Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Miyuki Yasui Interview
Narrator: Miyuki Yasui
Interviewer: Margaret Barton Ross
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: October 10, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-ymiyuki-01

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

MR: This is an interview with Miyuki Yasui, a Nisei woman, seventy-seven years old, at her home in Portland, Oregon, on October 10, 2003. The interviewer is Margaret Barton Ross of the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center's Oral History Project 2003. Good afternoon and thank you for having us in your home.

MY: Good afternoon, Margaret.

MR: Can we start out talking about where you were born and when?

MY: I was born in South Pasadena, California, on September 18, 1926.

MR: Where is Pasadena in relation to Los Angeles?

MY: It's north of Los Angeles, maybe slightly northeast, but it's north.

MR: How many brothers and sisters did you have?

MY: I have two living sisters. I had a third sister who died before I was born.

MR: And what is your position in the family?

MY: I was, as my mother always reminds me, the baby of the family.

MR: And can you talk about your father?

MY: My father died when I was just a teenager, so I don't remember him well as an adult. But he came from Okinawa, and he came right after he graduated middle school. I believe he was about eighteen years old, and he went to Hawaii, first of all, and tried to earn a living there. But when he came to Hawaii, he left Japan with the idea of attending theological school. As far as I know, he never did, and he was not a faithful church attendee, so I don't know if that was just a way of getting over here or if that was really his intention.

MR: What did he do for work here?

MY: Well, when he went to Hawaii, he worked in the cane fields. He was a laborer, and almost all of his life, he did... he worked as a laborer. He was never a rich man, and I believe he traveled from job to job just to earn a living.

MR: What kind of labor did he do?

MY: In Hawaii, he worked in the cane fields. And we have some records that he may have taught his fellow workers some English because he apparently had studied English in school in Okinawa, and he was a little better off as far as the new language was concerned than his fellow workers, so he would spend his evenings helping his friends with the English language. When he finally came to the mainland, he worked on farms as laborers picking cantaloupes, working in agriculture. And when I came on the scene, he was working as a produce owner. My mother and father both worked in the fruit stand.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

MR: And when did your mother come to this country?

MY: My mother came about 1919. She was a young girl at that time, and she came as a war bride of another person.


MR: You were saying that your mother came to this country as a war bride?

MY: Yes. She was supposed to be the bride of this man who grew up in her area, same hometown. But when she reached America, she decided that no, she wasn't going to live with this guy. So the marriage was a "picture bride" marriage, so it was already on the records, but she refused to go as his bride. And her sister was already married and living in the Los Angeles area, so she decided that she would go and live with her sister for a while, and she did that for a few years until she met my father. Now, we never got the story from her, but there are records of her arriving in America on such and such a date. And then we had an exchange student living with us for a while, and he read our family koseki tohon which is the genealogy records, and he said, "Well, according to this, your mother was married when she came to America, and then her name is crossed off of the koseki tohon, the genealogy, so it must mean that she got a divorce." And then she is entered again a second time as the wife of somebody else who happened to be my father. So in putting all these things, stories together, we decided this was what happened that she didn't like the man that she was supposed to be the bride of, and she decided to just wait at her sister's place until her future was changed.

MR: Can you talk about what a "picture bride" was?

MY: Well in Japan, well, there was the law that said that no new people could come over to America. And so in order to get around that law, the young fellows who came to America to work in the beginning thought that after working a while and they decided that they couldn't go back to Japan to live, that they would start a family here, but the law forbid that. So what they did was they had the picture bride arrangement where they would write to people back in Japan to select a bride for them, and they would agree to be married. And as long as they were married, they could enter the country, the United States. Now in Japan at the time, as long as the person's name was entered into the koseki tohon, or the genealogy chart, that that would mean that they were married, and this is what they did. They would marry the person by proxy, and in most cases, they gave, they exchanged pictures, and an agreement was reached, and they were supposedly married, and they came to America. Very often, once they reached America, because the United States government didn't really think this was a legal marriage, they had to be married again, but at least they were in the country then.

MR: Did your mother share much about life in Okinawa?

MY: My mother wasn't from Okinawa. She was from Shikoku. So in fact in those days, the people on the mainland kind of looked down on the Okinawans. They were considered second class citizens, and I imagine some of that feeling extends to people to even today. But my mother had friends from the Okinawan community, and they were very close. And the Okinawan people, I believe, are very, very friendly, and she made friends with not only a lot of people, but my father.

MR: You said that her sister was here and that she stayed with her sister. What do you think brought them here? Why did they want to come to America?

