Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Mary Iwasaki Interview
Narrator: Mary Iwasaki
Interviewer: Lynn Fuchigami Longfellow
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: November 14, 2013
Densho ID: denshovh-imary_2-01

<Begin Segment 1>

LL: Today is Thursday, November 14, 2013, and we're in Portland, Oregon. Observing in the room is Kim Blair from Oregon Nikkei Endowment, behind the camera is Ian McCluskey, and I'm Lynn Longfellow who will be interviewing you. And this is being done as part of the Oregon Nikkei Endowment's Minidoka Oral History Project. So let's begin with when and where you were born.

MI: What was that again?

LL: When and where you were born.

MI: Oh, when. 11/16/23 in Portland.

LL: And do you know where in Portland you were born? Were you born in a hospital?

MI: Am I supposed to know that? Yeah, I was born in the hospital, but I can't tell you which one. Must be St. Vincent, that was the only big hospital around.

LL: And was that... was that located in the same part of the community?

MI: It was in Northwest Portland.

LL: And where were your parents living at that time?

MI: They were living in a hotel fairly close by, but I can't tell you... I can't tell you chapter and verse as to where they were, but they were in a hotel that my dad had bought, but not right in Nihonmachi, kind of on the edge.

LL: Edge of Nihonmachi or what used to be Japantown?

MI: According to what I remember, I just... this is the wrong time for you guys to ask me these questions because ten years ago I think I would have known a little bit more. [Laughs]

LL: So what was the name given to you at birth?

MI: Just Mary.

LL: And your last name?

MI: Was Furusho.

LL: Furusho.

MI: Uh-huh.

LL: And was there any significance to the name Mary?

MI: No, I think it's just a very common name that my folks decided to name me, because my brother was named George, was another very common name. I don't think there's any particular significance to either name.

LL: It was a familiar name.

MI: Very much so.

LL: So let's talk a little bit about your family, and start with your father. Your father's name?

MI: His name was Suyekichi Furusho, but he also added George to his name somewhere along the line, and I can't tell you where, but all of a sudden his papers had "George" in front of Suyekichi, so I think it was just an acquired name.

LL: Took an American name.

MI: I think so.

LL: And where was he from?

MI: Kumamoto.

LL: Kumamoto. So he was born in Kumamoto?

MI: Yes, he was.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

LL: And so do you remember, or did you know what kind of farming, what kind of farm they had?

MI: I would say rice farming, but I'm not really sure if that was entirely rice farming, whether they had branched out into other... well, I may be mistaken, because when we went to visit them, they were into melons, so I don't know how long that had been going on.

LL: Interesting. And did your father have siblings?

MI: Yes, he did, and I can't tell you... yes, he had siblings, but I can't tell you who they were. I don't remember.

LL: And do you know, was he the oldest or youngest?

MI: That's another thing I don't know.

LL: And so describe how your father's family came to America.

MI: Well, as far as I remember, my father came first, got a job on the railroad, and he tried to earn enough money so that he could go get my mother, or else call for her. And that's the extent of what I know about their relationship, because she wasn't a "picture bride," per se, it was just... but they knew each other before they were married.

LL: So they knew each other back in Japan.

MI: Back in Japan, yes.

LL: We'll touch on that in just a little bit. Getting back to your father, you mentioned that he was working on the railroad. Where was that, do you know?

MI: In the state of Washington, and I remember it because the bad back that he inherited from that work plagued him all this life. That's the only thing I remember. He never was particularly unhappy about it, but it was a very major feature in his life.

LL: It affected him for a lifetime.

MI: Yeah.

LL: So do you know about when that was that he came to, immigrated?

MI: I'm not sure if 1916 is a reasonable date or not, because I have nothing to relate it to right now.

LL: And what was his reason for leaving Japan and coming to America?

MI: Oh, he wanted to make money and have a little better lifestyle than the farm that he had over there.

LL: And do you remember what then brought him to, after working in Washington, how he came to be in Portland?

MI: Well, it was in stages. I remember him mentioning that he bought a hotel in the Dalles, and so he bought that, and my mother was over here by that time. And they both ran the place by themselves, but I don't know how he did all that not knowing English. It still confuses me because I find it hard to deal in business things if I'm not familiar with the language. And yet, my dad was able to do that. I'm just always amazed.

LL: That is amazing.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

LL: So now let's move on to your mother. What was your mother's name?

MI: My mother's name, Taira, T-A-I-R-A, maiden name.

LL: And first name?

MI: Hatsumo.

LL: And where was she born?

MI: She was born in Kumamoto also.

LL: So they were both from Kumamoto?

MI: Uh-huh.

LL: And what type of work did your mother's family do in Japan?

MI: I remember they were farmers, but I can't remember if there was more to it than that, because I don't remember her side of the family too well.

LL: You mentioned earlier in the pre-interview something about they might have raised silkworms?

MI: Oh, they did. They were ghastly. These were terrible-looking worms, and they raised them to get the silk out of it. And I never could understand the whole process, 'cause it just sounded horrible.

LL: How something so beautiful could -- or something so ghastly could produce something so beautiful.

MI: It's amazing.

LL: So did they, did your mother have siblings, brothers and sisters?

MI: Oh, I know he had a brother, 'cause I met him before he passed away.

LL: And was she older, was the brother older or younger?

MI: Oh, her brother was younger than she. There were other siblings I also met, but I can't remember who they were.

LL: And do you know what she was doing previous, what she was doing before she came to America to join your father?

MI: No, I don't remember what she was... all I can remember was she was a typical housewife, but I don't remember anything, any details connected to that.

LL: And how did your mother come to America? You mentioned she came to join your father?

MI: Yeah, I thought maybe he had gone after her, but no, I think he sent her money from here, from Portland, and I guess I can't really remember exactly. She came on her own, I remember that, but I can't understand how she did that on her own, 'cause I don't think I would have been able to, just comparing lifestyles, I'm just amazed at what they were able to do.

LL: So you mentioned that your father had sent money for her to join him.

MI: Uh-huh.

LL: How much do you remember about what time that might have been, how much later she joined him from the time that he first came here?

MI: No, I do not remember that. I wish I had something to relate to, but I don't remember.

LL: You mentioned that your mother and father were both from Kumamoto, so how did they meet there?

MI: I have no idea. I just thought they were childhood friends is all I could remember.

LL: So they lived near each other?

MI: They lived near each other and knew each other from childhood.

LL: And do you know, was there any age difference between the two of them?

MI: Yes, there were like about fifteen years' difference between the two.

LL: Interesting.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

LL: So your father, you mentioned that they owned hotels? That was his business after he left working on the railroad? And what did your mother do then for work?

MI: Well, that's what she did when my dad bought these hotels, she would be the chambermaid, she'd change the sheets and clean the place before each new tenant came in, I remember that.

LL: And so your father ran the hotels and managed the hotel?

MI: Right.

LL: And what was your father's personality like?

MI: Well, he was very strict as far as raising his kids were concerned, but he was very approachable regardless. It seemed that he was strict in his dealings with the kids, and wanted to make sure that there were no extenuating circumstances that he'd have to reprimand them for something. I can't remember him really doing anything like that, although I remember him being very careful as to what us kids were doing in everyday life. I know there was an incident about... oh, I wish I could remember. Maybe I'll remember a little later on, but I remember him being very strict about touching things that didn't belong to me. But that's all I can remember right now.

LL: I think you had mentioned something about going, in the pre-interview, about going into a store with your dad?

