Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Nobuko Miyake-Stoner Interview
Narrator: Nobuko Miyake-Stoner
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: June 2, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-mnobuko-01

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

MA: Okay, so today is June 2, 2009, and I'm here in Honolulu, Hawaii, in the Japanese Cultural Center here with Reverend Dr. Nobuko Miyake-Stoner. So thank you so much for doing this interview with us, I really appreciate it.

NM: It's my privilege.

MA: So I just wanted to start by asking when you were born.

NM: I was born in February of 1952 in Hiroshima, Japan.

MA: And a little bit about your parents, where were they born, where were they from?

NM: Yes. Both of my parents were born in Hiroshima. And that was seven years after the end of the war, I was born, yes.

MA: And can you tell me a little bit about, I guess, growing up in Hiroshima at that time, the '50s and '60s? And just, I guess, in terms of rebuilding the city and I don't know, about living in, sort of, the postwar era.

NM: Right, right. My grandparents, my maternal grandparents and my mother were under the mushroom cloud on August the 6th of 1945. And it was really a miracle that they survived. They were living less than a mile from the epicenter. And I didn't know what actually happened for a long time, but I saw many, many people growing up in that city who have keloids, keloids, thick, thick burn scars in their limbs, legs and then arms and then also faces. And then as a child, I felt that something very unusual must have happened. But I felt that I should never ask a question, what happened to these people. But one day, that was a part of our school curriculum, to go to memorial museum. And then I saw all these relics and read some documents, what happened in August of 1945. And my parents, my grandparents, my relatives, never told me. Because it's just... too many of my aunties and uncles suddenly died. You know, they were doing well up until a month ago, and then suddenly they were taken to Atomic Bomb Memorial Hospital, and they never returned. And then another thing I remember is my great-aunt, her face was deformed because of these burn scars. And around August, she often told me that glass pieces still came out of her fingers and lips, and still hurts, physically, and then also mentally, spiritually. And my grandmother also told me that every August, the day comes, she still remembered the smell of this, burning bodies. The smell is still permeating, permeating the city of Hiroshima. So I feel that the war hasn't been over yet.

MA: And when you were growing up, you said that in school, you learned about what happened.

NM: Yeah.

MA: But with your family, there was no, it was not spoken of.

NM: No.

MA: So then in school -- oh, I'm sorry.

NM: Yeah. You know, in fact, I learned later that hibakusha, these victims of atomic bomb, they were told by our Japanese government not to speak ill of America, and then not to say anything bad about atomic bomb illnesses or what happened. "Because of them, the war ended, so they should be grateful, because they took a very important role to be like a sacrificial lamb, and peace came to our nation of Japan. And then America is so nice to us. So never say anything bad about America." So that's part of the reasons my family never talked about atomic bombing experience. But also, there must have been a great sense of guilt, because they had to run to the mountains to survive, abandoning all these people asking for water, asking for help. So probably deeply internalized guilt must have been there, shamed. They felt shameful to survive. So it's just layers and layers of complex emotions.

MA: And in Japan, so they were told by the government to sort of suppress or hide what they had gone through. Do you think culturally in Japan also they were sort of marginalized as well?

NM: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. In fact, my relatives told me when I was growing up, probably senior high, yeah, senior high school student, never told your friends where you were, where you were from. Because at the time of employment, at the time of marriage, especially women from Hiroshima were discriminated against by the rest of Japan. They didn't want to have us because of medical insurance effect, or they just don't want to take a risk of having people from Hiroshima to be a part of the family. They were concerned about genetic abnormality. So we were like a outcast. And then there was so much unknown about radiation illness. Because acute radiation illness, and then also, you know, those radiation illness coming to the hibakusha all of a sudden. So very unpredictable. So I do remember when, you know, it started raining, teachers told us, "Run. Run to the shelter so that you can avoid the rain." And I do remember that I had a nightmare that if I subjugate myself to rain, probably my hair might start falling. Because I heard so many stories of very disconcerting experiences hibakusha went through.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

MA: And you also, you told me, did interviews, extensive interviews with hibakusha in the '80s, I think, is that right?

NM: That's right. In early 1980s, I had about forty interviews with hibakusha. Because I really want to learn about human dimension of the atomic bombing or nuclear bombing. Because facts and figures, they wouldn't really impact people as much as human stories. And I want to believe that once we know the stories of people, we cannot kill these people. So I wanted to tell the stories of atomic bomb survivors.