MY: Well, there were more opportunities. That raises an interesting subject. My father was the chonan of his family, the firstborn son, which means that he has a special position in the family hierarchy that he would eventually inherit the land that the family lived on. And actually his family lived quite close to the castle, the Shuri Castle, and they were considered nobility, but he left all that to come to America. So then when his father died, the title of chonan was passed on to one of his younger brothers, and people always wondered, well, why did he leave Japan and all of this, you know, the future wealth that it was connected with it to come to America and to struggle all his life, which he did. You better repeat the question. I don't think I'm answering it properly.

MR: You're answering it for your father. I was asking why did your mother and her sister, what motivated them?

MY: I believe my mother came because her sister was here. Her sister was here, and her sister married this fellow who also grew up in the same hometown, and he had a hog farm, and apparently, he made out very well with that. He called his I don't know if they were married before she came or if she also went to, went abroad as a picture bride, but she joined him much earlier than my mother's coming to America. And so my mother thought, well, this would be a good place to live until things got straightened out.

MR: Did your mother work while she was waiting for her life to change?

MY: I really don't know. There was a period of time when we don't know what my father was doing or my mother was doing or a lot of other people. There aren't records explaining that. And one thing about growing up as a Nisei, the Issei spoke mainly Japanese, and especially the women didn't explain things in English or couldn't speak English too well. And as a child, we grew up with a lot of Japanese, but we couldn't carry on a very serious conversation. I couldn't in Japanese and my mother couldn't in English, so it was all kind of mixed up, and we did the best we could, but there were some things that we just didn't talk about. I wish I had now.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

MR: Going back to your father, you said he was from Okinawa. Did he share anything about Okinawa with you?

MY: Well, he was very close, he had a lot of close friends, and the Okinawans loved to get together, and I believe every weekend, the Okinawan community people would get together. They'd all bring their dishes, special potluck dishes and would spend the day singing and dancing and having a lot of fun. So we were a close community, and my mother had a lot more Okinawa friends than friends from her own area or prefecture in Japan, and we got along very well. Even now, I feel close to anyone from Okinawa, closer perhaps than from other parts of Japan.

MR: And just one more thing about your father. You mentioned he was the firstborn and that he had given up all this land. Do you know why he chose to come to America and give up his birthright really?

MY: Well when he came, it is said that he wanted to study theology, and I'm not sure about that, but we do know that his father was a military man. He not only joined, was one of the first Okinawans to join the Japanese army, he wanted to prove to the Japanese that there are Okinawans could be just as good a soldier as one of them, and actually, he was a very good soldier. He became a lieutenant, I believe. He was also a man who was a master in karate. In the old days, Okinawans practice karate secretively. But according to some records, my grandfather, Ken Suyabu, was one of the first to come over outside of Japan and to demonstrate the art of karate, and he did this in Hawaii in the early 19... well, let's see, '20s. He demonstrated karate in Honolulu.

MR: I'm still trying to find out why did your father give all that up and come?

MY: Well, we think that as a chonan, he would have been expected to follow in his father's footsteps. But he my father was a really peaceable person. He was interested in the arts, and he was a prolific reader and writer. His father was a military man. He always carried his sword by his side. He frequently wore his uniforms, and his bearing was very militaristic and stiff, and I believe maybe my father didn't want any part of that, so he left.

MR: And did your mother work as, when you were young, before your father died?

MY: Well, she worked in the fruit stand with my father. They saved their money together. And when he couldn't earn a living as a farmhand, they decided to try something else. And there was a period of time when he and a couple of the friends tried the restaurant business, but after a year or so, that failed. And so with the savings that he and my mother had accumulated, they bought this little business, and she worked with him all through the years with that.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

MR: When... where did you go to school as a youngster?

MY: I went to school in Los Angeles. We left South Pasadena when I was maybe one or two years old, so I grew up attending the Los Angeles schools. And we moved around several times, so I attended several elementary schools. But I was at Virgil Junior High School in the Hollywood area when the war broke out, and then we went to camp.

MR: When you were in school in Los Angeles, there were several so I guess just kind of the overall picture, were there other Japanese children in school with you?

MY: Oh, yes. There were always a lot of Japanese children. There were blacks and Latinos. It was always an integrated community.

MR: What sort of social life did you have in the lower grades?

MY: Very little because my parents were both working, and so my sister and I, we'd stay at school. In California because the weather is good, they always had an after school program, and the kids could stay at the playgrounds, and they would have supervisors there. And we'd stay there until it was getting dark or the time that we thought our parents would be coming home, and then we'd go home and because we were left on our own a good deal of the time. We didn't go to Japanese schools as a lot of other children did, but we stayed and played with our friends and then came home and studied and entertained ourselves.

MR: Was there a Japanese community that you identified with in that area?