MI: Oh, yes. Is that what I said before? That was true. We went to a store called... you guys are too young for that, but I think it was called Cress's or something like that, five-and-dime store. And they had stacks of toffee wrapped individually, and they were stacked high, and I just happened to put my hand on top of it, just to run my hand through, and I got the most painful pinch I'd ever had. I was not supposed to do that, and I was supposed to know that I wasn't supposed to do that, but I didn't know what I was doing. That was my first lesson in discipline from him.

LL: It made a lasting impression on you.

MI: It sure did.

LL: So he was, sounds like he might have been kind of like the classic Issei where the father, the disciplinarian, and strict.

MI: He was a classic Issei, right.

LL: How about your mother? What was her personality like?

MI: She was much more easygoing. She also was a disciplinarian to an extent, but nothing like my dad. But she was, turned out to be just a perfect foil for him, because she did everything and they got along beautifully.

LL: Was she independent? You think of the classic Issei...

MI: No, she wasn't independent. Oh, independent in the way of thought, maybe, of things, but nothing obvious that I can remember.

LL: Would you say you're more like your mother or your father?

MI: Oh, I was more like my dad. [Laughs]

LL: Getting back to your mom and dad, what was their relationship like?

MI: Oh, they were amazing. They didn't have too much to say to each other normally in everyday life, but if issues had to be brought up, they were there together for different reasons, I remember that. But I can't tell you specifically any particular episodes. I should remember that, but I don't right now.

LL: How did they deal with difficult situations if they arose?

MI: Well, one difficult situation was when my brother got divorced. And you'd think that would be a horrendous thing, but I remember my mother having a hard time dealing with it because Japanese just don't get divorced. They, I don't know what the word is... they do the best they can, but you just stick with your partner. You don't get divorced, but my brother did. And yet, he was an amazing young man. I can't tell you any more about it, other than the fact that I was glad he got divorced, because he needed someone better. Isn't that terrible to say? [Laughs]

LL: So I'm just curious, like with the Issei, so often they didn't show emotion or affection. Was that how it was with your parents?

MI: Yeah, they didn't show affection to each other in public or anything like that, but I remember they had a real good respect for each other and for their thoughts. I remembered that, but I can't tell you specifically.

LL: That's wonderful. So how long, do you remember how long they were married?

MI: Well, my father was seventy-four when he passed away, and let's see... my mother was eighty-one when she passed away, but I can't tell you how long they were married. I mean, there must be some way you can figure that out, but I can't figure it out right now.

LL: So did they speak English at all?

MI: Very little. That's why it always amazes me that they were able to deal with business like they did. More my father than my mother, but after my father had died, she went ahead and ran the apartment house that they had bought. I still don't know how she did it, but she didn't know very much English.

LL: So then you spoke Japanese at home?

MI: Yes, I spoke Japanese.

LL: And then did they ever become U.S. citizens?

MI: My mother did. She took this elaborate class on citizenship, but I don't think my father did.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

LL: So now let's move on to your childhood.

MI: [Laughs] That's a long time ago.

LL: So what do you remember about your home? You mentioned that your father ran a hotel?

MI: Well, we lived in different hotels, which he had either leased or bought, and it was not an unpleasant experience, 'cause we were always in a very comfortable situation. But I couldn't understand how he was able to do business like that, because I didn't know half what was going on. I just... well, maybe it's because I wasn't too interested. But I had no idea how he was able to manage what he did.

LL: So did you have any brothers or sisters?

MI: I had one brother.

LL: And his name?

MI: His name is George.

LL: And what was he like? How would you describe your brother?

MI: He was easygoing, very pleasant. He was an architect, and he designed our house, and turned out to be a very good cook. [Laughs] Just the opposite of me.

LL: So was he a younger brother?

MI: Yes, three years younger than myself.

LL: And your memories of being a kid and growing up in your community, can you share some of those with us?

MI: What it was like in, like in Japantown? There was one hotel that he bought that was, that was in Japantown, and I remember some of the kids that grew up at the same time I did, but they were... I don't remember them being very pleasant. Well, of course, I was more of a chicken then anyway, so they could get away with anything. But I did not deal with that very well.

LL: So are there residents that were in the hotel where you lived that you remember in particular? Were there...

MI: No, I don't.

LL: ...people that stand out?

MI: I don't remember very... in fact, I don't remember any Japanese living in this, any of these hotels. They were situated in an area where there were employees of the railroad, one hotel anyway, and so the employees of that railroad would stay at my dad's hotel. But that's the only connection I had to them. I know they were around, but I didn't know any of them.

LL: And did you have responsibilities growing up? Did you have a job as a child, any responsibilities?

MI: No, I was a number one spoiled brat. I just didn't do anything. Of course, I blame my mother on that, because she did everything. But I was a spoiled brat.

LL: So what did you do, how did you meet your friends?

MI: Through church. I was a member of the Methodist church for many years, and I met a lot of them through the church.

LL: So were they did, they live close by? Were they neighbors as well?

MI: A couple of them lived close by. Others I met, I think through school. But I don't remember all the circumstances.

LL: And were they mostly Nisei, other Nisei?

MI: Yeah, they were mostly Nisei.

LL: And what types of things did you do with your friends?

MI: Well, we went bicycling a lot right in the city center. It's a wonder we're still alive, but we had a wonderful time. There were limited things that we can do. That was only one of the many things that we were allowed to do, which I'm surprised that my folks allowed it, but it was a pretty carefree childhood. That's because I didn't do anything at home. I barely did... it's terrible to say that, but it's true.

LL: So you would ride bikes all over the downtown area?

MI: All around the Japantown area, way over to, I call it Martin Frank, because that's the only way I know about that particular building.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

LL: So what other activities did you do through, you mentioned, there were a lot of activities from the church.

MI: Yes, and we'd go on field trips through the church, we'd go on... they had a number of activities designed just for our age group. Let's see now, there'd be conferences and interaction with other people our age from other cities.

LL: Oh, so you traveled to other cities, or they would come to...

MI: Yeah, it was very limited. It was either from here to Seattle or Tacoma, that was about it at that time.

LL: That must have been really fun. Do you have memories of when you traveled there, when you met other...

MI: Yeah, other Nisei.

LL: Other Nisei, and what types activities then would you do?

MI: Well, they were, like I say, conferences, and we'd meet... I can't remember exactly how many of these conferences we went to, but they were always well-organized and pertinent to what we were interested in. I found that very enlightening.

LL: So with regards to family life, what other memories do you have of being together as a family? Like at mealtime?

MI: Oh, at mealtime, yeah, we were all required to eat together every meal, maybe except for breakfast. I don't remember eating... I think that's where it stems from. I went all through college and never had one single breakfast, because I much preferred sleeping in. But I can't remember... but lunch and dinner we ate with the family.

LL: So was that usually Japanese food that you ate?

MI: Yes, it was. My mother took cooking lessons from somebody, and she was able to cook some American food. But yes, mostly they were Japanese food.

LL: So she took cooking lessons to learn how to cook American food?

MI: Yes, she did, and she turned out to be pretty good.

LL: So do you remember what things your family did for pastimes or trips?

MI: Well, one of their favorites, like my mother loved, in those days, what do you call those movies that... I can't remember what you call them. They don't have dialogue.

LL: Silent movies?

MI: Silent movies, yeah. My mother was all for that, and she enjoyed that. And so, of course, we would go with her, and I realized how boring it was. But we went together, and she just really enjoyed it. My father not so much. He'd go because my mother would go, but...

LL: Where would you go to see the movies?

MI: Oh, these movies, movie theaters were fairly close by our hotel. And I would think it'd be within four to six blocks.

LL: So they were in Nihonmachi?

MI: It was right in Nihonmachi, uh-huh.

LL: Were they American movies or Japanese movies or both?

