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click to order Looking Like the Enemy

 

 

Looking Like the Enemy:
My Story of Imprisonment in a Japanese-American Internment Camp

When Mary Matsuda Gruenewald was seventeen years old, she and her family were evacuated from their home on Vashon Island, Washington and sent to an internment camp for Japanese-Americans. Along with nearly 120,000 other people of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast, the Matsudas faced an indefinite sentence behind barbed wire in crowded, primitive camps. They struggled for survival and dignity, and endured psychological scarring that has lasted a lifetime.

Matsuda Gruenewald tells her story from the heart and mind of a woman now eighty years old who experienced the challenges and wounds of her internment at a crucial point in her development as a young adult. As a 16-year-old girl Mary Matsuda reacted with horror as the bombs of Pearl Harbor unleashed a tsunami of events, including her imprisonment even though she was a U.S. citizen. Like The Diary of Anne Frank, this memoir captures the devastation of WW II on a teenage girl and her family.

Matsuda Gruenewald brings passion and spirit to her story, superbly recapturing the emotional and psychological essence of what it was like to grow up in the midst of this profound dislocation and injustice in the United States. Few other books on this subject come close to the emotional power, raw honesty, and moral significance of this memoir.

In the end the reader is buoyed by what Mary Matsuda Gruenewald learns from her experience and what she is able to do with her life. In 2004 she returned to Minidoka, now established as a National Monument, and describes her experiences and still vivid memories more than sixty years later.

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History comes poignantly to life through the eyes of a young Japanese-American girl who is imprisoned with her family in the WW II internment camps. Vivid, heartbreaking, a true story that must never be forgotten--or happen again.

—Brenda Peterson, Novelist & Nature Writer
Author, Animal Heart

Because of their racial ancestry, the Matsuda family along with nearly 120,000 other mainland Japanese Americans faced years of hardship, anxiety, prejudice, and discrimination during World War II. Looking Like the Enemy is a poignant story of that family's darkest days. Yet, shimmering rays of hope coupled with a solid foundation of courage and fortitude gave this family an immovable ballast to weather all that they faced. This is a wonderful, powerful, and mesmerizing read.

—Professor Tetsuden Kashima
University of Washington American Ethnic Studies Dept.

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Mary Matsuda Gruenewald

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www.lookingliketheenemy.com (author's web site)

In 2005 Mary Matsuda Gruenewald celebrated her eightieth birthday as well as the publication of her first book. She began writing her story in her seventies, no longer willing to stay within what she describes as "the self-imposed barbed-wire fenced built around my experiences in the camps." With her book, Gruenewald breaks her silence as a Nisei, American-born, second generation child of Isseis.

After her release from an internment camp, Gruenewald entered nursing school and became a registered nurse. She worked as an R.N. for more than twenty-five years. She established the Consulting Nurse Service within the Group Health Cooperative in 1971, which has become a national model for numerous health care providers. In 2002 she was a medical delegate representing seniors on behalf of Medicare Plus Choice. At that meeting she was selected along with ten other delegates to speak with President George W. Bush on health care issues.

Her articles on internment during WW II have appeared in newspapers nationally, and she has presented radio commentaries for NPR, KPLU. Gruenewald also consulted with the National Park Service during its establishment of Minidoka Internment Camp as a National Park. She speaks to many schools and community groups about her internment. Gruenewald received an Asian American Living Pioneer Award in 2003.

Mary Matsuda Gruenewald featured on "BBC" - Read or Listen

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CONTENTS

  • Chapter Two Being Japanese in America

  • Chapter Three Evacuation Orders
  • Chapter Four Leaving Our Home
  • Chapter Five Family Number 19788
  • Chapter Six
    The First Internment Camp
  • Chapter Seven
    The Last Dance in the Searchlight
  • Chapter Eight
    Dignity in the Midst of Hardship
  • Chapter Nine
    Collecting Seashells at Tule Lake
  • Chapter Ten
    Sharing Stories
  • Chapter Eleven
    The Gift of Freedom
  • Chapter Twelve
    No No or Yes Yes?
  • Chapter Thirteen Remembering Twenty Years from Now
  • Chapter Fourteen
    Good-byes
  • Chapter Fifteen
    On My Own
  • Chapter Sixteen
    Nisei Soldiers
  • Chapter Seventeen
    Home Again
  • Chapter Eighteen
    Mama-san
  • Chapter Nineteen
    Return to Minidoka
  • Afterword
  • Glossary

  • Bibliography

 

Prologue: Breaking the Silence

One sunny day my brother, Yoneichi, and I sat on a log floating in front of our home at Shawnee Beach on Vashon Island, Washington. I was four years old and he was six.

