists who were already there, or to convert people to Buddhism or both?

SO: No, to serve the people who were already there. There had been some other people who had, some ministers who had gone before him, so he did have a congregation already.

AL: Was your sister then a, did she have Japanese, I mean, did she have Canadian citizenship?

SO: Yes, she did. She had Canadian citizenship, and she eventually became a U.S. citizen.

AL: Was she a dual citizenship with Japan?

SO: No.

AL: Just Canadian. Multiple countries.

SO: I know. [Laughs]

AL: That's interesting. So they went back to Japan from Canada?

SO: Yeah, to visit my brother. I think they were there for about six months.

AL: And so your brother was being raised by your mother's parents?

SO: Parents, uh-huh.

AL: What do you know about his upbringing?

SO: I just know that he was raised by my grandparents, and he went to school, and that's about all I know.

AL: But raised also to be a minister.

SO: Yes, well, he did become a minister.

AL: Do you know what level of correspondence your parents would have had like with him or with their own, with their parents in Japan, how they kept in touch?

SO: Through letters before the war. And during the war, the Red Cross would be, send messages both ways, and so... I mean, they were very short, "We are healthy," or they sent one back saying my sister was born, but kept in touch.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.