Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Rin Miura Interview
Narrator: Rin Miura
Interviewer: Michiko Kornhauser
Date: February 11, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-mrin-01
Original Japanese transcript

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

[This transcript is a translation of the original Japanese text.]

<Begin Segment 1>

MK: We are ready to start our interview.

RM: Yes.

MK: Can you hear me clearly?

RM: Not very clearly.

MK: Okay, then can I talk to you in a loud voice?

RM: Yes, please.

MK: Thank you very much for being here today.

RM: You are very welcome. My pleasure.

MK: I had a chance to spend some time talking to you the other day, and I learned a lot.

RM: That brought back a lot of memories for me. Thank you.

MK: That was great.

RM: Yes.

MK: Could you tell us your name again?

RM: Yes?

MK: Please tell us your name. Your name.

RM: Yes, my name.

MK: What is your name?

RM: My name is Rin Miura. Miura is my last name, and Rin is first. My maiden name is Sakashita.

MK: What is your birth date?

RM: I was born in 1901. October 4th in the 34th year of Meiji period.

MK: Where were you born?

RM: At home, I guess. Perhaps.

MK: In Nagano Prefecture, right?

RM: Yes, in Nagano Prefecture. It was called Fukuda in Izumida Village when I was there, but now it is Ueda City.

MK: How many siblings do you have?

RM: Four sisters.

MK: Do you remember their names?

RM: Yes, I remember their names. My elder sister is Yoshinu. My younger sister is Tsune, then me in the middle and Toyo. She is five years younger and still living. She sometimes writes to me. She said she has problems with her legs and needs someone to hold her to stand up, but she still writes to me.

MK: It's great that you are both doing well.

RM: Yes, I'm grateful. We are doing well. Doing very well.

MK: Please tell us your father and mother's name again.

RM: Yes. My father's name is Kamekichi, but he was sometimes called Kametaro. He preferred the modern name, I guess. My mother's name is Shin.

MK: I would like to ask you about your husband too. Where was he born?

RM: That area was called Muroga. His family had a small house there, and Muroga is now the name of the village. He came to my father, married into our family and became a Miura. Where was it... [looking for document] Here it is.

MK: Official registry.

RM: Yes. When my first son was born here, we were not allowed American citizenship, right? We were all planning to go back to Japan. That's why we needed a copy of our official registry. Here is the record.

MK: Thank you.

RM: You can take a look.

MK: Can I make a copy?

RM: Yes. Please feel free. We had it mailed from the village, from Ueda City.

MK: Can we hold on to it?

RM: Yes, go ahead. I have two copies. The same one. Yes. When we had the other children after that, we felt like we did not need any more copies. We thought we could just go back to Japan. That was something we were not able to do, though. We couldn't afford it and ended up living here permanently. We all got American citizenship after the war when we became eligible.

MK: Were you still planning to go back to Japan?

RM: Well, all our children love this county. We couldn't have found a job even if we had gone back. We ended up hanging around and staying here.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

MK: I would like to ask you about your childhood.

RM: Yes, yes.

MK: Do you remember any lullabies your mother used to sing for you?

RM: No, no. My grandmother was at home and took care of us. In the countryside back then, mothers were working and busy with household business. Grandmothers took care of kids.

MK: What kind of songs did your grandmother song?

RM: She was a very nice grandmother. She used to compose poems. Very nice grandmother. She used to talk about her childhood. Nice grandmother, yes.

MK: Did she sing this? [Singing a traditional lullaby]

RM: You are a good singer.

MK: Do you remember the song?

RM: Yes, yes.

MK: I heard it came from China.

RM: Oh, I didn't know.

MK: Any songs you remember?

RM: Well, a song about Momotaro, and also crows.

MK: [Singing] Crow, why are you crying?

RM: Yes. That was it. Way back then. Small children play with other children and learn from each other. Their brain works very well. [Laughs] They learn a lot of things very quickly, but that ability is long gone now.

MK: Nagano Prefecture is a beautiful area, isn't it?

RM: I don't know. I don't know about other areas in Nagano. Yes, I think so. [Laughs] It is probably beautiful.

MK: Flowers came out in the spring when you were there as a child.

RM: Yes.

MK: Did you have lot of cherry blossoms?

RM: Yes, yes. They were all over the place. Yes.

MK: Plum blossoms too?

RM: Yes, plum blossoms were everywhere too, and we had a lot of plums.

MK: Did you made pickled plums?

RM: Yes, yes. We did. We didn't buy any at a store. We bought salt and sugar but had plenty of seasonal fruit. We had apples too. Do you know about the sericulture industry? We all raised silkworms. All women and children needed to help during the busy season. We often bought some treat and gave it to the kids. They sometimes got a penny or two when they helped. Everyone worked very hard. Everyone had to work. I don't know about merchants, but we were farmers. Farmers in the countryside worked very hard.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

MK: What did you have for breakfast in the morning?

RM: Something like miso soup, rice and pickles in the morning.

MK: Any fish?

RM: We had fish for lunch or dinner. Miso soup and rice for breakfast. We made our own miso paste too.

MK: How about natto?

RM: I never had it. I don't know if my family made it or not, I don't remember eating it there. I had it for the first time here in this country.

MK: Do you eat rice with raw egg for breakfast?

RM: That's right. Eggs were the most nutritious food you could eat at that time, like when you had a cold. We always packed boiled eggs for lunch on a field day at school.

MK: Did you eat chicken too?

RM: Yes, yes. We ate chicken.

MK: How about beef?

RM: Yes, we ate beef too. We also ate pork and horse meat. We did. Any type of meat was a special meal.

MK: Did you make sukiyaki hot pot?