MI: No, they were American movies, all American movies, and all silent movies, as I remember, because... yeah, they must have been, because I was utterly bored. But I went with them because they enjoyed it so much.

LL: So they would, did they have English subtitles?

MI: No, they didn't.

LL: They just were completely silent.

MI: Yeah.

LL: So you didn't need to know the language. It wouldn't matter.

MI: Not really. It was all action. Oh, it was awful. [Laughs]

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

LL: So moving on to school, you spoke, your primary language then, spoke Japanese at home, English in school. Where did you, do you remember where you went to school?

MI: Yeah, it was Couch elementary, and then Washington High School, then after that I went to the University of Oregon before I had to come home.

LL: So Washington High School, was that, if you were living in Nihonmachi, that was quite a ways.

MI: It was quite a ways out of the boundary of where I was supposed to go. I was supposed to go to Lincoln High School, but my very good friend lived in East Portland, so I used her address and went to Washington High School.

LL: So that you could...

MI: So I could be with Mae, yes.

LL: When you talk about school, what did you like about school? Did you have a favorite subject?

MI: I don't remember a favorite subject. I remember my friend's favorite subject that I couldn't emulate her because she was terribly, very talented. We both went to the same Japanese language school, but I could never keep up with her as far as writing and reading was concerned.

LL: With Washington being so far away, Washington High School, how did you get to school?

MI: Oh, public transportation.

LL: And did you go alone, did you travel there...

MI: I guess I did, now that you say that. There was a friend or two, I think, joined me a couple times, but no, I don't remember.

LL: And how about your grade school?

MI: For grade school, the school was about ten city blocks from where we lived, and my dad would take us, George and me, to the school every morning and come after us every afternoon.

LL: Every day?

MI: Uh-huh.

LL: And did you walk?

MI: Yes.

LL: Were you walking ten blocks?

MI: Well, we couldn't understand why we had to walk, because there was a car in the garage, but he never used it. Yeah, so we had to walk.

LL: Good exercise.

MI: Oh, I guess, but it was kind of dumb.

LL: And did you take lunch to school? Did you eat in...

MI: Well, I remember trading lunches with a very good friend of mine who was Jewish, and my mother would make some kind of meat sandwich or tuna fish sandwich, but I would trade her my sandwiches for what she brought, and she brought these sandwiches that were made with butter fats. This is what Jewish people ate, I guess, and I just thought it was wonderful. And then my mother heard about it, and she wondered why I was so stupid. [Laughs] She didn't think it was a very healthful lunch, but yes, I went that way with Joanne for many years, because we were just very good friends. I didn't know any better.

LL: How did your mom find out that you were trading her lunch that she made?

MI: Well, because I made the mistake of not finishing one lunch, and I took it home, and she wanted to know what it was, and she opened it up and there it is, this yellow guck. I thought it was very good, myself.

LL: So do you remember, lots of times people had nicknames in school.

MI: Did I have one? No.

LL: Did you or did your friends have nicknames?

MI: I don't remember. I don't remember a nickname at all.

LL: Were most of the, you mentioned most of your friends were other Nisei. Were there a lot of other Japanese Americans in class, in school that you remember?

MI: Not in my classes. I think there was only one other Japanese American, and he turned out to be one of the brilliant scholars, and then there was me, we were both in the same class, and he was brilliant, and I was the other way. [Laughs]

LL: So do you remember, did you have a favorite teacher, or what was your relationship with classmates and teachers?

MI: Yeah, I think there were favorite classmates, I don't remember a teacher, per se, that was outstanding or anything. I don't remember that.

LL: You mentioned in the interview before that there was a pool at Couch.

MI: Yes, that's where I got into trouble, is when they pushed me in the deep end, and from then on I've never been in a pool.

LL: So who pushed you in the...

MI: Oh, some kid. I still don't remember all the circumstances, but it stayed with me, and I just remembered that I just could not get into water anymore after that.

LL: So that had a very long-lasting effect on you.

MI: Yeah, it had a lifelong lasting effect.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

LL: So you mentioned Japanese language school. So how often did you attend Japanese school?

MI: Oh, that would be... after we finished our regular American school, then we'd go to the Japanese language school after that. So it was just a continuation, another hour or so of language.

LL: And where was the school located?

MI: That was within a couple of blocks where we lived, and it was a school that our parents would pay for, because they'd want us to go there. And whether it really turned out to be the wise thing, I don't know, I don't remember. I don't remember learning a whole lot of Japanese.

LL: So was it primarily teaching the Japanese language?

MI: It was teaching Japanese language and culture and everything else associated with it.

LL: And you mentioned that your parents paid for it, so that must have been important to them?

MI: For them, it was important to them, as was those others that went to the same school, the parents all paid for the schooling. I just often wondered if it was really worth it at that time, because I don't remember retaining anything useful. [Laughs]

LL: So was that primarily how you learned about the Japanese culture or how the Japanese culture was passed on to you?

MI: Yeah, through the teacher. Through the Japanese teacher.

LL: So that wasn't something necessarily then your parents passed on to you?

MI: No, not necessarily.

LL: That was more through the Japanese school?

MI: It was through the Japanese school, language school.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

LL: So what are your... I'm going to continue on to your connection to culture, since we started with that. What are your memories of Japanese community events?

MI: Oh, there were a lot of them, all of which I was not really too interested in, but because of my parents, I had to go. And these were gatherings of families with their particular, they have what they call a ken, K-E-N, which is a, must be a part of Japan where you come from. And those people would gather together and have their own little assembly. That had a lot to do with how we learned about Japanese culture.

LL: So what would they do at the gatherings?

MI: Well, not only would we be eating all their wonderful Japanese food, but they would tell us these different... let's see, what was it? They would tell us what these different things meant as far as Japanese went. None of it really stuck to me, 'cause I remember not really being interested enough to find out more. Some of my friends did find out more about things, but I don't remember that myself.

LL: So you mentioned earlier that your mother, you mentioned something about Japanese dance.

MI: Oh, yes, she wanted me to take Japanese dance. Well, just the mere thought of it made me shudder, but I talked her out of that. She also wanted me to go to Japan and stay there a couple of years to learn the culture, and I didn't do that either. So I think that was two big disappointments for my mom, because those are some of the things I just didn't do. I couldn't see myself in that predicament.

LL: So how did your mother react, react to that?

MI: Well, she just decided, there's a saying called shikata ga nai, meaning you have to put up with it whether you like it or not. And that's the attitude she had, so she was pretty broad-minded in that respect, because I know some of my friends had to go to Japan and stay at least a couple of years.

LL: So how do you think the Japanese culture affected your everyday lives back then? You mentioned gatherings, were there holidays that were celebrated or some traditions that your family...

MI: Yeah, they were celebrated then, and by these gatherings, and I went to them, but I don't remember whether it had a lasting, particularly lasting impression.

LL: Did your family certain Japanese traditions that they followed within the home?

MI: Not that I remember.

LL: And where -- you mentioned the gatherings of the kens. Where would those gatherings take place?

MI: At different Japanese restaurants. There were a few that were big enough to hold these gatherings, but it'd have to be a pretty good sized place for everyone to come. I remember it being very crowded.

LL: How many people would you guess would attend these get-togethers?

MI: Oh, I'd say fifty.

LL: Wow. So how did you find, was it a challenge to try and balance being American and Japanese growing up?

MI: No, it never occurred to me one way or the other. It was just there. No, I can't remember having any... it isn't a conflict, but I don't remember having any difficulty aligning the two.


LL: Let's talk about Nihonmachi a little bit more. What was your, what was the hotel like where you lived, your living quarters in the hotel?

