Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Irene Najima Interview
Narrator: Irene Najima
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: August 4, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-nirene-01-0012

<Begin Segment 12>

MA: So let's talk about, then, December 7, 1941, the day that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. And can you talk about, I mean, you were fourteen, thirteen at the time?

IN: Thirteen, fourteen.

MA: Yeah, what do you remember about that day and hearing about the news that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor?

IN: I guess it was sort of unbelievable. I couldn't believe it, that my father's native country had declared war on America. I didn't, I felt uncomfortable because I was of Japanese descent. And when I went to school the next day, I was a bit uncomfortable. We happened to have a -- I was in the ninth grade then -- and we happened to have a principal by the name of Mrs. Dinwiddy, and she was very understanding. And of course, she made the announcement that we were born in America, and we were Americans, and she reminded the students. And at the time, I appreciated that. But I did feel uncomfortable ever after that. I never felt natural. And of course, when we pledged allegiance to the flag, to say the least, I was confused. There was utter confusion in my mind. That here I was, pledging allegiance to the flag, and my father's country, because he was not a citizen, had declared war. A great amount of conflict, not really understanding.

MA: What about your parents? What was their immediate reaction?

IN: And I'm going to be frank about this. My father thought that Japan would win. Because they were not permitted citizenship, and because they were not able to be accepted by the Caucasian community. I must say, their allegiance was more to Japan, and he thought Japan would win.

MA: Did you notice a difference in the way that the Caucasians treated you after Pearl Harbor? Maybe not in school, but in the town?

IN: We didn't mix very much. We really did not mix too much with the Caucasian community. We didn't attend any of the social events, the restaurants, the community events, you know, where they gathered in the park, none of that. We knew our place. And confrontation is not fun.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.