RM: Yes?

MK: Sukiyaki hot pot.

RM: Sort of. It was not exactly like what restaurants would serve here, but we had meat, vegetables and tofu in a pot.

MK: Did you make your own tofu too?

RM: No, no. We brought a pot to a store and bought tofu to take home. It is extremely cold in the area in the winter, right? We made dried tofu called shimi-tofu. Tofu makers make them, and we bought prepared tofu to hang in front of the house to dry. We let it dry completely and cooked it with rice. It was delicious.

MK: Did you make nori seaweed sheets?

RM: Nori? No, we bought nori. We didn't have ocean. Nagano Prefecture does not face the ocean. There are lakes, but not ocean.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

MK: Did you make rice cakes during the New Year celebration?

RM: Yes, yes, yes. We spent an entire day pounding rice cakes. We kept eating it for a long time too. We brought rice cake grilled with soy sauce and sugar for lunch when we went to school. We had it tucked in our kimono to keep it warm. We had it for lunch. When we were hungry after we came home from school, our grandma used to toast rice cakes over a charcoal grill. That was such a treat. We ate it and went out to play in the cold. [Laughs] We also had a lot of persimmons. We grabbed a bunch of dried persimmons when we went out to play. [Laughs] That how it was when I was a child.

MK: You clean the entire house at the end of the year to celebrate the new year.

RM: Yes, yes.

MK: Did you eat soba noodles for longevity at the end of the year?

RM: No, not really. Other people might have, but it was not really special. We were excited because we gain one year on the following day. Yellowtail fish for New Year. We used to hang a big yellowtail under the roof. We ate it during the New Year's celebration.

MK: Did you have a custom to avoid using a knife during the first three days of the year in Nagano Prefecture?

RM: I don't know. We might have, but I don't know. We were told not to cry. You would end up crying for the rest of the year if you cry at the beginning. We were not supposed to cry.

MK: You got a gift of money in a small sack.

RM: We didn't get any money.

MK: New Year money gift.

RM: Right, we didn't get any. My family bought us new pair of clogs or a new kimono. Well, they didn't really buy them, they made them. We were so excited to get new kimono. We played hanetsuki badminton games.

MK: And hyakunin-isshu card game?

RM: Not really. We played a card matching game when we were kids. We spread cards all over the table top of our heated table. There was this big board on top of the table, and that was where we played the game with cards spread all over.

MK: Did you make rice porridge on the seventh day of January?

RM: No, the seventh day... We always had something special throughout January. Children all liked regular meals though. [Laughs] That's what it was like.

MK: You had the bean throwing festival in February.

RM: Yes, yes. We did. Shouting out loud. [Laughs] Yes.

MK: It goes, "Luck in"...

RM: "Luck in. Demons out." We shout out loud and throw beans.

MK: Children love the festival.

RM: Yes, yes. Everyone was shouting out loud, and you could tell which household was starting the throwing. People in the countryside talk in a loud voice. We could hear them very well even the houses were quite a distance from each other. They talk loudly. Not soft voice. You can hear them very clearly.

MK: Did you celebrate the Doll Festival in March?

RM: Yes. We used to display old dolls that were passed down through generations. A newborn girl would get a set of dolls, and they display the dolls every year to pray for her well-being. Our display platform was full of dolls. We have old dolls out. I wonder how they celebrate it now. They might have a new set of dolls.

MK: Did you bring your dolls over with you?

RM: No, I didn't. I didn't bring them.

MK: You must have had a lot of deutzia flowers in April.

RM: A new school year starts in April. A lot of flowers would came out. We had a long winter there, and April was when the flowers were in full bloom. The silkworm season started in May. Everyone replaced the tatami mats with straw rugs on the floor and constructed a lot of shelves with bamboo sticks. We put a lot of basket to keep silkworm caterpillars, and all the houses were rearranged for this.

MK: That was in April. Anything special in May?

RM: Caterpillars turn into pupas in May.

MK: Also Boy's Day with carp kites in May.

RM: Yes, we did have carp kites out, too. Boys, unlike girls, were very important members of the family, I guess. [Laughs]

MK: Your family didn't have any boys...

RM: We did, but he died when he was still small, I think when he was five. He passed away. Everyone was disappointed, and our parents didn't have any more boys after that.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

MK: Did you start the rice planting in June?

RM: Yes, yes. Rice planting was done by women. Everyone helped each other in the entire neighborhood.

MK: You did some weeding in July, didn't you?

RM: Three times in those days. Silkworms spin and make cocoons three times until September. That was such a vibrant industry then, but I don't know why it's not there anymore. Apple orchards have replaced fields. Apples are everywhere now. The growers don't send their apples to stores like they do in this country. They have their own clients. They box up the products and send them out to the clients, and we used to have a lot of boxes piled up in our big room. I noticed a big difference last time I was there. Very different from what it was like when I was a child.

MK: Were you very busy during the rice harvesting season?

RM: Yes, yes. We helped each other, but we also had outside helpers in Japan. Hired hands came over and helped. We were very busy. We had to prepare lunch and bring it over to feed the field workers because they were hungry. It was a busy season but also a rewarding season as we were harvesting rice.

MK: Do silkworms stop spinning in September?

RM: They spin until September. We sold all the good ones after that. We kept lower quality ones that were somewhat dirty, thread it into silk, and sold the silk or kept it for our own kimono. Everyone knew how to weave. We did it in the winter, and it was just ordinary silk for the family. We asked professional weavers to create fancier fabric.

MK: Do you remember the Three Five and Seven Celebration [the gala day for boys of three and five and girls of three and seven]?

RM: Yes?

