Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Joe Seto Interview
Narrator: Joe Seto
Interviewer: Erin Brasfield
Location: West Los Angeles, California
Date: July 10, 2006
Densho ID: denshovh-sjoe_2-01-0002

<Begin Segment 2>

EB: You grew up entirely in Tacoma.

JS: Up until we were placed in the concentration camp in May of 1942.

EB: And what was the makeup of the neighborhood at that time? Was it primarily a Japanese American neighborhood?

JS: No, it was a hundred percent Anglo. And there was the low working-class, people were just, they had low-salary jobs, and they just were able to exist. It was always considered to be at the lower level of the economic scale.

EB: Since you did live in a neighborhood that's primarily, or all Caucasian, did you ever encounter any problems or prejudice growing up within your neighborhood?

JS: No, not at all. So our home, just by chance, happened to be the congregating point for the neighborhood kids.

EB: And what sort of games or things did the neighborhood kids do?

JS: Well, we used to play sports. Even though it's a concrete street, we played football and soccer, a limited amount of softball, but since it's rather restricted in terms of the space, it was not very safe to play softball or baseball.

EB: Can you describe for me your upbringing, your interaction with your parents and the home life that they created for you?

JS: My father was responsible for the genesis of the Japanese Methodist Church in Tacoma ninety-nine years ago. And so our activities centered around the church which was common among the Japanese community, the church, and the Japanese school. And since my father was the most active member of the church, every Sunday, we went to church, and he was superintendent of the Sunday school. And we had a Boy Scout troop at the church, and we also had sports teams which we participated against the other Japanese groups such as the Buddhist church, primarily.

EB: Was he Christian or Methodist growing up, or did he convert once he immigrated?

JS: That's not clear.

EB: Okay.

JS: But it's definitely known that he was very active in the Methodist church, almost since the day he arrived in the United States. And I believe there were some... one might describe it as missionary-type people, name is Miss Whitney, for which the church was renamed about forty years ago. It's called the Whitney Methodist Church, so today it's still called the Whitney Methodist Church. She was, I think, responsible for the organizing of the church such as Sunday school and so forth.

EB: Your mother, did she continue to only work inside the home as you were growing up?

JS: She never worked outside the home; she was the housewife.

EB: She was the housewife. She had plenty to do.

JS: With seven children. [Laughs] She was very meticulous, excellent cook.

EB: Did she cook primarily Japanese dishes?

JS: No, no. She did about half and half.

EB: Okay. What was your favorite dish growing up?

JS: Probably, if it was Japanese food, it was sushi as it is today. And for American food, probably was stew. Because I think in those days, stew was very common. It was more economical instead of having steaks. And, of course, we had roast beef.

EB: Did you celebrate any Japanese cultural holidays like Emperor's Day or Boy's Day or Obon?

JS: The main holiday we celebrated was New Year's, which you're probably aware by now. It was one of the most important holidays for the Japanese people. But Boy's and Girl's Day was just in passing.

EB: And what was, you said you celebrated New Year's, what sort of activities did that involve, or things that your family did for that holiday?

JS: It was mainly the feast day, and friends came to the house. That was customary for friends... they'd come because it was eating all day long. The friends usually came in the evening, because in the morning is when you had a traditional Japanese breakfast, and then, during the day, the New Year's food.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2006 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.