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

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

<Begin Segment 1>

LT: So today is May 13, 2014. This is an interview with Tomiko Takeuchi at the Oregon Buddhist Temple in Portland, Oregon. Ian McCluskey is the videographer, and the interviewer is Linda Tamura. So, Tomiko, you were born in Portland on April 18, 1942, but your given name was different.

TT: When I was born my dad had a friend or something whose name was Linda, and he liked another friend named Ann, or I guess it was my mother, so they named me Linda Ann. However, as I grew up and got into college -- and until then I really didn't know I was Japanese, I lived a very "white" life. And I went to college and realized that there was a whole ethnicity I knew nothing about. I started working in Salem, Oregon, and there was, like, fifteen hundred people that worked for Salem, and I wanted a way where, when I went anywhere, people would know who I was. So I took the name Tomiko because my mom was Tomiye and my dad was Kaname. And I thought I was being so cool taking "Tomi," putting "ko" at the end for "child," and I paid a huge price with an attorney to make sure there were no liens on the name or anything. I got home, the day I got home with a letter that said my name was now Tomiko Takeuchi, Charlton Heston was on TV in a movie called Hawaii, and his concubine was named, of course, Tomiko. So all of the bloom kind of left the name in one instant. But since then it's been terrific. I worked for Portland Public Schools, there are thirty-five hundred people there, and I can call anywhere and say it was Tomiko, and they knew who I was. So it did, in the end, obviously, it worked out terrific.

LT: Thank you. Actually, that makes it even more compelling to learn your story and what you said, you didn't know that you were Japanese. So as we learn more about your growing up, your childhood and your early adult, we'll learn more about your self-discovery, and then I'll ask you the question again at the end about your discovery. So let's begin with your grandparents in Japan and the birth of your parents. So let's start with your paternal grandparents. Your grandparents were born in Hiroshima. And what do you know about their, how they made a living, the kind of work they did, and how they decided to come to the United States.

TT: As I understand it, the great-grandfather owned a farm, and Yojiro, my father's father, was just sixteen when he came to the U.S. And he had done some barbering before, I don't know if it was just family, but he did come because he wasn't the first son. And so he came with a young wife, and we know very little about her because she had a bunch of children and then actually passed away. But he actually did come from a farm family, came right out of high school or out of schooling, and came to the U.S. and started a barbershop in what is now Old Town.

LT: Okay. And then your father Kaname Takeuchi was born in Portland on June 1, 1907. What do you know about his early life and his aspirations?

TT: And that one I do know. Luckily I have much more story there. Dad always wanted to be a doctor, and so, and he was extremely intelligent, and went through school through about sixth grade and then his father took them back. And I think that's probably when his mother passed away. And so they moved back to Japan, so he went from sixth grade until I think he was about sixteen, seventeen, when he came over, back to the United States. When he came back to the U.S. he went to Lincoln High School, and because his English was not very good, rather than putting him in as a junior -- they were so nice to kids -- they put him in as a freshman. But he did, he was very successful. He was extremely persistent, and he loved books, so he read all the time. So then he did, he was very successful at Lincoln, and helped at Dunaway school, he used to help with the track club and things like this, and I'm guessing it's to make extra money, because they were very hard up that way. But he'd always wanted to be a doctor and chemistry came very easy to him. So when he went to Reed, he majored in chemistry and then was set and ready to go into the medical field and go on to med. school, but then his father moved back to Japan and his father needed someone to help send money so that he would be able to get along. And so my father stopped at that time. Didn't pursue that career, and instead went on and started a grocery store.

LT: And what do you know about that grocery store?

TT: That grocery store was terrific. It was a little teeny one, and I can remember it was on the corner of Fifty-Seventh and Fremont in Portland, Oregon. And on the corner there was a drugstore, and then we were next door. One of the funniest things was the outside was made of this cement with these little teeny rocks in them. And I always have been a rock hound, and I'd go out and pick out the little rocks. I had quite a collection of rocks; I was always afraid the building might collapse, but it didn't. And the store wasn't very large, but Dad had a meat market in the back, we always had fresh produce, and it had two counters only. And all of us went and kind of helped, we lived just four blocks away so we could actually walk to the store to spend time. And I can remember shelves and shelves of dusting, and you call, it's called facing the shelf, so if someone takes a can of beans, you move everything forward so that the shelf always looks like it's filled. So we did things like that. I wasn't the best worker, but I ate a lot of candy, and I enjoyed myself. My other sisters were much better at working than I was, but I have really fond memories of it. They spent a lot of time there, and I'd come up from school and oftentimes go up to the store just to hang out with the folks.

LT: Now the store was at Fifty-Seventh and Fremont?

TT: Yes.

LT: And what was the name of the store?

TT: Fifty-Seventh Food Market.

LT: And how did your father gain the funds to purchase the store?

TT: He was lucky. He did a lot of work in the summers and stuff, like when he was going to Reed, and he made some really good friends. And the one thing was Waddems Food Distributor. People in that place, they were friendly, and so they actually gave him funds to be able to start a store. He leased it, he didn't buy it or anything. But they kind of started to come out as far as to help him buy supplies and things, and then he paid them back. And so that's why he got started without any ready cash, obviously. And in the old days, they actually, I think the front opened up quite a bit, so it was almost like a greenfront in New York, where there were vegetables that kind of, the shelving would come out. And I don't remember that, but I was looking at pictures and I could see where it was more open than I remember. I only remember it as the store we went in, but I don't know.

LT: And his customers were Japanese?

TT: No, it was a totally Caucasian neighborhood and I don't remember any ethnicity. Even when I went to regular school, the neighborhood school, we were the only people of color. And I can't remember any immigrants or people who didn't speak English. It was very, very white, the whole neighborhood was. We were just across the street from Rose City Cemetery, actually kitty-corner, but that whole neighborhood, there was just a gas station, the grocery store, a drugstore, a barber, and then it was residential all around.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright &copy; 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

LT: And we'll come back to that, but let's go back to Japan and talk about your maternal grandparents and your mom. So your grandparents, the Miyakes, came from Okayama, which was not too far from Hiroshima, on the southeast portion of Honshu island. What did they do there and how did they get to America?

TT: Oh, that's right, yeah. It's interesting because we were very close to our mom's parents. We used to go up there every summer and spend several weeks. And Grandpa, I had thought, came over as a much younger man, but apparently they actually had connected before and what I've been told now is that I knew my grandmother came from a very fine family, because she had been trained, she was a dressmaker, she had taken koto, she had done odori, and I know not every little farm girl did that. Then found out that my grandfather was actually the fourth son of a family that had some money, and my sister said they were aristocratic. And so that's why I think Grandma married Grandpa, thinking he had money. And when they came to America, of course, it was the biggest shock in her life because she had never had to do house stuff or do grocery shopping. And we would sit and laugh as I grew older, because she said it was the biggest shock of her life to come somewhere and there was no help. Then, of course, they started having babies right away, so it was the washing of the diapers, and she had to learn to cook, and those things she didn't have.

But he, I believe, came because he was the fourth son, and came out to make it on his own. And he was amazing. He started out as the junk man, and he would just walk around the neighborhood -- he did this until the day he died -- picking up junk. Anything he found was a treasure to him. And then I guess he just actually started selling these things here and there, and he made enough money to start his own greenfront or grocery store, and that one was totally open where you'd put up the doors, and all the fruit and everything was out in the front, and you see all his kids except for my mom and her older brother working there. And I don't know how anyone could do that from the start he had. He had been a judo teacher, I know, as a young person, so he did do some judo teaching and things like that, but the store must have made us money. And by the time we were old enough to go and visit, he had to be of retirement age, but he worked at the Olympic Hotel.

LT: And this was in Seattle?

TT: In Seattle, and he started out I guess as a custodian, and eventually became the head of something. He was the head of the night shift, and I remember so fondly when he'd come home at seven a.m. and he'd bring party hats and balloons and all these snack foods, caviar. So we'd always get up early in the morning and wait for Grandpa to come home. And he'd come home wearing these funny party hats and carrying a thing of balloons. That's really vivid in my mind, it was a wonderful time. And Grandma was very quiet, and she was a phenomenal cook, and she did all the things you think of that little Japanese ladies, she followed behind him, you know, and did all the right stuff for us as far as being a grandma. She'd never let us eat Japanese food because she'd sit in the back in this little pantry, it had glass around it, she would eat ochazuke, and she would eat spaghetti and pork chops and stuff for us. And we'd stand in front of the little pantry that had a sliding window just looking at her because we wanted otsukemono no chazuke. [Laughs] But she tried to feed us the right stuff.

LT: It must have been difficult for her, though, to be a family of an aristocrat, and to come over and find that her husband was not as wealthy as she thought, and to find that, in fact, she was from a culture background, and they were living a fairly menial life.

TT: Yes. And she did really move into what, I guess you'd call middle class or whatever, she didn't do -- I never knew about the koto and she never talked about the odori. I just knew she knew about odori, and she knew about these things, but she had never told me she'd done any of this. And it wasn't until my mother was telling me how Grandma used to play the koto. And then, of course, the best story of all is that after I had heard from my auntie that my mom had a koto and my grandma had played the koto, we started looking for it. And my cousin, Kan Yagi, who was from Utah, he was working for Portland Public Schools, and I mentioned to him that we had a koto that we haven't been able to find sine before the war. Well, luckily, Grandma had given it to his mom, and so she had taken it to Utah. So during the internment, of course, they weren't touched, the koto stayed safe. So about, it must be now ten, fifteen years ago, Kan tracked it down, one of his brothers had it, it was in storage, and no one knew who it belonged to, and I got my grandma and mom's koto back. So for a short time I took lessons, and I'm pretty pathetic at it, so I haven't continued. But I like getting it out, and I'll set it out oftentimes especially in the spring. And since I can read music, I tune it American-style, so I can play Mickey Mouse Club, and When You Wish Upon a Star. [Laughs] Oh, and Sakura, but that's about it.

LT: That's about it?