MK: Three Five and Seven Celebration.

RM: I never heard of it. I heard they celebrate the day now in the countryside, but we didn't do it.

MK: Nagano Prefecture is...

RM: Yes.

MK: ...well-known for its soba noodles.

RM: Yes, that's right. [Laughs] I remember we were looking forward to having soba noodles after visiting the Zenko Temple. We made some at home too. We pound grain with chaff dropping all over. We stuffed them in pillows. We had box pillows, but they were for brides. We all used "priest pillows" filled with buckwheat chaff.

MK: Buckwheat chaff pillows.

RM: [Laughs] That is what we did there.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

MK: How old were you when you started to go to school?

RM: I was a "latter half" child as they had two school years starting in June and also in December. Children who were born before June went first. I was born in October and started when I was eight. I was actually seven, I think, as we counted birth years by adding one year at each New Year day. I started as a "latter half" child.

MK: Did boys and girls go to the same school?

RM: Yes, yes. We went to the same school together.

MK: Was that an elementary School?

RM: Yes, that is what it was called.

MK: By the sixth grade?

RM: They had higher grades. They also had additional courses for us to learn how to sew. Sewing machines came to Japan for the first time when we started to learn how to sew. We were all pedaling. [Laughs] We made dusting rugs. We learned how to sew.

MK: That must have been Singer.

RM: Yes, yes. Singer. Yes.

MK: Were you wearing Western style clothing then?

RM: No, no.

MK: Kimono?

RM: We were wearing kimono, but boys were wearing some sort of pants and shirts. Girls were wearing long hakama pleated skirts over kimono to go to school.

MK: Were you wearing hakama in elementary school?

RM: Yes, yes. We all were wearing hakama. Every evening, we sprayed our hakama skirt with water, folded and placed them neatly on the floor and put futon mattress on top of it and slept on it [to keep the pleats crisp]. They looked nice in the morning when we were ready to go to school. Even as children we took care of our clothes.

MK: You didn't iron them.

RM: We didn't have irons. Everyone sprayed their skirts, arranged the pleats on the floor, put futon mattress over it to sleep on it. It was cold, and we had many layers of futon mattress. We put our skirt sandwiched in between. They were looking new in the morning. [Laughs] That what we all did. Everybody did it.

MK: Did you sleep with silk futon comforters at night?

RM: No, no. They were not silk. We had cotton comforters. I assume people in high positions were sleeping in silk comforters, but the children were sleeping in cotton filled comforters. They move a lot when they are sleeping. We also had a special cover with big sleeves to put over the top. I haven't seen them here, but we had it on the top to keep us warm.

MK: It must have been so cold in the winter when you were wearing kimono with loose sleeves.

RM: No, we were wearing kimono with tube sleeves. We had a shirt to wear underneath. That's what we bought and put on. We were not cold at all. We were skipping in the snow. [Laughs] Jumping around.

MK: Did you wear monpe pants?

RM: What?

MK: Monpe pants.

RM: No, we did not wear monpe. They came out after the war. We didn't have them. Women did not wear pants and the like.

MK: My mother did not have long underwear when she was a young child.

RM: No, we didn't. We had wrapper underwear for girls. We just had this underwear wrapped up underneath but didn't have anything else. Everybody was wearing this wrapper underneath. It was flannel in the winter. [Laughs] Wrapped around the waist.

MK: Did you wear hemp kimono in the summer? Or was it cotton?

RM: No, it was cotton. Yes. Hemp was supposed to be special. Elders would wear hemp kimono, but not children. We were wearing cotton kimono, yes.

MK: Young women...

RM: Yes.

MK: ...were wearing silk kimono?

RM: When they dressed up to go out. They were wearing cotton kimono at home.

MK: Did you go to preschool?

RM: We didn't have preschools in the area. I started with elementary school.

MK: What grade did it go up to?

RM: I think we were required to go to school through sixth grade. Then there was upper elementary school for another two years. We needed to pay tuition for that. We had a school for girls after that. My family sent my elder sister to a higher school, but they said we had many daughters and should not send all of us to upper schools. I was in a tricky situation. I just went to the upper elementary school. My sister is five years younger than I am, and all the girls got to go to a girls' school by the time she was ready to go to school. It was a different era.

MK: So you went to elementary and upper elementary school, a total of eight years?

RM: Yes, yes, yes.

MK: Did you sing the graduation song at the ceremony?

RM: Yes, we sang that song.

MK: And the firefly song...

RM: Yes? That was the song for the remaining students to sing. They sang it. Yes.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

MK: Fields in the entire region turned yellow with blossoms in Nagano Prefecture. Do you remember that?

RM: Yellow blossoms...

MK: Colza blossoms.

RM: Colza blossoms? I'm not sure what they were, but I remember I always saw a sort of flowers or another when I was walking in the countryside.

MK: They have a famous colza blossom song in Nagano.

RM: The song goes "colza blossom all over"?

MK: And...

RM: I see.

MK: Nagano produces a lot of scholars.

RM: Hum.

MK: People are smart there.

RM: Is that so?

MK: I am wondering why. [Laughs]

RM: Because they have a long winter there, I guess.

MK: Nagano is also known for the high-quality beef. From the Matsumoto region.

RM: It is? I see.

MK: Very famous.

RM: You were not born in this country?

MK: I was born in Nagasaki Prefecture.

RM: Nagasaki. That is why you speak very good English. I heard that a lot of foreign people live there in Nagasaki.

MK: I grew up in Okayama Prefecture.

RM: I see. I heard that is a beautiful area too. They grow a lot of peaches, and grapes too? I read in a magazine that Okayama is doing very well economically because their peach production is very strong this year.