MA: How do you think in Japan, I guess, from the late '50s, '60s to now, the way that Japan sort of remembers what happened, the sort of public memory of Hiroshima, how has that changed from then until now?

NM: Yeah. The number of hibakusha, the survivors, is, of course, getting smaller and smaller. So memories are fading away. And even young people in Japan, some young people in Japan do not know what happened in August 6th and 9th of 1945. It is really sad, but many younger generations do not care. That's the impression I get every time I go back to Japan. "That's things of the past, and now we are affluent, and our lives are so comfortable. Why do we have to go back to the past, to bring up these ugly and painful memories?" But if we forget that piece of history, that history will repeat again. So every time I have any opportunity, I share the stories I heard from hibakusha. But you know, I have to say, in 1975, when I first came to this country, and of course I thought that America is a Christian country, peace-loving country. So my expectation was that people would listen to the stories of hibakusha. But I was wrong. I made people, mostly Caucasian people, very, very angry. And people in the audience, when I did the presentation, told me that, "If you don't like America, why are you studying at American seminary? Go back to Japan." Or, "Remember Pearl Harbor," or, "Russians may be coming," kind of responses. So that was really a rude awakening for me.

MA: Was this when you would talk specifically about Hiroshima and about the bombing?

NM: Hibakusha, yeah.

MA: Oh, hibakusha.

NM: Yeah, that's right. I brought the drawings of hibakusha. They drew pictures of what they remember going through this terrible, terrible experience. But another thing I need to say is I interviewed forty hibakusha as I said earlier, but none of them, none of them had any, hold any grudge or any animosity. They were just so sincere in making the very earnest plea to the world, "No more Hiroshimas and no more Nagasakis." That's why they used their own resources to come to this country or go to Asian countries or European countries to tell their stories. So I'm very grateful for their conscientious effort to keep this history alive. But not with anger or hostility, but with the plea for peace.

MA: Do you think that in Japan now, how much of it is sort of the education system? I'm just wondering in terms of the way that World War II and Hiroshima are remembered. How much is that education and how the curriculum is in Japan? I'm just wondering, trying to understand why people don't want to remember or why it's being written out of, I guess, the collective memory.

NM: Right, right. I have been away from my country for so many years, for over thirty years. But I have heard that current Japanese government is quite selective of what piece of history they want to teach, especially to younger generation. And in order to have friendly, amicable relationship with this country, they are very careful about how to address the issue, and then what to tell to the children and young people in Japan.

MA: And I wonder how much of that is a legacy of the American occupation in Japan, maybe.

NM: Uh-huh.

MA: Just thinking about the relationship that was sort of formed there in the late '40s and '50s, of the American occupation and how that impacted education and how that impacted so much of what modern Japan is today.

NM: Right, right. Yeah. It's 180 degree different, postwar education is. Because up until the end of the World War II, Japanese people were taught that emperor is God. And people are like emperor's children, so absolute obedience is enforced. No question was allowed. But under General MacArthur, American values came to our country, both good and bad. And the good thing is Japan began to learn the virtue of democracy and equality and more freedom. But unfortunately, pendulum swung to the other end. Democracy, freedom, freedom became really like a license without any restraint or responsibility. "Oh, you can do anything." So people, you know, began to wonder how they were able to adjust to this new trend. And some people committed suicide, or some people decided to live in invisible prison or self-made cell like my father. And they, many of them became very resentful, those people that were not able to make adjustment. And these are the people who are, to this day, still trying to bring this nationalism back to our country in the name of loyalty, honor, and sacrifice.

MA: So you see that coming back...

NM: Oh, yes.

MA: recent times?

NM: Yeah. I guess a reaction to materialism and consumerism and no spiritual spine. Such a spiritual vacuum is in Japan. It's really pathetic. You know, I see such emptiness in the eyes of young people in Japan. Their eyes are like eyes of a dead fish. Almost like a futurelessness. Yes, they are fluent, they can do anything they wish to do. But such emptiness in their soul.

Father was a strong figure until the end of the war, you know, like the emperor was God. But now, Father doesn't have much of any authority, and even teachers are not respected. So there was no clear core values. So without vision, people perish. That's the way I see my country is becoming.

