Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Muriel Chiyo Tanaka Onishi Interview
Narrator: Muriel Chiyo Tanaka Onishi
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: June 2, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-omuriel-01

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

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Okay, so Muriel, the way I start this is with the date and everything. So today is Tuesday, June 2, 2009, and we are in Honolulu, Hawaii, at the Japanese Cultural...

MO: Center.

TI: Cultural Center. Is it JCCH? Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii.

MO: Center of Hawaii.

TI: That's right. Running the camera is Dana Hoshide, and I'm interviewing, Tom Ikeda. And today we have Muriel Onishi. So Muriel, I'm going to start off at the very beginning. Can you tell me when you were born?

MO: I was born March 6, 1921, in Hilo, Hawaii.

TI: And what was the name given to you at birth?

MO: Chiyo.

TI: So Chiyo Tanaka?

MO: Tanaka.

TI: Did you have a middle name or anything like that?

MO: No.

TI: Okay, so Chiyo Tanaka, 1921, so that makes you eighty-eight years old.

MO: That's right.

TI: So that's, and that's an important year. Did you have any birthday celebrations or anything?

MO: Yes, we did. Everybody, my daughter had a surprise beiju no iwai. Beiju no iwai means eighty-eighth.

TI: And can you tell me the significance of the eighty-eighth birthday, why that's so important?

MO: Gee, I'm not sure. But I know it is, in Japan, "beiju" is considered very important.

TI: Okay, good.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: So I'm going to start first, to learn a little bit about your father. Can you tell me your father's name and where he was from?

MO: He was born in Yamaguchi-ken, Takamori-shi, as Takasuke Tanaka. When he came to Hawaii, I'm not sure exactly.

TI: And do you know what kind of work his family did in Yamaguchi-ken?

MO: Oh, he was, I think he came to Hawaii as a news reporter originally. And then he met my mother who was teaching at, was a student at Hilo Dokujitsu Gakkou.

TI: Okay, so let's talk a little bit about your mother. So what was your mother's name?

MO: My mother's name is Wakimoto Haru.

TI: And do you know where she grew up or where she was born?

MO: She was born in Etajima, Japan, Hiroshima. Etajima in Hiroshima.

TI: And you mentioned that she met your father in Hawaii. Why did she come to Hawaii?

MO: I think they do extracurricular, and she was a student, actually, Dokujitsu Gakkou, under Dr. Minoru Shinoda's father. So she was there, and then my father was a news reporter, I think he was a news... and then they met at Dokujitsu Gakkou.

TI: Now, I read someplace where one of the reasons your mother came was to look for a brother in Hawaii?

MO: That's right, yes. Her oldest brother, Kashiro Wakimoto, was, left Japan. But he started a noodle factory in Hilo. Saimin or noodle, whatever you call it. And then he was very successful. So she came to look for him from Hiroshima. And I'm not sure how long, he became ill and he passed away. He had three children. But in the meantime, she met my father also in Hilo.

TI: And do you know how the two of them met, your mother and father?

MO: I'm not sure.

TI: But it seems like they ended up doing similar type of work, teaching Japanese?

MO: Something like that.

TI: So about what year did they get married?

MO: Well, I was born in 1921, and I think... 1919 or 1920.

TI: Okay. And let's talk a little bit about your siblings. So they were married in 1919, 1920, and then you were the first child? After you, who else...

MO: My brother Akira, who is, moved from California to Hawaii now, and he's settled in Hawaii now. But I had another brother, Kisanari. I'm not sure whether he was in between or after Akira. That I'll have to check.

TI: And then what happened to this other brother?

MO: He caught pneumonia or something and he got sick and passed away.

TI: And so he did this when he was a young child?

MO: Yes, uh-huh.

TI: And what's the age difference between you and Akira?

MO: I think about two or three years. Two years in between.

TI: Okay, so he was probably born in, like, 1923 or so.

MO: Yes, uh-huh. My brother used to, Akira, the one here, he was born in 1923.

TI: Good.

MO: So Kisanari must have been younger, older. [Laughs] Younger.

TI: That's good.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: Now, you said that you were born in Hilo, Hawaii. And so what were your parents doing in Hilo, Hawaii, when you were born?

MO: I had no idea what I was going to...

TI: No, I'm sorry, not what you were, but your parents. What were they doing in Hilo?

MO: They were teachers.

TI: What kind of teachers were they? What did they do?

MO: I think they were language school teachers, Japanese school.

TI: And do you know what the name of the school that they taught at?