MK: What kind of Japanese magazines do you subscribe to?

RM: No, I just go to Anzen store and buy them. I've been subscribing to Bungei Shunju.

MK: That is impressive.

RM: I enjoy reading the magazine. But it strains my eyes. I also read newspapers from Seattle and San Francisco. I subscribe to them.

MK: Is that the North American Post?

RM: Yes. The North American Post is running articles about this museum for a young painter who passes away. It is opening near where I was born. In Ueda City, and it is pretty close. The museum director writes great articles for the paper.

MK: It brings back fond memories.

RM: Yes, yes. When I hear about the neighborhood. It brings back memories.

MK: After you graduated from the upper elementary school...

RM: Yes.

MK: What did you do?

RM: I took an additional course in the winter, and it was for reading and writing. That's what I did. I learned useful skills like sewing too. And etiquette. [Laughs] Wearing white tabi socks. [Laughs] We learned how to walk on a tatami mat floor. We did it only at school, but not at all at home. [Laughs]

MK: How about tea ceremony?

RM: Yes?

MK: Tea ceremony.

RM: No, no. I heard learning tea ceremony is very popular now. The house I was born in is quite old. The family keeps it as it is and built a new one in the back field. They are renting the old house to a tea ceremony instructor. It was such a rural area, but it totally changed. Only people from special families learned tea ceremony when I was a child. Rich families, you know.

MK: How about flower arrangement?

RM: Flower arrangement was something that men would learn. Guys. It's funny, isn't it? Women didn't do it. They were all men. I don't know how it is now, but men did it when I was there.

MK: Tea ceremony used to be conducted before someone went to a war field...

RM: Yes.

MK: battle.

RM: Oh?

MK: Flower arrangement probably has the same background.

RM: It might.

MK: Samurai warriors...

RM: Oh, that might be the reason. Women didn't learn flower arrangement. It was all done by men. Men did flower decorations for wedding ceremonies. I don't know why women didn't. Women did a lot of weaving and sewing.

MK: Where did you learn how to cook?

RM: Hmm?

MK: Cooking.

RM: Oh. No, no. I didn't take any classes. Magazines, I guess, many women's magazines had recipes when I was in Japan. I looked at those. I don't cook often though. Some people like cooking, but I don't.

MK: Did you learn from your mother?

RM: Yes, yes. That's how I learned. She taught me how to prepare some special meals and gave me some instruction like how much water I need to put.

MK: You needed logs for cooking.

RM: Yes, yes. Logs. We needed logs. We didn't have a cooking stove. Schools had coal burning stoves, and a school custodian placed a fire starter in each stove for us. We put coals in it, and boys fanned it with their jackets. [Laughs] That's how we did it.

MK: How about charcoal?

RM: Yes, yes. I put them in the heated table and used them for cooking. What was it? The one you cook on.

MK: Stove.

RM: We used charcoal. Also those small portable heaters were always around.

MK: Did they make charcoal in Nagano Prefecture?

RM: I think so. We bought it. It came in a big straw sack. We bought it and used it.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

MK: Did you grow shiitake mushrooms?

RM: Yes?

MK: Shiitake mushrooms.

RM: I don't know. I didn't know anyone growing them. People went to mountains and picked them up, I guess.

MK: How about matsutake mushrooms?

RM: Yes, yes. We picked those in the mountains.

MK: Do you remember seeing foxes and bears in the mountains?

RM: No, I don't. I don't know, but people used to say a fox would trick you when you walk on a trail in the mountains. I don't know though.

MK: Do you remember seeing snakes?

RM: Oh, yes. There were snakes.

MK: Poisonous snakes too?

RM: I guess. I was afraid of them. They were everywhere. A lot of them, and I'm afraid of them. Yes.

MK: Did you see them in the house too?

RM: No, no. Old houses had a storage shed, and that is where we saw them turning white.

MK: White?

RM: Yes. I don't know. We had a lot of snakes and a lot of caterpillars. Yes.

MK: How about rabbits?

RM: Huh?

MK: Rabbits.

RM: Oh, they were free. We had them as pets. Everyone was required to have rabbits as the war was starting when I went to Japan. They said they were making rabbit fur gloves for the soldiers. Everybody was complaining as they had to clear some ridge in the field. They were complaining because they had to weed even though they got free rabbits.

MK: How about cats and dogs?

RM: Yes, yes. We had those. Poor animals. Our cats were fed rice with dried, grilled and shredded sardines. That's what they had to eat. Those cats got smarter and stole fish if they saw any sitting around. They hunted a lot of mice. They didn't have anything good to eat. We had a lot of mice in the countryside. That's why all the families had pet cats. Only a few special dog lovers had pet dogs. Not a lot of people had dogs. We heard that some dogs were fed with candies and we felt quit envious. [Laughs] That's how it was when I was a child. We didn't get a lot of candy. We had plenty of fruit instead. They are very good for children. We didn't get a lot of candy, and we were so envious that some dogs got to eat them. That's what it was when I was a young child.

MK: Did you grow wheat?

RM: Huh?

MK: Wheat?

RM: Yes. We grew wheat in the family field. When I was bigger, if the government had a plan to build a new warship, they recorded the number of the children in each household and told us how much we owed the government. They ordered us not to eat rice. They told us to eat wheat instead and inspected our lunch box to check if we were following the order. Elders were saying they could not eat wheat even when they were ordered. The government told us they needed a lot of money to build a warship. Everyone was following the order.

MK: Wheat. Do you remember eating bread made with wheat flour?