MI: They were pretty roomy considering it was a hotel that my dad decided that we would have this and this and this room. Not what normal residents would have, but we just were able to stretch out a little more than usual. It was very nice.

LL: So was it on the main floor or upstairs?

MI: Yeah, it was... the main floor was the lobby, so I imagine the living quarters were upstairs, first floor. There were two levels as I remember, yeah, two floors.

LL: And what do you remember most about Japantown?

MI: The restaurants, I guess, it was a real big treat to have the food, and it just so happened that the people who ran these restaurants were very good cooks themselves. But I remember the food was attractive.

LL: So did you eat out a lot at the restaurants then?

MI: Yeah, my folks must have taken us, because I remember going out a lot to restaurants even though my mom was a very good cook. It was more than just a treat, I guess it was a treat for her too not to have to cook that night. [Laughs]

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

LL: So you mentioned that, in the pre-interview, that you had taken a trip to Japan.

MI: When I was five, the first one, yeah.

LL: So did you go with your parents, both parents?

MI: I don't remember my dad coming with us, but I know my mom and my brother were with us. And I think it was a wrenching decision to come home to America because as I remember, I wanted to stay. And I had quite a scene at the railroad station when I realized that I was not going to see my grandmother anymore. I still remember that.

LL: So how old were you when you went?

MI: Five.

LL: And you, this grandmother that it sounds like you were quite fond of...

MI: I guess so.

LL: Was she on your mother's side of the family?

MI: Yes, she was on my mother's side.

LL: Did you visit with your father's side of the family as well?

MI: At that time, I did visit with them, but I couldn't remember who they were. And I guess I must not have been that close to them because I don't remember another woman, adult, being in that group. I'm sure there must have been, but I don't remember it.

LL: It sounds like you were quite attached to your grandmother. What was the reason for that?

MI: Well, I think like most grandparents, they just, we were very close, because I knew that they knew that we were going to be gone, that we were not going to be around very long. And I can't remember, and I can't tell you exactly whether we were there for three months or whether we were there for three weeks, I don't remember that. But yes, I was very close to her.

LL: What is your memory of her?

MI: That she was a very caring lady, and it was just fun being with her. So she must not have been too old. I mean, at least she could get around on her two feet, so she must have been fairly active. But I do regret to this day that I never went back.

LL: So when you traveled, how did you travel to get to where, to Kumamoto?

MI: Oh, at that time? Oh, I think we relied on my grandmother to get around, because I remember, I don't remember much about how we actually moved from place to place, because I know they, I'm sure they didn't have cars at that time.

LL: You mentioned the scene at the train station?

MI: Oh, yeah, that sticks in my mind, but I imagine that's the way we traveled if we went from place to place, you either go on the train or further, it would have to be by boat.

LL: Then that's how you went from America, from the United States to...

MI: Uh-huh.

LL: That must have been a very long trip for a young child.

MI: It was a long trip, period. I remembered my mother saying something, but it took a week to go from Portland to Japan.

LL: What are your memories of that trip? Do you have...

MI: I don't have any memories of that trip. I know that it was a long one, and I don't remember any particular... I should remember something about it, but I don't. I don't remember a thing about it. You'd think there'd be some hardships and all that, but I don't remember any of that.

LL: What was your first impression, if you can remember, when you landed, arrived in Japan?

MI: Japan? Well, I couldn't get over how everybody was talking Japanese and had no idea what they were talking about. But that was about the first impression I had. Because none of my relatives spoke English at all. And so somehow we were able to communicate within a few weeks, evidently.

LL: So you mentioned that you spoke Japanese at home. Did you find it different from the Japanese that was, that you were listening to in Japan?

MI: Not at that time. I did later on. Later on, the Japanese I heard in Japan from that particular ken was like a foreign language. So, but I have to equate that with the fact that we went to Japan much later, and that's when I had that impression. But it was different.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

LL: What did you notice about your mother when she was in Japan? Was there anything noticeable with her being back in Japan?

MI: Oh, she was, I remember she was very relaxed and was so glad to be there, but I don't remember any particular incident that showed that. She was just there, and seemed very happy.

LL: Did it seem or appear difficult for her to leave when you were going back to the United States?

MI: Oh, I was making such a fuss, I don't think anybody took any attention to anybody else because I was the star attraction with this yelling all and going on.

LL: So did you notice, or were there reactions of the Japanese to you being born in America, and were you treated...

MI: At that time, you mean?

LL: Yes, did they seem to treat you differently, maybe from Japanese children there?

MI: I don't remember that at all. I remember my family, but I don't remember any particular instances that were any different.

LL: So let's move on to Pearl Harbor. Do you remember where you were, what you learned about it, when you heard about it?

MI: Oh, yeah. I was in a dorm, and someone had the radio going, and that's when I first heard about it.

LL: Where were you in your dorm, what school?

MI: The University of Oregon.

LL: Do you remember how you, how you felt when, what was your reaction, how did you feel when you heard that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor?

MI: Well, of course, none of us, we were in a room together, and we were listening to the radio after we'd heard that this had happened. And it was more than shock, it was just something unbelievable.

LL: So were the people that you were with Japanese American like you, or were there...

MI: They were both, and they were very sympathetic.

LL: So did you ever feel, after that point, did that change how people seemed to be treating you?

MI: You mean on campus?

LL: On campus?

MI: No, they were exceptionally wonderful. I think they went out of their way to make sure that we were fine.

LL: Did you ever feel nervous or afraid?

MI: Not a bit.

LL: And what was the reaction from your family? Did they want you to come home?

MI: Oh, yeah. My father, I'm the one that wanted to come home, but he said, "No, just stay there until you actually get kicked out." He said, "There will come a time when you won't be able to stay," and so he just said to, "just stay there 'til someone tells you that you can no longer be a student." Well that day never came, actually. I think all of us eventually moved out as time went on, because I don't remember a specific instant where the administration said we had to leave.

LL: What were your reasons for wanting to come home?

MI: Because I was scared, I guess. I just wanted to be home with my family. But my dad was smarter than I, of course, and he just decided that, "You can always come home, but why don't you just stay until you are actually dismissed?"

LL: What were you afraid of? What were those feelings of...

MI: Oh, I just wanted to be with my family, I guess, not anything...

LL: Together.

MI: Yeah, together.

LL: So how did your parents react to that, do you remember? I know you were at the University of Oregon, but when you spoke with your family, what was their reaction?

MI: Well, my mother said she was support me if I wanted to come home, but she said that, "I think your father knows better, and it might be better if you did stay, so at least you could get a year in before you're dismissed." I could not quite see that myself, but, of course, I was kind of a chicken. I was not one of these aggressive people, so I could never do anything that would be out of the ordinary. That would have been out of the ordinary.

LL: There was a letter that was written by Japanese American students at the University of Oregon, and it was sent to the president trying to talk about their, stressing their loyalty to the United States. Do you remember hearing about that, or did you...

MI: It was a letter sent by who to who?

LL: The Japanese American students at the University of Oregon. I was just curious if you remember hearing about it?

MI: I do not remember anything about that.

LL: Did your family talk about the war, what happened when, of course, the United States declared war after the bombing of Pearl Harbor?

MI: I don't remember anything particular that they talked about, other than the usual shock and all that.

LL: Were there any discussions about what, or did you hear about what you thought might happen as a result of...

MI: No, we didn't come across anything like that, although I've read of other areas that had problems, but nothing like that at home.

LL: Were there worries or fears about what might happen, there were probably discussions or rumors going around about what might happen to the Japanese Americans?

MI: I never heard anything like that.

LL: You mentioned that your, you took cues from your mother and that she was the solid rock?