TT: Yeah. So she never said anything, so she fit very easily into... then they were very involved with their church, which was the... I don't know, I'll have to tell it later, it's a Buddhist church. Koyasan, the Koyasan church, and Grandpa was the lay minister, so they did a lot of things in the community with the Japanese people. Grandma never spoke a lot of English. Grandpa was pretty fluent, especially in swearing. He had a pat little phrase that when he was driving, his arm would shoot out of the window, he'd shake it, and he had this little phrase of bad words that he would say.

LT: What was that phrase?

TT: All bad words starting with "Goddamn son of a bitch," I can remember that so clearly. So when I was little a girl, when I'd get mad and I'd stomp my foot, those four came out immediately.

LT: Because you were in the backseat with your grandfather.

TT: Always. And I'd watch that arm come out, and that fist pump, and then those four words would come out just like silk.

LT: Now your mom was born in Seattle on, in 1914, as Tomiye Miyake. And what do you know about her early life and her aspirations?

TT: I think she was probably the first feminist that came along. She really believed that women should do what it is they wanted, and that the confines and marriage and all of that wasn't anything she really wanted. And she was very fortunate, because being the first daughter, she did, she played koto and she did odori, and she did some traveling. At that time that was unusual for things, but Grandma, I guess, maybe was the original first feminist, because she encouraged, and so did Grandpa, for Mom to do these things. So her life was not as traditional as when you think of someone of her generation. And she had decided she wanted to be a nurse, and I think had she stayed with it, I bet you money she would have been a doctor. It wasn't so much that she loved the study, but she just knew she wanted to be the best she could be or do the most, and so she kept taking classes, etcetera, and when she got into Columbia School of Nursing -- and none of us can figure how this happened.

LT: And this is in Seattle?

TT: Yeah, this is in Seattle. And she did very well, and she just absolutely loved it. And like I said, I think had she gone on, she would have. But a friend of hers, a doctor, knew my dad, and put them together at a party. And her father did say to her, "It's time for you to get married," and so she did. But, as I look at her, I think had she had the choice, none of us would have been around, and she'd probably be Dr. Miyake running around with a stethoscope around her neck. [Laughs]

LT: So your father had aspirations to be a doctor, and he was not able to because of finances. And your mother had aspirations to be a doctor and she was not able to either because she got married.

TT: Right.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright &copy; 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

LT: And your parents married on March 27, 1938. Your father was seven years older than your mother?

TT: Uh-huh.

LT: Okay, and he was thirty-five, so she was twenty-eight. So what can you tell us about your father? What was he like?

TT: You know, they were really kind of a neat couple because they were so different. So we were able to have two really different ways, and yet, both of them pushed us hard. My dad always felt like we could be anything we wanted, and when other fathers were saying to their children, "You need to look about getting a decent job and having a family," my father was saying, "What would you do if you could do anything you wanted?" And he was a dreamer, and so he always thought outside of the box. And I give him credit for pushing us farther than I think maybe we would have gone. And he loved it, he loved music, so he made sure that even though we didn't necessarily play, that we had music around us all the time, and dance, and the cultural part of a lot of it came from Mom, because she did like the theater, and because of her dancing and ballet, so we got a nice mix. But both of them were very bright, but I know my father was really smart, really smart. He could take a -- maybe today everyone can do it, I'm very bad at math -- but he could take, like, a line of digits where there were five in a row, five across, and like six or seven, and he could do it like this and give you the answer. I don't know if he was faking me; he could have been. [Laughs] But to me, especially when you're not very good at numbers, it was, like, amazing. So I always thought he was a genius. And he was very, very good-hearted, he laughed all the time, he seemed to enjoy life. And they worked long hours on their feet in the store, and I can remember thinking, "Man, how can they do this?" But he was always so happy to be down there with people. And even though it was long hours and all of this, he just was a very good-natured guy, and he was a thinker, a dreamer, too. He thought way outside of the box. He talked about the book he wanted to write and he never wrote, and I think he never wrote it because he felt if he wrote it he would die. But was the concept that he felt that we as a nation needed to come together in small groups, whether we did it around... he had suggested schools, 'cause schools are in every neighborhood and not... you don't have to be a Buddhist or a Christian or a Catholic or whatever. So the school would be the center, and he really felt like it should be open almost twenty-four hours a day. So that there would be people there if you went to work and your child had nowhere to go, the child could be there, old people during the day when no one was home could be there. And so he visualized this as the, to him, utopia, and it would all be centered around the school. I've always just found it fascinating, because we're doing some of it, not as much as I'd like. But he talked about the fact that kids, of course, wouldn't get into trouble because they'd always have people around, so we don't have the kids wandering the streets and everything. But that was something I can remember. He was just such a dreamer, and he thought about stuff that no one else did. We're thinking about it now, of course, what, twenty years after he passed away.

LT: What about your mom? How would you describe her?

TT: She was far more assertive than I think anyone would ever guess, because she looked the typical little Japanese beautiful thing, she always wore these big hats and everything, she looked fabulous. But, man, she was more driven than I would have realized. When she, when Dad finally retired she decided she wanted to go back into nursing. She had to take a class in chemistry, and this is like when she was, I'm sure, sixty-three, and I think of myself when I was sixty-three taking chemistry. And she worked so hard to make sure she got finished and was able to get her class, pass her class in chemistry so she can go back and nurse. And she was extremely athletic, she did a lot of hiking and she made sure she exercised, she stayed extremely fit. So she was an oddity, I think, for her generation. She was a thinker, she was a doer, and she loved all the cultural stuff, so she gave us a little difference. And yet they kind of overlapped because Dad was real athletic, too. So we played softball from the time we were kids, we all took swimming and gymnastics and we skied together and all of that. So it was a nice blend of people who seemed so different, but I think maybe were more alike than I think.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright &copy; 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

LT: And you talked about their communication, too, how they always seemed to be in touch with each other.

TT: And they did. They never let us see them fight, so usually when we're younger, and so then it was always you knew there was something and then you'd see them go off somewhere to talk to each other and we didn't hear it. As we got older, we did see a bit more of it, and then they would bicker about something or talk about something. But the communication was pretty open in comparison to a lot of marriages I see. My mom wasn't afraid to speak up, and my dad wasn't either, so they talked about a lot of stuff and if there were things going on with us, they didn't talk about us in front, but I always knew they talked about us, because they knew, each of them always knew everything.

LT: For example, I'm sure you didn't get in trouble at school very often, but if you happened to get in trouble, what would happen?

TT: I did. I didn't like school at all, so it's so amazing how one day education, but I didn't care for school because I didn't like the confines. And so I can remember very clearly, because one time they did call my mom and she came in to get me, and we went home. And she just always talked, and she was very logical, and she would always say, "So what were you thinking?" As long as we could explain what we did in a logical manner, you wouldn't get a consequence. So we learned to, I think, do a pretty good job at defending ourselves.

LT: Well, can you give an example of something that might have happened at school where your mom would have been called in?

TT: The one time I remember, I was in kindergarten, and I wanted to read a book to the rest of the class. And the teacher told me I couldn't read because I was in kindergarten. So I took my book and left the classroom, and, of course, I don't even know if they had intercoms in those days. So then my mom came to get me, and they just wanted her talk and she doesn't know I'm coming to get her. So she came and she got me and we went home. And all the way home, as we drove, it was pretty quiet in the car, and she said, "I just want you to think about what you did and what part of it you think might be wrong." Well, I didn't think anything was wrong about it, because, man, I wasn't staying in that classroom. So then when we got home, we sat down and she got me something to drink, and then we just talked. And she asked a lot of questions, she said, "Why do you think that's okay?" And I said, "Well, because she told me I couldn't read, and I've been reading forever," that kind of thing. And she said, "But you know, she has all these kids," and it was that kind of thing, too logical for a young person to be able to argue. "She has all these kids, so she can't let everyone do everything." And I said, "No, but she shouldn't have said I couldn't read." She said, "That I agree with you, she shouldn't have said that. But she said that, so what is it you should have done instead?" Well, I couldn't figure out, there was no "instead" for me. So then she kind of walked me through what I should do. And then that night when Dad came home, he asked me if I wanted to go outside and walk a little bit, it was a nice spring day. So we went out, and he talked basically the same stuff. But then I had different answers because I had new options of things I can do. And I realized that when someone, especially an adult, makes you angry, you don't necessarily have to just leave. And then they gave me some options of what I should have done. And the one thing that my dad said, "You should have just said to your teacher, 'I can read, and it makes me feel bad when you say I can't,'" that kind of thing. So yeah, so it was kind of a double team kind of thing. And yet, I know they worked so hard, I don't know how they ever had time for us. You know, there were four of us, and that was a lot of stuff. Plus they were both working, Mom would go to the store to try to help. It was, they were pretty amazing. I think that's... I just can't imagine doing all those, especially since I've chosen not to have children, it's like, "How can they do that? I can't even keep myself together some days and get food on my table." [Laughs] But I think that was a lot, maybe, that put me into education, too. I can understand that, number one, I never felt like kids should have to go to school for sixteen years if people didn't actually give them something and if they were treated... so that's a lot of the reason I thought about, "I'm going to teach, because no one's going to hate coming to my class." But they're not going to get away with anything either. [Laughs]

<End Segment 4> - Copyright &copy; 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

LT: Let's go back to your early life, because your mom and your dad were second generation Japanese Americans, they were Nisei. Many Nisei lived in Japanese American communities. They chose to have a store and to live in a white community in northeast Portland.

TT: Dad and Mom -- and I've heard them say this over and over -- "If you're going to be in the United States of America, and if you're going to succeed, you need to be able to get along with the majority. You need to be aware of and gentle to the minority, and always respect who people are. But where you need to be is where the people are." And so I know all of, a lot of our relatives did live in the Japanese communities, but it was never something they ever thought about. So when I went to Madison High School, and it was huge, there were two other Japanese families and two Chinese families and no other people of color. It was truly a white community. And I have to admit, my most uncomfortable time was the first time I took my dad to the Buddhist church and everyone was Japanese. [Laughs] It was like the first time I wasn't in the minority, and you lose your identity. Because suddenly you all look the same, you know. And I looked around and I couldn't tell the difference with anyone. And it was a very funny thing, but I know that, yeah, they chose this on purpose because they wanted our comfort level to be that we can go out in the world and do anything we want.

LT: When you were a young child, do you remember situations where people treated you unkindly or neighbors made comments because you were different?

