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-01-0021

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AL: Do you think it was hard for your brother to culturally adapt to the United States?

SO: No, because he was such a scholar, I think he loved the challenge of the education that he got at Harvard. So I think he acclimated quite well.

AL: Could you talk just a little bit about his career at Harvard?

SO: Well, he went... he already had his bachelor's from Japan, Yukoku University and Kyoto University. And then he went to, he took a crash course in English at UCLA when he came during the summer, and then he went to Harvard and received his master's and PhD. And he was asked by one his professors to stay to teach, because he was retiring, Dr. Reischauer. And so my brother just stayed there and flourished, loved it.

AL: Is that Edwin Reischauer?

SO: Uh-huh.

AL: That's one of the first books I read on Japan was by him.

SO: Oh, yeah.

KL: What did your brother teach?

SO: He taught Indic philosophy and Sanskrit, and Buddhist studies.

AL: Does he have children?

SO: Yes, he had three daughters. They all live in... no, two live in California now, one still lives in Massachusetts.

AL: So could you just kind of give us a quick synopsis of each of your siblings' lives, like where they live, what their careers were?

SO: Okay. Well, I finished my brother. My sister Hideko Dee, she went to UCLA, and then went to USC. And when we moved to San Francisco, she went to San Francisco state to get her teaching degree. Earlier she got married and had a son. Then she had a long teaching career in Mill Valley, that's where she met Joan Busbee, and she was the type that teaching was her whole life, and she just gave it her whole time and energy to teaching.

AL: What did she teach?

SO: Third grade and elementary, Mill Valley. And, in fact, she was teaching 'til the day she collapsed and then they diagnosed her with cancer. So she was really dedicated. Then she passed away. Then Jeannie went to San Francisco State and became a teacher, and she taught for many, many years, too, she got married when she was in her forties, then she passed away due to an accident. And here I am by myself. I was a teacher also.

AL: What did you teach?

SO: Kindergarten. Here my brother's teaching at Harvard, and I taught kindergarten. But I loved it. Until my family came along and I stayed home with them.

AL: So you went to USC?

SO: Uh-huh.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.