Densho Digital Repository
Seattle JACL Oral History Collection
Title: In Memory of Tatsuo Nakata Interview
Narrators: Akemi Matsumoto, Emily Momohara, Joy Shigaki, Arlene Oki
Interviewers: Brent Seto, Bill Tashima
Date: February 6, 2022
Densho ID: ddr-sjacl-2-32-8

<Begin Segment 8>

BS: Yeah, I thank you all for sharing that. And I think that's a great transition into my next question, which was going to be, as established, he became the youngest president in the history of the Seattle JACL in 2003. But what factors motivated his interest in becoming involved with the Japanese American community here in Seattle and nationally?

AM: Again, I think it was searching for a home as a Japanese American, and Seattle's Japanese community was so vibrant, and involved for a long, long time, I think that drew him. And as Bill mentioned, changing his name from his first name, Matthew, and using his Japanese name, Tatsuo, I did exactly the same thing when I was thirty-six. When I came to Seattle, my name was Joan, and when I was thirty-six and involved much more in the community, I started using my Japanese name, too, Akemi. So yeah, I think that's really was the draw and Seattle was welcoming. As hard as the politics of the community were, you're not from Seattle, there was still a home here for all of us who weren't born and raised in Seattle.

BT: Akemi, I think that you hit on something that we don't always talk about. But somewhere along the line, there was a transition in our chapter. And for the longest time, the chapter was, was basically homegrown. And through the years, a lot more people who aren't from Seattle have migrated to the JACL. I think a lot of it has to do with the programming that we offer, but part of it also is the comfort that you find because you're with other people, that you that relate, and aren't always asking you what high school you went to, and, you know, talk about those type of issues. And so I think for Tatsuo, you know, being at Seattle University, which was, you know, nurturing for him, and then finding, being active with the Seattle JACL, I think it really provided him a good space for him to grow and find himself.

EM: I also think that it was a place where he could find mentorship. And growing up in Ohio, there were no Japanese Americans that he could talk to or have community with. And now that I live here in Cincinnati, I understand that a little bit more. But he didn't have... his father lived in Hawaii, so he didn't, wasn't able to have that kind of relationship with him. So I think moving to Seattle, you know, it was specific for him wanting to go somewhere for college that was, had the kind of community that he wanted to be part of, and I think it also allowed for him to meet all the aunties and to have his mentors. And I think that JACL contributed a lot to, you know, him growing as well.

AM: I'd just like to jump in quickly and note that the Seattle Asian American community is very... worked together, and it was pan-Asian, which is really different than it is here in Southern California. So, and I think that was another thing that really drew him. And Velma, of course, was an incredible mentor for him, and she's a great politician.

AO: I think he really liked the fact that the community had leaders who were advocates for social justice. Because I think innately he had that, that sense of what is right, and what is equal. And he saw a lot of that activism, kind of activism in the Seattle community, and particularly in the Seattle JACL.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.