TT: I don't. In fact, I don't know if I'm just dense. I did have one incident when I was a third-grader that someone called me a "Jap." I didn't know what it was, but it sounded bad, and I did punch him in the nose. And when I got home and told my dad about it, he said not to worry about it, "It's 'Japanese American Princess,' but it's rude for anyone who's not Japanese to call you a Jap." So then after that it never bothered me, but then, it never happened again, either. Yeah, and I liked the idea of a "Japanese American Princess," but we only call it among ourselves as Japanese people. And I bought it and went on my merry way. But I've never had that. But the other day I was talking to my older sister and she says, "Don't you remember there was a lady" -- and I won't mention her name, but she was so mean -- "that lived across the street from us." And she would come out, of course, luckily, she was big and she was fat and I knew she was stupid, and she would get out and scream at everyone when they'd even touch property. This was before, there was not a sidewalk there. And Sylvia says, "Well, you know, didn't the folks tell you not to walk in her yard?" And I said, "Well, yeah," and she said, "Well, it's because we're Japanese." And I looked at my sister and said, "It was because we're Japanese?" And she said, "Yeah," and this was just two days ago. And she said, "Yeah, what did you think?" I said, "I just thought she was this mean, smelly old woman who hated kids." Because it wasn't just us she yelled at, she yelled at all the neighbor kids. But I guess that it was because Dad and Mom had told us not to step on their property, and I don't know what part I missed, but my sister heard it very clearly, is it was because we were Japanese. So I don't know if I'm dense and maybe don't see that part, I don't know, maybe I've lost out. But I've never had any kind of what I call bigotry come my way, no.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright &copy; 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

LT: Let's move to World War II. And, of course, at this point, when Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941, you were not alive. This was four months before you were born. What have your parents, have your parents been open about what happened during World War II?

TT: Nothing was said at all that I can remember until I was about college age. And I can't remember, I'd hear nothing, but I remember very clearly one time when I came home, because I'd heard something at college about the internment of the Japanese. So I said to my dad, "You know what I heard?" And so I explained what I heard, and he says, "You know, I've never talked to you guys about this because I didn't want you to have negative feelings towards every American and everybody here because of what happened." He said, "Yes, that happened," and then we started talking about it. Then he brought out the Minidoka Interlude and, I mean, I was shocked. I couldn't believe it. And he started talking about it then, and he did, he had a lot of information. The man kept every piece of paper, I think, he ever had. But he had the copy of the sign that had been posted, and this, and then we started talking --

LT: What sign?

TT: The one about the immigrants have to be in before dark and all this. And then he showed us, gave us information. So, yeah, then he brought us through all of it, but it wasn't until I was in college. And then, by then, of course, Diane and Tom were in high school, so all of us were of an age that we understood. After that there was a lot of talk, and then when redress came he was -- in fact, I've got several of the newspaper articles he wrote regarding redress and stuff like this, and he got very involved in that. Not that he felt the government owed us necessarily the money, but because America is such a monetary system, that's the one way the government would actually put up... apologies are great, but in this society that's so run by money, he really believed in it, that the money part made a difference. Not because how much it was, it didn't matter, but the fact that the American government would open up their pockets and hand that money out. So then after that, it became very, very much an open conversation, and he took his redress money to reprint the Minidoka Interlude. And he passed away prior to it being done, but he had a whole list of what we were supposed to do and who we were supposed to contact. And so we did it, and the Minidoka Interlude was reprinted with his redress money, and it was given to all libraries and colleges in the U.S.

LT: And the Minidoka Interlude was the yearbook at the Minidoka camp where you and your family were incarcerated during World War II. We'll talk a little bit more about that later. What I'd like to do now is to learn about what you know about what happened with your family after Pearl Harbor was bombed.

TT: I know that my dad only had a short time -- my mom and I were in the hospital -- and he had about a week to be able to get rid of everything or pile everything up and be ready to go.

LT: Okay, and what did he have to get rid of?

TT: We had the business, we had a house, we had a panel truck and a car. Luckily a friend of his who had been working with him through that Waddems Company that had supported him, actually came in, and he ran the store during the time, took care of our car and our panel truck and lived in the house. And so we didn't lose out on anything of that type, of that nature. The hardest thing I remember Dad talking about was trying to figure out what to take, because Mom couldn't carry anything other than me. And to get all the stuff together and to be able to get it to camp, I mean, not knowing where you're going to go, what the temperature's going to be like, how long you're going to be gone, that type of thing. But he got all that stuff and a friend of ours came and, I guess, picked us up, picked Dad and Sylvia up, and then came to the hospital, picked us up, and then took us to the assembly center.

LT: Okay.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright &copy; 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

LT: Now when were you born and where were you born?

TT: I was born April 18, 1942, at the Emanuel Hospital in Portland. And at the time of the assembly center, like I said, we were gaily laying there in the hospital, and then went straight there to the assembly center. Which must have been a shock if I would have known anything, you know. I understand it's pretty ugly. But I have no memories, obviously, of those early times.

LT: So your father and your sister Sylvia --

TT: Yeah, Sylvia was three.

LT: -- and your grandparents.

TT: My grandparents were from Seattle, so they weren't with us. They were actually put in a different place. But they sent my aunt Mae, my poor aunt Mae Miyake down, and then on my dad's side, our aunt Reiko Takeuchi who then was, became and Okawa, the two of them came and were kind of there to help us.

LT: Okay. So at eleven a.m. on May 5, 1942, Mrs. Goodman, a family friend, took your family, including your mom, who was carrying you as a newborn, to the Portland Assembly Center, and you were designated to live in Section 2, C-14. What have your parents told you about what it looked like, what it sounded like, what it smelled like at the Portland Assembly Center?

TT: My father doesn't talk a lot of it. I think he's not quite, wasn't quite into the interior decorating or anything like that. He was running around talking to all of his friends, I'm sure. But Mom talks about the assault of the smells and the filth, and the fact that all these people are jammed, the depression, she said, the feeling, Oregon's dreary enough, but the depression you could just feel. And when you got there, I mean, they had just taken those boards, thrown them over the, all of the animal matter that was there. So the smells were horrid and it was filthy. I mean, they just put up boards. It wasn't like we had any kind of walls with plaster or anything like that.

LT: You talk about the animal matter. What animal matter?

TT: It actually had been, several of them had been stalls for animals, so horses, cows, I don't know, whatever they had. It was a slaughterhouse, I believe, so there were probably cows and pigs. And then they didn't, like, take and put down cement or concrete and put drains in, they just built these barracks over the top. And so then the one story I do hear of is when it got so hot, and someone put water on the top of the roof to cool everything down, the water went down and soaked that matter, even though it had been a long time since it'd been there, because we'd been living there, and the smells just came up like gaseous forms, and it was terrible. But for someone who comes from living in a home and all this, for those of who don't camp and don't want to be laying around in the dirt or walking around in soil, it was tough. Mom was a good hiker and everything, but she definitely didn't want to live there, and it was, there was dust and dirt everywhere.

LT: Now, your mom was still in pain because she'd just given birth to you, so she was trying to recuperate. She had you as a newborn baby. What was it like for her and for you in this new home that smelled, that was noisy, that was not a safe, sterile place to raise a newborn?

TT: Luckily I have no recollection. But to top everything off, I was allergic to milk and my mother wasn't able to breastfeed. So Mom and I spent a lot of time not in the barracks but in the latrines, because those rooms were big and there was a place you could sit, because I was wailing all the time. I was crying and not very happy. So for her, it had to be beyond anything imaginable. She couldn't get any rest, like you said, she'd just had a baby, and everything was filthy, and she's a very tidy lady. So she was always trying to put a blanket down before she put me down, so she wouldn't let me down. Everyone carried me, I understand, twenty-four-seven, because there was nowhere they could lay me. And so, yeah, it was a horrid time for her, and I would think of all of the kids that she had, the four of us, that she probably would like me less because of what I put her through. But that hasn't been the case, obviously. But you think of childbirth and even going home to your own place, the kind of things... but imagine being in this little cubicle with the walls that don't even go up all the way, and there was not just the four of us, but we had Auntie Reiko and Auntie Mae in there, so I think there were six of us. And luckily, I guess she didn't have to do the cooking and stuff like that, but there was nothing to do except to worry about how to take care of me, and luckily she had to spend twenty-four hours a day trying to figure out how to get me milk, and they tried a lot of different stuff.

LT: So Sylvia was three years old. Do you know what life was like for Sylvia?

TT: Sylvia played all the time, and, you know, luckily, like Mom said, she lived to read and do art, so there was a lot of paper for her. She'd draw and she'd color and they did a lot of homeschooling, you know, they did a lot of reading and stuff like that. So for her, other than... I don't know if the filth bothered her. I don't know if a three-year-old, the filth would bother. I've never liked dirt, so for me it would bother me, but I don't know if it bothered her. But it can't be any kind of home you'd suggest in Better Homes & Gardens for someone to raise their child. But with Dad being free, too, he had time he could spend. But for him I think it was more of a... no work. So at first, for the first little while, it was like for him to be on a holiday, he hung out with the boys, they played softball every day, you know, and sat around and drank Coca-cola or something, I don't know. But for the women, especially one with a brand-new baby, and I think luckily we had my two aunts and they were there, so I was very pampered. I never had to look at any of the dirt, so that's a good thing for me. Maybe that's why I have this dirt fetish, you know, where I don't like to be around dirt, I don't like to go to picnics and stuff. [Laughs]

LT: You did mention the mud puddles.

TT: Yeah, there were mud puddles. And now Sylvia was talking, too, she's wondering if it was sewage and not streams and things like this. She says she can't remember there were any streams there, but I remember the mud puddles. I didn't get in them, but everyone else seemed to. But we did make mud pies and things, and now we're starting to wonder if that was runoff, because where Sylvia said the mud puddles were, it was near the latrine. So now I'm thinking... [laughs].

LT: That was special mud.

TT: That was special mud, oh, man.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright &copy; 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

LT: On September 7, 1942, at 2:50, your family and others left the Portland Assembly Center, which was temporary, and took a train to Minidoka. And you likely have no memories, but what has your family told you about the transition to the Minidoka camp?

