By Deems Tsutakawa
For The North American Post
In the ’60s as a teenager, I worked at the original Seattle Uwajimaya store. FYI, Mr. Moriguchi opened his first retail food outlet in Tacoma and relocated here in town after being released from the Tule Lake incarceration camp during World War II. His wife, Sadako, actually introduced my mom and dad during their unfortunate and unfair incarceration when my father was on leave from the U.S. Army.
In the early days of Waji’s, there were only three Sansei stock boys, Randy Furuta, Tommie Oiye and myself. Besides pricing and stocking foods, we did packaging of imported delicacies, ran deliveries, cashiered and unloaded 100 lb bags of rice from the loading dock.
Needless to say, Randy, Tommie and I became fast friends and would hang out after work and on weekends. It was an inner city type of hang, shooting pool, playing cards, drinking, basketball and tennis.
As I got to know Randy, he introduced me to his posse of high school friends who were all a year older than me at Franklin High School. It was real cool to run the streets and go to the games with the “older crowd” as I was the only younger dude that they would invite. Apparently his buddies figured that I was cool enough.
In the decade of the ’80s, I produced and released a CD called “Stay Close To Me” on my J-Town Record Label featuring the great San Francisco vocalist Colette Ikemi. She came to Seattle along with the executive producer Ron Kanzaki, and we recorded the album at the old Kaye Smith Studios downtown on 4th Avenue.
All the greatest national acts recorded there, and it was the top studio in the Northwest. I used my Seattle band of Marcus Tsutakawa, Stan White, Paul Anderson, Dean Mochizuki and Steve Banks. The music was fantastic.
The album set Colette up for gig opening for Hiroshima at The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, and she brought me down to play the show with her Bay Area band. Needless to say, it was entirely too much fun. After the concert, I had the pleasure of hanging out with the top shakers and movers of the San Francisco Asian American community who put on the concert.
As we were running the streets and partying, I was once again the young buck who was invited to hang with “the cool fellas.”
Deems Tsutakawa is a local Sansei musician. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.