|BIOGRAPHY of KAORU OKAWA ITO|
||From an oral history written by the Stockton
Japanese American Citizens League and California State University at
Kaoru Okawa was born in Gunma Ken, Japan on October 16, 1904 to Danzaburo and Sei Okawa. She immigrated to the United States with her family in July 1919, when she was fourteen years old. She attended Durant Grammar School in Oakland for one year and then worked for the Mayor of Alameda as a schoolgirl.
She saved her money and attended the Goto Sewing School in Oakland and transferred to the McDowell Sewing School in San Francisco. In 1924 she opened her own sewing school in Oakland called Aileen Sewing School [Ai meaning love and Leen meaning neighbor in Japanese].
She tells us how her parents arranged for her marriage, how they found a suitable husband and describes her courtship. On April 25, 1926, Kaoru married Shintaro Ito, a respected Stockton businessman and active Buddhist Temple member. Together they raised three daughters.
Mr. Ito ran S.K. Ito Company, a merchandise business; he also owned several buildings in downtown Stockton. Mrs. Ito moved Aileen Sewing School to Stockton. Together they served as baishakunin [marriage match makers] and were actively involved in the Stockton Buddhist Temple and the Japanese community. Mr. Ito was treasurer for the Yamato Baseball Team and was an avid fan.
The family was first interned in the Stockton Assembly Center, then in Rohwer, Arkansas. During their internment Kaoru taught crocheting, knitting, and the Japanese tea ceremony. The family continued to receive rent payments from their Stockton property while interned.
After internment the family returned to Stockton where Mr. Ito became a gardener and Mrs. Ito did housework. They continued to be actively involved in the Stockton Buddhist Temple, serve as baishakunin, and were active in the Japanese community.
Mrs. Ito attended Edison High School evening classes in order to obtain her American citizenship and was in one of the first groups of Japanese to obtain her American citizenship.
Mrs. Ito had the pleasure of meeting Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko when they visited San Francisco in 1996.
At the time of the interview Mrs. Ito was 93 years young, she was the mother of three, grandmother of eight, and great-grandmother of three. As she reflected on her life she concluded saying, "I feel quite satisfied that I have passed on to others what I have learned. I also believe I have lived a long and productive life here in the United States."