RM: Let's see. Bread came later, in our area. I was living in a dormitory to take some classes, and they used to serve bread for dinner every Saturday. Nothing else. No butter. [Laughs] We were pretty excited about having bread though.

MK: Because you didn't have it often.

RM: Yes, yes. That's why. We also had an paste buns, buns with sweet red bean paste inside. Elders were saying that big buns could be disappointing with just a bit of red bean paste inside if you were expecting a generous portion.

MK: Did you make your own bean paste?

RM: Yes, yes. We grew red beans too. We bought beans to make miso paste though.

MK: You didn't grow soy beans?

RM: I'm not sure. We used to roast them in a pan, sprinkle them with a bit of sugar and gave them to kids. They were very sweet. What are those green beans you would see at the beginning of the spring?

MK: Green soy beans.

RM: We harvested and boiled them to feed to the children.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

MK: After you graduated from upper elementary school and finished some additional courses, someone arranged marriage for you when you were twenty.

RM: Yes. [Laughs] That's what happened.

MK: Were you happy to find out the arrangement first?

RM: Not really. We were expected to get married at a certain age back then. This girl and that girl got married. That's how it worked in those days.

MK: Did you see a picture of your husband first?

RM: No, I met with him. Our matchmakers brought him over.

MK: What was your first impression?

RM: Well, it wasn't too bad.

MK: How many years older is your husband?

RM: Yes?

MK: How many years older is he?

RM: I was twenty. I was twenty-one, not twenty.

MK: Was your husband over forty?

RM: No. He was around thirty-six.

MK: Did you think he was a bit too old?

RM: No. My friend told me that he was too old for me, but I didn't feel that way.

MK: You father and mother told you that he was the perfect person for you.

RM: I don't really know. I guess. They had a lot of daughters and didn't want me staying single and hanging around. I was sort of kicked out. [Laughs]

MK: Did you want to marry someone who lived in Japan then?

RM: No. I wasn't thinking of getting married at all.

MK: You were to go to the States if you married this person. Were you okay with it?

RM: Yes. I didn't have a choice. [Laughs] Many people went overseas in those days. Some families went to the Philippines. Many people went out. Some families went to the South America. People were not afraid of going to another place back in those days.

MK: You knew nothing about the States.

RM: No, no. Nothing. I didn't know anything about the country. No.

MK: I would like to ask about your husband.

RM: Yes, yes. Yes, yes.

MK: He came over to the States when he was young?

RM: Yes, yes. He did, he did. He was around twenty, I think. Around twenty. Men would be drafted if they were around and available. All the men had to become soldiers in Japan.

MK: He came to the States instead of becoming a soldier then.

RM: He had a good friend to come with. I heard that's why he came over.

MK: Did he come to Oregon?

RM: No. Everyone had a visa to come to the States but disembarked in Vancouver as it was supposed to be an easier port to go through. People worked there too. My husband spent about four years there in Vancouver. He came to this country after that and worked at a sawmill or for the railroad. That's where people from Japan were all working.

MK: What did he do in Vancouver?

RM: He had some job at the beginning. I was told he had some trading business. His friend wanted to come to the States, and that's why he came over, too. He wanted to come over because his friends and everybody were already here. I heard that's why he came to this country.

MK: He went back to Japan to look for a bride when he had enough money saved.

RM: That's right. It took him a long time to save up money. [Laughs] Yes, that's how it happened.

MK: Did you come with his parents?

RM: No, no. I came over with a friend of mine.

MK: Nakau...

RM: Yes.

MK: Did you meet your husband's parents?

RM: Yes, yes. I did. I met my husband's parents. The father was adopted because the family didn't have children, and I didn't see anyone from that side of the family. I didn't.

MK: Does your husband have any siblings?

RM: He doesn't have any siblings. No.

MK: Because he is adopted.

RM: Yes, yes.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

MK: Did you get married in February?

RM: Yes, in February. It was the twenty-something of February, I think. I had a paper record. I probably still do, but you know how I am. [Laughs]

MK: It was February 27th.

RM: Yes. I think that is the date. I think it was at the end of February.

MK: I heard you had a problem with your eyes.

RM: Yes. I had trachoma. A lot of us were traveling together, and I got unlucky and infected. I had to go to see a doctor for a month.

MK: Was your husband back in the States then?

RM: Yes, yes. He came back before I came over. Yes.

MK: By ship, from Yokohama?

RM: Yes, I came over by ship from Yokohama.

MK: Do you remember the name of the ship?

RM: What was it? I don't remember. What was the second one? I don't remember it either. The second one, when we came back after we went back to Japan once, that was the last ship. Those who came after that had to turn around and go back. I went back to Japan for some sort of festival, and also we wanted our eldest son to learn Japanese. I took our eldest son, little Nami, and his younger brother and went back to Japan.

MK: What year did you go back to Japan?

RM: It was a long time after I came over. Many years.

MK: 1940...

RM: Yes, it was in 1940 something. Maybe after a year.

MK: Was that the year the war started?

RM: That was before the war started. Yes. That's what it was.

MK: Did you come back again before the war started?

RM: Yes. It worked out well, and we were able to catch the last ship. The next one left port but had to turn around and go back. That was when we went over. But I forgot about a lot of things many years ago. I remember some things very well, surprisingly. I have a poor memory. It's not fun.

MK: Did you spend about a month there when you visited Japan?

RM: No, not a month. I was there for a while.

MK: Half a year or so?

RM: Yes. No, not for half a year. Probably for three months or four months, I think.

MK: We are going back a bit, but you didn't know anyone here when you got married and stepped onto the ship in Yokohama, did you?

RM: No. The ship was full of people who were going back to the States and also a lot of brides. There was a boat full of brides when I came over.