That day in 1929 as we peacefully rode the gentle tide of Puget Sound we could not know about the impending tsunami of World War II. Thirteen years later a wave of anti-Japanese prejudice swept across the United States and forced my family to leave our secure island home and succumb to the will of a hostile and turbulent world at war. Little did I know the political storms and social upheavals that would beset my family, tear us away from our home, and confine us in internment camps simply because we looked like the enemy.

During World War II Japanese-Americans endured the wholesale violation of our civil and human rights as residents and citizens of the United States. Many would lose their homes, livelihoods, and dreams, and left with pain, confusion and shame. This legacy has shadowed my entire adult life.

Some seventy-five years later I gaze at this photo, long and hard, recalling my innocence, joy, and security. With what I know now, how I wish I could have held that little girl in the photo and reassured her, "Have faith in your family and the ultimate goodness of people. Especially have faith in yourself to survive the catastrophic events yet to come. In spite of all the terror, pain, depression, and tears in your future, you will reach a final hopeful conclusion."

With the hindsight of age, I have learned faith, hope, and love in a world gone crazy. Over the years I have carved out a life marked by reason and hope for myself and for my three children. I also learned the importance of speaking, telling my story, in the hope that history will not repeat itself.

Historians have referred to the interned Japanese-Americans as the "silent generation" because most of us did not speak about our experiences--even to our children. Years after the end of World War II, whenever I met someone whom I suspected of having been a prisoner at an internment camp, I might ask, "Were you in one of the camps during the war?"

If the response was "Yes," I continued. "Which one?"

He or she would answer: "Amache, Gila, Heart Mountain, Jerome, Manzanar, Minidoka, Poston, Rohwer, Topaz, or Tule Lake."

After a pause one of us might say, "That was a long time ago, wasn't it?" We would both nod and then fall silent. We understood each other. This might seem strange to people who had not shared this experience, but for those of us who did, we knew what the experience was like. At the time, it seemed as if there was no need for words.

In the decades following the internment I managed to suppress feelings and memories of this painful period. I thought the only way I could achieve normalcy was to forget about the evacuation, and work diligently to get on with my life. To speak or even think of those times meant to revisit what had happened, and that was too painful to consider.

The penalty I paid for being silent for years--even to myself--seems perplexing even now. I complied and endured, albeit begrudgingly, but never had the nerve to fully break out of those self-imposed "barbed wire fences" built around my experiences in the camps. For most of my life I was afraid to deal with those years of repressed shame and anger and the unknown depth of those feelings.

As I reflect on all that happened, I am reminded of a book, The Trial, by Franz Kafka. In this story a man is accused of some crime about which he is unclear. The elements of the trial are fearful and unpredictable, and it is difficult to foresee the conclusion of the ordeal. I, too, had a sense of guilt for a crime I had supposedly committed, but I never understood what that crime was.

My three children had to discover for themselves what the Japanese-American internment was about. I kept a few relics from that era such as the three, one-gallon jars of shells I gathered from the grounds of Tule Lake Camp. These would stimulate occasional conversations, but I matter-of-factly told the same safe anecdotes over and over again. As a parent, I did not want to show my children how vulnerable I felt at that time, nor did I want to get into the emotional part of my experience that could lead me to tears.

In 1967 when my oldest child, Martha, tried to write a research paper on the internment, she could not find a single book that mentioned it. But a few years later, books and films such as A Farewell to Manzanar finally broke the silence. This is how my children and the rest of the public began to learn about this regrettable chapter in American history. More recently the best-seller Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson, and the subsequent film showed the evacuation of the first group of Japanese from a fictional island in Washington state. As I watched the part of the movie when the FBI searched the home of a Japanese-American family who were later forced to evacuate under armed U.S. soldier escorts, I broke down and wept. Vivid memories of my own experience swept over me

When I was 74 years old I was invited to participate in a writing class and began writing about those war years. The dam broke loose when emotions and tears I had repressed for decades burst through, at times seemingly uncontrollable. At last, I was telling my story--a Nisei no longer willing to be silent.

