This year’s JANM holiday card features a photograph of the Hayakawa family celebrating Christmas. The 3.75″ square photo is one of dozens of family moments captured in the Hayakawa family photo album donated by Ruth Sumiko Kacho (née Hayakawa) in 2002, and preserved in JANM’s permanent collection.
The Kacho Collection, totaling 68 objects, includes studio portraits, panoramic photos, marriage licenses, letters, books, and a photo album, which includes dozens of candid family shots including this year’s holiday image.
The album was compiled by Ruth’s father, Mataichi (Martin) Hayakawa, who inscribed its pages with the locations, dates and names of those in the photographs. The back page of the album, is marked with the date November 30, 1967, presumably indicating when the album was completed.
The album includes photographs of Mataichi and his wife, Tomiko, and their families and friends in Japan and in South America; Mataichi and Tomiko’s lives before marriage—including his travels to South America, Cuba, and England, and her service as a nurse in Korea; their life and floral business in Southern California; family friends and associates in Southern California; family trips to tourist destinations in the U.S. and Japan; post-war life in Japan during the occupation; and two generations of child rearing (Mataichi and Tomiko Hayakawa; Ruth and her husband, Marquis Hironobu Kacho).
Upon its acceptance into JANM’s permanent collection in 2002, curator Emily Anderson wrote, “The album figuratively and literally brings together into a single document the separate and shared experiences of Mataichi, his wife Tomiko, Ruth and her siblings, and Hironobu Kacho.”
The Kacho Collection also includes an oral history interview with Ruth. Prompted by JANM volunteers Its Endo and Yoshiko Sakurai, on December 1999, Ruth sat with JANM volunteer Gary Ono and curator Sojin Kim to tell her fascinating life story and have it videotaped. Ruth recounted her father and mother’s immigration story, her childhood growing up in Los Angeles’s Atwater Village district, her education in Japan at Keisen Girls School in Tokyo, her marriage to Marquis Hironobu Kacho, and her work in Japan during World War II as a broadcaster with Radio Tokyo.
For the first time since its recording, Ruth’s interview can now be viewed as part of JANM’s Unboxed video series, which shines light on the thousands of objects in its permanent collection.
And perhaps, as you gather (remotely via Zoom or Skype) with aunts, uncles, and grandparents this coming holiday season, you will find time to sit, talk, and possibly record some of your own family stories!
JANM recently welcomed Joy Teruko Ormseth to its volunteer ranks. Born in 2000 in Los Angeles and currently a student at Arcadia High School, Joy is, at 16 years old, one of our youngest volunteers.
This past April, JANM volunteers and staff organized a bus tour to join the annual pilgrimage to the site of the American concentration camp at Manzanar, where thousands of people of Japanese ancestry were confined during World War II. Joy, who had only briefly visited Manzanar as a child, decided to join the group. She graciously agreed to an interview, in which we learn about Joy’s family background as well as her impressions of Manzanar.
JANM: Why did you go on the Manzanar pilgrimage this year?
Joy Teruko Ormseth: I wanted to understand better about the whole situation because it was really hard for me to conceptualize what the people who were interned were going through. I obviously have never experienced that, and so it was hard for me to imagine having to go through that.
JANM: What’s your family’s background?
JTO: My grandma was interned in Poston as a child, and my great-grandpa on my grandfather’s side was interned at Heart Mountain. But my grandfather was kibei [a Japanese person born in the United States but educated in Japan], so he was still in Japan during the war. I’m half Japanese, so this is all on my mother’s side of the family. My dad is Norwegian.
JANM: When you were growing up, did your grandparents share any memories of their time in camp?
JTO: Not my grandfather, since he was in Japan during the war, but my grandmother would always tell me about the dust storms at Poston, how they would wake up and there would just be sand everywhere. She also told me that her mother—my great-grandmother—was from an upper-class family in Tokyo, so the other mothers would kind of look down on her because she spoke a different dialect of Japanese. Also, other families were put off by our family because grandma’s elder brother Tom volunteered to serve in the 442nd [Regimental Combat Team].
JANM: Did the other mothers look down on your great-grandmother because most of them were working class?
JANM: Why were they put off by the brother for joining the 442nd? I thought that was considered the height of honor and patriotism.