MK: Did you have a good time on the ship?

RM: Yes?

MK: Did you have fun when you were on board?

RM: I see. Not so fun, as we were all seasick. We couldn't really get up.

MK: But you were heading for the States...

RM: We had to be on a boat for fourteen days those days. We didn't have any other way.

MK: Do you remember what you ate on the ship?

RM: No, I don't remember.

MK: You heard about what it is like in the States on the ship, didn't you?

RM: Yes. Those who were going back to the States told us about it.

MK: What was your expectation for the U.S.?

RM: Well, I was thinking that I would need to work very hard there. [Laughs] That's how I felt.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

MK: Where did the ship land?

RM: At Seattle.

MK: From Seattle.

RM: Yes.

MK: By train?

RM: By train. My husband was in Seattle to pick me up and bought me some western style clothes. We came back to our house in Portland after that.

MK: Was it the first time that you had ever put on western style clothes?

RM: Yes, yes. That was my first time, first time. I didn't even know what they were called, like those underwear items. They told me, but I didn't understand English at all. I learned a bit of English before I came over, but I had no idea.

MK: Were you wearing kimono on the ship?

RM: Yes, yes. We were all wearing kimono.

MK: At Seattle.

RM: Yes. At a Japanese dress maker's there. We bought a dress, underwear, shoes and all.

MK: Were you wearing geta clogs on the ship?

RM: Yes. We were wearing geta clogs or zori slippers.

MK: Was your dress long?

RM: Yes. People were still wearing long dresses then. Shoes were not like modern simple ones either.

MK: Laced up.

RM: They were sort of tall boots.

MK: Were you excited when you put on western style clothes for the first time?

RM: Yes. I was told they were taking pictures of us. [Laughs] We had some pictures taken.

MK: Did you get a hat?

RM: Yes, I got a hat too. The Japanese dress maker had a store full of customers like me.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

MK: What was your first house like when you got to Portland?

RM: Well, it was like "Is this an American house?" I don't remember what it looked like. It was in that resort area. What was the name? I cannot remember. Over the mountain ridge. What was it? It is still well-known. Cannot remember. The house was there, and I thought it was different in the States. From Japan. I don't remember. That's how I felt. Cooking pots and a kettle looked somewhat similar, but they did look a bit strange.

MK: Did you have a hard time with western style restrooms?

RM: Huh?

MK: Restroom.

RM: Not really. We learned how on the ship. We also received some instruction about customs in Yokohama before we took off. We had a class to learn those things. Restrooms were not a problem for me.

MK: How did you like sleeping in a bed instead of futon mattress?

RM: I thought it was better. Yes. We have to fold and put away futon mattress every day, don't we? We can just change sheets on a bed. I thought that was easier.

MK: Didn't you think that it was a waste of room space?

RM: It wasn't a big house, but we had two bedrooms. We lived with a friend. We came to stay with him.

MK: Was it in the Northwest?

RM: Huh?

MK: Was it in Northwest in Portland?

RM: Davis Street or somewhere around in that neighborhood. It is very different now. A lot of small houses were lined up, and our next door neighbors were white. Our downstairs neighbors were also white, and a Japanese family lived next to that. A lot of Japanese people lived there when I came over.

MK: How about Chinese people?

RM: I'm not sure. There were Chinese restaurants, and we ordered food on special occasions. It was delicious. I think Chinese people lived in the downtown area.

MK: Do you remember the address?

RM: No, I don't. 12 Davis, I guess. That where we lived.

MK: You moved to an apartment later, didn't you?

RM: Yes, yes.

MK: Was your first baby born when you were still living on Davis?

RM: Well, I think so. We had a midwife, and she came over to check on me. I had the baby at her house and stayed there for about a week. We went home after we recovered. She constantly had two or three Japanese babies to take care of.

MK: You were helping each other.

RM: Yes. That's how it worked.

MK: Did your husband work at a sawmill in Portland?

RM: No, he was working as a cook then.

MK: What was the name of the restaurant?

RM: It was something like Henry Taylor.

MK: Was it an American restaurant?

RM: Yes, yes.

MK: He got sick after that.

RM: Yes, we were still living on the east side then.

MK: Did you move to the east side from Davis?

RM: Yes, that's where we lived then.

MK: Was your husband always working as a cook?

RM: Yes, yes. He was, he was.

MK: Did he get sick after you moved to the east, southeast?

RM: Yes. He was still working as a cook.

MK: He quit his job as a cook and started to work at a sawmill after he got sick.

RM: Yes, he worked at a sawmill.

MK: Did you live in the southeast while he was working at the sawmill?

RM: No, no. The sawmill provided us with housing.

MK: Did you live at the sawmill with the entire family with the children?

RM: Yes, yes. That's what we did.

MK: Where is the sawmill?

RM: It was in Linnton. That's the sawmill he was working for.

MK: For how many years did he work there?

RM: Well, not for a long time. We moved to a town because it was physically tough to work at the sawmill. We offered to buy the apartment we lived in. We bought it and live there for a while.

MK: Were Japanese people able to purchase houses?

RM: Yes. Many people bought a house.

MK: When did you buy the house?

RM: I'm not sure.

MK: Who was born around the year?

RM: Well, maybe around when Nami was born.

MK: It was in 1936.

RM: Was it? Yes, that might have been around the time. The building was demolished because something like a big factory was being built. It is where the apartment building was replaced by the Saint Vincent Hospital. I read a newspaper article about it the other day, but that is where it was. We moved to east side on Third Avenue. The building is still there. It's past Morrison Bridge, and I heard it turned into a store. We lived there for a long time. It was more like a cheap hotel than an apartment building.

