Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Michiko Kornhauser Interview
Narrator: Michiko Kornhauser
Interviewer: Stephan Gilchrist
Date: September 23, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-kmichiko_2-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

SG: First, I'll just ask what your name is?

MK: My name, maiden name is Michiko Osui, but my married name is Michiko Osui Kornhauser.

SG: And when and where were you born?

MK: I was born on 21st of July, 1936, in the navy hospital in Sasebo, in Nagasaki prefecture, because my father was a navy officer.

SG: Okay. And your family's from --

MK: My family, well, my mother's family is from Kumamoto-ken, Yatsuro area. My father's family is from Fukushima-ken, Koriyama area. And then of course, their marriage was arranged, and then they met in Tokyo.

SG: And it sounds like your, your parents' background, they had a very educated background?

MK: Yes. In a way, my mother was brought up in Tokyo because my grandmother felt that the children, her children should be brought up in Tokyo where the education level is higher than the rest of Japan. So she was separated from her husband who stayed in Kyushu but brought up the children in Tokyo. So my mother's brothers graduated from Tokyo University and Hitotsubashi University. And then her sister was, graduated from Aoyama University, chemistry department, which was very unusual those days for women. But my mother was the kind of black sheep of the family. And then so she went to the women's, not women's high school, and after that went to Musashino College which became the Musashino Music College later on. And she loved to sing, so eventually, she joined the Fujiwara Opera House. Also that she loved to write. Then she became a newspaper woman and then writing about children's stories for the newspaper.

SG: And that was unusual back then for a woman to work?

MK: Unusual, yeah. My mother particularly was very active and then wanted to do something different from the rest of the women, so she wanted to get out of Japan, too, to study, because her grandfather went to University of Illinois to study business administration, American way of doing business, because my grandfather's father was a wealthy person and contributed a lot of money to establish Mitsubishi Foundation. And then he wanted his son to inherit a part of the zaibatsu and so sent my grandfather to University of Illinois to study. But my grandfather was not the kind of a business oriented person. As a result, he studied at the University of Illinois for ten years, but I don't know what he studied. But at the end, he joined a band and went all over the United States as a dishwasher, and he had a great time. And finally, the family said that, every three months, the family was sending him money, so he never worked. And then finally, the family said that, "You got to come back and work," so he came home. But then by that time, so many Japanese people did at the time, he got tuberculosis and then came back to Japan and had to be hospitalized. And then my grandmother was a nurse, and they're from a very poor family, and then they got eventually married. But my grandmother had an ambition because the rest of the family mistreated her, oh, you're from poor family, so she wanted to prove that she was capable of doing something for the family, so that's why she went, took the children to Tokyo to educate the children. But everybody else did very well according to, my grandmother's kind of idea of bringing up the kids. But my mother was different. She didn't like mathematics, and she didn't like chemistry and physics. And as a result, sometimes she was slapped by a yardstick because she didn't do well in math and so on. But she loved to paint and sing and write. And then eventually, she wanted to go to the United States because her father did. And then, she was just about two weeks before, she was to leave for the United States, Chicago, to learn how to be a beautician, that my grandmother arranged the marriage for her, and my mother always wanted to be liked by her mother. So when finally my grandmother said that, "You better meet this man," and my mother said, well, for the sake of being in good relationship with the mother, her own mother, she agreed to meet my father. And then that's the way the kind of arranged marriage was established. And my father saw my mother and then said, "If you don't marry me, I'm going to kill you." [Laughs] He was a soldier, and he doesn't, he didn't take no from a woman.

SG: That's a, I guess, a good way to propose to someone.

MK: They met only twice before they got married. So my mother didn't know his background or anything. He looked very handsome. He was a tall man, and he was very handsome to her. And so she felt that, she was kind of, maybe she was feeling lonesome and then somebody wanted her so much. And then I guess she felt that this was it, so she gave up on coming to the United States which she kind of regretted for the rest of her life.

SG: How old were your parents when they got married?

MK: My mother was twenty-five, and my father was thirty-five.

SG: Is that unusual for that time?

MK: No. My mother, usually, women got married much younger at the time, but that's the way it went. My mother wanted to have different life from the rest of the women, so she was working as a writer and for the newspaper and so on, singing on the stage.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.