MA: And it seems like in a vacuum as well, that's where you see a resurgence in a type of nationalism.

NM: That's right, yeah, right-wing people tend to take advantage of that.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

MA: I wanted to ask you about, you mentioned your father. And if you would tell me a little bit about his story and about during the war, what you were telling me about views about the emperor and what he went through during the war and then a little bit after the war, and how he dealt with the sort of changes you were talking about.

NM: Uh-huh. My father was in his late... probably eighteen or nineteen years old when the war is coming to the end. And Japan did not have any resources, material resources or even human resources, to continue the war. And only way to put the fortress was to send young men as a kamikaze pilot. And my father was trained to be a kamikaze pilot. And he really found that as a lifelong mission, to die for his country and die for the emperor. And being such a conscientious young man, he was... he was really putting his soul into it. He was a very loyal Japanese. But very, very unfortunately, the war ended before his turn came. So many of his brother-like colleagues died, and then here he was, still living. And he, you know, lived in his self-made prison, and he lived with a tremendous sense of resentment. Resentment against new Japan, changing so rapidly. And becoming like, almost like a... I don't know how I can describe it, but just adhere to whatever U.S.A. ordered Japan to do, no spine. That was just too much for my father, yeah. So it was a very difficult transition. So in a way, he was not able to make transition at all. So anything that has a smell, taste of America, he rejected. So Christianity or any, you know, anything that has American influence, he just hated.

MA: Do you think among his generation, that was a common feeling? About new Japan, about the U.S.

NM: It's hard to say. My father was probably exceptional. So hard-headed, just like me, you know. [Laughs] So he was not able to make a transition. He was so stubborn. Because he really gave his life to his nation and to his god, the emperor. So, you know, all of a sudden, on August the 15th of 1945, emperor declared that he was a human, he just couldn't take what's happening before his eyes. Yeah, so my heart goes out to him.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

MA: I wanted to ask you, then, about the school that you attended, the Methodist school. And if you could talk a little bit about that part of your life and how you started attending the school in Hiroshima, and a little bit about the school, their curriculum and philosophy. Yeah, so if you could talk a little bit about that.

NM: My school was started by the second pastor of the church I am serving now. What a wonderful divine providence. Reverend Sunamoto, Teikichi Sunamoto served Harris United Methodist Church in Honolulu. He went back to Japan, and he was called to start school in Hiroshima. And the U.S. Mission Board sent a missionary, woman missionary, from probably Nashville or somewhere, southern part of U.S.A. She was still in her twenties, you know, hundred twenty-some years ago, this young woman missionary went to Hiroshima. And she started a school for girls and for women in a country where women and then girls were not respected. They were like second-class citizen, and then they were like, you know, almost like a slave to men. But this missionary came to my hometown, Hiroshima, to really give her life to educating, to the educating of girls and then women. So again, hundred twenty years ago, so much prejudice against American women. And she didn't have much of any support system. She was all alone. But Reverend Sunamoto and Ms. Gains, they really gave their lives to our school.

And this school is a Christian school, but amazing legacy we have. This school is committed to peace. And you can imagine, during World War II, some Japanese people threw stones to faculty members or missionaries or to students, because they thought that students and people who were part of my school were like spies. And then, of course, many American missionaries couldn't stay, and then they were deported to the U.S.A. But right after the war, some of them came back to work for the restoration of the city of Hiroshima. And again, their commitment to peace is just heartwarming, so inspiring. And they worked to help not only the victims of Hiroshima, but they also helped victims of Korea. Because amazing number of victims by atomic bombing were Korean people. They were forced to come, they were forcibly brought to Hiroshima to work as a part of the war force by Japanese military government. And then because of their ethnic background, our government didn't really pay attention to them. So they could not help but return to their country, Japan -- I mean, country, Korea. But the Korean people there, they don't welcome them because they worked for their enemy country, Japan, during the World War II, right? So they were between rock and hard place. And then these were the people, our Hiroshima Jogakuin teachers and faculty members, and then some students extended their help. So I am very grateful that I learned the virtue of service and then living life with purpose greater than ourselves.

MA: And you see that rooted in this experience you had at this school, this sort of learning about service, social justice.

NM: Oh, yes, social justice is a very important piece of our curriculum.

MA: How did you end up at the school?