Now as I near my 80th birthday and the completion of my book in 2005, my tears come more easily and with understanding and acceptance. I weep for all Japanese-Americans who could not acknowledge that it was all right to be angry and confused about our identity in the face of the mass rejection by American society. At the same time, I am profoundly grateful for the open-minded, compassionate, and humane fellow citizens who helped Japanese-Americans make the difficult transition back to normal life.

I yearn for the day when the general American public will read, listen, and understand the implications of what the United States did to Japanese-Americans--and what we must do differently and far better in today's world torn by terrorism and war.

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Chapter One:
An Island in Darkness

In the midst of the complicated jumble of waterways and islands of Puget Sound, there is a slice of rural America called Vashon Island, just a twenty-minute ferry ride from Seattle. In the 1920s Vashon had large-scale industrial logging, substantial greenhouse operations, and farms specializing in diverse products such as poultry, dairy, vegetables, and berries. Today Vashon is home for thousands of people commuting to work in Seattle and Tacoma.

Vashon may be only a few water miles from two large cities, but it is protected from their influence by a salt-water channel that extends more than 600 feet deep. Building a bridge across these waters has been studied many times but never accomplished because of the fierce desire by many residents to preserve a particular lifestyle. Vashon maintains the character of a small town where neighbor helps neighbor and the sense of community is strong.

In 1927 my parents, Heisuke and Mitsuno Matsuda brought my brother, Yoneichi and me to Vashon. Yoneichi was four years old, I was two. My parents leased a small berry farm and worked long days to secure a livelihood and a future for their family. Like many others, we grew strawberries and lived a quiet, self-sufficient life. By 1936, we were one of thirty-seven Japanese families living on Vashon Island.

I attended Vashon Grade School with eight grades in one building, two classes per room per teacher. The majority of the students were Caucasian but in my grade level there were two Chinese students and three Japanese-Americans out of a class of seventy-eight.

My life in that idyllic setting was one of innocence and pleasure, just being one of the island kids. My parents chose Vashon to raise their family in order to protect us from the corrupting influences of modern life. But nothing could protect us from the events following December 7, 1941, the day Pearl Harbor was bombed.

That December morning Yoneichi and I walked through a light rain to the Vashon Methodist Church as we had for the past eight years. The Sunday service was in English so my parents didn't attend, opting for Methodist services in Japanese often held in our living room. My brother and I knew everyone in the church so we always looked forward to singing the familiar hymns and feeling a part of the congregation. As usual, we arrived early to dust the pews, and distribute church bulletins and hymnals in the sanctuary. Sunday services were a part of the rhythm of our week and that day felt like years of Sundays on Vashon.

After church my brother and I wished everyone a good week ahead and left for home. As we walked I studied the Bible verse I had received and repeated it until I memorized it for next Sunday. It was my last carefree morning preoccupied with all the trivial cares and worries of a sixteen-year-old American teenager. It was also the last time I fully believed I was an American.

When we got to the house, we cheerfully announced our arrival. My father, whom we always called Papa san, was sitting at his usual place at the kitchen table, eyes downcast, silent. Normally, Papa san would have been working outdoors, only returning when lunch was ready. Our mother, Mama san, always greeted us with a smile whenever we came home, but that day she looked pale as she leaned against the counter and stared out the window.

"Papa san, why are you home early?" my brother asked. When there was no response, Yoneichi's wide smile vanished as his eyes darted back and forth between the two of them. Then he turned to our mother. "Mama san, is something wrong? What's going on?"

I put my things down, suddenly frightened. I had never seen this look on my father's face. I wondered, Why won't they look at us? After a long silence Papa san looked up and answered quietly in Japanese, "Mr. Yabu called. Japanese airplanes bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii early this morning." Yoneichi whirled around and snapped on the radio sitting on the kitchen counter.

