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Yoko McClain Transcript Part 1
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TitleYoko McClain Transcript Part 1
Time Period2000-2009
IntervieweeMcClain, Yoko
InterviewerUhlig, Elizabeth
TranscriberRanseen, Susanne
SubjectJapanese Americans
Natsume, Sōseki, 1867-1916
Geographic SubjectJapan
Original CollectionJapanese-American Association of Lane Co., OR, Oral History Collection
RestrictionsPermission to use must be obtained from the Oregon Multicultural Archives, OSU Special Collections & Archives Research Center.
File Nameyoko_mcclain_part1.pdf
Full TextJapanese-American Association of Lane County, Oregon - Oral History Collection Yoko Matsuoka McClain – Part 1 Date: March 22, 2008 Place: Yoko Matsuoka McClain's home Eugene, OR Length: 00:25:33 Interviewee: Yoko Matsuoka McClain Interviewer: Elizabeth Uhlig Transcriber: Susanne Ranseen [00:00] [EU] This is an interview with Yoko McClain for the Japanese America Association Oral History project. Today is March 22, 2008 we are in Yoko's house in Eugene. Yoko your house looks very nice it is different from when I was here last time. [YM] That is for sure. A little bit different, still kind of messy. [EU] You were redoing your kitchen? [YM] Yeah. So I was cleaning yesterday, at least moving lots of things to the kitchen. [EU] Today is foggy but usually you have a nice view. [YM] Yes. It is a nice view all the way from…this is a southern view I have. So then Spencer Butte I can see right there. [EU] How long have you lived here in this house? [YM] It is almost 40 years I think, 39 years now I think. We moved in 1970. [EU] 1970. How long have you been here in Eugene? [YM] 55 and a half, I guess. This July will be 56 years. [EU] 56 years. Well can you tell us about your family in Japan? Well let's start first, what is your full name? [YM] My full name is Yoko Matsuoka McClain. [EU] Okay. And when where you born? [YM] I was born in January 1, 1924. [EU] Were you born in Tokyo? 2 [YM] In Tokyo. [EU] Can you tell me about your family? Your mother's family? [YM] My mother is the daughter of a novelist. She was born in Tokyo, of course, no sorry, she was born in Naga…, no, Kumamoto in Kyushu, when her father was a professor there at the Kumamoto University, the current Kumamoto University. In those days, the Fifth Highest School, it was called. So that was where she was born. [EU] She was born. And ah can you talk then about her family? Your grandfather, her father. [YM] Okay, father's side? [EU] Okay I am confused… [YM] Grandfather was professor at the Fifth Higher School. [EU] And that is on your father's side or your mother's side? [YM] My mother's side. That's why my mother was born in Kumamoto. [EU] Your mother was born in Kumamoto. Okay. And what was her name? [YM] Fudeko. "Fude" means "brush" so father named her so her writing would be good. [laughs] Turned out to be it wasn't. [EU] Okay. How many brothers and sisters did she have? [YM] I have, one sister died before I was born, apparently she was only 8 months old, she died very early. Remaining sisters and brothers, I had older sister, older brother, and younger brother, and younger sister. I am the middle of five. Originally six but one died early. [EU] Your mother, how many brothers and sisters did she have? [YM] She is the first daughter, and she has 3 younger sisters, and 2 younger brothers. The youngest daughter also died very early, year and half or something. [EU] Can you talk a little bit then about your grandfather? He was the novelist? [YM] That's right. He is actually the most well known novelist in Japan. [EU] And what was his name? 3 [YM] His name is… Natsume is last name, and Sōseki is a pen name. Originally his name was Kinnosuke but everybody knows him by his pen name Sōseki. And so… He was professor and apparently he was second graduate in English in Tokyo University. The first one died early, so he was almost the first person to major in English I guess. Then he taught high school in Shikoku in Matsuyama in Shikoku first for one year and then he moved to Kumamoto and he stayed there for 4 years teaching English and English Literature and then he was sent to England in 1900 by the government. He was there for little over 2 years and came back and he was teaching at Tokyo Imperial University in those days and also Number One Higher School, too. But he started writing, beside his teaching, and some of the novel particularly the first one, I am a Cat, became so famous, so popular, so Asahi newspaper ask him to join them. In those days journalist were never respected but the Tokyo University professor is highly respected. He was more interested in writing rather than teaching so he took this Asahi job. The contract was one novel a year, apparently; he also took care of this literary column of this paper. [07:14] [EU] So he wrote both for the newspaper and then he wrote his novels? [YM] In Japan it just like here, you have comic strip every day, instead of comic, they have novel every day. If you get the good writer you can sell the newspapers. They always wanted some really good writer. That's why his novel is always one chapter is always same length; because of the paper. Originally he wrote that … after he entered the Asahi newspaper he wrote all the novels. Actually last year, 2007, exactly 100 years after he entered the newspaper. So, 1907, I guess. [EU] So his novels then were first published in the newspaper every day or every week? [YM] That's right. Every day every day every day. So we look forward to get the newspaper to read the new one. Then after he finished then usually be published as a book later. That is why in those days everybody knew him. If you write everyday in the biggest newspaper. Then afterwards it would be published. The very very last one was unfinished because he died, he died only 49 years old. Death is stomach ulcer. In those days you never hear somebody just dying from stomach ulcer but medical science was not that advanced in those days. The remaining novels all written for Asahi and then after that all of them are published. [EU] Then later translated into many languages? [YM] That's correct, quite a few. Of course English had the most, but French, Chinese, German, so many, so many. I had a list of which one is translated but English is the most. Almost all his novels were translated, I think, except one so far. [EU] You said his first novel then was I am a Cat. In Japanese what is that? [YM] Wagahai wa neko de aru 4 [EU] What were some of his other books? [YM] Other books? Here, it's most popular, if you take Japanese literature everyone reads, it's called Kokoro. That is a much later work. The first one has quite a bit humor to it but towards the end is so much more serious of a thing. Like Kokoro, somehow, is most popular. So human, you know, man is always alone; in a way a person is always lonely that way. Somehow I was