Discover Nikkei

https://www.discovernikkei.org/en/interviews/clips/272/

Eating cold rice

My mother was stickler for tradition. She said girls, when they get married, someday, you might marry a poor man and can’t eat hot rice. So, when I was single, my mother never allowed me to eat hot rice. I always ate the day before cold rice. And she was right, because when I got married to my husband, he was the oldest. And my mother-in-law was a widow, too. And my husband was supporting four siblings. Sure enough, you know, I continued to eat cold rice.

So, after we were on our own, because my mother would constantly say when she got married in Japan, she had to get up at 3 o’clock and work on the farm. And she couldn’t eat because when she took the second bowl of rice, her mother-in-law would just give her the eye. And while eating, she would repeat the story every day. So I couldn’t eat, you know. But, she didn’t mean it in a bad way, I think.

But, after my husband and I had our own home, I still continued to eat the cold rice. And my husband would scold me. He said, “Now you can eat hot rice.” But, no, I kept on eating cold rice. It got to be part of my, I guess—I acquired that habit. So, ochazuke, we enjoyed ochazuke—putting hot tea...


rice

Date: February 19, 2004

Location: Hawai'i, US

Interviewer: Lisa Itagaki, Krissy Kim

Contributed by: Watase Media Arts Center, Japanese American National Museum.

Interviewee Bio

Barbara Kawakami was born in 1921 in Okkogamura, Kumamoto, Japan, in a feudal farmhouse that had been her family’s home for more than 350 years. She was raised on the Oahu Sugar Plantation in Oahu, Hawai’i, and worked as a dressmaker and homemaker before earning her high school diploma, Bachelor of Science in Textile & Clothing, and Master of Arts in Asian Studies—after the age of 50.

In her senior year, she began to research the clothing that immigrants wore on the plantation for a term paper. Finding there was relatively little academic research in this area, Barbara embarked on a project to document and collect original plantation clothing as well as the stories behind the ingenuity of the makers. Over the course of fifteen years, Barbara recorded more than 250 interviews with aging Issei women and men and their Nisei children. She captured their lives, the struggles of immigration, and conditions working and living on the plantation. Importantly, she documented the stories behind the ingenuity of these Issei women as they slowly adapted their traditions to suit the needs of plantation life. Her knowledge of the Japanese language, having grown up on the plantation, and her extensive background as a noted dressmaker, helped many Issei women feel comfortable about sharing the untold stories of their lives as picture brides. From her extensive research, she published the first book on the topic, Japanese Immigrant Clothing in Hawai‘i 1885-1941 (University of Hawai‘i Press, 1993).

A noted storyteller, author, and historian, Barbara continues to travel to Japan as well as throughout the United States to give lectures regarding plantation life and clothing. She is widely recognized as the foremost authority on Japanese immigrant clothing and has served as a consultant to Hawaii Public Television, Waipahu Cultural Garden Park, Bishop Museum, the Japanese American National Museum, and to the movie production of Picture Bride. (February 19, 2004)

Takeshita,Yukio
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Takeshita,Yukio

Impression of Japan upon arrival

(b.1935) American born Japanese. Retired businessman.

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