We didn't have to wait long. The booming voice of an urgent reporter burst out the news of the attack. We listened with horror as he hurriedly spit out information about the heavy losses sustained by the United States Navy.

All stared at the radio in stunned silence. This can't be, I thought. There must be some mistake. I didn't want to hear about all the ships that had been hit or that more American servicemen had been killed. But the loud, blaring voice of the announcer kept interrupting the scheduled programs with more news about the attack. I couldn't catch my breath.

After awhile I turned from the radio and looked at my parents. They understood enough English to grasp the meaning of this announcement. As the gravity of the news sunk in, Papa san's head dropped to his chest, and his shoulders slumped forward. He looked defeated.

Little did we know that Sunday afternoon how much our lives would change, but Papa san knew enough to be afraid. He realized what could happen if public opinion turned against him. Some forty years earlier, shortly after his arrival in the United States, my father and several other Japanese men were working in the coalmines in the Klondike, Alaska. One day a white friend sought him out and said, "Harry, there's a bunch of guys who don't like you fellows and they are planning to raid your camp tonight. You'd better get out of town right away." The Japanese men scrambled to gather their things, hurriedly broke up camp, left their jobs, and escaped before the vigilantes arrived. At the time Papa san told us about this incident, he also described learning first hand about prejudice and how important it was to develop good relationships with everyone wherever he went. Now all those good relationships with neighbors and business associates would be tested.

My mother, Mitsuno Horiye Matsuda, was the perfect Japanese wife--obedient and devoted. She had been cooking fried chicken for our Sunday meal, but now it was set aside and forgotten in the midst of the unfolding crisis. Ordinarily she was lighthearted, gracious, and very practical about life. The pride she felt in Yoneichi and me was something we understood even though she always modestly protested whenever others complimented us. Now her eyes filled with tears as she sank into the chair. I heard her whisper to herself in Japanese, "This is terribly distressing. What will happen to us?"

Yoneichi and I looked at each other, stunned. We still couldn't believe what was being said on the radio. The blaring, bitter news report was suffocating but I couldn't stop listening. I thought, This can't really be happening. Are they insane coming thousands of miles from Japan to attack United States territory? Why did they do this? How will this affect us because we are Japanese-Americans?

Even though Papa san had lived in America since 1898, and Mama san since 1922, they could not become naturalized citizens because of immigration laws and could not own land because of the anti-alien land laws in many Western states. We had lived in our home for eleven years, had cordial relationships with our neighbors, and participated in the Vashon community, but my parents were still vulnerable. Yoneichi and I had been born in the United States, which made us American citizens. We were sure our citizenship would protect us, but still, we were afraid.

As the news sank in, Mama san remarked thoughtfully, "Now I understand why my brother, Moichi san, wrote me those letters urging us to come back to Japan. I wonder if he might have suspected that something like this was going to happen."

Mama san moved aimlessly about the kitchen, touching different items on the counter. After awhile she stopped in front of the kitchen sink and stared blankly out the window at the front yard. Her usually erect body sagged. Her eyes, which were usually bright and generated smiles from others, looked sadder this day than I had ever seen them. As though trying to remove cobwebs from her face, she moved her hands across her eyes and over her graying hair as she sighed.

Papa san did not move from the kitchen table. He kept turning his teacup around and around, lost in fearful thoughts that deepened the crease between his eyes. Periodically he took a deep breath and turned his sad eyes toward the window and the sky beyond.

Never before had I seen my parents so self-absorbed and troubled. A big knot doubled, then tripled in the pit of my stomach. Thoughts and feelings collided, trying to make sense of what had just happened and how this would affect my family--and the world.

Many times my parents had told Yoneichi and me, "What you think about yourself is not nearly as important as what other people think about you." Every once in awhile my parents would ask me what image I thought I was projecting and what people might think about me as a result of my behavior. They were thinking about my future. Now I had a gnawing feeling of guilt--guilt for being Japanese. I didn't want to think about the possibility that now American people would consider me as the enemy.

I picked up our cat, Kitty, and sat down on a kitchen chair. Repeatedly I stroked her lean silky body and held her close. Our dog, Frisky, sensing that something was amiss, stood near and stared at me with his searching gaze. I patted him on his head and rubbed his ears. In turn, he licked my hand and comforted me as he leaned his body against my legs.

