Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Sumi Ikata Interview
Narrator: Sumi Ikata
Interviewer: Janet Kakishita
Location: Gresham, Oregon
Date: May 29, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-isumi-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

JK: Today is Thursday, May 29, 2014. We are taping Sumi Ikata's interview in Gresham, Oregon, for the Oregon Nikkei Endowment Minidoka Oral History Project. There are two observers in the room. They are Todd Mayberry and Betty Jean Harry from the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center. Ian McCluskey is the camera operator. I am Janet Kakishita, and I will be conducting this interview. Sumi, let's begin the interview with some personal information about you. When and where were you born?

SI: I was born in Portland, Oregon.

JK: When?

SI: When was I born? (March 3, 1918).

JK: Or how old are you?

SI: I'm ninety-six (years old). Oh, I must have been born in 1918.

JK: And your full name at birth?

SI: Is Sumiko (Inouye). Oh, just a minute. Ikata is my married name.

JK: Oh, okay.

SI: It's Inouye, like Daniel Inouye.

JK: Are you related?

SI: No. [Laughs]

JK: Oh, okay, it's a good way to remember.

SI: But that's the name.

JK: And what does Sumiko mean? Was that a special name given to you?

SI: Yes. Our parents would pick out Japanese characters that have a nice meaning to it, like my older brother was Koichi, and "ko" means "very fortunate, and "ichi" is "one." He's the number one son and they wanted him to have good things happen to him. And I'm Sumiko, and it's three characters. And I think she said the "su" is "beauty"... no, "mi" is "beauty." "Su"... I forgot what that stands for.

JK: But it's true you're very beautiful.

SI: Oh, so beautiful. [Laughs]

JK: So the name is very appropriate. [Laughs] Okay, and so did you have other siblings?

SI: (Yes).

JK: Did you have other brothers and sisters?

SI: Yes. My oldest brother Koichi, and me, I was the second, and there were seven more following. So there were nine children. (My oldest brother is deceased, and my younger brother is still living).

JK: And what were their ages or names?

SI: Well, the one next to me is Yoshiko. The girls' names end with K-O. Yoshiko, and she was born soon after. She is ninety-four, I'm ninety-six. And then after her was Ritsuko. (Narr. note: Koichi, deceased, 99, Yoshiko, 94, Ritsuko, deceased, Mary, deceased, Tomiko, Miyoshi, Shingo, 89, Matsuye, deceased.)

JK: So a girl.

SI: Uh-huh. And of all the kids, she was the prettiest, and my mother favored her. She always made her pretty dresses. [Laughs] And then after Ritsuko there was Nobuko, and that sister was very independent, and she did not want a Japanese name. So they decided to keep the Japanese name, Nobuko, and then they added Mary, so she was Mary, and she insisted we all call her Mary. And then there was Tomiko, and she was very tiny, and she still is, and she's still living. "Tomi" means "wealth," so she would be wealthy when she grew up.

JK: Is that true?

SI: And it turned out that she is.

JK: Okay, so your parents did a good job naming everyone.

SI: Yes, she's been very comfortable. She's still living. And then did I say Ritsuko?

JK: No.

SI: Oh, Ritsuko is before Tomiko. Ritsuko is the pretty one.

JK: Oh, maybe you did say.

SI: Uh-huh, she was pretty. And she died a few years ago. Their family had lived in Chicago after the war, everybody went eastward, and they lived in Chicago, and she lost her husband. She had two daughters, the older daughter died of cancer a few years ago in Chicago, so there was just her and her younger daughter. So the younger daughter in the meantime had moved around, she'd been to Hawaii for ten years and she came to Los Angeles. So then the sister Ritsuko, her daughter said, "Mom, you have to come and live with me in Los Angeles." So she did. She didn't live with her, but she lived nearby in a nursing home.

JK: Did you have any other brothers?

SI: Oh, the brothers, they're at the top and at the bottom. Let's see now. Oh, Ritsuko and then... no Miyuki came before... there are so many, I can't keep them straight. Oh, I think Tomiko was first, and then Miyuki, and then my (mother) named her Miyuki. "Mi" is "beauty," and "yuki" is "snow." And it happened to be a snowy day when she was born, so my mother was good at picking names.

JK: She was, huh? They all have stories to it. How about your brother?

SI: Well, and then after her was my brother Shingo. And "shin," I don't know, there's several Shingos. She told me once what that meant, but I can't think of it right now.

JK: Okay, that's fine.

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