Special to the Reporter
The Tsutakawa family is about as Northwest as one can get. George Tsutakawa was a well-known sculptor and painter as well as a beloved University of Washington art professor. Mayumi, daughter of George and Ayame, is a local writer who specializes in Asian and Asian American history and art. Mayumi will share her family story on Oct. 10 at the Redmond Historical Society’s Saturday Speaker Series program.
But it’s also one of the thousands of families that endured, and recovered from, the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II – a chapter in US history that began 75 years ago with the executive order by then President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
“Both families had their business assets confiscated by the US government, as they were both headed by Japanese nationals,” she says. “Neither family received compensation for that business loss.”
That treatment didn’t prevent George from enlisting, notes Mayumi, who is speaking courtesy of Humanities Washington. “My father, like other second-generation Japanese Americans, spent the war years at the military intelligence school at Fort Snelling in Minnesota, teaching Japanese to Army officers.”
Her mom, Ayame Iwasa, and her immediate family were interned in Tule Lake camp in northern California where she met George when he was on furlough to visit his sister Sadako who was interned with her husband and children. “Their marriage was arranged there,” Mayumi says, “and they married after the war in Seattle.”
The post-war years meant re-rooting the families as American citizens. “My mother’s family returned to Sacramento and started a Japanese restaurant business,” she says. “My father’s relatives (sister Sadako and her husband, Fujimatsu Moriguchi) moved back to Seattle and started a small fish market that has now grown to be the Uwajimaya grocery store group.”
“Both my parents were Kibei Nisei (born in the US and educated in Japan, then returned to the US),” Mayumi notes. “They were both bilingual and used this skill to encourage and promote Japanese cultural exchange after the wartime.”
The Saturday Speaker Series is presented by the Redmond Historical Society on the second Saturday of the month with three programs each in the fall and spring. It is held at 10:30 a.m. at the Old Redmond Schoolhouse Community Center, located at 16600 N.E. 80th St. Topics range from local, state and Pacific Northwest historical interest. There is a suggested $5 donation for non-members.
The Redmond Historical Society is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization that receives support from the City of Redmond, 4 Culture, Nintendo, the Bellevue Collection, Happy Valley Grange, Microsoft and 501 Commons as well as from other donors and members.