MI: Really was, considering that she didn't know any English at all, and yet she was able to handle everything. That was after my dad passed away, of course.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

LL: So how did your family learn that you would be forced to leave when the order 9066...

MI: How did my family know about it?

LL: How did you find out about it, about the evacuation, the incarceration?

MI: On the radio.

LL: Do you remember flyers?

MI: No, I don't remember flyers, although I've seen movies about 'em, but I don't remember flyers...

LL: That were posted?

MI: I don't remember that at all.

LL: When you did find out that you were going to be forced to leave your home, do you remember how you felt?

MI: Well, I couldn't get over it. I didn't think that that would be legal, but who was I to question the authorities? And for me, it just didn't seem that it was constitutional, which I knew nothing about, although just legally it didn't seem quite right.

LL: How old were you at that time?

MI: Let's see, what year was that?

LL: 1941 is when the...

MI: Okay, I was born in 1923, you do the math. [Laughs]

LL: You were a freshman.

MI: I was a freshman, yeah.

LL: In college. So what preparations, what do you remember, when you heard about and knew you were going to have to leave, what do you recall those days following that and getting ready to leave, and the arrangements being made for home, where you're going to live, what were you going to do?

MI: All I remember is that the hotel that my father had at that time was situated at the same block that this, they call it a transfer and something store, which I guess they moved things or shipped things if people wanted to. I didn't know anything about that part, but I know that somehow my little piano got through all right, because this moving company must have stored it for my dad. I don't know anything about that, it's just hearsay that I learned from my dad a long time ago. And there must be a lot more attached to that, but I don't know the details.

LL: So you mentioned piano, did you play the piano? I just want go to back because you mentioned that, sorry.

MI: Yeah. My mother bought this piano, little one, and I remember that was very important to her that I continued piano lessons. And to me it just seemed like I'd rather deal with this evacuation before we do anything else. And so for me it was one of those decisions I had to make as to what to take other than one suitcase. And it was traumatic, I remember that.

LL: Having to leave the piano?

MI: No, having to make up my mind what I was going to take.

LL: What did you take?

MI: A suitcase full of clothes, evidently, I don't remember. My mother did it all. And she didn't, she must have had something in mind because everything was very orderly, and I don't remember anything else.

LL: So she packed your things for you?

MI: Must have. I don't remember doing it myself. Remember, I said I was a spoiled brat. [Laughs]

LL: Do you remember when you went to unpack and were there things that you, looking back, wish that your mother would have packed for you?

MI: No, there wasn't anything like that. She must have packed everything that I felt I needed, but it was kind of a low priority as far as something like that was concerned. I wasn't too involved in household goods and things that some other families I know put a lot of thought into what they could take with them, but I don't remember doing that.

LL: And how did you leave and how did you get transported to the assembly center?

MI: You know, I don't remember that. We had a car, so my dad must have asked someone to take us, but I don't remember the particulars.

LL: Is there anything that stands out that your remember when you were leaving your home or Nihonmachi, did people come to say goodbye to you?

MI: No, we were pretty low-key. We had our stuff and we got into the car and we left.

LL: You mentioned something about the desk clerk at the hotel when you left?

MI: I remember him because he was a longtime employee, and he seemed very sympathetic toward this whole thing, but not much he could really do, other than ask if he could do something to help us, which there was nothing that he could really do.

LL: Do you remember what time of the year, the date that you left and went to the assembly center?

MI: You know, I don't remember. I wish I could relate it to something, I just can't right now.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

LL: So how about your first impression of the assembly center when you arrived?

MI: Well, it was different from anything I'd ever seen. And compared to what we had read in the papers about other assembly centers, this was pretty nice, I mean, the Portland one, because we didn't have to battle dirt and all that kind of stuff like others had to.

LL: So you had heard about other assembly centers?

MI: I had read about them, yeah.

LL: Do you remember what section or location it was at the assembly center? Was it close to anything in particular?

MI: My goodness, no. I don't remember. in fact, I don't remember much about the assembly center. I don't even remember where we lived.

LL: Do you remember the room that you lived in?

MI: I remember the room that we were in, and it was for my brother and me and my mom and my dad, all in one room. But I don't remember the details, it was just a box.

LL: So was it cold? Do you remember it being cold or warm or any specific smells associated to it?

MI: If it were cold, I would be the first one to holler, but I don't remember that. [Laughs]

LL: What about a major adjustment that you felt being there, or your family had to make?

MI: Well, to be with so many people. I mean, no privacy at all, and they did pretty well. I didn't like it, but I could also get together with my friends, and we didn't have to stay in the unit at all for any length of time. So in that respect, I think the youngsters were pretty well-off.

LL: So that was one of my next questions, how did you spend your time?

MI: Well, I can't remember what we did. We must have done something, but I don't remember other than... I didn't play tennis like my friends did, but we weren't playing bridge then either, so I don't really know what we were doing.

LL: How did your family spend their time, like your father?

MI: Well, I remember they got together with other Issei and were, they weren't having meetings or anything, but they socialized amongst themselves.

LL: How about your mother?

MI: Well, I'm getting the two mixed up. I'm thinking about the relocation camp as against the assembly center, and I think it was the relocation camp that my mom got together with other Issei women in the kitchen. And so she found a good fellowship with them.

LL: So she was helping in the...

MI: In the kitchen, yes.

LL: So how was the food there? What do you remember about the meals?

MI: Well, they were just very different. I had not eaten some of that stuff, I didn't know what it was. But it got better gradually, because the cooks decided that we could eat most anything as long as there was rice with it and soy sauce and all that. But it was different.

LL: So did your family still eat together?

MI: Oh, yeah, we made a point to eat together.

LL: And what was your general overall view or feeling about life in the assembly center?

MI: In the assembly center? It was boring. It was really... there was not enough to do, and I didn't know what to do about it. I read a lot, and I remember I brought a bunch of books with me, but it was kind of... well, it wasn't a very pleasant experience. It was just not too much space with nothing to do, and not any particular interests. It was probably because of me. I'm sure others did better, but I could not find anything interesting enough, and so I retreated into books, I guess.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

LL: So moving on then to camp, Minidoka, so do you remember traveling there? How did you go from the assembly center to Minidoka?

MI: Oh, I remember going on a train, and we had to have our shades drawn, which I couldn't understand why, because you're moving along, but we had to have our shades closed. And then we got there, and it was such a barren place that we were very surprised. It was hard to envision it, because we didn't know what to expect.

LL: And it was such a drastic change from living in the city.

MI: Oh, yeah, definitely.

LL: So what were your living quarters like and what was your reaction when you first saw them?

MI: Well, they weren't as bad as I had envisioned, because we had a fairly good sized room, but it was still my brother and me and my father and mother in, all in one room. and it was neat and clean, I remember that. But it was drastically different from what I'd read about other camps, so I figured that we were in one of the better ones.

LL: What had you read about the camps?

MI: Well, I understand that some of them still had to have their units cleaned, really cleaned by professionals in order for a family to move in, because it was so awful. And I read about that, and I thought, I can't remember which camp it was, either. And the food, I thought the camp food wasn't bad, it was just different. There were some things that we'd never eaten before, but I just, they did the best they could, I guess. I'm not much of a food connoisseur, I eat whatever is in front of me, but I'm not particular about what I eat.

LL: So how did you, with your family all being in one room, how did you deal with the privacy situation?

MI: My brother was out with his friends a lot, so he wasn't particularly around. And like I say, I retreated into books, and so I read a lot, and I stayed in the room.

LL: So what was your daily routine at camp?