MY: There was a Japanese community, but I think we closely identified with the Okinawans more. We lived for the weekends so to speak. We had a lot of friends in the area too, but they were busy with things like going to Japanese school after their regular schools ended, so we had some friends, but we didn't spend that much time with them. We did go to, I went to church, Sunday school, and made friends there, and then we formed a social club later on, but we didn't have the programmed activities like they do nowadays.

MR: Where did you, where did your family other than the produce that your parents could have gotten for cooking did you find Japanese food? Was there a store specializing in that?

MY: There were several stores. There weren't too many nearby, but in Los Angeles, in the Los Angeles area, you could buy fish from the fish man. He'd come by several times a week with his truck full of fish and tofu and several special Japanese items, and the housewives would wait for him to come by. And it was always exciting to have Mr. Fujimoto come by with his truck, and he would give us little chips of ice to suck on. And then for the big Japanese marketing, we'd go into town. But since my mother and father had this produce stand which was a part of a regular grocery store, we were able to get our staple items and most of our groceries right there.

MR: When summertime came, how did you spend your days?

MY: Well again, we were on our own, but we had a lot of friends, and we played the games like jump rope and hopscotch, and we made mud pies. In those days too, we felt fairly safe, you know, walking, just children walking around the neighborhood. And I can remember my friends and I taking doll buggies and our dolls for a ride, and we'd go for several blocks, and it seems that we used to wander much farther than I would have preferred to have my children go. I would have disallowed that for my own kids, but we got by all right.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

MR: You said you were in junior high when the internment came. But before that, your father had passed away; is that right?

MY: Yes. Actually, I was in high school when the war broke out, I was a sophomore. My father died in 1939. And so by then... let's see, he died in 1939. By then, the store was sold, and he was working as a gardener, maintenance gardener. And one day, my sister and I were walking home from school and Dad passed us in the car, and we thought, well, gee, it's so early for him to be coming home. And then when we got home, he was on the floor. He had a stroke, and so my sister, my older sister, called the doctor, and he came right out. And in those days, I guess, they just went to bed. They didn't have the knowledge that they do have now regarding stroke treatment. And so my father was in bed for a long time, several months, and then he finally died. So then, it became necessary for my mother to go to work, and she became a domestic worker. She would go during the days to different homes to clean up or iron and do the laundry, and then she'd come home in the evenings. And we had a friend who was... oh, I imagine he was in his '20s, and he felt very sorry for my mother to take care of three daughters and to be gone all day and to come home late at nights. So he had been working as a bellhop in these fancy places in Las Vegas, and he had saved up his money. So what he did was he took his savings and bought a hotel and asked my mother if she would be a manager for him, and we had our own little apartment then, so that allowed my mother to be home all day so that when we kids came home from school, she would be there, and it worked out very nicely.

MR: That must have been quite a change of pace for your mother from cleaning up to actually managing and taking care of the books.

MY: Yes. But the hotel that we had was it had only about fifteen guest rooms and they were just one room with a lavatory down the hall. It was one of these small hotels that a lot of newly arrived immigrants operate. It was hard for her, but it was basically housekeeping again, and the book work was fairly simple, and there's certainly weren't the forms to fill out then as there are nowadays. But it was very hard for her, and her English language ability was very much limited, but she had to learn as quickly as possible, and she could get by with her ability.

MR: As a young girl, we don't pay that much attention to our mothers sometimes, but did you notice a change in your mother as she was taking on this added responsibility and really taking charge of the family and the hotel?

MY: No. We couldn't see too much difference, but it was difficult for her. When I think about it now, she was only forty-two when she was widowed, and she had the three kids to take care of and to be the breadwinner too, plus the fact that her English was very much limited, so it was very hard for her.

MR: So that was in 1939, '40?

MY: My father died in '39, but it wasn't until '40 that we had the hotel.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

MR: And then shortly after that, you're in high school and Pearl Harbor happens.

MY: Yes.

MR: What was what was going through your mind at that time?

MY: Well, of course, we were very much worried. We didn't know what the future was going to be like. My mother was frightened, and there were all kinds of rumors flying around that the Japanese would all have to leave and be put into camps. And it all turned out to be true, but it was hard for her, and she would rely on her friends' counsel quite a bit.

MR: How many of your family were together? Was everyone still at home at that time?

MY: Yes. There were just the three of us siblings and my mother, and we were always together.

MR: What assembly center did you go to?

MY: We went to Santa Anita. We lived in Los Angeles at that time, and we were one of the last groups to evacuate. What happened was the earlier groups went to Manzanar. And then as soon as they left town, their living area was off limits to all the other Japanese. So gradually, our area for traveling became smaller and smaller because we were one of the last to leave. But we went to Santa Anita which was fairly close to Los Angeles, and we met downtown, boarded buses, and left.

MR: For Santa Anita?

MY: Yes.

MR: What's your recollection of Santa Anita?