TT: They did talk about the train, you had to keep the blinds down, and there was a lot of panic, a lot of fear, because they didn't know where they were going. They had no idea how long or anything like that, and you're cooped up in this train, and I don't think they had air and everything in those days. You know, it's not like it was first-class Amtrak. And so it was very, very uncomfortable. Gee, I didn't ever ask them about bathroom and stuff like that, because it's a long trip, when you think of even flying over there, it's long. So a lot of them, I know that I have one aunt who will not talk about any of it to this day, and she's, what, ninety-three or something now, and she has never spoken of any of it other than to say it was the most humiliating thing that ever happened to her, and it was horrible because of the filth and the fact that they were treated like animals.

LT: Yeah, yeah. So your mother and father had raised you, or had raised your family, and lived in a white community in northeast Portland. Now, at the Portland Assembly Center and at Minidoka, they were in a Japanese American community. What was that transition like for them?

TT: See, for them I think it was okay, because my mom had been raised... when she was growing up in Seattle, she was in a more Japanese community. And I believe my father was, too, because his dad was a barber down in Old Town, so I'm guessing they lived in that community, more so. I think when Dad went off and when they came back and he went to Lincoln, he didn't live as much in a white society. But for them, it seems like, I don't know where he made all these Japanese friends. But when... I felt he didn't have Japanese friends and took him to the Buddhist temple after Mom passed away, he knew everyone. And so I think that he probably had had that connection before, and I think my mom had... her friends would have been in a different, not in the same block as us, because the Seattle people didn't have the same area. But we had cousins and relatives, and so she spent a lot of time with our cousin Lilly Kajiwara, Sakurai Kajiwara, and they spent almost every day together, and then we had my two aunties who were around. So I don't know how much you mix when you're not feeling very good and you have this whining baby that no one wants to be around, and we spent a lot of time in the latrine. [Laughs] But Dad, I'm sure, was out there because I know he started all those baseball teams and everything. By then I would guess he was getting tired of it. I can't imagine someone who's used to working and everything to be able to go through months of just hanging out.

LT: Now your dad was the Block 34 representative at Minidoka. And he also worked in the Community Activities Division.

TT: Right. In fact, I just was checking with Lilly, he was the activity director, and so ended up on an executive board, so he got to have his hands in exactly what he loves, which is the organizing. So he's the one that put together the baseball teams, and it just ended up being like a mini college, because they had dances with princesses, and talent shows all the time, and things like that. And I'm sure most of the key people involved in keeping them busy and doing things. And that's the stuff he likes, so it was a perfect... so for him, maybe camp wasn't as bad. I would guess it was worse on my mom than it was on him.

LT: Let's go back to your mom for just a bit, because she also took up craft work in the camp.

TT: Uh-huh, because it was a way that the ladies would get together. And I guess they would do this in the cafeteria area, the dining area. And so different people bring up crafts, and she started to... I'm thinking she did crafts before because my grandma was a dressmaker, and I know she always had us crocheting and knitting. Not well, but from the time I was little I can remember she would, she felt like it was good for me to crochet and things like this. So I'm guessing that Mom did that stuff, too. She did tatting, which is this little spindly-looking thing, and you... I can't even figure out how to do it, but you loop in and this and that, and you make these beautiful designs. So she used to tat beautifully, and I don't know if she learned that from her mom or from the people at Minidoka, but yeah, they did a lot of crafts and she got very caught up to it, where in the end she did always, all types of crafts and tried different things. And she passed away, her entire closet was filled with all those little trinkets that we'd buy thinking we're going to make something. But she got very involved with the crafts, and I'm not sure if people just offered to teach it, someone who knew how to do this, but she did a lot of knitting, crocheting, and tatting. She ordered a sewing machine from Sears because she made our clothes and everything like that, and that's the time I saw the assertiveness of my mother. I went into the archives and followed the paperwork as she fought with the government and Sears. When she got the sewing machine it wasn't in any kind of container, and so a piece of it was broken. So she went first to the camp people and they, of course, said no, it came without a box, therefore it wasn't their fault. So then she followed through to Sears, and they said oh no, it was in a box, a wooden box, and everything should have been safe. And when it got there, no one at the, whatever the post office is, that Minidoka one, said there was a problem. And she pursued it, and boy, I saw her good letter writing, there's several of them in her file where she followed it through until finally the Minidoka government or whatever the people, the beings were, did replace that part. I don't think they placed the whole machine. But I did get a chance to see a feminist in action early on. [Laughs]

<End Segment 8> - Copyright &copy; 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

LT: And your father, in addition to his administrative work, also wrote for the newspaper, and then he eventually decided that there should be a record of what happened in camp.

TT: And this is part of the thing I always credit him with. The guy thinks outside, thought outside the box. But he thought about things no one else would even think of. He wanted them, there to be a physical representation of that which was done to the Japanese American people, and not in a negative sense, because we were making the best of it. But yes, to make sure that this wouldn't go without recognition as it did, and all the way through school, I never saw it any of my history books. But he wanted to make sure that people wouldn't forget this, that it was something that was truly wrong that was done, but that the Japanese people really rose above being put in a horrid place and did some wonderful things. So, yeah, part of this outside the box and his futuristic thinking was this, and that Minidoka Interlude has given so much pleasure to people as they've looked at it, and given so much information of people, of friends, I always, when they come I don't always have it out or anything like that. But people ask about it, and everyone is shocked. It's the worst-kept secret that America has in our history. And even to this day, we just don't have the kind of coverage of it that needs to be, I think.

LT: Well, here's a copy of the Minidoka Interlude that your father edited. This is the original. And what I noticed in the foreword is the title focuses on: "By looking back, we look forward." At the end of his two-page foreword, he quotes President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and here's the quote: "The United Nations are fighting to make a world in which tyranny and aggression cannot exist; a world based upon freedom, equality, and justice; a world in which all persons regardless of race, color or creed may live in peace, honor, and dignity," end of quote. "This statement," your father said, "by President Franklin Roosevelt, convinces us that we can look forward to the time when we shall regain our rightful places as free men in a land of free people," Tom Takeuchi. So, here he is, incarcerated in a camp by the United States government, through Executive Order 9066 signed by President Roosevelt, and he's speaking about a country where there will be equal rights. How do you think he could be so forward-thinking?

TT: He truly believed that. He believed -- in fact, he could never understand things that people do to each other. He never would believe the bad in people; he never did. And had it been my mother, who was a little more assertive, her saying would not be the same. But no, he really believed that people in time would come together and they would be... when people talk about world peace and I laugh about it, he really believed it. He really believed it and he was the gentlest man. I never saw him be mean to anyone, and I'd say something like, "God, that person's so ugly." "No one is ugly," that kind of thing. How did I grow up like that and end up like this? I don't know. But yeah, this is exactly how he thought. He was a huge believer in man, mankind and they're gentlest to each other. I always tell everybody I'm a realist, and I see that here we are, how many years after, and we're not even close to there. But yeah, he did believe it, where, to me, Franklin Delano Roosevelt doesn't hold any kind of status. My father had respect for him as, not for everything he did, but he never, ever brought up the bad stuff. So that's the way he was; that probably is him in a nutshell. Extremely positive, and like I said, I never even heard him say a bad thing about another person.

LT: Did he talk about the reason that you were in camp?

TT: He talked about it when we were, yes, when I was younger. The one time I remember he told us we were in there for our own protection, because other people might be mean to us. This was when I was younger, one of the few passing times came that people might be mean to us. So for our, to be protected, we needed to be put somewhere safe. As we got older, he did say that there was so much hatred that, at the time, that part of this -- he still did talk that part, that in part it was to make sure that we were safe. I don't think he... nah, he believed it, he did. Because he wouldn't imagine that one person would turn on another person just because of color. And being American citizens and everything, and put 'em away. I don't know if he ever came to be able to resolve this in his head. All he knew is that it's done, it's past, we look back as a mess-up, and we're going to do better in the future and we go forward.

LT: Let's talk more about the Minidoka Interlude. If you were to look at it and not know what Minidoka was, you might think it was a regular school yearbook. What do you see in it and how in the world did he get it published while he was in camp?

TT: I know, I know. This is the most amazing thing. And this is the reverse die on the front, so when we went to reproduce it, it was so interesting to hear people talk. Even the way he put this together, it's a reverse die and all this. He just really does, he was a great researcher and he was a terrific organizer. And so he did, he checked with people in Jerome and Twin Falls and this, to find someone who would support and work with him. Because we had no, there was no money for this, we didn't have money set aside. And he worked with them hand in hand, and I don't know what he offered them, but people came together for the pictures and everything, and to think of it, all these people with their photos, getting them together for... god, we can't even get our family together a group photo. And the stuff, yeah, he just, it's something he loved and it became his, I'm sure his passion, he had many over the years. But became his passion, and he just did it, like Nike says, "Just do it," and he did.

LT: So what kinds of photos do you see in there?

TT: The stuff that always amazes me, of course, are the barrack ones. When you see the masses of people, and I always, after you look and you say, "How many of these are American citizens?" and most all of 'em are. And here we are in front of those ugly barracks, that it is, it's a concentration camp, you know. Our rights were taken away. I am, would be far more vocal than my father or mother, luckily I was two days old or something, otherwise I would have been having an absolute conniption. I love the pictures that they took of the different organizations, the fact that people had activities, that's very, very positive to me to see that, even though it was a horrible place to be, that people found ways to get together and do things. I'm impressed with the number of ads he got, which actually paid for the thing. Because I know when we did, when I've done booklets and stuff and we need to find money to publish it, that kind of stuff's hard. But man, he has so many people in here, and he was able to get... and I know it wasn't a team of one. But yeah, so those are the photos, I looked at the old businesses, and the activities people had, and then I do always look at the barracks and look at the number of people. Man, that's a lot.

LT: And so it included photos of people in each barrack, but also identifies those.

TT: Yes. I don't know how he did that, I mean, that's huge. But yeah, it's very impressive. So when he said what he wanted to do with his redress money, we all just kind of sat there, and man oh man, it's a good thing, however... then when he had the gall to die and left us with the project, luckily he had everything written out or I don't think we could have done it.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright &copy; 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

LT: So talk a little bit more about his goal for the redress money.