NM: [Laughs] You know, this school had a... I hope still has a great reputation that if young girls graduate from this school, they will become eligible to get married to respectable young men. And their mannerism and then their language and then, you know, their aura will be appropriate for a wealthy, respectable young man. So this school is often considered by the people of Hiroshima like a prep school for a successful, happy marriage. That's my mother's wish, to send me to that school. But, you know, I didn't really prepare myself for that wish my mother had, but rather, I got involved in, you know, social service activities and organizing people to do something to help others. So I was very busy with the extracurricular activities.

MA: And how did your father feel about you attending this school?

NM: Oh, my father didn't like it at all. So my father didn't really support me financially or in any sense of the word. He was not there, he was not giving me any blessings because this school was established by U.S. missionary. And then so many Americans, and then also some British missionaries were serving this school, teaching us the Bible, and teaching us literature and then telling us what the world is like. The world is much larger than Hiroshima, or Japan. So they were really the breath of fresh air. And then they really influenced me that there is more to life than serving tea and then, you know, catering to whatever Japanese men tell me. So this school was a very important part of who I am today.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

MA: And you mentioned you came to the United States in 1975.

NM: That's right.

MA: And how did you, can you talk a little bit about your journey to the United States and how that happened and what motivated you to come here?

NM: After I graduated from my Hiroshima Jogakuin, my college, I worked for the president of Hiroshima University as an official correspondent. But part of my work was serving tea, and after work, going to drinking places with my colleagues. And I didn't really feel that that's my calling, so I was not a very sociable colleague. And I started studying and then reading all sorts of books. And I felt that I really need to develop my potential, and then I really want to see the world beyond Hiroshima and Japan. And that was 1974. The Bishop, who is the top person of Rocky Mountain Annual Conference of the United Methodist church, came to Hiroshima for a commissioning service. And my missionary teacher was supposed to help them to help Bishop and Mrs. Greeley to go to places. But she became ill, so that responsibility came to me. And Bishop asked me many questions. And without really knowing how important person he was, I was just talking about my concern about Japan, and then concern about the state of girls and then women, and then concern about such closed society Japan has become. And while he was leaving, he told me that if I wanted to pursue my education in the U.S.A., write to him, that's what he said. So I did, and he opened the door to go to the U.S.A. to further my education. But, of course, when I told my father that I would be going to the U.S.A., my father told me that that's the last day I would have anything to do with him. And since then, he never talked to me. So I was ostracized. I became a disgrace to him and his family.

MA: And you ended up in Denver, is that right?

NM: That's right.

MA: And what was your school and what was the name of it?

NM: Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado.

MA: And were you, were there other Japanese students there at the time?

NM: I don't remember. Just a few Korean students and just a few students from Africa.

NM: And the school administration people did not know how to handle us, yeah. But it was a difficult, difficult adjustment for me. I didn't have much of a command of English, and I didn't know anything about the U.S.A. I lived in the dormitory, and next door was a tall, husky male U.S. student, and my, I was scared to death. So I think my anxiety level went very high. Not a day passed without kicking and screaming. But, you know, I burned my bridge behind me, so I was not able to go back to Japan. So I needed to graduate from seminary no matter what.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

MA: What about your impressions about the U.S. in general, about race relations in the U.S. at the time, or just things about U.S. culture that you remember when you first arrived?

NM: I was overwhelmed. I was overwhelmed by spaciousness and, yeah, material wealth. And then also individualism. That was shocking for me. You know, attending a seminary class, I was asked, like other students, "What is your perspective? What do you think about this or that theologians?" And that was not the way I was raised in Japan. Always repeating or summarizing other people's thoughts, that was the way Japanese education goes. But here, the professor always asked us our own thoughts. So that was refreshing, but at the same time, frightening. Because in Japan, that was not allowed, to speak up your own mind. Always obeying the authority, so oh, that was fascinating but frightening. And then another thing I remember is students called their professors by their first name. That was not acceptable in my country. And they were like friends. I just didn't know what to do about it. Yeah, so many, many surprises. And then directness. People speak to each other by, you know, looking at people's eyes. And then so, you know, close to each other when they communicate each other. Those things were just so frightening. And then they hug each other and then so much physical contact. So everything was frightening and shocking and refreshing at the same time.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

MA: And then after you were in school, then what did you do after you graduated?