MY: Well, first of all, it was very kind of exciting because we'd never seen so many Japanese before in our lives, and here we were all thrown together, you know, and we were teenagers, and you know how young kids are. You want to look around and see who else was there. So for the first few weeks, it was very exciting just to kind of get our feel around camp. But, the older people realized that this was not good, that the young people should have school or have something to keep themselves occupied, so a bunch of volunteers got together, and they started a school in the grandstand at Santa Anita. I went to school, and my chemistry teacher was the local undertaker's son who had a lot of courses in chemistry, and my art teacher was a man who had a job at Disney Studios, and it was like that. We took classes, and the person who taught was someone who was employed in that field, and it was not only fun, but it kept us busy and out of trouble.

MR: When you left, you could only take what you could carry. What did you decide was important to bring?

MY: Well, there again, we heard a lot of rumors, and I know someone said, well, you better bring boots because you're going to be in, either in the desert or in the snow country. So one of our first trips was to go out to the shoe store and to buy boots, knee high boots. And of course, we didn't wear things like that in Los Angeles, but we went to camp with our boots. We were also required to take our own cooking utensils, not cooking not cooking utensils but eating utensils, our own bedding and clothes, but our limit was just that which we could carry, but we had quite a big bundle of things to take. And there were just four of us women in our family, but we had help from other people who either lived in our hotel or lived nearby.

MR: As a teenage girl, what did, was there something that you took along that maybe wasn't on the list that you just couldn't live without?

MY: I can't think of anything. Let's see. No. And of course, we didn't have things like material things like the kids do have nowadays, but I can't think of anything special.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

MR: So after Santa Anita, what camp did you go to?

MY: Santa Anita was the assembly center to which we went, and then we went to Heart Mountain, Wyoming, and that was in the month of September.

MR: And you used your boots?

MY: Yes, we did. In fact, that was one of the coldest winters that they had in Wyoming. And on my birthday, which was September 18th, it snowed for the first time there, and it was knee deep, so we were properly equipped with our boots.

MR: Had you ever seen snow before?

MY: I haven't, not up close, you know. My sisters did. They used to take trips up to Bear Mountain and places like that, but I was always too young. I was supposed to wait a year or two, but that never happened. But when we went to Heart Mountain, there was plenty of snow, every winter.

MR: Did you go to school in Heart Mountain?

MY: Yes. I went to high school, and I graduated. I was a junior when I left, and then I finished in Heart Mountain. By the time I graduated, they had built a new school there. At first, it was just in a barrack and all the kids were crammed into this little building. But then, after a year there, they built a high school for all the kids, and it was very nice.

MR: How well was it supplied; textbooks, papers, utensils?

MY: With the new school, it improved. In the beginning, there was a shortage of books and manuals, so the teacher had to write everything on a blackboard which was just a piece of board painted black, and there were maybe three kids sharing two seats. It was very crowded. But at the new high school, there was plenty of room, and I believe the materials increased also. When the new high school had a library too, and after I finished high school, I got a job there.

MR: What kind of books were in the collection at that library?

MY: Oh, we had everything. We had fiction, nonfiction, magazines, some newspapers, and all kinds of reference books.

MR: Was it well used, the library?

MY: Oh, yes, all the time. It was one of the larger gathering places in the school building, so it was very popular. Like all librarians, we had to encourage people to keep their voices down, and then but it was very well used. It was a nice place to be.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

MR: What did you do for enjoyment at Heart Mountain?

MY: Well, while I was in Heart Mountain, I was going through the ages of fifteen, sixteen, and we went to dances. We had a lot of sports programs. Our high school sports teams played with teams from outside of camp, and that was always very exciting. We went ice skating in the wintertime, and in the summer, they flooded out a big area so that the kids could go swimming. And we attended movies, church, dances, every weekend. And typical of the age, we were very much interested in boyfriends and the latest band music and things like that.

MR: What did your mother do in Heart Mountain? Did she work there?

MY: Yes. I believe most adults got a job if they were physically able to. My mother and the lady next door worked in the latrines. It was their job to be janitresses, and they got along very well together, and they actually had a lot of fun. But then after work, my mother was able to take embroidery courses, and she didn't take flower arranging, but she had time now on her hands to do some of the things that she was always interested in because she no longer had to worry about feeding the kids and herself. She didn't have to worry about the rent or anything like that. And then she and the lady next door also had some seeds sent into camp, and they had what they call victory gardens, and that was always nice. They had a lot of vegetables growing, but they always try to outgrow the other one, you know. "My cucumbers are doing better than yours, and my beans are growing taller than yours." And there was a lot of competition, but it was friendly, fun competition.

MR: Were the gardens like right outside the door or somewhere else in the camp?

