- Emily Pan
Take Eto's Story, up to World War II, Told by her Daughter
Updated: Jan 4, 2021
This is the story of Take Eto, a Japanese Immigrant who came to the United States at the age of 19, told from the perspective of Grace Shibata, Take Eto's daughter, the youngest of eight children. This blog tells Eto's story from her journey to the United States, up until World War II. Shibata remembers her mother as an inspiration, "whose boundless patience, strength, and understanding sustained [her]" (Nakano).
Take Eto's story begins in Japan, where she was born, but at the age of 19, she was to board a ship to America, where she would meet her future husband and begin a new life. Like many immigrants, those beginning days of adapting to a new culture was difficult, and she recalls eating a big chunk of butter, thinking it was egg yolk, but being too embarrassed to spit it out. But these culture shocks were only just the beginning, for on May 21, 1908, she married Tameji Eto in Seattle, and shortly thereafter, they arrived in San Francisco, then San Luis Obispo.
Mr. and Mrs. Eto (Photo Courtesy of History Center of San Luis Obispo County)
This was the beginning of her pioneer life as an immigrant. She had a pleasant childhood in Japan, but here, she had to learn to do the dirty work, cooking three meals a day, ironing and washing clothes, and even working in the fields at times. Sometimes, she was even in charge of going into town to purchase goods, which could take an entire day. But through these tough times, she gave birth to eight children, all at home. She found time to cook, wash, work in the ground, welcome guests, and care for her kids. Shibata praises her as a wonderful mother, for she took on so many tasks and did them well, and allowed her children to balance chores with fun activities.
Originally, the family settled in Arroyo Grande, but they quickly relocated to Oso Flaco. Later, they moved to Pismo Beach, then Los Osos. In the midst of their relocations, her husband also purchased land for farming in Morro Bay. But these moves were difficult, for in Los Osos, just weeks before Eto's pregnancy, the previous owner refused to vacate the home, so they were forced to live in a tent on the property for a time. Moreover, the Alien Land Law prohibited Asian non-citizens from owning land, so Tameji Eto had to purchase land for farming under the name of his Caucasian friend. Furthermore, these times were tough, and while they hired workers on the farm, they often struggled to pay their workers, even when production was high.
The family was innovative in farming, however, since they were the first to introduce truck farming in San Luis Obispo, and often shipped their goods to Los Angeles and San Francisco.
But in 1930, the Great Depression hit, and they often bartered instead. But no matter what, Eto made the most out of these hard times, for she taught her children to be resourceful, and never waste anything. She continued to care for her children, and plant vegetables throughout the Depression, but she had no idea what would be in store for her next. During those times, though, "she received the honor of being named Mother of the Year from Shin of Angeles. It must have come as a great surprise to her, for she sought no honor and believed what she did was nothing unusual" (Nakano).
Then came World War II; after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, her husband was taken away. She too was forced to relocate many times with her family, first to her daughter's place, then to a camp, and finally to Idaho with her family. She endured the painful reality without her husband, but always stayed positive by acknowledging that she could still stay with her children. Click here to read about Take Eto's life during and after World War II.
Nakano, Mei T., and Grace Shibata. Japanese American Women: Three Generations, 1890-1990. Mina Press Pub., 1990. Pg. 77-95