Yoneichi paced about the house, going in and out of the kitchen, listening to the radio reports. Whenever he sat down, his right leg nervously jiggled up and down, unable to contain himself. His lips were pursed, his brows knitted in a perpetual frown. He kept raising his right hand to rub his neck as though he had a pain there. What could my brother possibly be thinking? Yoneichi was a recent high school graduate and was working on the family farm while he thought about his future. Suddenly, his future seemed suspended.

I looked at my family and thought, What beautiful people they are. What will happen to us now?

We spent the rest of the day near each other, tense and silent. Our telephone was ominously quiet. We tried to brace ourselves against some nameless premonition of trouble, which we each intuitively knew would overtake us. Radio reports brought more bad news--additional ships destroyed, growing casualties, more disasters wrought. Yoneichi kept going outdoors to search the sky for any evidence of airplanes. In time the rest of us joined him, unable to listen any longer to the devastating news that hammered away at our fears. That night we had very little appetite for dinner and we stayed up later than usual. Each of us spent a restless night.

The following morning I reluctantly went to school at Vashon High. I felt guilty, ashamed that the Japanese government--to which my parents tied me--had done this terrible deed to our United States. As I went through the halls from one class to another, every time anyone looked at me, I imagined hatred in their eyes. I assumed that everyone was prejudiced and didn't want to have anything to do with me. In one of my classes, I began to cry as much from confusion as frustration. Crying seemed to be the only thing I could do. I thought, I am an American yet I don't look like one. I am Japanese but ashamed that I am.

It seemed as if an unknown penalty awaited my family, yet I didn't know what, when, or how. Even though all of my classmates and teachers were kind and behaved the same towards me, everything had changed inside of me. It was clear non-Japanese students shared my fear of the future and the shock of the sudden turn of events, but no one did anything to single me out or blame me.

One friend came up to me and linked her arm with mine as we went to English class together. My classmates offered their silent support, and I was grateful, but my perception had changed. Now, I felt like an outsider. Ever since the third grade, when one of the white kids called me a "Jap," I knew I was different. But still, we got along pretty well. Only now, things were not the same.

All the years we lived here, our parents had stressed the importance of our being good citizens of the community and nation. "America is made up of people from all walks of life from many countries of the world," they declared. "The equality of all of the people, and tolerance, are keys to living peacefully together." We had tried so hard to promote favorable relations between the Japanese community and our neighbors, but I assumed that all our efforts had been ruined. My parents had taught us to be stoic, brave, serene, respectful of authority, and in total control of our emotions. But on that Monday after Pearl Harbor, in place of my usual serenity, I felt incredible tension building inside of me. Afraid and helpless, I couldn't do the thing that I most wanted--to change things back to the way they were.

That evening as we ate dinner near the radio, an announcement by the Civil Defense Authority declared: "Beginning this evening at 7:00 p.m. all citizens in the Puget Sound area are required to implement a complete, dusk-to-dawn visual blackout to prevent an attack on our defense industries." The blackout was to last every night until further notice. Cooperation from the entire community was mandatory. If we had questions we were supposed to call the local Civilian Defense office.

We briefly discussed what we had to do to be sure no light was visible outside of our home. Mama san got up from the table and said to me, "Mary san, help me gather up some blankets to cover our windows. We'll have to bring out the old kerosene lamps, too."

As I got up to help my arms felt heavy and my hands were clammy. And the lump in my throat wouldn't go away no matter how often I tried to clear it. Mama san quietly commented, "Kowai desu ne." "This is frightening, isn't it?"

Yoneichi got a stepladder and helped drape the blankets over every window. He voiced what was running through my mind. "I wonder what will happen next. You don't suppose more Japanese planes will come over and bomb us here, do you?" After a few moments, he added, "And what about us? Surely it will make a difference because we have been good citizens in our community, and Mary and I are Americans, not Japanese, won't it?" His questions trailed off. No one could answer them.