MY: It was just behind the barrack.

MR: Sometimes the camp life was really difficult for families, children went off one way, parents another. How did that life affect your family?

MY: There wasn't much of that in our own family. I believe it happened more with boys than the girls. I think the girls tend to be home and to eat with their brothers and sisters and their mothers. There were not as many men around as women it seems. But... and occasionally, we would go and have lunch with our friends, but it didn't happen as often as a lot of stories that I have heard.

MR: I want to go back to playing ball with teams from outside camp. Did your teams go to their schools, or did they come to yours?

MY: Both. We had a very good team. It seems like the boys' basketball teams, the girls' basketball teams, we were always shorter in stature and all that, but it seems like they were much quicker. And so as far as winnings are concerned, we did quite well. And we also had what we called a pep club. A whole bunch of girls would get together, and with our pom-poms, we would cheer the boys on or cheer the girls on, and it was a good time. And because it was in a camp situation, the games were viewed by everybody, you know, the old folks, the little kids, and all the students alike, so it was a lot of fun. It was always a time for great fun.

MR: How did it feel to leave camp for these games and then have to come back?

MY: No, just the teams left. The internees didn't leave. But when we had teams coming in to play, then that's when everybody turned out. I imagine the players who were able to leave camp enjoyed it very much because, you know, it was freedom out there, and they usually had dinner out before they came back.

MR: Did you ever leave camp for shopping or work?

MY: Yes, we did. My sister worked as a teacher for a while. But later on, she worked in the social welfare department, and the person in charge was a very nice, understanding person. And what she would do was take her workers outside of camp for a day at a time, and you know, she'd rotate the person. And so when it was my sister's turn to go outside of camp, this lady invited the whole family to go too, so we spent a day in Cody. And first of all, she took us near Yellowstone Park to see the scenery there, and then we returned to Cody to go to dinner, and it was just very nice just to be out.

MR: Did you stay in camp the whole time?

MY: I was in camp about two and a half years. I left finally to go to school. What happened was my mother again was worried about leaving camp when the time came that we were able to do so, and a recruiter came from this place called Seabrook, New Jersey. It was a food processing plant, and they wanted a hundred or more people at one time, and so she felt that there was safety in numbers, and so she decided that that was the time for us to leave. My sisters had left camp earlier. One got a job as a student domestic. She worked for her room and board and was able to leave camp with her friend. And so my mother and I went out to New Jersey, and we went in a couple trainloads, and we worked there for... well, I worked there for about two years until I saved enough money to go to college. And this place was about a mile not a mile but an hour away from Philadelphia, so I entered college in Philadelphia.

MR: Were you in camp when the "loyalty questions" were asked?

MY: Yes, but it didn't involve me because I was too young at the time. But when we left, we had to fill out the "loyalty questionnaire."

MR: Do you remember the discussions that were going on?

MY: Oh, yeah. It was a very hard time for a lot of families. By generations, a lot of families were split. You know, the parents thought that they couldn't answer those questions a certain way; whereas, the child felt that they had to be loyal and all that. It was very hard, and it was in our camp where we had the... where the draft resisters were very strong, and there was a large number of them.

MR: What came of their resistance?

MY: Well, they ended up in jail, and then a lot of people in camp looked down on them. They thought they were, you know, being very disloyal, and it was a tough time for them. But now I think as the years go by, people give them a lot more credit than they did during the war years and feel that they were very strong to stand up for their rights of what they thought was right.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

MR: Let's go back to college. It was in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, what was the school?

MY: I went to what was called Drexel Institute of Technology in those days. Now it's called Drexel University, and it's part of the University of Pennsylvania.

MR: Did it... did your education at Heart Mountain have any influence on getting into college? Was it any more difficult? What was the admission process like?

MY: I had graduated high school in Heart Mountain. But when I tried to get into college, a lot of the schools, not a lot, but there were a couple of them that would not accept my credits. They said that, you know, this won't do as a college entrance. So Drexel finally accepted me under the condition that I go back to summer school and make up a couple courses, couple credits, and so I went to Temple University High School the first summer after I started Drexel, and I took Spanish and English to make up my credits.

MR: So I'm trying to get this straight. You went through a year of college, and then they had you go back to high school and make up credits?

MY: Yes.

MR: What did you study in college?

MY: I majored in home economics with a specialty of designing.

MR: Designing what?

MY: Fashions, textiles.

MR: Upon graduation, what did do you with that degree?

MY: Well, I got a job in Philadelphia, first at this department store, Gimbles, in the display department, setting up displays and painting backdrops for their windows. And then later on, I got a job in a fashion designing house designing teenage clothes. And then this program that I entered at Drexel was called a work study program. We would go to school for a semester, and then we'd work for a semester and then go back to school. And this way, we got our practical training as long, as well as our formal training. And so I worked at this company in Philadelphia, and I worked for one season in New York City... well, actually two seasons in New York. So it's not only very interesting, but I was able to earn money in that way to save up enough money to go to school the following semester.