MK: Did you buy the entire big building?

RM: No, we were leasing it. Yes, yes. The war broke off when we lived there. We rented it out and moved to Idaho.

MK: How many rooms, apartments did you have in the building?

RM: Well, I'm not sure how many. We didn't have that many.

MK: You were able to rent it out?

RM: Yes, yes. That was our business.

MK: Did you rent it to white people?

RM: Yes, yes, we did. Japanese people had houses and their own businesses. Everyone was doing well back then.

MK: Did Japanese people live there too?

RM: No, no. But some people came after the war because they didn't have a place to live. They lived there for a while.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

MK: What did you think when you heard about Pearl Harbor?

RM: All the Japanese people got so excited, saying "We did it!" How foolish. There was a play performed by a group from Seattle on that day. We went to see the play. We heard frequent paging calling for Mr. So and So to ask him to come to the front desk because someone was waiting for him. They got detained there. Police took them somewhere, I guess. They seemed to belong to some sort of Japanese organization. They didn't do anything, but we found out later, on the following day, that they got the names off the organization list. Police came over to the play and paged people to come to the front desk to meet someone. They got detained and didn't come back for a while. We were surprised.

MK: Was that after the Pearl Harbor bombing?

RM: Yes, after the bombing. That was probably on the following night. People from Seattle had a hard time going back because the bombing took place in Pearl Harbor. We didn't take a radio when we went to the camp, but some people did. They were listening to the radio and announced Japan's victory, running among the sections and saying, "We won, we won." They were trying to get the spirit going. It was all lies. [Laughs] Yes.

MK: Did you have to sell your belongings like furniture when you went to the assembly center?

RM: No, not really. We didn't have much and didn't know. We left radios and guns with the police. There was a "ten-cents" store, and we bought metal cups and trays and packed as much as we could to go to the camp. We were told that there will be military blankets and beds. We packed blankets and as much as we could pack though.

MK: Men had to stuff straw when you got to the assembly center, didn't they?

RM: I don't know. Oh, you mean the bed mattresses. They might have. That was just an awful place. [Laughs] There was a roof, but no floor to ceiling walls. We could hear what the family next door was talking about. It was an individual room, but no privacy at the assembly center.

MK: You have meals at the cafeteria, right?

RM: Yes, yes.

MK: Did children eat with their friends?

RM: No. Adults and children all ate together.

MK: What did you do during the day?

RM: We had nothing to do and had a hard time. [Laughs] We talked about our experience to each other. Some new people came in occasionally. The assembly center was a busy place. We went to Idaho from there by train.

MK: To Minidoka.

RM: Yes. People from Seattle were already there when we got to Minidoka.

MK: You spent a summer at the assembly center, didn't you?

RM: Yes, we did. It was very hot. Yes.

MK: You had a lot of flies there.

RM: [Laughs] We did. The structure was for keeping animals. What a horrible place.

MK: But they fed you.

RM: Yes, yes. They did.

MK: Did you have rice?

RM: We did, we did. We always had rice, fish and meat. Government took good care of the food. Looking back, people in Japan had a hard time because of the food shortages, and those brides talked about it. We had food provided. They took care of children too. They also provided milk. They took a good care of the food there.

MK: On the way to Minidoka on the train...

RM: Yes.

MK: were not allowed to open the windows?

RM: That's right. That's right.

MK: Was it hot on the train?

RM: Not really. It was not hot enough to make us sweaty. Everyone was anxious and wondering where they were taking us.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

MK: It was in September, right?

RM: Yes. When we got there at that night, wind was blowing sand into the barracks. Everyone thought, "What a place."

MK: Futon mattresses and blankets.

RM: Yes.

MK: Did you get them right away?

RM: The rooms were furnished for sleeping. Every family had only one room. Even families with five or six people had to share one room. That was how it was.

MK: Did you eat in the cafeteria?

RM: We had a cafeteria, and they banged something when the meal was ready. We all went there.

MK: How about bathrooms?

RM: Yes.

MK: Were they separate? Not in your unit.

RM: Bathrooms were separate. Units did not have any, but each section had bathrooms and a laundry area.

MK: Did you have any hardships to make ends meet?

RM: No, no. We got together at the laundry area and talked to each other. [Laughs] Doing laundry.

MK: What did your husband do? Was he working as a cook?

RM: Yes, he was working as a cook for a while. He wanted to work as a farmer later, and started in the farm and worked there.

MK: Did they grow beets?

RM: Huh?

MK: Beets. Red daikon radish?

RM: I don't know. I don't know if they grew beets, but they grew some produce we would eat.

MK: Did you work in the field? Did you grow vegetables?

RM: No, I didn't work in the field. People were growing flowers, and I got some and planted them myself. Those who were good at knitting were teaching us how to knit, and those who knew how to sew in the American style were offering classes. I learned calligraphy there. Some people learned Japanese dancing. Everybody had some spare time. We had instructors in many different areas, and we all learned new skills.

MK: What were the children doing? Did they go to school?

RM: Yes, we had schools there. Everyone went to school.

MK: Did any of your friends pass away at the camp?

RM: Yes, I had some friends who died at the camp. We had a Buddhist priest and also a pastor. There were several sections in the camp, but we worked together when someone passed away.

MK: Did you have any issues or disputes like "no-no boys"?

RM: No, it was pretty good in Minidoka. I didn't notice any issues. The leaders guided us with vision. Yes. I heard that we didn't have any "no-no boys." Where was it? People somewhere over in California. There was a time that some people were sent back to Japan even after the war was over.

MK: Did you get transferred to Tule Lake?

