Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Tomiko Takeuchi Interview
Narrator: Tomiko Takeuchi
Interviewer: Linda Tamura
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: May 13, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-ttomiko-01-0013

<Begin Segment 13>

LT: Okay. So you went to Rigler Elementary in northeast Portland, then you went to Gregory Heights junior high, and Madison High School. And during this period of time, you have said you didn't know you were Japanese. So you thought you were white?

TT: I just didn't think, which was interesting, because people ask me this a lot, and it's so absolutely true, swear to God, in the Buddhist church, I swear to God. [Laughs] But no one ever talked about it, I never thought about it. I lived in a totally white community and I think because I was born just before the war, you know, no one wanted to be Japanese. Who would want to be Japan, Japanese and America when they put you, incarcerate you, take everything away from you? So we didn't do anything. Japanese schools were gone by then, you couldn't take Japanese dance or anything, there was none of that available. But we just did very much, I took ballet, I did piano, and we did swimming and gymnastics, but nothing Japanese. And then when I went to all my schools, there were no Japanese people. Sylvia, though, did belong to Sorells, which was a high school Japanese group. I have no idea how she found this, 'cause no one said anything to me when I came along. And then Diane belonged to JACL, Junior JACL. I again knew nothing about Junior JACL, so I don't know if I was just oblivious. I was extremely social, I ran around a lot, so maybe I didn't need another group of friends or something. But I truly didn't ever think about the fact that I looked different.

LT: You mentioned that you would watch your grandmother eating her Japanese food. When you were raised, what kind of food did you eat at home?

TT: My mother always made rice. My dad had to have rice every day. But for breakfast, I don't care for... I don't care for a traditional breakfast. I used to have sandwich and soup a lot. And then for lunch, until I was in about fourth or fifth grade, I liked to take my lunch, because school lunch, oh, please. But then I got a job in the cafeteria, so then you got free lunch. I just thought that was so great that I was working for my meal. So we ate that way. And at night we would have normally always rice and some kind of meat, fish or something, but not like miso saba or miso salmon or anything, no. We'd have just some kind of meat or something like that, or stew or whatever, and then usually a huge salad and then some kind of vegetable. And my mom was very into health and natural kinds of foods, so we ate a lot of fresh vegetables, and we ate, we were very heavy on the vegetarian side. We ate a lot of... she'd make beans and things like that, but no, I can't remember... I mean, once I started going to the temple after retiring, there was stuff I had never seen. I had never heard of natto, I had never seen zenzai, the red azuki beans with mochi. It was like, what is this? And they'd start putting this stuff out, and even, and then they'd take the rice that is burnt on the bottom and they make something that starts with a K, and they it had soy sauce and sugar on it. None of that stuff ever passed... we used soy sauce, but not in a huge amount.

LT: What about chopsticks?

TT: We did use chopsticks. My chopsticks are, use of it is poor. People look at me, especially when I'm there with a bunch of Caucasians, and they're all using it properly. Mine's not necessary. Okay, but we used chopsticks a lot, yeah, because, especially for vegetables and stuff, it's easy. But we didn't eat a lot of otsukemono, which is my favorite thing.

LT: Japanese pickles?

TT: Yeah, Japanese pickles. But we didn't eat a lot of that. So when we'd see Grandma eating the stuff that we liked, takuan, the yellow, the radish that they... we would just watch her. 'Cause yeah, that's stuff that would have loved to eat. My dad liked sashimi, so if we'd go out, he would order sashimi, and I like sashimi, but my mother would never have raw fish, so we didn't see that. But we ate a lot of salmon and stuff, but yeah, very American-style.

LT: When your aunts and uncles and your cousins got together, a lot of times for Japanese American families that's the time to have some Japanese food.

TT: Yeah, not much that I can remember because we'd do picnics and stuff, and it was like regular food. When I went to Grandpa and Grandma's and we'd go on a picnic, he'd have nigiris, rice balls. But the food was like a little piece of chicken and stuff, but it wasn't anything that was so different. So it was kind of an Americanized Japanese, I guess. But we didn't have a lot of miso, I can't remember having miso shiru, you know, miso soup, or I don't remember eating udon.

LT: Okay.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright &copy; 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.