Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Frank Miyamoto Interview IV
Narrator: Frank Miyamoto
Interviewers: Alice Ito (primary), Tatsuya Fukunaga (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: July 7, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-mfrank-04-0030

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FM: You read Japanese novels and, or you read, well, think of another thing... one thing that I used to notice about Japanese movies, at least the old-time movies -- I'm not sure what they're like now. Old-time Japanese movies, things moved so slowly. Why, people's faces changing gradually and action is taking place, it's so boring to watch this slow development of what's happening. For Japanese that's very important. You have to have time in order to sense what the other person feels and he thinks and so on, and so you move slowly, you go through a lot of formality in order to cover up what's going on internally. Internally, what you're trying to get is a better sense of what the other person is, what my feeling towards him is, you know, this kind of... this is not required in American relationships. In American relationship you go at it directly, much more directly, and if things come to a conflict, okay, then you deal with the conflict. Japanese avoid conflict and they relate to each other. Now, what I'm trying to get at is that Nisei, curiously, Sansei, I think, have absorbed something of this style of relationship. It's almost inevitable because this kind of transmission of a style of relating takes place at the level of mother handling an infant. And it's the way the mother handles the infant that makes the difference as to what kind of attitude you develop with regard to relating to the other person. I can tell you some studies that, very interesting in this regard, that, for example, one study a friend of mine has done finds that Japanese mothers, with respect to an infant of one year old, is very much concerned to react to the child, carry it more than American mothers, react to the child, than is the American mother. The American mother will let the child play for itself and do what it will, give it much more independence, so to speak, than will the Chinese -- Japanese mother. Japanese mothers are constantly more aware of the child and not only aware of it, but aware in a way different from, let us say, Chinese mothers. Chinese mothers are also aware of their children but if something happens that they want to correct, they will say, "Now, do this or that," there's a kind of adult mastery, control of the situation that is absent in the Chinese -- Japanese mother. Japanese mother does not control in the commanding sense but rather tries to adjust with, if the child's tendency is in that direction and that's not desirable, then move him away, or if the child's direction is that way and you want to develop it then help move him, there's a kind of interaction that goes on with the Japanese in which the Japanese mother has to sense, so to speak, what is going on in the baby, infant, and this is the character of Japanese handling of babies, transmitted to the Nisei, and transmitted by Sansei to Yonsei. It's a curious kind of socialization process.

Anyway, when you get that kind of relating to people sympathetically, as I'm describing, you get a stronger sense of tie of relationship, even in a matter of half a year or a year than is true if you simply go at it this way. So, Japanese relations are stronger over the long run than is the relationship of non-Japanese. And you know, it always has surprised me how groupie the Japanese people are. Anytime they do things, something, there's group of people doing this or that and so on. You see these congre-, in tour groups that come from Japan, there's a groupieness. And the thing that always impressed me was that in the Japanese samurai pictures, the, you know, the West, Japanese Western pictures, when an action takes place, sometimes there's the swordsman fighting against the swordsman, but, most commonly there's a group of guys who run this way, a group of guys going that way, group of guys tackling each other. There's a groupieness of the Japanese. It's, in that Seven...

TF: Seven Samurai?

FM: Yeah. Kurosawa's Seven Samurai. [Laughs] You know, there's a group of people. In the American people, picture, what is it? What happens? If there's gonna be a showdown, here's a cowboy on this end, here's a cowboy over here and they get their guns out and shoot at each other. One man against one man, you know. That's not the way... well, they also have groups of guys. The Seven Samurai was transformed into an American movie of a sort. So, you have groupieness, but, more typically, the shootoff between Americans is one man against the other man. Japanese almost never so, group of people doing this, group of people doing, well, the groupieness comes from this kind of background that I'm talking about, trying to sense of what the other person... so, and the reason why you want to sense this is that you want to avoid conflict and you get, so to speak, agreement with the other person before you act on anything. And so, therefore, in Japanese politics you don't get the senator standing up and saying this, and I believe this and this and this and you better do this and this and this, and you don't get senators conflicting. You have, before all this happens, you have the senators getting together in the hotel room and discussing and then there's a man representing something but he represents a group point of view in the Japanese politics. It's a very different style of relating to each other than in the United States and then America, and the consequence is the group relationships among Nisei is really a very profound thing in, and even among Sansei, I think, curiously, very interesting.

Anyway, this is what I remember about the cannery, the relationships, the friends I made, I can't even remember some of the names, but, like Dick Yoshimura, who runs Mutual Fish, he and I go back, way back to the 1930 cannery days and we still feel, naturally, easily, related to each other and yet, I hadn't seen him for fifty years, or seventy years almost before seeing him again when he was... and this happens again and again with respect to people I worked with in the canneries. So that's the part of cannery life that I especially remember.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.