MR: Where did you work in New York?

MY: I worked for Patula Modes With the designer Joe Copeland and at B. Altman Company which is a large department store on Fifth Avenue.

MR: And so for you, what was it like to be on the East Coast during the war?

MY: Well, it was very exciting. When my mother and I worked at Seabrook, my sisters in the meantime had moved to New York City and were living with friends there. They had a large apartment. And so after my mother... my mother left to join my sisters when I went to school in Philadelphia, and then I joined them after I graduated and for my work study programs. And it was, it's a nice place to live if you're single and, you know, you're young, but I wouldn't want to do that with a family at all.

MR: When you were in New York, did you have the time or was the culture because of the war, was the culture booming? Were there things to go and see and do or...

MY: Oh, yes. There was lots to do there and in Philadelphia also. And then they had the Japanese church, and well, actually, they had a couple churches. They had the Methodist church and the Buddhist church. But whenever a group of Japanese get together, you know, they have this common camp experience, so there's always something to draw them together and to share, and so we had a lot of social life in New York, and it was fun. It was very exciting.

MR: So you went back and forth between school and New York; is that right?

MY: Yes, or if I was working in Philadelphia, I'd just stay there and worked and then went to school the following semester.

MR: It sounds like a lot of fun.

MY: It was.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

MR: And so sometime in that time, is that when you met your husband?

MY: Yes. Homer was going to medical school at the time that I was going to Drexel, and I don't know. I guess we met at the International Institute. This was this church sponsored organization where they would have socials every weekend. They'd have dances, and I imagine all the Japanese community came out for that because that was a good time to meet other young people, and all the students seemed to gather there, too. So it was a place where we all went, and we enjoyed it. I met his roommate at the International Institute, and through this friend, I met Homer.

MR: Were you close to graduation at that... I mean, where were you in your academic career when you met Homer?

MY: I believe we knew each other a year or so before I graduated. And when I graduated, he was already in Milwaukee going to, for his internship at a hospital there.

MR: Wisconsin?

MY: Yes.

MR: Now, this is after the war, is that right?

MY: Yes.

MR: Okay. Let's go back, just backtrack a little bit. When the war was over, where were you and how did you find out and what were you thinking?

MY: When the war ended, I believe I was in Seabrook, that was summer of '45, and I went, I left camp in December of '44, so I was in Seabrook, New Jersey, at the time. The war ended, and of course, we were all elated because of that, but life went on. We continued working there. I don't think it really changed too many people's plans.

MR: Did your family ever entertain notions of returning to Oregon or to California, I'm sorry.

MY: Yes, I believe so. I know my mother wanted to because my father was buried there, and I have a sister who was buried there also, and her friends were all back there too, but she was living with my sister in New York and my brother in law. And then after a year or so, they had children, so Grandma was very happy to be there with them. And later on when we were already on the West Coast, then my older sister had returned to the West Coast. My mother went back to Los Angeles to live.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

MR: So now we'll go back to your meeting Homer. He was in Wisconsin then and you had graduated from college.

MY: Okay. After we were married, he had accepted a residency at Vassar Brothers Hospital in Poughkeepsie, New York, so we that was our first home as a married couple, and it was a lot of fun. It was a small college town, and I got a job at the Vassar College Library, and he worked at the hospital, and we were very poor. I think I got $25 a week, and he got maybe $75 a month. I don't know, but we couldn't afford a car. We had a bicycle, and we'd go all over on our bikes, and it's a good thing we were young in those days. But, we took trips up to Hyde Park on our bicycles. If it was a long trip like that, we usually rented a second bike and we would go, but it was fun.

MR: Did you miss the fashion industry?

MY: No, not really.

MR: It sounds like such fun.

MY: But after coming to Oregon and after we had our children and I was home, I kept thinking, well gee, I should have continued to work, you know. It would have been exciting; although, I believe the opportunities aren't here in Oregon as they are in New York. But I was a stay at home mom and did volunteer work.

MR: There's a lot of value in that. When did you have your children, and where were you living?

MY: Okay. Barbara was born in Oregon -- well, all of our children were born in Oregon, but Barbara shortly after we arrived in Portland, and Meredith was two years after that. And we had I was pregnant with a third child, but we lost him and adopted our son who came about a month after two or three months after we lost Alan.

MR: And what year was your daughter Barbara born?

MY: Barbara was born in 1952, February, and Meredith was born in December of '53, and our son, John, was born in '57, September of '57.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

MR: So as a stay at home mom and you volunteered, what kind of volunteer work did you involve yourself in?

