Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Etsuko Ichikawa Osaki Interview
Narrator: Etsuko Ichikawa Osaki
Interviewer: Valerie Otani
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: December 17, 2013
Densho ID: denshovh-oetsuko-01-0001

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VO: Today is December 17, 2013, and we're in Portland, Oregon, interviewing Etsu Osaki. Observing today is Todd Mayberry of Oregon Nikkei Endowment, and our videographer is Ian McCluskey. My name is Valerie Otani. Oh, and this is part of Oregon Nikkei Endowment's Minidoka Oral History Project. So why don't you start by telling me the date that you were born.

EO: I was born February 18, 1931, in Fresno, California. That was a long time ago.

VO: And do you remember what hospital?

EO: I have no recollection of Fresno, because we left there when I was still very young. I just see pictures of myself.

VO: And your full name when you were born?

EO: I don't have an English name. My first name is Etsuko, which means "joyful child." [Laughs]

VO: And so let's go to your parents. So tell us what your father's name was and where he was from.

EO: My father was Tatsuya Ichikawa, he was a minister, and he was born in 1903 in Iiyama, Nagano-ken, Japan, way up in the mountains. And his father was a minister, of course, but he went to Ryukoku, which in those days was a ministerial training college. And he was the second son. In Japan, the oldest son takes over the temple, so, of course, he had no temple. So that's why he ended up in this country. When he was in college, I think it was, the year was 1925, he was living as a houseboy at the Gomonshu, who would be the head of our particular branch of Buddhism. So the Gomonshu came to this country, so he came as a bag carrier. So that was quite an experience for him.

VO: So you think that might have influenced his decision?

EO: Definitely, and he also had an uncle that spent quite a few years as a minister in this country. So I think those two things probably influenced him to come to the United States.

VO: And then he had some contact that invited him to Fresno?

EO: I'm really not sure what the contact was. I'm sure he must have contacted somebody.

VO: And what was the name of the branch of Buddhism that your...

EO: Oh, our branch is the Nishi Hongwanji school of Jodo Shinshu, also called the True Pureland sect of Buddhism.

VO: And so many generations of your father's family had been...

EO: Yes, I think like about four hundred fifty years it was started in Iiyama. And so I think the present minister, who would be my cousin's son, he's about the twenty-first generation. So it goes way back.

VO: And your mother, tell us a little about your mother.

EO: She's also from a temple, because in those days -- and I don't know if it's still true, temple families tended to marry each other. And so her temple was in what is now Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi-ken, on the southern tip of Honshu. And so people always ask, "How did your parents meet?" Because in those days, they married someone in the same prefecture. So the story goes that my uncle, my mother's brother and my dad were classmates in college. So once he said, "Well, why don't you come home and meet my sister?" And so he went, and that's how they met. And I guess they just headed off, but it's kind of a romantic story. [Laughs]

VO: It is. And so they married before coming to...

EO: Yes, they got married in 1928, and then shortly thereafter they came to Fresno.

VO: Where you were born.

EO: Yes, three of us were born.

VO: But you didn't stay in Fresno too long?

EO: No, we left in 1934 because I think, and I'm pretty sure, my dad's mother was ill, and so he wanted to go back home to see her. And so went back and he got a job as a minister in Kobe, so we lived there for two years.

VO: Now do you have memories of that time in Japan?

EO: That I have vague memories, of Kobe. [Laughs] Waiting in the temple office for him to come home. And then one of my favorite memories is he would bring home for the kids these hot roasted sweet potatoes. Oh, they were so good, and so when I went to Japan I had to look for it, and they still have places where they sell those hot roasted sweet potatoes. I do remember that.

VO: Now, I actually didn't ask what your mother's name was.

EO: Yes, her name was Yasashi Nishi. Nishi meaning "west." She comes from a large family, too, there were seven children. And my dad's family had eight. I didn't realize there were so many, there were eight of them.

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