RM: Tule Lake. I heard that was a horrible place.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

MK: Did you come back to Portland before the war was over?

RM: Yes. We were leasing apartments and came back a little earlier.

MK: What year did you come back? When was that?

RM: I don't remember. Anyway, I remember the day the war was over. I heard about it in a store. It might have been a couple of years after we came back.

MK: Did you come back around the time the war was over? Around 1945?

RM: I don't know, but I remember I was at a store. Everyone in the entire store was so excited when we heard the war was over. I felt so relieved that it finally ended.

MK: You came back to Portland during the war.

RM: Yes, we did.

MK: Did people treat you badly when you came back because you're Japanese?

RM: No, no. When we left, all the tenants came to say goodbye to us and wished us good luck. They were all very nice to us. People were saying that it would be better for us to go to the camp as it could be dangerous for us to stay here. That's why we left.

MK: Were all of your children back when you returned to Portland?

RM: Yes, yes. All of them came back. Except for the eldest son. He was somewhere cold.

MK: Minneapolis.

RM: He was in Minneapolis, and our eldest daughter was in Salt Lake. We came back with the other younger children. The kids started to go to a public school right away. Everything was just as usual. My son was still small, but he was fixing his hair. I asked him why, and he told me that his friends at school all had brown hair. He said he was washing his black hair so it would turn brown someday. That was right after he started school. All the teachers were so nice and kind. Yes.

MK: You were mentioning that the children's hands were darker colored.

RM: There are some black children. We were not familiar with that, we had never seen them.

MK: I meant your children's hand being darker than others...

RM: I don't know about that. I don't think so. There were some black children in the class. They had not seen them before.

MK: There were not a lot of black people living in Portland.

RM: Probably not. They lived in a different district, didn't they? Small children didn't travel that far to play. They hadn't seen any.

MK: Did you live in the apartment after you came back to Portland?

RM: Yes, we lived in the same apartment.

MK: There were a lot of jobs then.

RM: Yes, yes. There were a plenty of jobs if you wanted to work. Labor shortage was everywhere. But no one was selling Japanese products yet. We went to Chinese stores for items like rice and soy sauce. Meat and vegetables were available in many places. There was a big market we went to, it's not there anymore. They were selling meat and vegetables. They didn't treat us any differently because we are Japanese. We came back, and that was it.

MK: Did your husband manage the apartments?

RM: Yes, that's what he did.

MK: Did he clean?

RM: Yes?

MK: Did he clean?

RM: Yes, he did. And I helped. I didn't go to anywhere else to work, but I cleaned and made beds there.

MK: And then, all your children finished school.

RM: Yes, they did.

MK: Who got married first?

RM: The eldest son Taro did.

MK: Did he marry someone from Nagano Prefecture?

RM: Who he married? From the nearby area, just next village.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

MK: Do you have anything special that you would like your children to remember when you look back on your life? Anything special?

RM: I don't expect them to remember anything. They are free to do what they want to do, and I'm grateful to see that they are happy and taking such good care of me. We went through some hardships to raise them all, but they are all such good kids. [Laughs] It might be funny to see me praising my own children, but I have nothing to worry about. I am so grateful.

MK: It has been a very good life.

RM: Yes, I think it is.

MK: When did your husband pass away?

RM: Well, how many years has it been?

MK: Was it a long time ago?

RM: 1960 something...

MK: 1966.

RM: It was in 1966, yes.

MK: Was he sick?

RM: He had what now we call cancer. He spent a whole month in a hospital. He wasn't getting better though, and he just stayed there. They don't keep patients for such a long time anymore. In those days, they took very good care of him. Well, maybe they were nice to him only when I was there. He said he was not enjoying staying there, so maybe it wasn't that good.

MK: Are you keeping a diary?

RM: We all threw away what we had kept when the war started. Stupid, wasn't it? All the things Japanese people kept were thrown away. How foolish.

MK: Did you write about your life in the camp during the war?

RM: Not really. I wish I had brought a lot of pencils and other things. We thought we might be killed and didn't take anything that we would not need. We realized that we would need those when we got there. We were able to buy some items at a kiosk later, but we just had to use what we had at the beginning.

MK: Are you writing Japanese poems?

RM: [Laughs] I'm not good at it. But it gives me joy in life and the strength to go on. I am not improving at all, but Ms. Saito was a great instructor.

MK: Hisako.

RM: Yes, it was Hisako. She was such a nice lady.

MK: I know her very well.

RM: Oh, you do. Such a nice lady.

MK: Do you have notebooks to keep your poems?

RM: No, I don't. [Laughs] I might have, but I don't. I know it is a good idea to keep those.

MK: Are you writing in a diary today?

RM: I am not keeping a diary anymore. I forget the dates though. I keep track of dates by writing it down, and I also write about some special events if any, and temperature. I get confused about the date, and I need to write it down to keep track. Not a diary, if someone gives me a notebook, I could keep it for three days. [Laughs] Blank pages for the rest. I am just keeping track of the date.

MK: Are you still writing to our elder and younger sisters in Japan?

RM: I rarely do. My niece writes to me pretty often. My siblings, my sister writes me too sometimes. She is old too, and she writes me once or twice a year. That's all.

MK: Thank you very much for sharing your stories today.

RM: It was nothing. I am sorry that it was just a boring talk.

MK: You have lived to one hundred and one.

RM: Yes.

MK: That is impressive.

RM: It is long enough. My eyes get tired and teary when I read for a long time, and I have to go to see a doctor. I am saying that I should just let it go. But I am still around. [Laughs]

MK: It is great to see you doing so well.

RM: Probably because I am very optimistic.

MK: Thank you very much.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.