MO: Well, they are, the first school, Dr. Shinoda, Dr. Shinoda, they were boarding there, and then they, I suppose, like a superintendent or something. But they got them together and then assigned them to teach at Waiakea Japanese, Waiakea Uka, sugar cane country, I guess. That's where they were, the first appointment was over there, and they were teaching there. I guess that's when one of my brothers were born. But I cannot tell you exactly. But they were doing a good job, and so the superintendent, whoever that was, appointed him to, them, to go to Wahiawa.

TI: Okay. So Wahiawa is actually in... so they went from Hilo, the Big Island, to Oahu?

MO: I think they were teaching at Ola Japanese school in Hilo.

TI: Uh-huh. And then also the Shinoda was also in Hilo.

MO: They were the ones in Hilo, yes.

TI: Okay. So they were teaching in Hilo, that's when they had you. And then they moved over to Oahu, and that's when Akira was born?

MO: Yes.

TI: Okay. And you mentioned teaching, but I think your father more than just the teacher. Wasn't he the principal of these schools?

MO: I think he was, yeah. In fact, they were in Hilo, and they were teaching at Waiakea.

TI: Uh-huh, so Waiakea Uka Japanese school.

MO: Japanese school.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: So before we talk more about your parents' work, I want to try to get a little sense about what they were like. If you were to describe your father, how did people describe your father? What was he like?

MO: I think he was not a very healthy person, 'cause he went to Japan and he got sick and passed away. But I guess they were more like professional teachers, both of them were teachers. My mother used to teach ikebana, ohana, sewing and craft work. And those are the things at Dr. Shinoda's school, she used to teach those things.

TI: But what about their personality? If you were to describe your father's personality, what would that be like?

MO: I cannot say because I was too young.

TI: How about stories from other people? How would they, if anyone came up to you or they came up to you later and said they knew your father, do you know how they would describe him?

MO: No, I can't answer.

TI: Okay. How about your mother? How would you describe your mother?

MO: My mother was very caring, always trying to cover up for whatever... I think my father must have been a very strict...

TI: So why do you say that? Why do you think your father was strict?

MO: Typical principal.

TI: And you were saying that sometimes your mother had to, maybe, help him because he was so strict?

MO: I think so, uh-huh.

TI: And do you have any kind of story or example of your mother helping?

MO: Well, he got sick and he went to Japan, and he never came back.

TI: No, I was thinking more, though, like when your father was maybe so strict that maybe your mother had to do something to maybe intervene or help out in that way?

MO: Gee, I'm too young to remember those.

TI: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: So about how old were you when your father passed away?

MO: Must have been about four or five, five, six.

TI: Okay, so it was, you were quite young. Do you recall anything in terms of the impact on your mother when your father left for Japan and didn't come back? Was that hard for her?

MO: Anyway, he wasn't a healthy person.

TI: So when your father left, he was the principal of the school. And so when he didn't come back, your mother then became the principal?

MO: Uh-huh.

TI: So tell me about that. I mean, why would your mother become principal?

MO: That was, they were, in fact, in Wahiawa, they had, I remember now. They were having lot of... what's the word for it? Trouble in the, the membership, the parent membership, Fukeikai was, some of 'em liked him, some of 'em didn't like him. So they were... gee, I'm not sure what to say, how to say it. Mondai ga attan desu yo ne. [Laughs]

TI: That's okay. We'll look it up.

MO: Yeah, so they went through, my father went through a lot of, between the parents, you know, the PTA, because they didn't like him, or some of 'em liked him. And my mother was in between trying to help. So she went through that, trying to support him and trying to support the parents.

TI: That's interesting. So do you recall what the complaint was from the parents when they, when they thought about your father...

MO: I don't exactly, because I was too young to remember him.

TI: But was it maybe he was too strict or something like that?

MO: I'm not sure why.

TI: But so your mother was kind of the in-between.

MO: Yes.

TI: But then after your father left, she then was assigned or appointed to be the principal?

MO: In fact, the parents asked her to be the principal.

TI: So it sounds like your mother was popular with the parents.

MO: Yes, uh-huh. She was smart, too.

TI: Okay. I've done quite a few interviews, and when you mentioned your mother's background, it's not that common to have an Issei woman as educated as your mother. Was that uncommon, or how would you describe Issei women in this area? Were other women as educated as your mother?

MO: I'm not sure. But she graduated from a women's college in Hiroshima. I guess probably that had something to do. Hiroshima Jogakuin. It's a well-known women's college in Japan.

TI: Okay. So let's move and talk about you a little bit now, in terms of, so tell me what schools you went to growing up.