TT: So what he wanted was to make sure that -- because this was so many years ago that the Minidoka Interlude had been published, he knew that colleges and libraries didn't have 'em. So for him, he thought if we reprinted it and to make sure every university and every library had, Multnomah County couldn't say, "We don't have money to buy this," so he gave it all as gifts. And so our first, after it was published, the first three years, to find all those places and to mail everything out, it was amazing, and we got such terrific response from many of the places, and it was a fabulous gift. We kind of scrambled around to find someone who could replicate the front, front design, and a friend of my sister's was a graphic designer, so she did a lot of that. And then we were lucky enough to be able to find a book broker, a printing broker, and Bob Smith was able to go and find the best paper price and the best printing, and so he actually did our footwork on that, because my dad didn't have that part done, he just had the other list. But it was a huge project, and I credit my sister Diane, who was pretty tenacious, to get the project done. It was huge. And then she did a lot of the mailing, and she's been car-free forever, so she would take these books in the box, put it on the back of her bike, and it to the post office. And so when someone ordered a book, we always told him it would be a week. Because by the time she got it and she'd wrap it up... but she did, and so it was her, she said, "I'll take care of the delivery if you'll do this, this and this." So we kind of... so on her bike, every day, she'd take off for the post office. And you get a few of these, and it's heavy. So, yeah, so this one, this is even heavier than this one. And so the, and then she'd wrap it up and everything, I mean, so it was a terrific family project, that thank goodness, my dad had done most of the footwork on it. But I'm proud of it. I'm very proud that when I went to Lincoln High School to visit my friend who was the principal at the time, it's the first thing she brought out to show me, and that does, it feels good. Because the word is getting out, not well, I think we still have to do more classes and things like that, but it's something people at least need to know about.

LT: And I noticed that your father wrote his statement for the reissuing of the Minidoka Interlude in 1989, and then he died the next year in February 1990.

TT: Uh-huh. I was so glad we found it and were able to put it in. And then it was really important to me. I felt, at first someone said, "Well, are you going to put his picture in?" and I said, "Yeah, I'm putting their picture in, and I'm putting our picture in because he did it." I mean, I give myself no credit, but obviously this man did it, and I just really thought it was important.

LT: How wonderful that your family was able to finish the project for your father. I will tell you that I spoke to Jim Azumano, who was the chair of the Friends of Minidoka, and he was very appreciative that you and your family... and you can finish.

TT: Yes. After Diane rode the bike eighty million miles to drive and be able to get all these books, she said, "So what are we going to do in the future?" And we talked about it a lot, the whole family, and we thought what we'd like to do, I would love to see the Minidoka site become like the Manzanar site with an interpretive center and everything like that. So then the more we talked about it, it was obvious that the money that the book can make -- and there's a lot of potential for the money that the book can make -- should go to, and we didn't know where to put it, because things change. So the Friends of Minidoka is what came up, and we decided to give all the rights for the reprinting to them asking them to never go to a reduced price. At the time we started -- it keeps going up, I notice, it's like huge now, but we didn't want them ever to do like a end of the year book sale or anything, that they need to keep the price, and if they up it, it just needs to stay, and no end of the year sales or anything, because those people bought it. So, yeah, we're very pleased that it's, now they can get it on the website, and they can still get copies reprinted. So hopefully for generations, and who knows, maybe it'll end up in all school libraries and in some history books.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright &copy; 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

LT: This is our interview with Tomiko Takeuchi, and this is part two. So Tomiko, your family was at Minidoka in Idaho, and in August 1945, by that time, many families were returning to their homes. Your father decided that your family would go elsewhere. How did he make that decision, and where did you go?

TT: We were, I think he was very lucky. He was able to get a job in New York, but he said early on, Mom and he, I guess, talked about it, and they don't want us coming back to the Pacific Northwest because of the negativity of all of us having been moved from here, and all of our neighbors knew why we were moved. And he just didn't know if the area would be conducive to Japanese people or people being rude, and there was no way he was going to put, like he said, "I'm not putting my girls in that kind of a situation." And so we were lucky because he was able to get a job in New York. He became a manager for what was called a co-op, and co-op was a group of small stores where one person like my dad, I think he had the Brooklyn area, and he had about seven stores. And so he would help them with ordering, doing their advertising, working up an ad, actually, and helping them with hiring people. And so two stores might share an employee to save on costs and stuff. And with that, then we got the okay to be able to leave. And he went ahead of us and met some people and we ended up in a brownstone and with our, the Ottos, who were a Jewish couple, and I grew up thinking that lox and bagels, what you had for breakfast, and we celebrated Hanukkah, and I remember the candles in our window. And I didn't like matzo ball soup, but we did a lot of those things. And so we were, that's where we ended up, in a brownstone in Brooklyn.

LT: And you were three years old. So your father was concerned about how people would feel in the Pacific Northwest. The fact of the matter was that you and your family and other Japanese Americans on the West Coast were put in camps "to protect the American people from Japanese Americans." And so here you were on the East Coast, there probably weren't a lot of other Japanese Americans. What was your reception like? Do you remember incidents where you weren't welcome?

TT: No. In fact, I can remember the diversity, because, of course, the Ottos were Jewish, so they weren't necessarily people of color, but there were a lot of different races, so there were a lot of different color and weird people, you know, that you knew didn't look like the regular run of the mill people that in northeast Portland were living there, but no one seemed to ever pay attention. It never seemed to bother them in the least. And I remember my dad one time saying -- there was a big baseball player, and he was walking, we were walking downtown, and he was walking, and no one said anything to him. And he said, "This is, New York is like this. They don't bother anyone or each other, everyone is okay to be here. So I don't care if you're the richest guy in town or the poorest, no one's going to accost you to even ask for your autograph." Where in Portland, Oregon, if Obama comes, everyone's going to go up to him and speak. But in New York, and I guess there's other places, too. So that was, I think, a lot of the reason why he selected that area. And there wasn't. There was such diversity, and they had parties all the time, so out in the park area, they would have different kinds. I mean, Cinco de Mayo was years ago, they did stuff like that. So it might be only a family, but they would be having some kind of ethnic party. But we just never gave it a thought, it's really interesting. And my dad was probably the most blind person as far as color of anyone I've met. He just never saw it. My mother was raised a little differently, the hierarchy in the Asian community, but she never saw anything other than the Asian community. So I never saw her look at other nationalities and think everything, she just knew there was a hierarchy in the Asian community.

LT: Well, as a three year old who had spent your first three years in a camp with mostly Japanese Americans there, now to be in a diverse community, do you remember things being different? Do you remember wondering, do you remember situations where you saw people who looked unique to you?

TT: I don't remember any of that. I'm curious, I know my sister has a, Sylvia, who was three, and then, of course, by that time was six, had a whole different hit. She went to school and everything, so I'm sure she saw a lot more. I was still very protected. Mom didn't work, we had a very busy day, 'cause we'd walk Sylvia to school, and then either, usually pick up an ice cream or a hot dog, and then we'd go to the park and we'd play, we went to the library, we read, I spent time with the Ottos, I remember they did a lot with opera, and so you'd hear that kind of music, you know, the opera music. So, I mean, my days were really not spent with a lot of kids. I didn't go to a daycare, we had kids in the neighborhood I played with, but then, of course, our day was busy and then we'd go to lunch or whatever, and then we had to go pick up Sylvia and then come home, and then we'd do grocery shopping and then get ready for Dad, that type of thing. So I don't think I was in, around a lot of people. So I didn't feel the change. The first time I went to Japan, that was another one of those shockers, when you look around at everyone, you know. But I didn't feel any of that when I was a kid. It just, no one seemed to pay any attention to anything.

LT: You were introduced to a lot of culture, new culture, cultural arts, when you were in New York.

TT: And I do think my parents, I do think Dad, who loves his music, was in heaven. Because we'd go and watch big bands play, and, of course, always in Central Park, they always had, in this big rotund kind of thing, they had different groups that would play there. And, yeah, he took us to the opera and the ballet and the theater. And Mom loved dance anyway, would make sure, so we went to the Rockettes, I betcha, every week. And that was my goal, man, I was going to be a Rockette, and I would stand there as a three year old, and I didn't even come up to their knee. These women were tall, and when they kick, they can kick straight up, their leg is right in front of their nose. So that was my goal, I did a lot of falling as I tried to get that little stubby leg up there kicking. But yeah, so the cultural part was just amazing, and I think the diversity of the people around, I mean, we heard so many different kinds of music. You heard all kinds of languages. It was not strange to be on the subway and not understand anyone except who was sitting next to you. And I do remember that just so vividly, it was always so exciting. And my folks embraced it, and so they took us to a lot of places. We went, we were out and about a lot, and we'd go to the different boroughs without even a thought, we took the subway around, of course, everywhere, and buses and things like that, and we walked a lot. But gee, I don't remember anything feeling the difference when I went from a totally Japanese community to the other, possibly because I was so young, I don't know.

LT: You did mention the first time you saw a black person.

TT: That was amazing, because having gone from being in a white community totally, and then going to Minidoka, and we were someplace in New York, and there was smoke from this car, and a black person was sitting there. And I was concerned because, you know, I couldn't see his face at first, and I was concerned he had smoke all over him. And then when the smoke went down, yeah, I couldn't stop looking. And I remember my mother, she used to just pinch us, pinching me, you know, and she says, "Don't stare," or something like that. I said, I can't stop. "What is wrong with that guy?" you know? And then luckily we moved on, yeah, and then she explained to me. But he was extremely dark, and yeah, it was the first time I ever had seen a black, such a black person. And after that, it seems like I'd run into maybe, or maybe I hadn't paid attention. No, I knew I'd seen, so yeah, that was a very big pinch.

LT: Well, so this very culturally rich community where you have friends, your father had a good job, your mother was enjoying the arts. How did you decide to return to the Pacific Northwest?