NM: After I graduated from Iliff School of Theology, I went back to Japan with my hope that a church or a school might hire me with my master in education. But door after door was closed, because I was too Americanized. My thoughts are too dangerous. I was too opinionated.

MA: As a woman, I'm sure.

NM: Yeah, as a young woman. And they didn't want to have me. And they told me that if I was serious about working for a Japanese educational institution, I have to go to graduate school there in Japan. "So there's no place for you." That's the bottom line message I received. And, of course, there was no place in my family circle. So I was really in trouble. And I wrote one of my senior ministers when I took an internship. There were so many wonderful senior ministers, and I took an eight-month internship in Hawaii, Kailua United Methodist Church. And then Dr. Ken Haviland wrote me back, "If you really want to come back to the U.S.A., there is a place for you. But there's one condition. Condition is, study towards ordination to become a minister." And then, you know, those days, still in the '70s, right, I seldom see women ministers, even Caucasian women ministers were so rare. And you know, to be a Christian itself was so disgraceful for my father, and then myself becoming a minister? What a greater sin. What's more greater than that for my father? So I really resisted. But I had to survive, so I told Reverend Haviland, "Yes, I will pursue my education." And I was enrolled at Claremont School of Theology in California. Oh, it was hard, hard. Transition again, and academic expectation and the standard was very high. Yeah, so I had about thirteen black coffee, cups of coffee every day just to keep up with the classwork.

And then every time I received scholarship from people of Kailua United Methodist Church, I wrote a letter. And I asked Reverend Haviland, "I want to know who are these people who are giving me money, because I may not be able to graduate within two or three years. I'm a slow learner. So tell me who are giving me money." But Reverend Haviland said, "No question should be asked. I am going to deliver this letter to people, so don't worry." And then I graduated, and then I insisted, who these donors were. And Dr. Haviland told me, "It's not a group of people. It's only one person." And then I said, "That's unreasonable," you know. Because when I said "yes" to this scholarship, there was no cap. So that could mean hundreds and thousands of dollars, right? Until I graduate from this school, the money was guaranteed. So that's just too good to be true. But Dr. Haviland said, "Yes, that's the case." And then later I learned this was a Japanese American woman, second generation. She too wanted to pursue her higher education, but then Pearl Harbor happened and there was no school in Hawaii who was willing to admit her. She wanted to become a medical doctor, but no school. And her father told his daughter that, "Give up such a stupid dream. You are Japanese. This is a wartime. No school would like to have you. And being Japanese is a shameful thing, and then you, a woman, becoming a doctor? That's just improbable. So give up your dream or you will have nothing to do with me anymore." Doesn't this sound familiar? But this woman was just as hard-headed as I am, and she could not abandon her dream. She wrote the letter to other medical schools on the mainland, but no money, no scholarship, no school was willing to admit her. So she had to abandon her dream, and she became a successful realtor. And she made money, but she never was able to become a medical doctor. And I came along, Dr. Haviland mentioned my name, and she did not -- and even to this day -- she does not know me. But she wanted another woman to fulfill her dream, and she gave her money to me. So I was able to become a minister.

So, you know, Megan, my ministry is really my returning gratitude to those people who helped me to become who I am today. And when I came to this country, Bishop Wheatley and Mrs. Wheatley were so kind. And out of busy schedule they really took time to teach me what American culture was like, you know. And many, many fellow students took time to teach me English. So my life as a minister is really giving thanks to God, who gave me the blessing of all these kindnesses that came with these people.

MA: Wow, what a story, incredible story.

NM: I am grateful. And then this Margaret Date never allowed me to come to see her. And then she kept telling to Dr. Haviland, "No string is attached to this money. So, Nobuko doesn't have to come to see me." And that's what she told Dr. Haviland. It's almost like an unconditional love.

MA: And that money, you know, so you... at Claremont School of Theology you finished and you went on to, you were telling me, to Denver, is that correct? To the Simpson United Methodist in Denver.

NM: Uh-huh.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

NM: You know, after my graduation, I was appointed to a church in California. Yeah, California. And I served Japanese-speaking congregation in California. [Interruption] But that was quite a challenging time. Because they have never had woman minster before, and woman minister who was young enough to become pregnant. That was very difficult. They just didn't know what to do with a pregnant minister.

MA: And this was the congregation you're talking about?

