Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Shizuko "Suzie" Sakai Interview
Narrator: Shizuko "Suzie" Sakai
Interviewer: Dane Fujimoto
Date: February 6, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-sshizuko-01-0003

<Begin Segment 3>

DF: What was some of the holidays like for you? Christmas, Shogatsu, Girl's Day?

SS: Well, we always celebrated the holidays. I remember we always had turkey at Thanksgiving. I remember my father trying to chop the head off of a turkey when I was a little girl, and we always had Christmas, had a tree, had presents, and we celebrated birthdays, had a birthday cake. I think we had the usual kinds of holiday celebrations.

DF: Do you remember some of your Christmas gifts?

SS: Not really. We usually got mostly clothes because that's what we wanted. I think Christmases then were nothing like, you know, the current Christmases where everybody is, I think, overindulge in gifts and that kind of thing. I think we took more pleasure in the small things. I remember my father would always get a box of Japanese oranges. When we lived out on the farm, there used to be a, I guess you'd call him a salesman that came from the Furuya Company in Seattle, and he would take orders for Japanese food. And so once a month, he would come to our house and usually stay for dinner, and we'd tally up the kinds of things that we wanted him to bring for us, and then he would take our order and then deliver, and that's how we got our Japanese food. And like the soy sauce would come in a big wooden barrel, miso would come in a barrel, and then we'd get things like dashi, konbu, nori, and just staples and rice, of course.

DF: And what was the New Year's meal like? What did that consist of?

SS: Well, we always had ozoni in the morning. Oh, making mochi was a kind of a community affair. And about three families would get together and, at someone's house, and we had this... like a big tree trunk that had been hollowed out to put the steamed mochi rice in, and they had a wooden mallet, and the men would pound the mochi, and then the women would make the small cakes and that kind of thing, and it was always an all day affair and a lot of fun, a social occasion. So on New Year's we'd have ozoni, and then we'd always have some fish and like shrimp, and I think we had kamaboko, and my dad would make sushi. We always had black beans. And he liked, what do you call that, kazunoko, which the kids never ate. We had the general Japanese foods for New Year's.

DF: What was your teenage years like?

SS: Well, I guess it was, you know, I was in high school. I was a campfire girl for about six years. I was on the debating team. I was not athletic. I couldn't hit a ball or bounce a ball if my life depended on it. I don't know, we just would go to movies once in a while. That was a treat because we had to travel some distance in order to get to a theater. I belonged to the Presbyterian church in Granger and would participate in Sunday school and church activities. My parents, especially when my mother was still alive, would drive up to Toppenish, and that's where they had the nearest Buddhist church, and they went to the Buddhist church. And that occurred in the afternoons, so we'd go to the, kids would go to the Presbyterian church in the morning and sing Jesus Loves Me, This I Know, and in the afternoon, on Sundays, we'd drive up to the Buddhist church in Toppenish and sang Buddha Loves Me, This I Know, so we were pretty ecumenical.

DF: During that time, did you identify yourself as Japanese or Japanese American?

SS: You know, I never thought of myself as Japanese because I guess I had no occasion to. There were a couple of years when I was in grade school, there was one Japanese boy that was in my class. All during my four years of high school, there were no Japanese in my high school, so I grew up pretty much in a Caucasian environment, and so going to camp was really an eye opener for me. And I think probably because I lost my mother early in life, I didn't have the advantage of learning a lot of the cultural aspects of being a Japanese. Not that my dad denied being a Japanese, but men just aren't into that kind of thing that women are, I think.

DF: So you felt pretty comfortable at school with other classmates?

SS: Oh, yeah.

DF: There was no ethnic episodes?

SS: No.

DF: Were you able to date in high school?

SS: No. We just went out in groups. I just never really dated.

DF: How did you and your friends get around in the small town?

SS: Well, a couple of my friends had old cars, you know, in those days, and we still went around in that and walked a lot of places. You know, life, if you were to compare it with life today, it probably would seem very mundane and boring, but we kept busy. [Laughs]

DF: What would a Friday or Saturday night look like during that time?

SS: Well, sometimes we'd have school activities. Other times, you know, we might go visit a friend or they'd come visit us and just talk, nothing very exciting.

DF: And during that time, what were your thoughts about marriage as a teenager?

SS: I can't even remember thinking about it, just was out of my realm of things that I was interested in at that time.

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