Parents

Parents First Exposure to Animation December 7th, 1941 Father’s Optimism Tanforan Assembly Center Dusty Weather at Topaz, Utah Mother in Camp Father making shell brooches at Topaz Father’s Postwar Barber Career First Encounter with Walt Disney Disney Drawing Tests His mentor, Iwao Takamoto The Dopey bank that survived the war

Transcripts available in the following languages:

I’m a San Franciscan, born and raised in Nihonmachi, or Japantown, San Francisco. I’m a Sansei, and I was born July 17, 1934. My father is a Kibei Nisei. He was born in Hawaii. His name is Will Katsuichi Ito. When he was still a youth, the family decided to move back to Hiroshima. So my dad basically got his education in Japan, and then after he finished his schooling, he decided to come back to the mainland and settled in Oakland, California. My mother is a Nisei, born in San Francisco. Her name was Toshiko Grace Shigio. She went to Galileo High School and was a typical Nisei girl.

My dad was a musician, so when he settled in Oakland, California, he formed the Oakland YBA Orchestra, which he led. He blew, his instrument was clarinet and saxophone. He played at the dances and whatever. But out of that group, there was five that got together and would jam, and played American jazz.

So the word got out in Japan, that there was a Nisei group of jazz musicians playing American jazz, George Gershwin and all that. And they thought in Japan, “Wow, how mezurashi. Let's invite them to come for a tour.” So my dad wasn’t married to my mother yet. But they were going together. So he went to my mom and said, “We have this chance to tour.” Of course, my mom gave an ultimatum. It’s either me, or you go to Japan.

Date: August 26, 2015
Location: California, US
Interviewer: John Esaki
Contributed by: Watase Media Arts Center, Japanese American National Museum

family hiroshima Jazz kibei music roots san francisco

Nikkei Heroes: Trailblazers, Role Models, and Inspirations

Submissions accepted until September 30.

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