MI: Well, one time, I remember we volunteered to go do some farmwork, and that was a mistake. I didn't realize what a hard job farming was. But we had a group of half a dozen of us who were pretty good friends, and so we went as a group to the different farms to pick potatoes, for instance, or top sugar beets. And so we were able to do that six days a week. but the beauty of it was that the farmer who hired us was very generous in his, coming with his big car and gathering us up, taking us to the field, we'd work, and then they'd even provide lunch for us. Then at the end of the day they'd haul us back to camp in their car. So we were very lucky to have people like that deal with us. They were very sympathetic.

LL: So for someone, you mentioned that you didn't have chores at home and that you were -- this is your words -- a spoiled brat. [Laughs]

MI: I really am, yeah.

LL: What was your motivation to go and start work, especially six days out of the week?

MI: Well, it was a way to get out of camp. It was a way to do something other than... well, we didn't know what we were getting into, and it was the hardest thing we've ever, I've ever done. The others seemed to adjust pretty well, and it was just something to do.

LL: So there was a swimming hole at Minidoka. Did you ever --

MI: There was a what?

LL: A swimming hole at Minidoka. They talked about people that would go, and that was like recreation and it was a place to cool off in the summertime.

MI: I never knew about that. I think there were a lot of swimming holes or swimming places, but I didn't ever swim.

LL: But that was probably because of what, your incident in school.

MI: Yes, exactly, so I wasn't interested.

LL: That makes sense.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

LL: How did your father spend his time?

MI: Well, he did a lot of woodworking. I didn't even know he was interested in that kind of thing, but I remember him making some kind of a truck to put our clothes in. I thought he did a pretty good job, and that kept him busy. Then he also planted a few little flowers at the entrance of our unit, and I'm not sure if he was really interested in growing flowers, but it was something for him to do. So he kept himself busy.

LL: So do you have any of the things that he made in camp?

MI: I think I have one... well, I'm not sure if these trucks that he hauled from place to place, he did not make it, but it is a commercially built truck. I have two of those, and the one that he made with hardwood, I have that. But I don't remember, it's always been with me, so I just figured we hauled it from place to place.

LL: Do those items bring back memories when you see them?

MI: Oh, it's in the basement, so yes, when I see them, I realized what he had done, and he did a pretty good job.

LL: How about your mother? How did she pass her time?

MI: I don't remember too much about the fact that she had a group of Issei women that were good friends together, and I think they spent their time some way, other than in the kitchen where she worked. I don't remember what else she did. But she seemed to have adjusted pretty well. Of course, she was that way, too. Nothing phased her too much.

LL: What was it like to live in a Japanese American community where everyone around you was Nikkei?

MI: Oh, it was something that we never knew anything different. It was one of those things that we grew up in, and it was a fact of life.

LL: So you were used to that because you were living in Nihonmachi?

MI: Yes, very much so.

LL: So do you have, did you have overall feelings about camp, being in camp?

MI: You mean pros and cons? Not particularly. It's one of those things that we have to do it, might as well do it. And whether you like it or not, just one of those things that people have to adjust to.

LL: What do you think was the most difficult, would you say was the most difficult thing for you being in camp?

MI: In camp? I don't remember any specific thing that was so difficult. I honestly don't. I'm trying to think of something, but it wasn't a lark, either. It was one of those things that come along and you think, okay, we'll have to do something about it. But we didn't dwell on anything particularly.

LL: They talked about, you always hear about the lines, having to wait in line for going to get your food and eating, waiting in line to use the restrooms? Was that...

MI: That never bothered me, because it was one of those facts of life. If you wanted food, you waited in line to get it.

LL: The silent movies were a pastime before the war. Did you attend the movies that were shown, any movies that were shown in camp? Or they dances, they had different activities. What were some of the activities that you remember participating in?

MI: Well, I remember they had dances. I remember going to those, not particularly exciting, but it was something to do. And I don't remember anything else other than that.

LL: So did you discuss why you were in camp? Was there talk about why you were there, sharing feelings about being there? Do you remember having conversations about that in camp?

MI: I don't remember anything like that. I don't think we had any really serious discussions on our welfare. I can't remember anything that was really serious or something that needed to be discussed, I don't remember any of that.

LL: How did you feel about the armed guards, presence of armed guards?

MI: Oh, I didn't feel anything. They were there to do their job, and there was nothing fearful about them, they were just people.

LL: So you had, in the pre-interview, mentioned something about one of the Issei going outside and getting lost?

MI: Oh, I remember that, that was a big deal to the people, and it kind of scared everybody because he went out looking for some kind of wood to make something with, and he got lost, and I don't know how they ever found him. He was dead by the time they found him.

LL: But that had quite a reaction...

MI: It did, right.

LL: ...from people within the camp.

MI: Right, everyone.

LL: And what was the discussion and what was the reaction?

MI: Well, in the first place, they said that it was foolish of him even to wander around an area where you're not familiar with any of it, 'cause you'd just gotten there. But they also felt sympathy for him because he just wanted to get out a bit. So there were two reactions to that, but I never knew the guy and I never followed up on it.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

LL: So how long were you in camp?

MI: As I remember, I got out in... the date is kind of fuzzy, but I think it was the end of the year. I can't even tell you which year it was. '41, '42, I can't tell you.

LL: And your reason for...

MI: Well, I got accepted, finally, into a college that would take us, so it happened to be a conservatory of music. And this head of the conservatory was very sympathetic toward the whole program, and so he was able to get me in.

LL: And what college was that?

MI: Oh, this is called Baldwin Wallace College in Ohio.

LL: So you left camp, then, to attend college?

MI: At that time, yes.

LL: So then did you graduate from that school?

MI: Yeah, I graduated from that school, from Baldwin Wallace.

LL: And then after you graduated, had your parents been, were they out of camp by then?

MI: Yeah, by the time I graduated, they were in the process of moving back to Portland from Idaho. And then by the time I was completely done, then they had already found an apartment house that they bought.

LL: So you returned back to Portland?

MI: Yes, I was trying to figure out what day it is, but I just can't remember.

LL: What were your expectations going back?

MI: I guess I didn't have much, other than the fact that my father had a place for us to live, and I'd have to do something about getting a job eventually. But that was far from my mind at the time.

LL: So where did they find a place?

MI: They found a place around Northeast Eighth and Couch, or Davis or something. I can't remember the name of the street, but they found an apartment house there, which they bought. And that's where we lived.

LL: So what were your first impressions when you arrived back home? What were the differences between what it was before you left and coming home? What did you see as the major differences?

MI: Well, I was trying to get a job, and I wasn't sure what kind of job I wanted. and I ended up at the Portland Council of Churches, and from there, I went to Portland Public Schools, and then from there I went to the library, a library, and that's about it.

LL: So you started working shortly after you returned?

MI: Uh-huh, shortly.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

LL: One of the things that you mentioned that we didn't touch on as far as, wasn't a paid job, but you mentioned helping your father with his business early on.

MI: Just to interpret for him. I could not understand how he was able to understand all the paperwork, 'cause I didn't understand it. To me, he's always been kind of amazing, because I knew English up and down, but I couldn't explain to him exactly what was being said or learned about at that time, yet he was able to transact business. That always amazed me.

LL: So what was the response from neighbors and people that you knew and met, and did you ever experience any prejudice after the war when you returned home?

MI: Oh, you mean after I got a job and all that? No, it was just life as usual. Just lucky enough to have coworkers that were so great. That meant a lot at that time because they were so supportive.

LL: So you didn't ever feel any discrimination?

MI: No, people talk about that, but I didn't feel any of that.

LL: So how did your parents adjust when they returned?

MI: They adjusted beautifully because they had plenty of work to do, physical work to do. And they just did it, it's amazing.