TT: I think that was always on my dad's mind, you know, always. The schools back there he didn't feel were as good academically, and it was a tough little neighborhood, actually, when you think about it. When we first got to New York, Sylvia went to the local PS, whatever it was, and my mom went with her, and here shows you her assertiveness again. She took one look around that class and she said, "We need to leave," she told Sylvia, so Sylvia didn't even spend an hour in her new school. So they went home, and the next thing Sylvia remembered, she was in private school. [Laughs] And so I know that there was concern about the quality of education, and even though there was a huge diversity and a lot of culture, a better place he felt for children to be raised, and Portland was his home. And he always loved Portland for the openness, the friendliness, and he's always been extremely supportive. Of course, now we're such a foodie place, and it's just the acceptance of people in general, that I think he just always wanted to come back. Plus, you know, my grandparents were up in Seattle, and all my aunties and uncles along either in Washington or Oregon or California. So it was a natural to come back.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright &copy; 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

LT: So you were five years old when your family returned in 1947 or 1948. What do you remember about leaving New York and taking the trip to Oregon?

TT: The train. I remember I was sick the whole time, I was sick as a dog. And so we had, I remember we had bunks, and I don't know what it looked like, but I had the top bunk, and I spent a lot of time in that little bunk. And for the first several days I couldn't eat or do anything, and I still remember Sylvia in her little dress skipping in with a little dish with a piece of cake or something, you know, because she had gone to have dinner, man, I was sick as a dog. My mom would get me soup and stuff like that, but the first about two or three days, until, then I guess I got accustomed to it or something, or maybe you get so sick that you're no longer sick or you get used to it. Then after that I was pretty good, and I did get to go and have lunch in the dining car and stuff. And the train trip, once I was like a human, was far more exciting. So we came back on the train, and then we were lucky enough to be able to go back to our home and that type of thing, but we then didn't stay in our house. We actually went to... and I didn't realize this, Sylvia said we actually went to Seattle for a while to stay with Mom's family. And then after that we went to Vanport.

LT: And what is Vanport?

TT: Vanport was a housing, ghetto-housing area built in... it must have been, like, in a kind of a ravine or something, and they just put a bunch of clapboards there, so a lot of immigrants were there, and poor people, and a lot of people who had just come back from camp, actually, so there was quite a large Japanese population there. We only stayed for a short time, thank goodness, 'cause I do remember it being real jammed, we didn't have a yard. We did have our own bathroom and everything, but it was pretty ugly. I do remember that, because by then I did have some memory. So we moved out shortly after, and then they had the Vanport flood where, because they were in this ravine, the water just came through and took everything. But we didn't lose anything, luckily. So by then we had moved into Portland, my father still had his same store, and then he bought a house just four blocks away from it.

LT: So you were living in northeast Portland, and you had a home four blocks north on Northeast Sailing.

TT: Sailing.

LT: So your parents continued with the store. Did you have jobs, chores that related to the store?

TT: We helped a little in the store, but not much. Like I said, we did some facing, you know, where you pull the cans going, you do. And then I used to go with my dad on deliveries, and he... I wasn't much of a help, but I went in the car, singing the whole time, and got a chance to be with some of the neighbors, and I loved it. I loved going into these homes, and there would be like an older lady who didn't, couldn't move very well. And so we'd take the groceries, and I remember Mr. Ledberg, and he was a young man, probably fortyish, who was taking care of his mother, and he always smelled like garlic. [Laughs] So we'd go in, and I don't know why he didn't work, but he was home, so we'd do the deliveries. So I was the delivery girl with Dad, and then the other, Sylvia was the one that did, I think, a little bit more help. But by then, in school, there started to be activities, so she couldn't work in the store as such, because, you know, Bluebirds, Brownies and all those things that were happening. So, yes, not as many chores. But I'd get up there just 'cause I liked being with them. I liked being with my folks, and I liked being with Dad, so I would walk up there and spend time up there.

LT: Well, you know, getting back to the reason that you didn't come back to Portland right after the camps, your father had been concerned about the attitudes of people in the Northwest. How did your neighbors and customers of the stores respond when you came back three years later?

TT: It seemed that his plan was correct, 'cause I talked to my cousins who moved immediately, and they were ugly things that happened at school and in the neighborhood. And we didn't have any of that. It seems to me, and all I can remember is like when I started at Rigler as a kindergartener, there was very little of that. Very little of any of that stuff, and it was a white school. And in my neighborhood we did have a Filipino family across the street from us, and all the rest of the street was white. But I can't remember any problems with... they didn't go to our school, though, they went to a Catholic school. So we were still the only white, the only Asian people in the school, yeah. So I haven't had much of that at all, luckily.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright &copy; 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<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.

<Begin Segment 14>

LT: After your parents retired, they continued to give back to the community. How did your father spend his time?

TT: He, the first thing he did that was really exciting is he did the research for Metro, for Ikoi no Kai. And so what he did is he set up a team of people who would go out and survey the Japanese community, what they wanted to see is if a hot lunch program of this type would really be a benefit to the Japanese community. And at the time there were a lot of Issei around, and so it was a perfect thing, because they had the Japanese food and a chance for the people to come together to speak Japanese. So he did the research on that and that was a huge project. It took, gosh, I think it took like almost a year. And then he worked with George Azumano and acted as a translator for a long time. I didn't realize, 'cause his English was perfect, you know, that he was also, he was bilingual when he could speak and translate for George, and he actually would write Japanese and this, but I guess as they were growing up, when he was like sixteen and his dad was here, he would do a lot of the -- he owned a lot of property, because people couldn't have property if they weren't a citizen. So he would have his name on a lot of stuff, but he could write in both English and American, English, so that, Japanese anyway, so that he kind of had that. So he worked with George on that, and then decided he should go back for a job, and got his real estate license, and he loved taking the classes. [Laughs] He never sold a house, but he had all these wonderful cards, he had office space, he had advertising, but he didn't ever want to sell a house because he was nervous about the legality and the funding and everything. So he would help people with their open houses and stuff, but I don't think, I don't think he ever sold a house. Then he got hooked up with the bowling league, and he had a group of guys that took all of the alleys, and he would do all the figuring of the scores to see who was high and low, and this type of thing for them. And so he did a lot of that.

LT: Talk a little bit more about Ikoi no Kai and how he was involved.

TT: That was interesting, because when they first started, what they wanted to do is they needed to see, number one, if people would go, worrying that some of the Issei wouldn't leave their home to go to a strange place. So I guess they looked at the Buddhist temple and at Epworth to see kind of where they were.

LT: And this was for the food service, Japanese food service.

TT: Uh-huh, for, I don't know if it's Metro or, I'm thinking was Metro, but I don't know. So Loaves and Fishes is what it was, and ended up being. And then he had a group of about ten people that he got to help him, and he went out and started surveying and talking to, interviewing all of the Issei, Nisei. And the one thing that he said was that he says, "We just need to make sure once this is in place, that we continue to monitor it. Not like every other government thing where we put something in place and then we leave it forever," this type of thing, but he says, "You need to watch, because the population's going to change. And when the Issei are gone, the Niseis' needs are different. By the time we get to Sansei, this program could be gone, because the Sansei aren't going to have an interest in coming to eat. And I've watched as Ikoi no Kai has changed, though not much, and I keep saying, "Didn't anyone read what he said, because he said very specifically, 'Make sure that you keep growing with the community, not staying with the same thing.'" Because having just the Japanese food, but the chance for people to talk to each other, is not going to cut it after a while. And I know they've had some problems with leaving Loaves and Fishes and all of this kind of stuff, too. But, yeah, it was a joy for him because he really felt like he was making a difference in creating a service for people who really need it, and for the Issei, it was great. And I know at the beginning, when I first retired, I volunteered with them, and it was a happy time for those people to come and be together.

LT: Well, your mom also had aspirations after she retired, or after your dad retired.

TT: After, yeah. Then she had decided, first she would just go back and help at the hospital or do this type of thing, and she was doing a lot of crafts and then they talked about doing their crafts and selling them, and she knew that would last about one day. And so she did, she sent back to college, back to Mount Hood Community College, because she had to have updated chemistry class. So she took a full, that full chemistry class, and I can remember her pondering over it and studying and everything because she had to, for her, she had to have an A or it didn't count. So she got her, passed her chemistry and then was able to re-do her license, and then started working for what used to be Mount Hood Community Hospital, and then it has since built Mount Hood Medical Center. It's huge now, and part of the legacy, Emanuel and all of that. And my dad was able to buy for her a room, so her name was on the front of it for the longest time. And then you know how they do changing, well, they made it into, she had the top floor looking at Mt. Hood, and after a while they changed the hospital and made it the drug and alcohol unit. Well, my mother was very opposed to abusive use of this type of thing. She never understood why people would do this. So we went there and asked if we could move it, and so now her plaque is right next to the scroll from Ebetsu hanging in the main lobby.

LT: What a nice reminder.

TT: It is a nice reminder.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright &copy; 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

LT: So even though you didn't like school when you were a student in Portland, you went on to college and you pursued education.

TT: And a lot of it was, you know, because I said no one should have to hate something for sixteen years and have to go. And I really knew that school could be different. Because I always like to learn, I always read and things, and studied, I just didn't like school, just seemed so negative. So, yes, that was the main thing that actually encouraged me to go back. And it was interesting, because from the first time we went, I went into a classroom, as sophomores that were in the college of education, they put you right in with kids immediately. And it was very, very natural for me. I truly enjoyed it, and for some reason I get along very well with bad boys. And so my career took me into Glenhaven where the Asian gang kids were, and then, of course, into Whitcomb middle school where a lot of the black gang kids were, and then into North Portland where the same kind of problems seemed to happen. But it just was the easiest thirty years of work, because it was something I truly enjoyed. And I loved hanging out with the kids, you know. To go every day to play with a bunch of kids, and to share stuff with 'em and say, "Gee, if you want to learn this stuff, I'm really happy to teach you," and they were eager. And I was always impressed that these kids come with such an open mind and want to learn. And even the, when I was with the gang boys, they know that they have to know something. And so it was always a very positive thing. In all the years I worked, I can't remember an unhappy day for me. I can remember some staff that drove me crazy, I can remember some parents and some kids who caused some frustration, but yeah, it was a fabulous, fabulous career. It was like not going to work at all for thirty years. And then they paid me to not work. [Laughs] I mean, how good can that be?

LT: And at college where you followed your dreams to become an educator and share your background and your culture, you also had another awakening, and that was when you made the decision to change your legal name.