NM: That's right, that's right. Yeah, so, you know, I received blackmail, and then even some members of the church committee said that I should not really show happiness because there are people who cannot become pregnant, and it's not really appropriate for a minister to be pregnant to begin with. "Remember, Jesus has never become pregnant, so it is not appropriate for a minister to become pregnant. Remember Jesus." So, yeah, it was a difficult time. So I needed to wear a tight sash around my abdomen not to show my change, physiological change. So morning sickness was hard, but I needed to be strong. Yeah, "strong" in their terms. And sometimes I was kind of forced to carry bucketful of water from the first floor to the second floor, but the child within me was so strong, and she did cling to me, and I never had miscarriage. My husband came from Three Mile Island area. You may remember that there was a nuclear power plant accident, and then there was a leak.

MA: In the early '80s, I think.

NM: That's right, that's right. So... and then I am a second generation of hibakusha from Hiroshima, so I was really scared that there might be a possibility of genetic abnormality. So I prayed every day, every day that the child I have is a healthy, spirit-filled life. So when the baby came, we named our child after this spirit-filled person, her name was Akiko Yosano. So our first child is named Akiko. And then Akiko Yosano was one of the first female pacifists at the turn of twentieth century.

MA: And your daughter is continuing that legacy.

NM: That's right, yes. And then Akiko is now at the seminary called Pacific School of Religion preparing to become a minister. Yes, so I am very, very grateful.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

MA: And then you've been in, you spent some time in Denver, you went back to Denver, right? To the Simpson United Methodist Church, and then also you were telling me as, in another position as well. And I was wondering if you could talk about your time in, back in Denver.

NM: Uh-huh, yes. I was appointed to a Japanese church in Denver. That was 1992. And I learned about the legacy of Governor Carr. As you know, that, you know, after Executive Order 9066, Roosevelt's executive order, Japanese and the Americans of Japanese ancestry were sent to ten concentration camps. And Governor Carr was, if I remember it correctly, was the only governor in the western part of U.S.A. to welcome Japanese and Japanese Americans. And many went to Colorado, and then they established their community there. And there's a strong Buddhist temple and a strong Japanese Christian church there, and that's the church I served for seven years, yeah. And then this church is amazing church, to keep Japanese legacy alive. And not just a cultural legacy, but also what Governor Carr did for the Japanese community. So every year they celebrated that legacy. And then as you know, Governor Carr was called "Jap Lover" during the war. And then because of his holy boldness, he lost the election. And then his later days were very miserable, difficult days. But the Japanese community in Colorado really respect what the governor did. And thanks to Governor Carr, there is a strong group who keeps the history of concentration camp, and the struggles Japanese community went through during the war, alive. And then they have various activities and programs. And it was a learning experience for me.


MA: How was your experience different in terms of working with the community and your congregation?

NM: You know, I was a little bit more experienced as a minister. And I was more equipped with skills in dealing with the sexism, so it was easier being in Colorado. And also, you know, there was a group of people who were more supportive of women in leadership. So I was able to form a support system, and that was very helpful. And then not only just within the Christian community, but with Buddhist people, and with the community beyond religious organizations. So I was able to befriend much larger community of Colorado, and then that really helped me grow in spirit, and then also in knowledge of how the system works. Yeah. And you may know that Mr. Bill Hosokawa, he was a tremendous help. And then he helped us to develop a worship service to tell the history of Japanese in Colorado during the war and then after the war. And that sort of thing really brought people together in Denver. Yeah, so I was very grateful for such a, you know, diverse experience. So yes, I did pastor work there, but I was able to be invited to do community work. So I really enjoyed my time in Colorado. And of course my years in California are learning and growing experiences in various ways.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

MA: And then you've recently moved to Hawaii.

NM: That's right, yeah.

MA: Three years ago.

NM: Yeah, that's right. And then after my time in this Japanese church in Colorado, I was appointed as a district superintendent. And I served about forty, forty-four churches in Denver metropolitan area. It was a really challenging experience. Many different ethnic churches I served. And then, of course, you know, I was challenged in various ways because I was an immigrant Asian woman minister in that leadership position. So many seasoned Caucasian male ministers challenged me and trained me in various ways, yeah. But you know, that was really a good exposure to learn about how other ethnic churches operate, and then how Caucasian churches do ministry.

MA: What are some things that you noticed? Some differences, I guess.

