In recognition of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we’re featuring Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) employee-owners who will discuss their careers, families, culture, and more. Today, learn more about Lauren Jones, a Senior Project Coordinator from our Puyallup, WA office.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I spend my free time hanging out with my family. We like to be outside going on bike rides, hikes, playing at the beach when it’s nice, and of course playing at home. My son enjoys riding dirt bikes, putting together legos, and going to the skate park. My daughter likes cooking in her play kitchen, going to the park, and getting frozen yogurt treats. I’d say my free time is dedicated to doing whatever my kids want to do for the most part.
Tell us about your family’s history in the United States.
I have Japanese ancestry. My great grandparents came to the United States via steamboats in the early 1900’s and settled in and around the Seattle area. There is little information on my Great Grandfather Asanuma’s side of the family except they were from Kuraashiki-Okayama, Japan.
On my Great Grandmother Ohashi’s side, I have samurai roots. My Great Grandfather Ohashi was from the fishing village of Yawatahama-Ehime, Japan. My Great Grandmother Tokumi-Ohashi was from Hagi-Yamaguichi-ken, Japan and her father was a samurai under the Mori clan.
Both of my great grandparents worked in the farming industry. The Asanuma family grew and sold their produce from a cart in the Seattle International District. The Ohashi family farmed in Fife, WA near the Puyallup Valley.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor my Grandmother’s family was forced to leave their home and farm. They left behind everything that would not fit in one suitcase. They lost their family home, all of their farmland, and all of their possessions including their family dog. The family was evacuated to a horse racetrack near the Western Washington Fairgrounds. They were given burlap bags filled with hay for bedding and slept in horse stalls. Eventually, they were transferred by train to Hunt, Idaho, to the Assembly Center known as the Minidoka Internment Camp. In 2001, the site was designated as the Minidoka National Historic Site and is now a celebrated annual summer pilgrimage to family and friends of the internment camp.
It was at the Minidoka Interment Camp where my Grandparents would meet and get married. They were allowed a permit for a day to leave the Interment camp to get married. Later my Aunt would be born inside of the internment camp. (This is the Aunt that raised me from the time I was 11 years old.)
In 1946, My Grandparents and newborn Aunt would be released from Minidoka.
Later on in 1947 they moved to the Long Beach Peninsula where my Grandfather worked in the oyster industry at Nahcotta, WA. They would go on to have two more girls. The youngest of the three children was my Mother. My Mother passed away from a rare form of cancer.
My Grandmother continued her employment with Coast Oyster Company in South Bend, WA and my Grandfather would pursue a career as the Produce Manager at the local supermarket.
I was fortunate to have grown up with my Grandparents in my home with me in Seattle, WA. Multigenerational living is common in Japanese culture. It is something I look back on now and feel grateful to have experienced.
What are your thoughts on the lack of Asian Ethnic Studies and AAPI history in most schools?
It makes me sad that Japanese Americans are not acknowledged for all the hardships they endured during World War II while they were forced to live in internment camps. I can not image what it must have felt like to have your country treat you like an enemy when you had done nothing wrong. While I was going to school this wasn’t something that was discussed. It seems that this piece of American history tends to get overlooked because it is highly controversial regarding the judgement of the government. Obviously, my passion regarding the mistreatment of Japanese Americans during this time stems from what my family experienced. I’m heartbroken for my grandparents and everything that they lost.
Some of the stories in history books while I was in school talked about the humane treatment of these families and how they were only trying to protect Americans. However, to be kept in a fenced facility against your will and have all your rights taken away from you doesn’t seem humane. I think the part that is surprising is that there is very little mention of these internment camps during WWII. There is even less discussion of the lack of medical care, overcrowding of the facilities, poor food, and general uncomfortable living conditions for those incarcerated. It’s interesting to me that there are quite a few instances where Japanese American’s won release from these camps if they would enlist in the United States Army.
Does your family have any traditions that are still carried on today?
We celebrate New Years, but it is called Shogatsu. As far back as I could remember my Grandmother would make fresh mochi, sushi, and other traditional dishes on this day. Part of the preparation for celebration was to clean our home from top to bottom. The idea behind this was to clear out the spirits from the previous year to make room for the new sprits. I personally take the day off before New Years even to this day to prepare my home and clean up. Some of the people in my family will even shower before midnight to ensure a clean body before entering into the New Year.
Another tradition is that we all make Skiyaki the same way. My Grandmother used to make it and the whole family makes it the same way. It is one of my favorite Japanese dishes.
Also, my family gathers on Memorial Day at the cemetery in Seattle called Washeli. It’s interesting that Washeli has a large section of plots that is mostly Japanese families. Both my grandparents and their parents are buried there. When we gather typically all of us bring bundles of flowers and then we lay them all out on the ground to trim and then bundle them into sections so that we can make sure we visit each grave and leave flowers for everyone. One cute thing that some of my cousins do is that they make origami cranes or boxes and leave them on top of the stones.