LL: So how do you think the camp or incarceration experience changed them, or did it?

MI: Basically I don't think it changed their life at all, other than the fact that they appreciated more the fact that they were able to do what they were able to do. Even though they didn't know the language very well, they still were able to get what they wanted. I always thought that was amazing.

LL: How do you think that incarceration experience affected you?

MI: Well, I wish I could answer that real loftily and real smart-like, but I don't have an answer. People have asked me that before, and I don't think it affected me one way or the other, good or bad. It's just one of those things that you had to deal with.

LL: So a little bit more about rebuilding, after coming back to Portland, what were your feelings about participating in Japanese American organizations and activities? You mentioned that was something that was important and that you did a lot of with the community?

MI: It was a supportive move, because then I got involved in JACL and the church and all that. It was a very good move that I made, and, of course, I had friends that were members of those things, and it all seemed to fit in together very well.

LL: So you joined JACL, that was a way to just kind of reconnect?

MI: Uh-huh. It was very nice, 'cause I was able to learn a lot.


LL: So we were talking about JACL, and what were your thoughts then about... especially coming out of the incarceration experience, about civil rights?

MI: Well, I thought that civil rights was a huge topic that cannot possibly be covered very quickly, because there's just too much attached to it and so many pros and cons on it. But I really thought that we were really in a deep bind as far as civil rights were concerned. I think we went backwards so much. But I don't know, there's not much I can tell you that would ameliorate that, it's just one of those things that comes with the territory, I guess. It kind of bothered me, but I'm not one that can incite activity just by talking about it. I don't know enough about it to want to join in in any particular movement. I just don't feel like I'm smart enough to do that.

LL: How did you feel about the redress? What was your reaction to the redress?

MI: Well, it was... the redress was okay to a point, but I think it was much ado about nothing. Actually, I didn't think the money that we got did anything towards helping the Issei who were the ones that were most affected. They're the ones that suffered the most, and yet they received hardly anything. That's the part that really bothered me, but I knew nothing about, enough about it to do anything practically.

LL: So when you came back, how did that affect your feelings about being Japanese American? Did you feel like you needed to assimilate more into the community?

MI: No, not at all. I never gave that kind of stuff much thought, really.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

LL: So now we're going to move on to your marriage.

MI: Oh, how I got married? [Laughs]

LL: Yes. So how did you and...

MI: Well, I have a sister-in-law, Taka, you probably know her. She's a great... I don't know what you call someone that's always in people's business, always fluttering around. And I got to know her through the church and through JACL and through other things. So she had a brother. I wish he were more exciting, but that's all it was. I met Ike through her, and her family, there were eight kids, and it's rather forbidding, and they're the most wonderful family to have, to get married into, because they are just amazing. And so that's how we got together.

LL: So she set you up with her brother?

MI: She really, "set you up" is a good word. [Laughs]

LL: And Ike's full name?

MI: Akira. Just the one Akira.

LL: And last name was?

MI: Iwasaki, yeah, uh-huh.

LL: And where was he from?

MI: He was from a little town called Farmington. I don't even know if it's on a map, but he pointed it out to me one time and it's one town amongst a lot of little towns in that area, and he was born there. That's why I know that that's where he's from.

LL: And so when did you get married?

MI: Oh, 1950.

LL: Did you date long before you got married?

MI: Yeah. Well, I think we did. All I know is this famous Taka, she got married first. She and Jim got married, and then there was an incident where Ike and I were still seeing each other, and there was one time when we went to visit them, meaning Ike and I visited Taka and Jim, and we were, of course, we had all the time in the world. Oh, I'm touching this. [Referring to microphone]. What happened was, the funniest thing, I've thought about it lately, and I've told people about it. But when it was time for us to leave -- and I guess it was time for us to leave because Jim sauntered over to the closet and pulled down the bed that she had. [Laughs] So I thought, "Whoops, I guess our time is overspent." It was very subtly done, but here was this huge bed came out of the wall, they were ready to go to bed.

LL: So just for the record, their names? Taka...

MI: Taka Mizote was her married name.

LL: I just wanted to get that on the record. Yes, I do know her. So you were married what year?

MI: 1950.

LL: And the date? Do you remember your anniversary date?

MI: April 22nd. I think it was April 22nd. It's kind of vague right now. Like I say, I don't have all my marbles. But it was in the spring.

LL: So what was married life like as a couple?

MI: Well, I went to help Ike, because I married him, and it was on a farm. And I would help him during the weekend... during the week I would go to my regular job, but then on the weekend I figured I should help him on the farm, which I did. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. And I went to my mother, and I said, "This is the hardest thing I have ever done, and it's a lot of work." You think I'd get some sympathy? No. She said, "You married into the family, it's up to you to keep working and do the best you can." I thought, "Fine." No sympathy from her. [Laughs] Yeah, he was the best husband, I must say, even all those years. I mean, there were times, of course, when I could have shooed him out of the house, but their family is remarkable. And without their support, I would never have made it.

LL: That's wonderful. So how long were you married?

MI: He passed away in 2013. What's that from '50?

LL: Sixty-three years.

MI: How?

LL: Sixty-three years.

MI: That sounds about right, yeah. That's a long time. [Laughs]

LL: And you mentioned the farm, was this the family, did the family have the farm?

MI: Yes, the parents, Ike's parents, this dates back, and I can't tell you chapter and verse, but the father came over earlier, just like my dad did, and worked on a farm. And then he called for his wife, Ike's mother, and had her come over. And there's a story in there that I'm not quite sure about, but seems to me it was Taka that told me, or somebody in the family, that Taka's, her memory of this marriage between Mr. Iwasaki and Mrs. Iwasaki, was one of those things that the first lady wasn't sure if she wanted to get married and go clear over here. So that was the time when the second Mrs. Iwasaki said, "Well, if you're not going to go, I'm going to go." And that's what I heard. How accurate it is, I have no idea, because I have nothing to relate it to. But I thought, well, that sounds like my mother-in-law. [Laughs]

LL: One of those folklore that gets passed down through generations.

MI: Exactly, exactly.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

LL: So getting back to college, you mentioned that you went to Baldwin Wallace College in Ohio, or excuse me, Baldwin College in Wallace, Ohio. What was your degree in?

MI: It was in English. Absolutely worthless degree, but it was in English and a minor in music.

LL: So did you use either of those?

MI: No, come to think of it, I did not use any of it for anything.

LL: And then children from your marriage with Ike and your family. How many children did you have?

MI: Three.

LL: And their names?

MI: Rich, Roger, and Ellen.

LL: In that order?

MI: No, it was Roger, Rich and Ellen.

LL: And how was family life with your family and children growing up?

MI: Oh, it was fun. I must say that I didn't think that I would be so involved in family so much, because I'm not the type to get involved. I'm kind of a loner to begin with. But kids were the best thing I'd ever had.

LL: And did you parent, follow your parents' parenting style?

MI: I think they did. I think they did, now that I think about it at length, they were strict to a point that I think I was more strict, 'cause I didn't want to have another kid like me. I didn't want a spoiled brat on my hands, and so I wanted my kids to be able to do everything, so they did learn to do everything. [Laughs]

LL: So did you talk to your family about your experience during the war?

MI: Not voluntarily. I didn't say, "Okay, I'm going to talk to about my experience during the war." It would come at different times when something, some subject came up and we'd talk about it, but nothing specifically that had anything to do with the incarceration or anything like that. When I was asked, or it had something to do with circumstances at the time, I can't even tell you. I don't even sound like I'm making sense, but that's true, I just didn't have any specific thing to relate to when I talk with them about the incarceration camps.

LL: How do you think that experience changed you if at all?

