A Kid’s Life

My parents were Nisei. Dad (Kunihiko Seki) was born in Salt Lake City, Utah where he was raised until maybe middle school. I’m not sure about this part. They moved to Los Angeles somewhere. I know that he attended Manual Arts High School and that they lived a block away from Senshin Buddhist Temple. He worked his way through the University of Southern California and was also the yearbook editor. He majored in International Relations and his professor brought his diploma to him at Tule Lake. Later on, after WWII and my father’s return to regular life from working at Radio Free Press in what was left of Tokyo under USA rule, he would drive our little family of my mother, my younger brother and me to Senshin on Sunday mornings for temple service. Then we’d usually get to go to Exposition Park to have a picnic that my mother would have packed that morning. If we had been good during the week, we might also get to visit one of the huge museums nearby. My brother and I loved the Museum of Natural History the best. The toss up was always between whether to spend the time we had with the dinosaur bones or the Rocks and Minerals exhibits.

After eating and playing, getting our fill of what my mother called ‘cultural education’ at the museum of the day, my father would drive over to Enbun grocery store in Little Tokyo to load up on all the Japanese food items and supplies that they would bring back to friends and relatives in San Pedro and Long Beach. In those days, there were very few places that would have rice much less soy sauce. Other items like kombu, wakame, sushi nori, katsuo were very scarce if not non-existent in other supermarket shelves.

My mother insisted that we try to learn Japanese. She had completed her college degree in Japan. My grandmother (her mother) had been a nurse and an Ikebana (Ikenobo school) in Japan and education was not only important, but acknowledged in the family as something that was mandatory. Of the three girls, my mother studied Japanese literature, her younger sister became a pharmacist and the youngest sister became a microbiologist/electron microscopy in her mid-40’s after raising four brilliant children. So, Saturday Japanese language school was required of my brother and I. My mother made it fun for us by allowing us to have homemade hamburgers on hamburger buns and some potato chips and juice on the way home on the bus. We transferred once during our bus ride from San Pedro to Long Beach Buddhist Church where lessons were taught.  I wasn’t very good. I didn’t study. I was too involved in what I’d be doing at the next swim meet. The Olympics was my goal, to represent the USA in Tokyo, 1964.  Much later in my life, when I lived in Kyoto, I wished I had paid attention to what my Japanese language teachers were trying to teach me when I’d had the chance!

It’s important to know where things come from, but maybe it’s even more important to b realize that everything comes from somewhere and that there were quite a few people involved to bring it to your attention.