MY: Well, I helped out at the school office for a while. I was also a Blue Bird and Camp Fire leader for our girls, and I was also a softball coach for the girls' team too in their after school program. Then we worked with the Folk Fest of Portland. And oh, I worked for a while for pay with the JACL district office when it was in Portland, Oregon.

MR: Besides working for pay at the JACL, were you active in the organization as a member?

MY: Yes, I was. I believe I started in 1969 and worked in the office in 1972 to '74, I believe. But it was fun because the Nikkeijinkai and the JACL office were together in downtown, Old Town, and it was a stopping place where all these people who would come into town or a stopping place for them to rest between buses, and so we saw a lot of Issei in those days and a lot of Nikkei, in general.

MR: What was the paid work that you did for the JACL?

MY: I was the secretary to the director.

MR: What motivated you to join in the first place?

MY: JACL? Well, you know, that was really funny because this woman used to call me to tell me about all the different activities they were going to have and they sounded like fun, so I said, "Okay, I'll go," and I would. And every time I'd go there, that person was not there, and I said, "Well, how come you tried to recruit me to be a member and you're never at any of the meetings," and she apologized. She said, well, you know, she always she was always busy or she had some excuse. But we became good friends after that because she knew that I had joined because of her persuasion, and then I complained to her because I had never seen her. But I did enjoy the activities that they had. And in those days like today probably, if you show an interest, you're saddled with a job to do, and so I was, we... I was involved in the early picnics that they had and, oh, different things. Between Homer and I believe we served in almost every position that they have on the JACL board.

MR: What did you see as the purpose of the JACL?

MY: Well for one thing, it was a good way to get to know the community. We thought the goals were worthwhile, and it was something we enjoyed doing and getting our kids involved too.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

MR: Did you work for redress?

MY: Yes.

MR: What activities did you involve yourself in that regard?

MY: Well, we tried to spread the word through the community to get support, and we would go to meetings, I guess, sign petitions, or pass petitions around. We would go and talk to students about the evacuation and the redress.

MR: And how did you feel when the bill was signed and your efforts had paid off? I don't mean paid off in a monetary way, but you just saw the fruits of your efforts.

MY: Well, it was a good feeling that we had succeeded because there was some doubt, of course, whether or not there would be success. However, it was sad to think that the people who really should have seen redress, the Issei, and then the people who worked so hard for it like Min were already gone. And what we did was very little, but the ones who suffered the most were the older people, and the ones who worked the hardest weren't there to benefit from the results.

MR: When you were working for redress, what did your children think? Did they say anything about how you were spending all this time doing these things and you know?

MY: No. I think our children were pretty much accustomed to having Dad and Mom go to meetings and to be busy, and then they were also very busy. About the time of redress, I believe Barbara was at Stanford already or at the end of her high school career, and they were all very busy with their activities too. But I think they understood how we felt about it and were supportive.

MR: After your children left home, then what were your major activities?

MY: Well, there was Folk Fest, a celebration in 1976 of all the different ethnic groups in the city forming a council and putting together a big celebration for the bicentennial and that introduced me to the leaders of other groups, and it was very interesting, and I got to know many, many people, some of whom are still very good friends. And even though the Folk Fest was originally for 1976, it was so much fun that we all continued for many years after that, and I believe it was at least ten years that we continued to meet and have activities together.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

MR: At some point in your marriage, Homer went into the navy and you traveled with him to Japan, so probably not something you planned on. Can you talk about that?

MY: That was really a fun time for us. We were fortunate in that the children, that's Barbara and Meredith, and I were able to go along to join him in Japan. I believe he left on the 24th of December here. But in traveling to Japan, when he got there, it was already the 26th, so he missed Christmas that year. But the girls and I missed him, but we knew that we would be with him soon, and it was like a big vacation for us. We had we lived on the base, and I had a maid, and the children had a babysitter. It was great. And then our parents also were able to come and visit us at the time, so we went with my mother to her old hometown on the island of Shikoku. And being a small place, it was almost unchanged, and that was very nice. Then we went to Okayama to no. And then Homer's parents came to visit us too, and they have relatives in Okayama. We didn't go there with them, but we did visit the Yasuis later on, and it was oh, was very exciting and fun to see all the relatives.

MR: Where were you stationed?

MY: We were stationed in Iwakuni which is in Southern Honshu. That was right after the war, and there were still a lot of bombed out areas, and the scenery was all flat, and the cities were all flattened. And to drive down the highway, we would have to dodge all the nori and vegetables that were drying, that people had put out to dry on the highway. It was very primitive, but it was fun, and we enjoyed it very much.

MR: In your position as an officer's wife, how was it when you went out and about in the community off the base?

