Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Aiko Yoshinaga Herzig Interview
Narrator: Aiko Yoshinaga Herzig
Interviewers: Larry Hashima (primary), Glen Kitayama (secondary)
Location: University of California, Los Angeles
Date: September 11, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-haiko-01-0002

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AH: Therefore, when I joined this group I was amazed that these senior citizen ladies were willing to go out in the streets and shout and let the government know, "We don't like what you're doing and we're part of this country and you're, with our tax money, you're carrying on this unwanted war." Well, I decided I'd take the plunge and join one of these marches. And I was just as nervous as a cat. You know, walking down the streets of New York, carrying a placard, having so many people on the sidewalks watching you and taunting you. And especially if you're Asian, you know, they are saying nasty things like, you know, "Go back to where you came from," and, "What do you gooks think you're doing?" Things like that. It was terrifying for me.

And wouldn't you know, the first march I ever did in Greenwich Village, they had a picture of the march, quite a large picture, and who is in the picture in the middle of the picture? Me. And I thought, "Oh-oh. Wonder what is my family is going to say?" Sure enough, my family was not very pleased, the rest of my sisters, siblings -- not very pleased with what I was doing. They were a good, quiet Christian family, wonderful people, but they thought I was always very hard to handle, and here I go again. Black sheep of the family, involving myself in activities that would be frowned upon by the rest of the community, most likely. And my sister very quietly let me know that she thought, "What are you doing? Don't you know what you're doing is going to affect the rest of us? How do you think I'm going to feel when I go to church?" That kind of quiet pressure. But it... they realized that that's just not going to stop me, because I felt that I was, what we were doing was right. But it was an experience. I learned from these people because they were just full of the world in their heart. All these people in the Triple A, I learned so much from each member, and I would say, as I started to say earlier before this interview, that they turned my head, my thinking.

And that, I'm sure, had the most effect -- my connection -- on starting to think about our own experience back in wartime, and why did it happen, and what we were suffering from as a result. I never really thought that much about it. In the first place, of course, I was raising children and it was pretty busy. Survival was the main concern right after the war. But it was, the Triple A experience is the thing that triggered my becoming what some people call activist. The Triple A had also instituted a program, an annual program to commemorate Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. That was a great thing, I thought. You know in New York City, what we did was, started with the churches, and said, "Can we, can we use the church for just a program?" And I think the Japanese community, as small as it was in New York City, looked a little askance at this group, because of the kinds of issues they, they were interested in, and because, particularly because of the lack of hesitancy to protest publicly about many government actions. And because my family was so closely associated with the church there for so many years, and since I had been a member of the church, it was a little -- we got access to the church a little easier because the good, connection with my family. And through that, though, you know, we were able to recruit a few people who belonged to the church, and saw the righteousness of their (AAA) objectives in dealing with some of these problems, at least to talk about it, to try to understand it, and then protest if necessary.

So this movement to commemorate Hiroshima and Nagasaki continued annually after that, and I thought that was another very good thing that the Triple A had initiated, and made Japanese Americans aware. Not only Japanese Americans, but primarily Japanese Americans who were pretty indifferent about a lot of things. And since you don't have the kind of population of Japanese Americans in New York that you have in the West Coast, it is hard to get a feeling of community there. Many of the people (who) used to live in New York City, Manhattan, have moved, had moved out to the suburbs, like they have from L.A., too. But there were not enough in number of the Japanese American to give you a great feeling of roots of community. So of course, the church served -- the Buddhist church there and the Christian church -- served as a central point of meeting and of holding gatherings in New York City.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.