TT: Uh-huh, it was really interesting. When I first got to Western Oregon State College, there was a huge group of Hawaiians, and they kept inviting me to join the Hawaiian group. And I kept looking like... because we used to go to Hawaii because I had relatives there, and I kept looking at them, why do they want me in their group? I mean, I don't hang with them, I don't do anything. But then I did start spending a little bit more time with them, because they had all those good little treats that they brought. They brought riceballs from home and stuff, and they knew how to cook all of that stuff. So then I started spending more time, and then the more I started looking into my heritage, I started doing a lot more reading. And I read about the shogun and all this type of thing, and it became obvious to me that I wasn't a white person who could just go on my merry way, but that there was a real culture that I had never studied. And so I started to take some Japanese language classes, and I did do, tried a little calligraphy, which I was not so hot in that.

But I started to nose around into the Japanese community, and so that is when, yes, actually it was after I went to Salem Public Schools and started working that I decided that I wanted to change my name, and then I needed to pursue, so that is when I really started looking at my Japanese heritage. And a friend of mine, Mako Hayashi Mayfield started a group called Matsukai, and there was only about three people in the group in Salem, because there's only about three Japanese people, I think, in Salem. And I started to go to her meetings and it was fascinating to me because I didn't realize about what mizuhiki, you know, with the cording, or bunka, the embroidery art, I just became fascinated. And Mako collects everything, so she buys things in thrift stores that are Japanese, she had kokeshi dolls and stuff. And I had 'em, I just didn't know what they were.

So I started a whole different search, I guess, and I started to seek out Japanese people. And luckily I ran into Alice Yoshikai, who was a principal down in Salem and eventually a school was named after her. And at the time, she was still a teacher, and she kind of took me under her wing because I think I was the second Japanese person in Salem, and we would hang out. And she was a wonderful mentor for me. She was very Americanized, she dressed like she came out of Vogue all the time, but we talked more Japanese stuff. And she was a wonderful cook, and I started to see things. So when I started to come home, I'd ask my mother, and I didn't realize she could cook like that, too. And then things started changing when we had our family stuff, we started doing more of that. So all of us seemed to kind of grow at the same time, and we came maybe more into our own. And some of my cousins, the Okawa kids, went on to college and they took Japanese language. And so it was like we all had a new awakening.

LT: How did your first trip to Japan contribute to that?

TT: That was hilarious. I went... we had a new minister here at Oregon Buddhist Temple, Reverend Julie, and she was a young gal, and she and I became friends. And she said, "If you do nothing else, you need to at least go to Japan once because that's your heritage." And I have, I don't like to fly, and so it was not something I even wanted to do, but I thought, okay, I'll go one time. And it was so totally comfortable for me, it was like being at Grandma's house. The smells and everything felt like Grandma's house, and the people are so kind to you. And as soon as someone says... of course, I was retired by then, said I was a principal, they invited me into their homes for dinner. I could have stayed with people for weeks. They were just so, I absolutely loved it. Then we got a chance to go to more temples than I'd ever want to see. By the third day of our ten-day trip, I was done with that. But to be able to go to these places and see things that... it was amazing to me, yes. It was a huge awakening, and I started to buy things that were Japanese and get more interested in all of that. And a lot of it was from, most definitely, my first trip. And then being with Reverend Julie and the Buddhist Temple, coming here and meeting people who knew my folks from forever, and people who were my age or a little older who knew my sister and my aunts and uncles. And then they were so open, and they all can cook. And so I started to learn cooking things, and so Sahomi Tachibana had returned from New York, a folk dance classical teacher, and she came to Portland. And so my love for dancing, right away, I started taking from her. She knows everything about Japanese culture, and she stays in touch with all that. So we would talk about the houses where people would go and live and do nothing but dance, and she actually went as like a sixth grader and lived in Japan, and she has family that's in kabuki and who do the raku pottery and things. So she gave me a lot of encouragement into more of the culture. And then coming to this temple, you meet a lot of Japanese nationals, and they bring with them that culture. And so I've continued, so it was... oh, it was, whether it was Reverend Julie or that, coming to the Buddhist Temple or the trip, yeah, it all seems to come at one time, and I just was ready for it.

LT: So it was almost as if there was a phase one in Linda Takeuchi's life, and then phase two, Tomiko Takeuchi.

TT: Tomiko. It is. Phoenix. [Laughs]

LT: Which is very much inculcated with Japanese culture.

TT: Yes, yeah.

LT: And so in your profession, were there other ways that your awareness, the metamorphosis in terms of your Japanese American background, did that have an influence in your profession?

TT: Not as much. I'm thinking, because I went from basic classroom teaching, and then I went into a lot of resource work. I did a lot with special education and then did resource where I actually was in charge of a building to help people learn how to teach reading better, that type of thing, and set up workshops and worked with tagging that. Then got up to Portland where then I got really into the gang schools and more of the behavior component part of it. But the influence of my being Tomiko versus Linda Ann, I know shows in my dress, obviously, and in the way, when I go in and talk to kids, I did talk to them a lot about the internment. I always would read stories or have friends come in who were Japanese, and shared that. I made sure that Sahomi came for Arts in the Schools, and she would always come and do part of that. And then I made sure there was other ethnicities, too, but yeah, so I think that it did carry over. Maybe not as great with the direction I went, but the pride in it, and then outside I kept studying. My Japanese is still horrid, you know, but yeah. So the impact was huge, but you're right, it's like it was almost two phases.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright &copy; 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

LT: Well, after you retired from your profession, that phase became even more prominent because you gave back, you also created new programs that focused on Japanese Americans and learning more about them.

TT: Uh-huh. I think the... the first thing, of course, I worked at Ikoi no Kai, and then was fortunate to work with you as we did teaching the internment to teachers. That was huge, and I'm hoping that there will be another phase of that where we actually can get in the history books. But that was a great thing, yes. And then, now, of course, I've settled into... with the Buddhist Temple we did a lot of things, and we did programs for, we brought in bunka, and e-tegami, where they do the drawing onto the stationery so that they might have part of an eggplant here and then they can write their story. And we have people who do their journey, they'll take a big piece of paper, might have a car coming in, and they do their drawing along with it, and we had classes in that. And we've had people come in and do, teaching how to make yukatas and things. And that's been very, very important to me to share the culture. Then the biggest part became when I decided to spend more time in Gresham, and my girlfriend had me join the Gresham Sister City Association, and our sister city is Ebetsu, Japan, and so I'm very involved in the exchange program that we have with them, and both Gresham and Reynolds High Schools have Japanese language programs. So the kids have to be in the Japanese language program to go to Ebetsu or to host a student. The tie is huge when it has a language program like that, so there are kids who are not children of people who had it, but almost. So they're relatives, so this program has gone on for, like, twenty years. And so we have people who return and have this tie-in. We have kids that come for a month from Ebetsu in January, which is their big break, and we send kids for a month in June, and they shadow each other, so they actually can go through the schools because they speak, not perfect Japanese, but enough that they can get along.

We then have two other parts of the Ebetsu program, the most exciting one, of course, is the renovation of the Japanese garden. The Gresham Japanese Garden, Tsuru Island, was built and donated to the city by a group of Japanese volunteers in 1975. It's actually built in Gresham Main City Park, so the city, we're now working with the city to make sure that what happened in '75 doesn't happen again, which was it was overgrown, no one took care of it, no one took responsibility for it. We have a wonderful team since my landscape gardener actually is just so excited about this, so for three years we've been working on the renovation, and we've had to do drainage, Rainbird came in, they gave us all of our irrigation, we have a lighting company that came in and gave us all of the lighting. We have nurseries in the community who have given us stock, and yes, and we've written a... actually just a few grants, not too many. We have gotten very few donations. But because of the generosity of the community, we will be ready to, on June 28th of 2014, to have the first peek, I call it, at the garden. And next year we'll have a huge grand opening 'cause the bridge has to be redone, and it won't be done until next year. It's the most amazing -- I'm not much of a gardener, so Jim and his people do the gardening. But I like to be there and greet, and have volunteer parties and things, and it's going very well. It's lovely.

Then the third part is my baby, and the third part is called Skosh, or Little Japanese Cultural Festival. This year will be our third year. The first year we had it on a Monday evening for two hours at the Greater Gresham Baptist Church. I expected to have five presenters and probably fifty people come and visit. We ended up with huge, with probably seventy-five different presenters and groups that did things. We actually had a huge auditorium show where PSU's taiko ensemble made their debut, and we didn't have food because it was only two hours. We probably had close to a hundred volunteers. Then the second year we had it at Mt. Hood Community College, and we increased probably to two hundred volunteers, and we had everything: cooking demonstrations, Bamboo Grove, Hawaiian Grove came out and he made yakisoba, and so we had food for people. And this year we're making it even larger because we're going to be in our home site, so we'll be at the Gresham City Park. So Tsuru Island will have its opening at this same event. And then we will have, Grace Ishikawa's going to do the tea ceremony on the island so we'll have a little canopy for her, and she will do a continual thing as people come in and check it out. We have people who will do calligraphy to show people how to do it and then have demonstration, and also have their displays. And we have a couple of teenagers from Reynolds High School who do manga art. And she is going, she has art that she will sell, but she also will show them how to do manga art. And then we have my friend Jose Spoonberger, who does koto, and he's more of a musician, not a playing musician, but he has like five kotos, and he brings the Chinese one and others, and he lets people play with his kotos and he talks about it. And then we have an environmental festival also happening at that time, Friends of the Trees will be there and this type of thing. So it's turning into an enormous event, started from a little one. And for me, the Skosh part, of course, the cultural part, is what I want.

LT: What does Skosh stand for?

TT: "A little," sukoshi, which would mean "a little." And the white friends I have, a lot of times they'll say, they talk about one of the old ad for Levis was "a skosh more room," and that was the pants they started to make for the American public with maybe a little bigger butt space, yeah, so skosh. And so that's kind of how we came up with it, and so far it's caught on.

LT: And you're the coordinator, the originator, the coordinator, the organizer.