MY: Well, I don't know if word got around that we were, you know, Nikkei, but people treated us very nicely and in fact, I was asked to help out at one of the schools there. The kids had always taken English lessons, but they learned from a native Japanese whose accent was very bad, so they had me come out, not to try to teach them but just to talk to them, and that was a good experience. And the Japanese, you know, when they see you coming, they are very humble and very respectful. They would bow and be very polite. It was quite an experience.

MR: Did they make note of the fact that you really didn't look like a Japanese, Japanese as far as your bearing went, or could they tell that you were from America just by the way you moved?

MY: Probably because when Japanese come here, we could usually pick them out of a crowd of Nikkei. But there was a time when a man came to the door and I answered it, and he thought I was one of the Japanese maids. He says, "Is the lady of the house home?" and I had to tell him that I was the lady of the house, and I guess to them that was always a surprise.

MR: What was life on the base like?

MY: Well, life on the base was a bunch of coffees and sessions with the other women, but it was fun. We took, most of us had cars, so we took turns driving around the area and going shopping, and shopping in Japan is really lots of fun because things in those days were very reasonable, and everything was so different. We would go out and just have a good time and forget about coming home because the kids were being taken care of by their babysitters. It was very nice.

MR: What were conditions like for the people? Were they, had they recovered yet from the deprivation of the war?

MY: I think they were beginning to recover. In the Iwakuni area because there was the military base there, most people had jobs; whereas, maybe in other areas, jobs were very scarce. I believe the conditions in that one area was very good, and the cities were beginning to build up. I know from our first trip to Hiroshima and one of the later ones, there was quite a difference. Now when we visited Hiroshima on one of our vacations, we couldn't even recognize the city. It was so different.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

MR: How many times have you vacationed in Japan --

MY: After leaving?

MR: -- after leaving?

MY: Oh, five or six times.

MR: Quite a few then?

MY: Uh-huh.

MR: And what do you like to do when you go there?

MY: Well, we generally visit our relatives and friends, too, because we had a couple of students who came to America to study and they're all grown up, have families of their own, so we visit them too. Then we like to tour and to shop and to eat. It's always great planning our next meal there, and we're never disappointed. It's wonderful.

MR: Homer was talking about getting mushrooms here. Do you look for mushrooms there?

MY: Well, no, we didn't, but they do have mushroom stores. These open up during the season, and they have just mountains of mushroom at various prices and various stages of development. But we found that the Japanese mushrooms are a little different from the ones that we have here. They seem to be more aromatic. I don't know. The taste is very different. But we went to an inn once on our way to Kyoto, and we had dinner, and it was in the fall when the mushrooms were out, and they had sukiyaki on the menu, and they said, with matsutake, a certain price, without matsutake, much cheaper. And because it was so expensive, we decided to go without the mushrooms or the matsutake, and it was delicious. It was wonderful. So we thought, boy, we should have ordered the one with the matsutake, that would have been heavenly. But the Japanese do appreciate the mushrooms, and we've grown to be very fond of them too.

MR: Did you travel anyplace else? Have you taken trips for vacations at other places?

MY: Yes. We've gone to Europe, we've gone to Alaska, we've gone to Bermuda, we've gone to Tahiti. We've gone to Hawaii many times. Let's see, where else have we gone? That's probably about it.

MR: That sounds pretty good.

MY: It was fun.

MR: And since retirement, it sounds like maybe you traveled since retirement, but what else have you done since you've retired, activity wise in the community?

MY: In the community, well, when the Oregon Nikkei Endowment was starting up, we helped out with that and sat on the board for a while, and the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center started up at the end of the '80s, and opening of the park... not the park. But anyhow, we really got started in 1990, I believe. We were very much involved in that project also. I was active with Folk Fest until they disbanded, and I don't know. When there was a call to go out to different schools and organizations to give talks, Homer went quite often, and I went sometimes to the middle schools to speak to the kids.

MR: When you look back on all that you've done, it must feel quite rewarding.

MY: Yes, it was. I'm glad we did the work that we did. I should have done more. I wish that we could have continued, but we're ready now to slow down and to enjoy the opportunities that are coming up now, and we do like it here at Cherry Wood, and we look forward to getting involved in the work here too. I notice that a lot of the residents do volunteer work around the hospital and the areas in this neighborhood, and I think maybe Homer and I will get started on that too pretty soon.

MR: Once you're settled in?

MY: Uh-huh.

MR: We're sort of coming to the end of the interview. Is there anything that I didn't ask you about that you would like to talk about?

MY: I don't think so.

MR: Okay. Well, is there anything that I did ask you about that you'd like to go back and expand on?

MY: No.

MR: Well then, thank you very much for your time and your hospitality.

MY: Thank you, Margaret.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.