Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Toshio Inahara Interview
Narrator: Toshio Inahara
Interviewer: Dane Fujimoto
Date: February 3, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-itoshio-01-0014

<Begin Segment 14>

DF: Will you talk a little bit about growing up? Do you see yourself as Japanese or Japanese American?

TI: Well, of course, when I was a boy, I was all Japanese. My parents spoke no English, and everything was Japanese at home, and so I became quite fluent. And furthermore, I attended Japanese school until I was in the fifth grade in Tacoma, and we did shuji. We learned all kinds of katakana. I could even remember we would have tests quite often, and the test consisted of writing as many kanji that you remembered. And I could remember that I would write up to 1,200 kanji from memory.


TI: After five years of Japanese school, we continued Japanese school after we moved to Oregon. We lived in Hillside, but we had to drive to Banks which is about five or six miles, and I would take all of my brothers and attend the Japanese school on Sunday. Our teachers, we had one living in Banks, a fellow by the name of Mr. Tsutsui who was very good, but we also had teachers come from Portland on Sundays. Mrs. Fukuda and Dr. Nakata were our teachers. There were probably around fifty to sixty students in Banks, and I don't know that we learned very much there because we were pretty rowdy, and it seemed like we would go to school just to get together with the other kids. So we did get to know the Japanese community quite well, and we had our annual picnics. We had Shogatsu get together, and we saluted the emperor in those days. It was quite an event. So we had a fair amount of Japanese culture until I was -- until I went off to college. And after that, my contact with the Japanese was very limited; and unfortunately, I've forgotten a good part of my Japanese language. I'm not able to read the kanjis anymore, but I'm still able to write hiragana, and I still correspond with my relatives in Japan fairly often, writing hiragana.

DF: Will you talk about, a little about your father's equipment at the kashiya?

TI: Yes. My father, of course, was the -- had a kashiya in Tacoma, and this particular mochi machine was quite large. The usu was made out of stone, and it was -- the whole stone was perhaps two and a half feet or so in diameter, and the hallow part of it was perhaps two feet in diameter, and the kine that pounded the machine was about six inches in diameter. It was lifted by a motorized mechanism, and they were able to pound about four to five pounds of rice at one time. Of course when he sold the store, why, you know, we no longer had that. But subsequently, after moving to Portland and after he retired from the farm, he opened a store in Portland, on Southeast Powell, and he bought another machine, it was very similar. It came from Japan, of course, and I remember I had to look for an electric motor that would operate this and was able to put it together, but it was, the mechanism was the same. And of course, you had to have a gas fired furnace or a stove to steam. It would steam about four saddles at one time, and I became acquainted with mixing the mochi, and I would do it all the time without risk. [Laughs]

DF: And where is that machine today?

TI: Well, the machine is now in Ontario. My younger brother took it with him, and it's over there now. It's still functional. And if I were to have access to it, I could still make mochi the old fashion way. I don't know whether or not you are aware that machine, I mean the mochi that's made by pounding like that, you know, tastes entirely different.

DF: Will you describe, you know, mixing mochi?

TI: Well, after the mochigome is steamed, if you flip it into the bowl which is a little tricky, you have to do it just right, and then you gather it together and kind of firm it down so when the kine drops, the rice doesn't scatter. You keep turning it, folding it in each time the rice is pounded, and it's steaming hot. At first, you use the shamoji to turn the rice, and also, you have to put a little water on the kine with each pounding. So you have to dip your hand in cold water, put the water on the kine, let it drop, turn the rice, and repeat and stay out of the way. And it takes about I'd say ten minutes to pound the rice into the final mochi state. Then you pick it up. It is still hot. And you know, it sticks so much into usu, that is hard to get it all out cleanly. But you pick it up, and then you put it on a bed of flour.

DF: And then you form it into balls.

TI: Then you form it into little balls, let it cool, and then package it. But the mochi that's made that way is very tasty.

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