NM: Of course, it was tremendous differences. There is... what do you call it? A subculture in ethnic churches. So even though all these churches are under the umbrella of United Methodist church, but their rules and regulations are not necessarily applicable to these ethnic churches. So they have their own set rules, and being outsider myself, just went into those ethnic churches without really knowing their rules. So it was like stepping on minefields. So it's a really frightening time. And some of them are Tongan congregations, and very male-centered culture they are. So it's very difficult to see women in that position, district superintendent. Until we were able to build the trust, it was a difficult time to really be accepted. So very time-consuming, but at the end of the sixth year, our term is six to eight years. So at the end of sixth year, I felt that people were much more open and then welcoming, and then we were able to do ministry together. So I felt that love that knows no bounds.

MA: And then from there, you came to Hawaii.

NM: That's right, that's right.

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<Begin Segment 11>

MA: And I'm just thinking of the demographics of Hawaii, so much different than Colorado, being majority Asian population here and how, what your impressions were of Hawaii and how you sort of felt here.

NM: Uh-huh, yeah. Until I came to Hawaii this time, no matter where I went to on the mainland, I was always minority. So, you know, I had kind of a sense of entitlement, or I am always very unique. Even though hard for me to find a place in a Caucasian-dominant community, and yet, many church meetings, they always created a room for me to share my stories and then to give some leadership. But here in Hawaii, I am one of many, many Asian people. So I felt my sense of entitlement was kind of crushed, and I am not unique at all. [Laughs] So it's a humbling experience. So I am learning Asian culture and Japanese Hawaiian culture here.

And then interesting thing I learned was I asked when I first came, my church members, "Tell me about your ethnic background. Are you Japanese Americans? Are you Chinese Americans?" And then all of them said, "No. I am Hawaiian." "Oh, so you are Chinese Hawaiian, right?" "No, I am Hawaiian." And I asked him, "What do you mean by that?" There is not much distinction among different ethnic groups. But, of course, I am finding out more and more, there is a pecking order. But there is much more lenience or tolerance here in Hawaii than on the mainland. So it is kind of difficult for me to hear racial discriminatory phrases and language here among Hawaiian people. But they kind of enjoy putting each other down. So there must be a very, you know, unique sense of togetherness or community among all these different racial ethnic groups.

MA: And tell me a little bit about the church.

NM: This church was established about 120 years ago by a Japanese minister named Reverend Kanichi Miyama. And as you know, contract laborers were sent from Japan. And Japanese laborers were here, but because of linguistic and cross-cultural difficulties, these laborers, Japanese laborers, were really lost. And fellow countrypeople, countrymen in San Francisco were very concerned about Japanese laborers working on the sugar plantations in Hawaii. So they sent Reverend Kanichi Miyama to establish a Christian community here. And Reverend Kanichi came to start Bible study and fellowship group, and he managed to invite consul-general from Japan, Mr. Ando. And Mr. and Mrs. Ando became Christians. And they were really influential, of course, and this group became strong. That's the beginning of our church. And I understand that the Harris Church is the oldest Japanese church. But now, six or seven different languages are spoken, and it became a multiracial church.

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<Begin Segment 12>

MA: Well, is there anything else that you would like to share, or any other stories?

NM: You know, I feel that... both good and bad, but especially painful dark pieces of history need to be remembered and passed on. Not for any particular race or group to hold a grudge, but let the forthcoming generations to remember those stories, so that that dark piece of history will not be repeated. So that's something I really long for.

And then, you know, it is just so ironic that my father was trained as a kamikaze pilot, and then I am a daughter of a kamikaze pilot. And then I came to this country, and then I am now living in Hawaii. And then my house is so close to Pearl Harbor. In fact, through my home, through the window, I can see Arizona museum. And then I don't think this is coincidence, this is God's providence, yeah. And then I am still trying to discern what this really means. The beginning of the war with Pearl Harbor, and then end of the war, Hiroshima. These are all in me. That's something I am reflecting on. And then my life being transformed with the kindness of American people. And now I have two biracial children, they are the people for the new future. So lot to think about.

MA: A lot to think about, and your interview has given me a lot to think about, and I think anyone who listens to it will give them a lot to think about as well. So thank you so much for sharing your stories and your life lessons. I feel like I've learned so much from listening to you.

NM: You are so gracious, thank you.

MA: Thank you very much.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.