Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Marion I. Masada Interview
Narrator: Marion I. Masada
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: Fresno, California
Date: September 10, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-mmarion-01-0004

<Begin Segment 4>

KL: When did you go to live with your grandmother? How old were you?

MM: Probably six, because I was nine years old when I went into the camp, so I know I must've been with my grandmother a few years.

KL: And she was right there in Salinas too?

MM: Yeah. Not nearby, but a few miles away.

KL: So you had lots of siblings.

MM: Oh yeah.

KL: Did you see a lot of each other, those two families?

MM: Uh-huh, and every year, every New Year's we would end up at Mr. and Mrs. Enna-san's house. They had no children, so they wanted us all to go over to their place and we would make mochi, pound the mochi. It's a New Year's tradition, to have mochi and the little sweet bean inside. Oh, so delicious.

KL: Tell us about preparing it. What was the atmosphere like?

MM: What was the, it was fun. We had these long poles, and when the rice, the mochi rice is cooked -- it has to be steamed outdoors, steamed with fire underneath and a layer of rice that has been soaked. There's no water in it; it was soaked in water until the moment that they put it on these steamers, steamer thing, and they had three trays. The first one will be cooked first, so when that's steamed right, with the fire cooking underneath, then they take it out, put another one on top, and now the second one's going to be steamed. So as soon as it comes out, they dump it on this rock-like, it's caved in like that so that now four or five of us, with these long poles, we mash it, and we kind go around and we mash it and mash it with the long sticks. And after we do enough of that, then somebody comes and pounds it with a mallet and a handle. And then they pound it and then this, another person puts water on it, after they pound it. So it has to be a rhythm: pound, water, pound and water. And if you don't watch it, somebody's going to get hit on the hand, if you don't have that rhythm. You have to go in a rhythm, pound and then the man turns the rice over or puts water on it, whatever's necessary. But he has to do it fast, and then pound. [Laughs] Then after the pounding is finished, that means it's all nice and smooth and ready to make into these little round cakes. And so now we're, the ladies are all waiting at the table, flour and everything all, and the trays ready to put the mochi on. Well, we get to the, somebody cuts it, puts it in a long row like that and then they cut it. They usually just use their own hand. It's hot. It's hot, but you -- and about a little bit like that [shows size with hands], and we get it and we smooth it out like that and put the little beans in the middle, and then we cover it up and pinch it and sort of make it nice and smooth on the top, but underneath has that little pinch together and we try to make it smooth. It's an art. It's an art. So we'd do that every year at this couple's place.

KL: And would you spell their name?

MM: E-N-N-A.

KL: And who else came?

MM: All the relatives of ours. The aunts and uncles, they all came, and it was a family gathering. And we adopted this couple because they had no children and no heirs. Eventually they went back to Japan.

KL: You mentioned your mother helped out other Japanese people coming to Salinas area. Were you guys pretty early among the Japanese Americans there?

MM: I guess we were one of the early settlers, yeah, through, because of my grandmother and grandfather coming.

KL: Who else was part of that community?

MM: Gee, my mother knew everybody. But all I knew is our neighbors, the Inokuchis and the Iwamis and... gee, what was Shoko's last name? There was a family up the hill from us who grew strawberries. All I remember is Shoko's, the girl's name. She had a mentally retarded brother, and he used to scare us. That was my first introduction to a mentally handicapped person.

KL: Why did he scare you?

MM: Because he had this chain and he would, he would jingle the chain by his ear like this [imitates the motion] and mumble some kind of words, and that was kind of unusual, not the usual behavior. And so that used to scare me. I mean, he didn't hurt anybody. He just had his behavior problem. And he was tall.

KL: Were there other ethnic groups in...

MM: In our neighborhood?

KL: In Salinas where you were?

MM: The landlady, who was Caucasian, she took in four county children, so she had foster children. The county paid her to take care of these children because their parents couldn't take care of them. And one was a family of three, Wilma, Billy and Lillian Laws, L-A-W-S, and the other was June Pederson, P-E-D-E-R-S-O-N, and they were about the same age as us, so after school we played baseball with the Inokuchis up the road and Iwamis. I mean, there was kids all over the neighborhood, so we had no problems having playmates.

KL: How big were people's parcels?

MM: Gee, I don't know. I don't know what an acre looks like.

KL: Could you guys see each other's houses?

MM: Oh yeah, yeah. Up the hill, over the next road there, and then where we lived was flat, Mrs. Carrie Smith, the landlady, and then just across the way was the Iwamis. But there were a lot of kids in the neighborhood.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.