Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Masako Yoshida Interview
Narrator: Masako Yoshida
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: Monterey Park, California
Date: August 14, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-ymasako-01-0001

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KL: My name is Kristen Luetkemeier, I'm a park ranger at Manzanar National Historic Site with the Manzanar Oral History Project. I'm here today with Masako Yoshida for an oral history interview about her experiences before and after and during her time at Poston. And we'll also be talking some about her uncle and aunt Seizo and Tami Abe who were at Manzanar. Today is August, 14, 2014, and before we go any farther, I just want to confirm that I have your permission to be talking with you today and to make this interview available to the public.

MY: Yes, you have.

KL: Thank you so much for agreeing to this, I'm glad we get to meet in person and talk more about your family and you. So let's start off actually talking a little bit about your parents. Would you tell us your mother's name and when and where she was born?

MY: Her name was Kiyoka, K-I-Y-O-K-A, Abe, A-B-E. I don't know where she was born, but she was a schoolteacher in Japan before she came to California. No, not to California, to Seattle, Washington, with my uncle, Reverend Seizo Abe, who was called to the Japanese congregational church in Seattle to become the minister.

KL: Did they have other siblings? Do you know anything about the family they grew up in?

MY: No, but I do know that he had two daughters, Ren Miyake who passed away in Manzanar, she had cancer of the stomach, and her name was Ren Miyake, she was married to George Miyake. And they had another sister, Jun, but she went back to Japan and married someone in Japan.

KL: Do you know anything about their parents, Kiyoka and Seizo's parents?

MY: No, I do not. Oh, yes, my mother's mother lived with us, that's her grandmother. That's my, Reverend Abe's mother, she lived with us.

KL: What was her name?

MY: Her name was Jo, J-O A-B-E, Jo Abe, and she was a shamisen teacher.

KL: Oh, tell us about shamisen.

MY: She played the shamisen, you know that Japanese guitar like thing. They never had music to read from, just the words, and they had to memorize everything. But I do know that she liked music also.

KL: Did you say she taught shamisen, too?

MY: Yes, she did. Not to a lot of people, because there weren't too many Japanese-speaking Niseis who cared to take those things, because we were all American music. But she did teach one person at our home in Los Angeles, I forgot her name, but we gave her, we gave this person our shamisen, I mean, my grandmother's shamisen. She lived with us until I guess she was about eighty-three or so.

KL: Was she separate from your grandfather or he died?

MY: I guess he died early. I've never known her to talk about my grandfather. But no, I don't know, but I just know that she lived with us, and she came together with my uncle and my mother, they all came together as a family.

KL: Okay, they all came to the United States at the same time? What brought them?

MY: Because my, as I said before, my uncle was a minister, he was a chaplain at Doshisha, which is a Christian college I think in Kyoto, Japan, I think. And they needed a Japanese-speaking Christian minister at the Seattle Japanese congregational church, and they called him to become their minister. And they also needed an organist, and my mother could play the organ. So actually, it was an arranged marriage between my father, who was twenty years older than my mother, he was a bachelor, very active at the church, and they had to get married. And so that's how my mother stayed, I guess, in America. Because this is before, they didn't let Japanese come to America for a long time.

KL: Yeah. Do you know if your mother's family was Congregationalist or Christian before that generation?

MY: Yes, they were.

KL: Do you know why they were Christian?

MY: No, but I know that my father was a Christian, because his father, my grandfather on his side, I never knew them because they were in Japan. However, a missionary came to their door, and that's how they converted, that's how my father went to a Christian, Aoyama Gakuen in Tokyo which is still a very famous school. And he could speak English before he came to Seattle, Washington. I think he came to Seattle to learn more English.

KL: How do you spell Aoyama?

MY: Aoyama is A-O-Y-A-M-A, and my father went to Doshisha, is D-O-S-H-I-S-H-I, and that was a Christian, it's still in Tokyo right now.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.