A few days later when I was in the living room doing my homework, I overheard snatches of conversation between my parents. They had lingered at the dinner table long after we had finished our meal. Papa san said with a worried tone, "I wish Japan hadn't attacked Pearl Harbor. Our lives will certainly become more difficult."

"Yes, I'm afraid they will," Mama san replied, distressed. "It's hard to tell who will still be our friends and who will turn against us. I hope our neighbors will still be friendly."

"I won't feel as comfortable coming and going as I have in the past," Papa san confessed. "And doing the business for our farm will become more complicated, I'm sure. We'll just have to wait and see how things unfold to know how to proceed."

"Yes, I agree," Mama san said. "Even though you and I have never been able to become citizens, we've raised our children to be good members of the community. We must have faith that this will all work out eventually."

"Yes, and I think it is important for us to cooperate with the civil defense efforts," Papa san added. "We'll do whatever we can to show that we are good citizens in spite of everything."

They continued talking in Japanese in hushed voices as if to protect Yoneichi and me from their private concerns and fears. Sometimes one of them spoke rapidly with a quick response from the other. Much later, I recognized the anguish they must have felt knowing the country of their birth was at war with their adopted country.

In the fall of 1941 before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, there was no way we could have known how close the United States was to an imminent war with Japan. Neither could we have known about an U.S. government study conducted a decade earlier that examined the loyalty of Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast and Hawaii. Years later Michi Weglyn would reveal in her book, Years of Infamy, that an investigation by the U.S. State Department "certified a remarkable, even extraordinary degree of loyalty [to the United States] among this generally suspect ethnic group." Yet, in spite of thoroughly researched conclusions by U.S. intelligence that "there is no Japanese problem," this information was not disclosed to the public prior to World War II, during the war years, or in the years shortly thereafter.

I, of course, knew nothing of this. All during my childhood I had believed that I was "one of the group" in America. It was wonderful.

One of my Nisei first-grade classmates on Vashon, whose family spoke only Japanese at home, had a different experience. Occasionally the teacher left the classroom for a minute, leaving the children on their honor. One of the mischievous boys shot spit wads around the room and created havoc among the kids. When the teacher returned and wanted to know who the culprit was, the troublemaker pointed to my Nisei friend as the offender. The teacher disciplined him with many swats on the hand with a wooden ruler. He did not know how to defend himself from the teacher nor the offending classmate until much later.

When Yoneichi started first grade, he too had a difficult time understanding his teachers. He almost flunked the first grade because we spoke only Japanese at home. But with additional tutoring, he caught on quickly and eventually graduated as the salutatorian of his high school class. Because he was two years ahead of me, I learned English from him and had a much easier time starting school.

In the weeks following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, high school proceeded as though things were unchanged. The elaborate junior prom being planned by my classmates for the end of the school year did not interest me. Instead, I was struggling to understand what was happening and the implications for our future. I attended Latin I and U.S. History classes but I didn't remember anything. In English III we studied poetry and that caught my attention. I began collecting poems, made my own poetry book, and included illustrations. The poems took me outside myself, comforting me in a way that nothing else could. A poem by Rudyard Kipling foreshadowed what was in store for us.

 

IF

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too:

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,

Or being hated don't give way to hating,

And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise...

 

As the war in the Pacific progressed that winter following Pearl Harbor, Guam, Hong Kong, Manila and Singapore fell to the advancing Japanese forces. This brought increased attention to the Japanese and Japanese-Americans in Hawaii and on the West Coast. Many non-Japanese Americans began to see us as conspirators responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbor. There were false stories in local newspapers and on radio broadcasts that Japanese "sympathizers" in Hawaii cut arrows into the cane fields, directing Japanese planes to Pearl Harbor. There were reports of Japanese-American sabotage on the West Coast and of an impending attack on our continent. Although these rumors were never substantiated, General John L. DeWitt, the Western Defense Commander, insisted that "no proof of sabotage was indeed proof that sabotage was imminent." California's Attorney General Earl Warren, who later became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, supported General DeWitt's assessment.

As the anti-Japanese propaganda machinery kicked into full gear, I began to withdraw more and more. I started to drop my eyes whenever anyone approached me. Never much of a talker, I spoke even less in those months following Pearl Harbor.

