Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Grace K. Seto Interview
Narrator: Grace K. Seto
Interviewer: Erin Brasfield
Location: West Los Angeles, California
Date: March 16, 2006
Densho ID: denshovh-sgrace-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

EB: -- Thursday, March 16, 2006. We are at the West Los Angeles (United) Methodist Church in Santa Monica, California. The interview is with Grace Seto, a former internee at Manzanar. We will be discussing her experiences as an internee during World War II. This interview is being conducted for the oral history program at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California, and will be archived in the site library. Do I have your permission to record the interview?

GS: Yes, you do.

EB: Thank you. I'd like to start out with a few questions about your family history. Where was your family from in Japan?

GN: My father is from Aichi-ken, Nagoya, Japan. He came here as a youth, he was about seventeen years old, all by himself. He came here because his father was already here in California, and wanted him to come and help him with his farming. My mother is a Nisei. She is American-born. She was born in Florin, California, which is today incorporated into Sacramento. Her parents, my grandparents, both of the Uchidas were from Hiroshima, Japan.

EB: And when did they come to the United States?

GN: My grandfather came here in the early 1900s as a young man. I think he was about seventeen years old, and he entered North America by way of Canada, and he worked up there, and then entered the United States by way of Seattle. Evidently he was put on a boat and I think smuggled into the United States. Then from Seattle after he landed there, then he went on to Montana and worked on the, building the railroad. And eventually he made his way down into California with the aid of his uncle, and settled in northern California where he worked moving from farm to farm. And eventually he... there was an arranged marriage with a cousin, so my grandmother came here as a "picture bride" by way of Seattle, and he brought her down to Florin, California, where by that time he was doing some farming. And he had a forty-acre ranch, whereby he did both strawberry farming and grape farming. And, of course, with the evacuation, they lost all of that. But on that farm, all eleven of his children were born, with the aid of a midwife, except for the last baby who was born in, was to be born in a hospital, but he didn't quite make it.

And so my mother basically grew up on the ranch helping there. And being the second eldest, she had a lot of responsibility. She had to learn from an early age to do work on the ranch and also helping my grandmother with housework and cooking and such.

EB: How did your grandparents on your father's side meet?

GS: I don't know. And I really regret that we did not have the interest to find out, and unfortunately my father died when he was very young, he was only fifty-seven years old. So by the time when I really became interested in knowing about his life as a youth and about his family, it was too late. And the other regrettable part is my mother also did not really know very much about my dad. So there is a huge void there, we just unfortunately don't know.

EB: So how did your parents meet, and can you tell me their names, or tell me their names again?

GS: My father's name is Fred Chokichi Nakano. And as I had mentioned earlier, he was from Aichi, Nagoya, Japan. And my mother is Ruby Kimie Uchida. This also was an arranged marriage like my grandparents. My father came to the United States at the request of his father. Unfortunately, the two men did not get along well. They really didn't know each other. His father had come here years before, and basically my dad was raised by his mother until the age of ten, and then she passed away, so then my father was then sent on to the family of an older brother. And my father's personality is such that from what I have heard, it was probably similar to his father, and the two men were very strong-willed. And my dad finally realized that the two of them just could not live together.

So he left Florin and he went to, he went to... no, I think he left Lodi and went to Florin where there was another family friend from Japan who was living there. And so he stayed there with him for a while, but he eventually -- and here, too, we don't know why all this happened, but he eventually went to San Francisco. And this is where he finished high school and then attended Heald's Business College for a while in San Francisco and then got a job. And one of the things that his father requested of this friend in Florin was to please find a wife for my dad. So this friend, Mr. Ishigaki, knew about my mother and my mother's family. And so it was through Mr. Ishigaki that my parents met. And I have no idea how things happened way back then, but obviously the courtship was very, very short, if at all. Because from some of the information that I was able to find amongst my mother's things after she passed away, there was just a little correspondence of just a few weeks, and it was maybe a matter of four to six weeks and they were married.

So that's... and I asked my mother about this years later, "Was this agreeable with you? I mean, you know, did you just do it because Grandma and Grandpa said there's this man?" But she says, "No, I was able to meet him, there was this arrangement whereby he came to the house. And the first time," she said, "I never even had a chance to talk to him." This conversation was mainly between my grandparents and this Mr. Ishigaki, the go-between. So when my grandfather asked my mother, "Well, what do you think of this man?" my mother said, "Well, I don't know. I guess if he's a good man, it's okay." But she said, "I really would like to get to know him a little bit and get a chance to talk to him." So to make a long story short, there was an arrangement made whereby my dad came again from San Francisco all the way to Florin. And in those days, it was not just a two-hour ride on the car. So he came on a Sunday and he took her to the Sacramento County Fair. So they did get to spend that time together. And then, here again, when she came home, my grandfather's asking about, "How was it?" And she said, "Well, he seems like a nice man. He seems polite. So if you and Grandma think it's okay, then it's okay with me." And she agreed to the marriage. So I have, I have asked her about this several times, but I think in those years things were a whole lot different than it is today. And when there was an arranged marriage, I think the women said very little, of that generation. You know, it was generally the men who made decisions and did the talking and all. I think the women more or less went along with their parents, and this is what my mother did. So despite the fact that it was an arranged marriage, I must say they didn't really verbalize, "I love you," like the young generation does today, but I could see it by their actions that there was love and respect between the two of them.

EB: And what was the, what's the date of their marriage?

GS: They were married October... either the 21st or the 23rd, 1933, in Sacramento.

EB: All right.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2006 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.