Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Sadako Nimura Kashiwagi Interview
Narrator: Sadako Nimura Kashiwagi
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: San Francisco, California
Date: July 11, 2015
Densho ID: denshovh-ksadako-01-0002

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KL: Let's back up, actually, and talk a little bit more about her background, and then we'll get to the Tule Lake stuff, and we'll talk some about that when we get to that part of it. Same sort of questions as for your dad. Where was she from in Japan and what do you know about her family and her youth?

SK: Right. She was born in Hiroshima city, and she was... she may have been the second oldest.

KL: I didn't ask you her name, I guess. What is her name?

SK: Shizuko Okada.

KL: Would you spell Okada?

SK: O-K-A-D-A. And her sister, older sister, I think it was her older sister, went to Brazil. And then the mom came here, and then there was a younger sister, Shimeno, whom we met after the war. And we're still in close contact with them. I have two cousins who are survivors of the a-bomb. And one of them is a sculptor, and he sculpted the cenotaph. And so, and then there were two children after that, after the war. So there's kind of an artistic kind of background.

KL: And somewhat adventurous.

SK: Right. And then the older one, oldest of the boys, is a businessman, and he always manages to come up with the bust and boom economy of Japan, he always manages to somehow stay afloat. He comes up with different ideas and he just changes it, retunes his factory and keeps it going. And his oldest son has taken over the factory. And his two oldest boys were twins, and one is a French chef, recently opened a beef restaurant, and the other one is running the factory.

KL: Still in Hiroshima?

SK: Yes.

KL: What is your grandmother's name who came to the U.S.? Do you know, Shizuko's mother.

SK: No, I didn't have a grandmother who came to the U.S.

KL: Oh, okay, so Shizuko came to the U.S. and her sister went to Brazil, but your grandmother stayed in Japan, I see.

SK: Right, exactly. She married an Ishimaru, and she was a survivor, and then her two boys were a survivor. And he happened to be out of town that day so he was... but ironically, he died first.

KL: Did Shizuko's sister remain in Brazil long term, and that's where she lived?

SK: Uh-huh. In fact, before my mother died, we had a note from, a letter from Japan saying that the sister in Brazil had died. But we don't know the name or anything, and, but apparently they've done very well, the sons and, you know, they're doctors and things like that. So we do have relatives in Brazil as well.

KL: That's amazing. What do you know about Shizuko's immigration experience?

SK: I know she came to...

KL: Angel Island?

SK: Angel Island, yeah.

KL: Do you know, you said it was very late in the time when immigration was allowed, do you know what year she came, or around when?

SK: She was about nineteen, twenty at the time.

KL: And I often look this up, but I didn't in this case. Do you know when your father first came to the U.S., how old he was?

SK: I think he came in 1903, I think, or even earlier than that.

KL: So he had been here for quite some time.

SK: right, right, and there was about a six to eight year age difference.

KL: Did she ever talk about what her expectations were coming to the U.S. or getting married.

SK: No. And I'm sorry I didn't ask. You know, the day to day struggle was kind of overwhelming. And so we didn't talk about things like that. And my sister sent her to Japan, and neither one talked about, they didn't talk about surviving the bomb, and my mother, they didn't ask about the struggles here. But they were able to make connections, I guess, through the Red Cross after the war, and so, again, my folks, you know, sent them things, and my cousins remember that. In fact, Hiroshi's cousins, too, remember that. That these care packages from the United States were real treasures. And they remember this, one of the things that they sent was pencils. And he said, "To this day, I remember the smell of pencils." I remember they used to send coffee and whatever we could afford, and old clothes. And as I say, we weren't rich by any means, but they did it. They need it more than we do, kind of thing.

KL: Yeah, especially if they were still in a city, I'm sure they really valued that.

SK: And another thing is there was a big earthquake in 1921 or something like that in Tokyo. And we had a record of my father donating thirty-five dollars to do that. And in those days, that was a lot of money for the relief effort.

KL: Do you know anything about your mom's time at Angel Island, if she was detained there at all?

SK: We had had a pilgrimage to Angel Island last October, and we didn't get upstairs to where the Japanese stayed, we saw where the Chinese stayed and all that, poetry which had been painted over eight times, you know. That was nearly torn down.

KL: Yeah, I know it's kind of amazing that it's survived and it's there and that it's visible and stuff.

SK: A friend of ours heard about it, his name was George Araki, Dr. George Araki at SF State. And he was the one who spearheaded the effort to save it.

KL: I'm glad. It's a really powerful place. Well, so you said that your father moved around a lot in this country. Did that continue after he was married?

SK: Oh, yes, yes.

KL: Do you know any of the places that they were? You mentioned Mexico, and then he worked in the lumber industry?

SK: Right, but that, I think, before he got married. Once he got married, then I know my memory is... I was born in the Sacramento area, Sacramento, and then we were, moved to Red Bluff, and he rented a laundry there, that's where my sister, who was four years younger, she was born there in Red Bluff.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.