Japanese people like my parents had come to the United States to make a better life for themselves and their families, and to be good upright citizens in their new country. Having already experienced discrimination earlier, my parents were not surprised at the severe degree of distortion in the press and elsewhere. However, this was my first real exposure to discrimination and I could not believe nor accept what was happening. I also knew the negative claims against Japanese-Americans were not true.

A couple years before, Papa san had told us his story of leaving Japan for Hawaii. "From the time I set foot in the Territory of Hawaii in 1898, I saved my money to pay off my debt for my passage from Japan. Going into debt was the only way most of us could afford to make the trip. Then I began saving to settle down somewhere in this land that held so much promise."

"Did you like Hawaii?" I asked him, enthralled with his brave adventures and how courageously he handled adversity.

"Yes, the weather was nice but after a couple of years working in the sugar cane, I decided to go to the Territory of Alaska to see another part of the world. I found work in a coalmine in the Klondike. That was very hard work and so dirty but the pay was pretty good for that time. You already know about that harrowing time when we barely escaped the vigilantes who came to raid our camp."

"Yes," I affirmed. "That must have been a terrible experience for you."

"Yes it was, but I learned a lot. I learned first hand about prejudice and I'm grateful for the friendship of some of the hakujin, white men From that experience I learned to be more aware of others and to always strive to develop good relationships wherever I went.

"From there I decided to go to another place. I found work in another coal mine in Cle Elum in our state of Washington. But wherever I worked, I saved my money. At one point another hakujin friend advised me to invest in a $1000 New York Life Insurance policy as well as put my earnings into a savings and loan bank. That money would earn interest and grow for me. Later when I was ready I could take the money out of both accounts and buy a piece of property and build a house. So that's what I did. I was saving for the future when I could have a family."

I wanted to have my father's courage in the face of adversity, but I continued to worry about what all of this would mean for us. Intimidated by all of the propaganda, I felt increasing self-reproach for being who I was. Every time a newscaster blasted the Japanese army for the "shameful attack on Pearl Harbor and the destruction and loss of lives that resulted," I cringed. The caricatures of Japanese soldiers featured on the covers of such widely circulated magazines as Time showed them as jaundiced bespectacled men with squinty slanted eyes. They had huge, white buckteeth framed by a sardonic grin. The tiny button nose with high prominent cheekbones, and large pointed head under a miniature, grotesque military cap made the Japanese soldier look like a crazed monkey or an insane degenerate.

The December 22, 1941, issue of Time magazine contained an article, "How To Tell Your Friends From the Japs." It discussed how even an anthropologist has difficulty telling the difference between Chinese and Japanese people. Some examples were that Chinese are taller and slimmer, not as hairy, and their facial expressions are more placid, kindly, and open. In Washington, D.C., a journalist wore a large badge on his lapel reading "Chinese Reporter--NOT Japanese--please."

I hated what I heard and read but I couldn't help but pay attention to what was printed and broadcast over the radio. Is that how people saw me? I wondered. I wished I had never been born.

Following Japan's sweeping early victories, the perception emerged of the Japanese soldiers as evil supermen. Many editorial cartoons and other propaganda reinforced this image. I recoiled every time I saw these caricatures. I wanted to run away and hide but there was no place to go. I had a terrible feeling of guilt by association, but there was no way I could change my skin color, my eyes, my straight black hair, or my name. Shame and self loathing framed my sense of self. Yet, that's the way it was--I looked like the enemy.

I began to have frequent stomach pains. Food didn't taste good even though Mama san's cooking was always delicious. I began having nightmares with a constant theme of trying to run but my legs wouldn't work right. In some nightmares I was running down stairs and falling but never hitting bottom. Many nights I would wake up in a cold sweat, my heart pounding, gasping for breath.

Was I Japanese? Or was I American? This became the defining question I ruminated over daily. From my earliest memories, I had been both. I grew up playing hopscotch and jacks, learning kendo and ikebana. I studied U.S. History at school and Japanese on Saturday. For breakfast I ate scrambled eggs and mochi. Dinner could include fried chicken and sushi. I always felt that I was Japanese American and I belonged in America, that I was part of the group. Before December 7, 1941, it never occurred to me that I was not.

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