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Name: Yoshiko Dorothy Iriye
Age: 92
From: Long Beach Japanese Community Center, Long Beach

“My mother always taught me to be respectful, and have a positive attitude. I come from a family of 11, and I’m in the middle.”

What is your weekly schedule like?

Three times a month on Wednesdays, I spend time at Long Beach Japanese Community Center. I pick up my friend in Seal Beach and we drive out to the Wednesday lunches.

I see my children and grandchildren once a week, too.

I also regularly go to doctors’ appointments and like to take a day trip to the casino every 2-3 months hosted by Leisure World, which is where I live.

What do you look forward to each week?

I like to visit my daughter’s house, and see my grandchildren. But this year, I began watching Korean soap operas, so I look forward to watching that. By 8 p.m., I have to be back in my room!

What was the most important thing to you back when you were in high school?

I grew up working and giving those earnings to my family because we were poor. When I was little, I remember my mom used to buy donuts for our lunch, and we used to get a nickel for our milk. I couldn’t do many extracurricular activities. But I do remember going to the Venice Pier on New Year’s Eve with my siblings as one of the highlights of my childhood, before I went to the camp.

Do you have any goals you are working towards?

Well, I just attended the Manzanar Pilgrimage for the very first time this year. I was at Manzanar from when I was 15 until 18, and it was the first time I’d returned since then. But other than that, no particular goals at the moment …

What contributes to your happiness?

My four grandchildren make me happy. It’s fun to visit them and spend time with them.

I’m a people person and like to help others, so that makes me happy, too. There are friends who are primarily Japanese-speaking and need help understanding English, so I usually help them with my self-taught Japanese. Recently, I helped one of my friends write a thank you letter to someone in English. I also learned parts of the body in Japanese too, for when my friends need to know about their health conditions.

What sustains your quality of life?

I listen to my doctors and care for myself. It’s important to ask questions and be vocal about it. I ask — that’s the main thing. I also plan out my life financially, to save some for my children and grandchildren for the future.

I like being independent, so that’s important. But I also think my grandchildren and casinos sustain my quality of life.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

Well, I think it’s my self-taught Japanese and being able to use that skill to help my friends who primarily speak Japanese. It is something I’m really proud of.  

What is it in your life that most influenced the way you live today?

What my mother taught me. My mother always taught me to be respectful, and have a positive attitude. I come from a family of 11, and I’m in the middle. She taught me all these Japanese values, Japanese customs, and ways of thought. And to be helpful and be respectful to others.

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