Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: James Yamazaki Interview
Narrator: James Yamazaki
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Van Nuys, California
Date: February 4, 2005
Densho ID: denshovh-yjames-01-0015

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: So you graduated from UCLA about 1939, and you entered Marquette med school. Around this period you also enlisted or volunteered to join the reserves, is that correct?

JY: Well, the war was going on in Asia, and the local situation of the anti-Japanese feeling was getting stronger. And in '37, Japan was in turmoil, and then they bombed the U.S. naval ship Panay and actually sunk it, I think. And it looked like reason for war then, but it didn't happen. It was getting closer and closer, we felt. And then in '41, in the early summer, there was an embargo first on steel and then on oil, and we thought, gee, there's no, it was certainly going to a war. So right after the embargo when I went back to school in the fall, I responded to the... I filled out an application to the armed forces as a reserve.

TI: And so did they accept you?

JY: Yes, we had to fill out special application, because the question about my dual citizenship. And I guess they made further inquiries.

TI: And when you say dual citizenship, it was common when Niseis were born in the United States, that automatically they would be given, or would also have both U.S., because they were born in the United States, but also Japanese.

JY: Oh, it wasn't automatic. The parent had to go to the Japanese consulate and state that the offspring was born here in the United States, and they requested dual citizenship. I think it was something like that.

TI: Well, I think actually what happened was they were automatically given citizenship. The parents actually had to petition the Japanese consulate to take away the Japanese citizenship so that they would have single citizenship.

JY: Oh, is that what it was?

TI: Because probably in the case for you, the U.S. army would not have accepted you if you had dual citizenship.

JY: But I think the first step is making known to the Japanese government you're born. And then that almost indicated that you would automatically be a citizen.

TI: Yeah, so I'm not an expert, but I know that there was some point that parents -- and this happened during this period you're talking about -- a parent or you would have to petition the Japanese government to be taken off.

JY: Oh, yes, exactly.

TI: And so someone had kind of done that for you.

JY: Yes.

TI: And was that you?

JY: No, my father, of course.

TI: And he did this when... do you remember when he did that?

JY: It was in the '20s, somewhere in the '20s or '30s, maybe in '30s. I have the exact paper, because the government, United States government, wanted to have the document that stated that the citizens, my Japanese citizenship had been withdrawn. So there's a number on their books that I'm no longer a citizen of Japan.

TI: Yeah, I should probably read more about this, but I think, yeah, it's confusing. Because one of the... some people have criticized Japanese Americans because many of the Niseis had dual citizenship, and part of that was it wasn't because they really wanted it, it was like almost automatically done, and they had to then do this bureaucratic step to take away the Japanese citizenship. And so many of them just didn't take those extra steps.

JY: I think that wasn't a single situation between Japan and America, but other countries had... if American parents gave birth to a child in a foreign country, many countries had the law that they would be given, granted citizenship in that country.

TI: Right, okay.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.