JTO: Grandma said the other families didn’t understand why he would volunteer, because they were put in camp [by the same government].
JANM: Your grandmother sounds like she has an amazing memory.
JTO: Yeah, she remembers a lot. She has a really good memory. She even remembers stuff from before the war!
JANM: Was she your main connection to this history?
JTO: Yes, she was. Out of all her siblings, she’s the one who talks about it the most, and she’s the youngest. She also knows a lot because she became a teacher and she likes to research everything.
JANM: Tell me more about your grandmother’s memories of Poston.
JTO: I know that my Auntie Mary, her sister, had a baby in camp who died because there wasn’t proper medical care. She had also lost a baby right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. (My grandma had several siblings, and the oldest ones were a lot older than she was.)
JANM: Oh my God, that’s horrible. Were there any babies born who did survive?
JTO: Yeah, there was one daughter who’s still alive.
JANM: What did your grandma think of the food in camp?
JTO: Great-grandma worked in the mess hall. She always demanded that the family eat at least one meal together per day, to keep the family together. I think grandma said they ate a lot of Spam! She also told me that creamed chipped beef on toast was often served, which the inmates referred to as “SOS” (sh** on a shingle).
JANM: In total, who all from your family was in Poston?
JTO: My grandmother. Then there was Uncle Jack, Auntie Mary, and Uncle Tom, who joined the 442nd. My Uncle Harvey was the oldest of the siblings and he was already in the military—he was drafted before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and served in military intelligence. Another auntie, Alice, worked as a secretary in Minnesota during the war.
JANM: Did they find other families that they could get along with?
JTO: They never talked that much about other families. My grandmother did say that since she was so little, she never really considered the severity of the situation—she was just happy that she had other kids to play with. Before the war, they lived in Central California, and I guess there weren’t as many children around there. So when she went to camp she was like, there are all these kids here to play with!
JANM: How did you get connected to JANM?
JTO: My mother used to volunteer at the Little Tokyo Historical Society, so I grew up knowing a lot about Little Tokyo and JANM because my mom loves history, like my grandma. I just figured that I would like to volunteer here.
JANM: What volunteer duties are you taking up at JANM?
JTO: I’m still a trainee, so I’m still figuring out what I want to do. But last week, I volunteered at the HNRC (Hirasaki National Resource Center) and it was so cool! We have access to ancestry.com, and I didn’t know how many documents there were on that website. One of the other volunteers was showing me how to research everything. I find all the dates so interesting—it’s all just right there, right in front of you, but it happened so long ago.
JANM: What were your impressions of Manzanar?
JTO: It was really hard for me to visualize all the barracks, because obviously they’re not there anymore, but [the trip] did help me to understand a little better the thought process of the Issei, what they were thinking. It made me realize that they came to this country believing in the American dream—if you work hard, you can succeed—and when we were there, it was so isolated, so barren, it was like, is this the American dream that they came for? That made me really upset and frustrated, and helped me understand just a little bit what they were going through.
JANM: Was there anything from the ceremony that stuck out for you?
JTO: Well first of all that song “Sukiyaki”—I really liked it because it was a musical connection to the past that kind of made it more real. Also, Alan Nishio’s talk was very inspiring.
JANM: Are you interested in going on any more pilgrimages?
JTO: I’ve heard that Poston is really difficult to get to, but I might want to go there one day.
Have you ever wanted to record the history of your grandparents, your parents, or other people in your life?
In 2009, Cole Kawana was a sixth grader at Seven Arrows School. His assignment was to do a service-learning project, and so with the help of his extended family, he conducted an oral history interview with his great-uncle, Arthur Ichiro Murakami, who is a Hiroshima atomic bomb survivor.
In addition to the oral history, he decided to create a video tutorial so that he could teach and encourage his fellow students to try it for themselves.
His video tutorial was shown as part of Xploration Lab this past spring. It’s now also on the Museum’s Discover Nikkei website.
We’ve split the tutorial up into segments, with each one going over different steps in the process, including equipment, preparation, conducting the interview, and follow-up.
In addition to Cole’s tutorial video clips, we’ve added a downloadable checklist and sample release form. We’re also working on sample questions and translating everything into the other site languages (Japanese, Spanish, and Portuguese).
At the end of the page, you can view the interview that Cole conducted with his great-uncle, plus links to additional online oral history resources.