TT: Uh-huh. And what we hope is to eventually, I'd like to see, in fact, we just got the okay... I think we have too many shoes on, but there's the Coho shelter in Gresham Main City Park, and we had been wanting to have the pace to be able to have, like, brown bag lunches where we could have people come and do music and stuff and do some classes. I'd love to have the type of thing we're doing at Skosh come. So once a month during the summer, you know, we'd have maybe just some Japanese art, and we got that approval. So starting supposedly -- and I don't know if we're going to make the June one, but June, July and August we have the space. Then the city also gave us a double-wide trailer, just outside of the storage area where we have all of our plants and everything, and we have, Chem-Dry came out and volunteered and cleaned all the carpets. We have friends who came out and did the roofing and everything, and we're going to do classes there and hope to pick up with Metro East, and they have quite an intensive program of classes, and we're going to let them use our building, and then we will also use it for different classes. We'd love to do stuff with kids, obviously, but also just any kind of class. And this is where Skosh, where actually Skosh, the Tsuru Island, we have a person coming to talk about beavers because we have a beaver dam at the garden. And we have a person coming in, and he's going to talk about fish and cleaning rivers. We have them coming and talking about koi and water gardens. So there's a nice variety of things going from the Japanese bent with the garden and then into the environment. So that's my biggest project, is this whole... and I don't know what you call it, it's getting too big. So far it's been fun, so we hope it stays fun. [Laughs]

LT: Now this is in Gresham, which is east of Portland.

TT: Right.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright &copy; 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

LT: And then looking at the history of Gresham, this was the site where there were anti-Japanese rallies after the war to prevent Japanese Americans from returning home. And even as late as 2006, the Gresham city planned to build --

TT: Recognize Dr. Hayes.

LT: -- a monument to honor a former mayor and doctor who had been a member of the anti-Japanese incorporation. So what do you make of that, and how you've come along to the events that you're coordinating now?

TT: I just can't even imagine, because I was there in 2006, I was totally irritated by that. Of course, Gresham, you know, is kind of conservative about a lot of things. But I didn't realize the extent, 'cause everyone you talk to, the Japanese people that lived in the Gresham area, when you talk to 'em, they always tell you how wonderful it is, which I guess is the Japanese way, they say, "No, everything was fine." But I had known that there had been trouble earlier on. And when my folks, I would never have moved to Gresham on my own. I am a Portland girl, and that's where I would have been forever. But my folks chose to move there for retirement, and Diane was, my sister was working out in Mt. Hood, and that's part of the reason they moved out there. So we ended up there. So when I first thought about doing, I'd always thought of doing something cultural, because to me, I don't want Gresham people to think of Toyota and sushi, and I felt that's all they ever thought about. But when I moved to Gresham, I didn't have any trouble. I was the first Asian at Cascade Athletic Club, which is a family-owned club. And I never had any trouble. But no one ever thought of me necessarily as different. It was the same thing, my old being a white person. I just kind of slipped in there and I played tennis and racquetball, and none of that stuff ever happened. But I knew that the people were extremely conservative, and I knew that, I was sure that they were, had feelings of bigotry, but it never showed my way. So when I started thinking about I really wanted to do some classes. I wanted to do cable classes, where we would have cooking demonstrations, and maybe every Monday at some time, nine o'clock in the morning or something, there'd be a piece of Japanese culture. Because I really felt that the Gresham people, if they know you, once I meet someone who's bigoted, their bigotry lessens; their hate and anger seems to lessen. And the more they see what Japanese things are all about, it seems like this thing gets better.

So I jumped in when we, the best water testing was when we, three years ago, wondered if we should take on the Japanese garden. And we went out there and I went to the community and I talked to city hall. And then I went and talked to shopkeepers around, and I went to a couple of city council meeting and a couple of the neighborhood meetings just to feel out what it was all about. The support for Tsuru Island was enormous, and not from the Japanese community, but from the Caucasian community wanting to save something that was so special, and they do. They see Tsuru Island as very special. And for a lot of people, as they were taking terrible care of it, they didn't even realize it was a Japanese garden. So it seems to me that if we go into a situation where people may be feeling a way, I think we always, "Hey, this is part of my dad, maybe." We have a chance to make a difference, because I do believe once someone sees a real Japanese person one to one, it's different than the hatred they had for the person who killed their uncle in 1945. So I haven't found a problem with it, and I could be either too gutsy, or maybe I have part of my dad's head. I really have found Gresham to be very, very supportive of everything we're doing, and Skosh was a huge success. I thought no one would come, and these people have no idea about anything Japanese, and they do try everything. And they all want to put on a yukata, so we dress 'em and take their picture. And they're just... and the kids that come are amazing. Then we have the two schools, both Gresham and Reynolds that teach Japanese language, and those two classes are filled. I would like to see us go down to the elementary and at least do something with some ethnicity, and not just Japanese, 'cause none of that is shared. And the only way Dad's world peace will come to be is that we have a chance to one-on-one people. And then especially the kids, the kids are very open. I don't see kids who start out being bigoted, they're trained to be that way. So maybe with a chance of our extending and our outreach, they won't be trained that way. I don't know.

LT: So I'm thinking how wonderful to be born and to be educated in the community where you have this extended network now. What if you were a kid growing up in another community? What advice would you give to the kids or the parents or the teachers where they may be isolated, but where do you start?

TT: I don't know if you can bring people from, let's say, a small community somewhere that they're gonna go, but I guess maybe we need to reach out. I know we have, I have friends who, like the lady who does tea ceremony, if someone would ask her, she'd go anywhere. Or I know that JASO has a program called Japan on the Road, and they go into a lot of schools and talk about stuff. And that's maybe what we need to do more of. And through the libraries. Of course, Multnomah County Libraries are so fabulous, some of the other ones aren't as good. But to get those people to start running some program, and I suppose we had to volunteer and do this stuff. But we need to get out, yes, I do think we need to get out. And so many times you get into an organization and we stay in our own four walls and we don't put ourselves out there. And it's so important that every white person sees a Japanese person, 'cause it does make a difference once you have that one-on-one. And especially with kids.

LT: Thank you.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright &copy; 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

LT: When you think about the war, how do you think the war affected your parents?

TT: I know that it slowed my dad down, 'cause like he said, it took six years out of his career. Who knows where he would have been? He had dreams far beyond what he was able to do, I'm sure, because of having that time taken away. For him, for my folks, I think it had to be demoralizing, no question, to be born as an American and to be treated as a "not." Luckily I didn't see it hurt their self-concepts or anything, but I could imagine how that could happen. And maybe they would have been even more outgoing if that hadn't happened. So I find that to be... I'm so proud of them that they put up with, I would have not, and the way I am now wouldn't have been able to, but they just took it and then just moved forward. I think the harder ones would be my grandparents, the fact that they knew they were foreign, and then they come to a place where they believe that it's going to be better, and then they're treated like that. That had to be just, almost failure in their own head, you know. "I came here to raise my kids to give 'em a better life, and they end up in a concentration camp." I think those things would be extremely difficult. For us, depending on when we were born, I think that for my sister it was harder. She has a lot more angry feelings, my older sister. There's a group who were older who thought of it as great play time. But I remember when George Katagiri said that sitting there at the assembly center looking through the barbed wire and seeing his high school friends drive by and wave at him, just absolutely got him. So for those people, I think that the impact was huge also. For me it's just the aftermath. I think it was great my father didn't bring us back here, 'cause I didn't have any of the negativity or feel it. I had a rich, rich few years after the war, of course, and, man, I was carried around for three years when I was a baby, that I think for me it wasn't necessarily as devastating. I do think about it a lot, because I can't imagine people treating other people like that. Obviously we haven't learned very well. I know after 9/11 the first thing I heard people say is to "round 'em up and put 'em away." So human nature is as human nature seems to be, not as supportive, but I guess all we do is keep trying.

LT: And that was my next question: what lessons should we learn?

TT: And I think we just have to keep trying, knowing that a lot of people don't think about it. And apparently there are some meanies out in the world. I think we look at the young, and that's where we try to give them as much of the benefit. And I get so angry when I see us voting down taxes for libraries and things, because that's our future. And we can give them a future that's negative, 'cause we throw 'em out on the street with nothing to do, or we can nurture them the way my parents nurtured me. And so, for me, I say we need to look to the future with our kids, and we need to be as best as we can be. I know I'm not, man, I've made a lot of errors, but I do try to be better than I was the day before, and enjoy every day, of course. But we all need to give back. We need to figure out a way to, when we see someone who's down on their luck or something, maybe to help, we just need to extend.

LT: The United States government apologized for the incarceration of Japanese Americans, and also provided redress. Your thoughts?

TT: I've always told kids when they, they'll fight or be really mean and they apologize, that, you know, apologies are pretty, are easy to say, and it depends on how much you mean it. The apology came from a group of people who weren't the people who did those terrible things, and so it's kind of, like, empty. And I do believe what my dad says, that the redress was important because the only the Americans seem to understand is money. And so the fact that they gave us, whether it be a dollar or ten dollars, it doesn't matter. The fact that they did that probably has more value, but there is nothing they could ever do to replace what it was that was done. And we're still not doing it, that there's a million things we should be doing in schools and in communities. You see people all the time taking advantage, too, but most people, I don't believe, try to take advantage. But we are definitely not as supportive or compassionate as we need to be. So thank you, government, for the apology, but all we need to make sure is that it never happens again. And my fear is, knowing human nature as we've watched it, it will happen again. We just, humans just get panicky over stuff and if something's different, if someone is different, they seem to go crazy. And on the other hand, we try to be so compassionate that instead of helping a person up, we just throw money their way, that type of thing. So we've got a long ways to go, and each of us have to do it in our own way, and I think we all need to make sure that we reach out to someone, somebody, something.

LT: Last question: what's important in life?

TT: Oh, living. I think to be able to be the best you can be, to try everything you can possibly try without harming others, and as you can, bring them along with you. And so to share those things that you have, and I don't mean money or food, but I think the friendship, the friendships, and as they need it, to listen to them and to hear, and to not ever say no to the things that we should try. I would have never gone to Japan had it not been for Reverend Julie. And I learned right off the bat, I need to stop being so... I just need to try everything I can. So as I, especially as I reach this older age and get older, yeah, grab onto that brass ring, man, there's just so much stuff out there to do and to enjoy, and people. Enjoy people to the max.

LT: Thanks a lot.

TT: You're so welcome.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright &copy; 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.