talking to Steve Kohl who teaches introduction to Japanese literature. He was saying in spring term or winter term, I can't remember which, the students write the paper, almost half or at least a third of them write about Kokoro, that's what he said. [EU] What was the theme or what did he write? These where contemporary stories about Japan at the time? [12:05] [YM] Yeah. It is why he is so well read now is humans are always the same, that's what it is. Even though you take them out of that age and everything the psychology of the human is always same. I think about lots of things but one of them he said in this Kokoro is that the Sensei tells the student, one student, his uncle... Sensei is main character, lost both parents and uncle and aunts takes care of him. He trusted this uncle, his parents too trusted this uncle. But turned out to be he swindled his money so he was really disappointed and he can't trust the people in the world. He said something like money, money is the one to make anybody, even noble person, just sort of fall off. That's so true, even now, when you think about it, all those politicians, always money. [EU] Do you think that is why he has continued to be popular and continues to be read? [YM] Every time you read him, you just think "oh, how true!" even now. Nothing old, that's what it is, I think. Classical literature is always like that; even Greek literature you read, is still human, is still thinking the same thing. [EU] Why do you think he wrote like that? What was in his background? [YM] His background, I'm giving talk in June in San Diego, so I was just studying, writing. He had a sad childhood because he was born to a very wealthy family but just about the Meiji Restoration then when times changing; he was the youngest one of the old couple. When you think about old couple had the youngest one, would be adored, but instead his mother almost thought, she was almost ashamed to have a baby so late in life. I think she was about 40, 41. Now it's so common. Father's wealth is declining so he was such an unwanted child. And then mother didn't have milk and he was foster child someplace first but afterwards he was adopted by a couple. But that couple just wanted to buy his love so even though they where kind of stingy people they gave him everything he wanted so he was so spoiled. But when that couple – didn't go too well – and got divorced, mother tried to get him to her side and tell all the horrible things about the father. Really terrible story. When he was about 9 years old after they divorced, he went back to his own home but he was still unwanted to the father. 5 [EU] Was this in Tokyo? [16:55] [YM] That was in Tokyo. It was said that even when he was little he saw that ugly side of people. He was always writing about egoism in later work. [EU] So he continued living with his father, or his father and mother? [YM] Yeah, so what happened was he had lots of brothers, older brothers, but two of them died. Particularly, the first son apparently was a bright guy but he died from tuberculosis, second one too, in those days so many, third one was a playboy. So finally father realized the only person who might be able to help him in the future is Sōseki himself. He suddenly started more depending on him. Then Sōseki never cared for his father because of that kind of person. The mother died quiet early, too, I guess. Then he was sent to Europe and came back, and then adoptive father tried to get money from him -- he thought now he had it, you know. Horrible life that way. [EU] You said he was one of the first graduate of Tokyo University? [YM] In English. Majoring in English. He was the second, but the first one died right after graduation. [EU] Did his father and the family encourage him or expect him to go to the university? [YM] Yeah. At least they help him. Afterwards he did have a scholarship too, I guess, no, he got loan, I guess, but at least father was helping. After he started working he actually tried to return all the money to him, too. [EU] Do you know why, during the Meiji time, how did he become interested in English? [YM] In those days people thought that unless you know those foreign languages, you can't get ahead in the world -that kind of ambition all the young bright people had. At first he was more interested in Chinese literature but then he said at certain stage "no, in this world you need to know English." So he changed school from old fashioned Chinese school, high school level I guess, he moved to the other school that teach English. In those days, I think, his English was pretty good because in those days science they didn't have in Japanese textbooks, so they studied in English textbooks. Their English was good that way. When he was at Tokyo University he was translating classical Japanese literature into English. That one was used by the American scholar for the conference or something like that. Harvard professor said that was an excellent translation. Isn't that interesting? [21:30] 6 [EU] Yeah, so he must have had good English teachers at the university? [YM] That's right. Apparently he didn't have any trouble going to England, either. He was quite amazed what bad English they speak. That's so true, because as a foreigner when you come here you think everyone speaks good English, but that's not true, you know [laughs]. [EU] How did he go to England? Did he have a scholarship or? [YM] Yeah, government sent him. Trouble was they just sent him, then one of the Yale professors said "too bad he, in those days they didn't refer him to anybody." He was just thrown into London and he had to do everything. He went to University of London and also Cambridge, too. He was almost 30, about 32 – much older than…. And then he already studied quite a bit in Japan so he didn't get too much. For some time he went to the Shakespeare scholars and he got a tutor, and then he studied; he didn't get too much. Last one year or something he spent all the money he received from government to just buy books for his own project. In London, he only studied studied, was in a boarding house, and sometimes only biscuit and water, he was just studying. He became almost nervous breakdown because of that. That's actually lasted all his life. Mother always said, [he] suddenly flares up. [EU] That was a difficult time for him? He didn't really feel comfortable in England? [YM] Mhm. He just didn't enjoy. But because he studied so much there, that's the basis for his later work. So in that sense it was wonderful experience. He was just telling his wife a letter telling some Japanese student come and buy prostitute and he wish he had that money to buy more books. He did travel but he actually overworked I think. [EU] What years were he… [YM] 1900 in September or something he left. He came back in 1903. Two years and a little bit. [EU] Let's take a break here. [end 25:33]
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