MI: I don't think it did. I can't think of anything that would say, okay, it changed me this way and that way, for the good or the bad, I can't remember. Maybe it's because I can't remember anything anyway, but I just don't, I don't realize it if it did change me, because life seems to have gone on regardless of where it led. Perfectly happy. [Laughs]

LL: What do you think we can learn from what happened to the Japanese Americans during World War II, or what should the lesson be?

MI: Well, I think tolerance is a terrible word for the whole point, but I think if people had a little bit more feeling towards other people, I can't tell you how that would go, but there must be a good starting point at the beginning of any crisis that will make it easier for those who come later. I just don't think there's anything that would equate justifying whatever happened. It's just one of those things that never should have happened, but did.

LL: What do you think is most important in life?

MI: Oh, my children, I guess. It's the only thing I can think of right at the moment.

LL: And was there anything that we didn't include or that you weren't, that you didn't share that you'd like to share during this interview?

MI: I wish I knew enough about stuff like that that I could share it, but I don't, I'm a blank. I just can't remember.

LL: Well, if you think of anything, let us know. We just wanted to go back and ask a couple of questions. You mentioned that you thought that you were more like your father. How, in what way were you like your dad?

MI: Well, he was kind of a loner, too. He didn't like crowds, and he wasn't real keen on big dinners with a lot of people. I'm exactly like that. And that's just one of the things, but he had a... well, he had a philosophy that I think encompassed a lot of what I feel, that material things don't really count too much. You can have so much of whatever you want, but I think the fact that if you have a good basic life with all the good things intermingled with the bad things that you learn, I think that's very important.

LL: Wonderful sentiment. And that's interesting that you mentioned you didn't like big crowds or big gatherings, and yet you married into a family of eight.

MI: Eight, and that was a real eye-opener. [Laughs]

LL: That probably was, was that a big adjustment for you?

MI: It was. It was terrific, 'cause I didn't think there would be a family that big that could hold so many people together, and yet, they're all very close, and they're very supportive, which I'm so thankful for. And they're just a great family. I'm just very lucky.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

LL: So getting back to your father, in the hotel, did he own the hotel, and what was the name of the hotel?

MI: It was, one hotel that he owned was the Rainier Hotel, which is no longer there, I understand. It was torn down for a parking lot or something, and there was another one, apartment house, which is called the San Marco Apartments, which he owned, and he bought that a long time ago, I can't even remember the year. 'Cause I remember dealing with the business end of it, and it was beyond my comprehension. I didn't know what was going on. But he was able to handle it, and I was certainly old enough to know what was going on, but I didn't. And so I was completely in the dark about how he was able to manage that. But he did a good job.

LL: You mentioned that some of the workers, some of the people that would stay in the hotel were workers from the railroad?

MI: Uh-huh.

LL: Were they mostly men?

MI: Yeah, they were mostly men. They were conductors or whoever those people are that wander around the train cars and dispense refreshments, I think they're in two different categories, but those were the ones that stayed at my dad's place.

LL: And that community, in addition to being Nihonmachi, was also, they mentioned there was a Jewish community there, and then a little bit later the Chinese community, and also the African American community and the Greek community. So do you remember the different communities or...

MI: I don't remember specifically. The Jewish community I remembered because I went to school with the kids, but I don't remember Chinese or... who else was there?

LL: You mentioned the Greek community or African Americans.

MI: I don't remember because I didn't go to school with any of them.

LL: So were the tenants or the people that stayed at the hotel members of these communities?

MI: No, they were all Caucasian.

LL: And you mentioned your friend that you used to swap lunches with.

MI: Oh, yeah. [Laughs]

LL: And she was Jewish?

MI: Yes, she was Jewish.

LL: Do you remember her name?

MI: Yeah, her name was Joan Abrams, A-B-R-A-M-S.

LL: And did she, you met her through school?

MI: I met her through school, and we shared lunches together.

LL: And then getting back to your brother, he was a younger brother, but did you play together when you were young?

MI: Yeah, we got along very well. He was a very good brother, and he was a good man, and I just lost him too early. He was only eighty... well, "only," that isn't right either. But I was trying to figure out exactly how old he was, and I can't tell you, even though he was three years younger than I, I can't tell you how old he was. I just don't remember.

LL: So did you or your brother ever get into trouble as kids?

MI: Believe it or not, we didn't. You'd think we would, because we were right in the heart of Nihonmachi, and there were a lot of kids around. But for some reason, we were okay.

LL: Lot of opportunity to get attention?

MI: There were a lot of opportunities. [Laughs]

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

LL: And you mentioned your mother cooking Japanese food and taking classes to cook American food?

MI: I remember that.

LL: Where did she shop to get the food?

MI: Oh, there were grocery stores all around there, owned by Japanese. And of course, she was pretty independent. She never drove, that's right, she never drove, but she walked to these places and got her groceries.

LL: And then with regards to school, you mentioned that you wanted to go to school where your friend, where your friend was. Did you have a hard time convincing your parents to change school districts or to change the address so you could go to Washington?

MI: No, I just told them what I was going to do. I'm not sure if they understood, but I told them what I was going to do, and so I did it. [Laughs]

LL: You sound very independent.

MI: Well, I'm very... maybe too much. [Laughs]

LL: It makes you strong. You mentioned the food and not knowing what you were eating at camp or at the assembly center. What do you recall, or do you know now what you were eating?

MI: Well, all I know is there was some hideous thing that was all white, and it tasted like flour, I mean, you know, what flour would taste like if you ate flour like that. But I couldn't tell you what it was, and I still don't know to this day what I was eating. There were not too many like that, but there were some foods that... I'm sure they were not ethnic, because by that time I think I would have known about that, but it was very different.

LL: And then you also mentioned you read a lot, you escaped by reading.

MI: Uh-huh.

LL: So where did the books come from?

MI: Well, I bought them, and then I practically lived at the library, the main library downtown. And I'd check 'em out and that's where I'd get 'em.

LL: In camp, you mentioned, where did you get the books in camp?

MI: Well, it seems to me that somebody had a checkout library going, and I don't remember all the details, but I knew they had some kind of a system where you could borrow the books and read them.

LL: You referred to yourself, you used the word "chicken," and yet your life had changed so radically, and you had been through so much, and you acted so bravely and really thought for yourself. Why do you still use that word "chicken"?

MI: Well, because I'm not aggressive enough to stand up for what I think should be. I mean, little issues or... not issues so much, but just the fact that I'm just not aggressive enough to meet problems head on and try to solve them. I'd rather just retreat into my books and leave it at that.

LL: It sounds to me that that might be a cultural thing that was taught by the Japanese about not being, not standing up or not, you just go along.

MI: Right, exactly. I'm sure that has a lot to do with it. But I just am still that way, then, because I don't think I've changed that much.

LL: I think that was all the additional questions that we had. But yeah, if you think of anything else that...

MI: I wish I could.

LL: ...that we wanted to expand on, or can you think of anything else? We kind of covered the ones that...

Off camera: I think you were very brave. You said, "I'm going to Washington High School, darn it, and I'm going to do it, and I'm going to do this," and you really were.

MI: Well, I think because of my friend Mae, that she was there and I was going to join her, I think that just gave me a little bit more courage than normally. If I had to do it by myself, I'm sure I wouldn't have.

LL: I agree. I think you were really... for a Nisei lady, I think you were very courageous and independent and strong, because a lot of, I think when it came to things that you felt very strongly about or you truly believed in, you were there speaking out and standing up. And that's a, I think that's really admirable.

MI: Well, I'm still chicken. [Laughs]

LL: Well, I think we're done.

MI: Oh, okay.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.