MO: In Hilo I went to Waiakea Uka elementary school. And then my father would drive me to, oh, one thing I really remember was that he was very good about taking me to Sunday school. That he would drive me in this little Ford car, in those days it was a regular Ford. And then after the church ended, I would be waiting for him to pick me up. He never went to church, but it's one thing he saw to, saw to it that I went to church every Sunday, Sunday school.

TI: Now, were your parents Christian?

MO: My mother was Christian, yes.

TI: And so why, why didn't she attend church with you?

MO: I'm not sure why.

TI: And it was your father who drove you there and back. When he would do that, it was just the two of you, do you recall any, maybe, conversations or anything between the two of you when you went to church?

MO: He just dropped me at the church and then he picked me up after church. [Laughs] I remember playing hopscotch and waiting for him. [Laughs]

TI: That's a good story. Okay, so you went to Sunday school in Hilo, and then what about elementary school? In, say when you came to Oahu, which elementary school did you attend?

MO: Oh, that was Wahiawa elementary school. In fact, that's the time that one of the teachers gave me a name. She said, "Chiyo Tanaka is too, it's hard for a teacher to remember your name, so I'm going to give you an English name." And that's when she gave me this name Muriel. So I distinctly remember that that's when I got this English name, Muriel Chiyo Tanaka.

TI: And do you know how she chose that name Muriel?

MO: I don't know why.

TI: And how did you feel about it, when someone gave you another name?

MO: I felt, I felt proud, you know. [Laughs]

TI: Because it was kind of a special name?

MO: That's right. And after that, people said, "I want my name, I want an English name, too." I had a friend that said "I want Rosalee," and she said, "Oh, you be Rosalee." All of a sudden there were so many English names in there. This was the Wahiawa elementary school.

TI: Oh, that's a good story. So they all went from, pretty soon, Japanese to English names? That's a good story.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: And when you think about those days, any memories in terms of what you did in terms of play or activities at the school?

MO: I had a teacher that really took me into her, you know, care. And she would invite me to her home after... and teach me American cooking. So I was so proud of all that. And at the same time, I can't remember whether that was later on, but the same teacher thought maybe I could write some articles for the activities, journalism, you know. She didn't use the word "journalism," but can't remember the word. But she said, "Muriel, why don't you make a report about the flower show we're going to have in a few weeks?" So I started to write, so I was a journalist for a while, and I enjoyed doing that. In fact, I became a, she made the contact with the Star-Bulletin, and I was the rural correspondent for Honolulu Star-Bulletin for some time.

TI: And the Star-Bulletin was, like, the major daily, one of the major dailies for Honolulu.

MO: That's right. I was really proud of that. I felt so good about it. [Laughs] And I used to write, she would give me the plant sale over in Wahiawa, and I would go and cover it. In fact, I used to cover what's his name... the baseball coach. I used to cover baseball games, too. And I enjoyed all that. I was a good reporter. [Laughs]

TI: And so were you, like, the only reporter there? And you would send, how would you send your materials to the Star-Bulletin?

MO: I had to send it to Donald William Walker, Star-Bulletin. You ever heard of that name?

TI: No.

MO: I still remember that name, Donald William Walker.

TI: So he must have been one of the editors?

MO: Yes, uh-huh. And then he would give me a byline, you know, in the newspaper. He said, "Muriel, you did a great job. I'm going to give you byline."

TI: Wow. And what grade were you in when this was happening?

MO: Gee. I wasn't quite in the, I think I was just beginning high school.

TI: And which high school did you go to?

MO: Leilehua High School. Wahiawa elementary, Wahiawa intermediate, and then Leilehua High School.

TI: And, you know, this teacher that sort of took her under, took you under her wing, do you remember her name?

MO: I'm not really sure.

TI: So I think, in my notes I have a Virginia...

MO: Oh, Virginia Summers?

TI: Yes. Is that the name?

MO: Yes.

TI: Okay.

MO: Good for you. [Laughs]

TI: So Virginia Summers, and she was also the same teacher who also taught you American cooking? Did she do that, too?

MO: I think she did, yeah, in between. She said, "Muriel, today I'll teach you how to cook something."

TI: I'm curious, do you recall what kind of cooking she taught you? When it's American cooking, what would that be?

MO: Oh, I can't remember. One of these days I'll remember. [Laughs]

TI: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: If your classmates were to describe you if they were here, how would they describe you as a classmate or student? What would they say?

MO: Well, you know, because I was the Japanese language school teacher's daughter, that had some kind of... I don't want to be... but that had some kind of weight. In fact, even in English school, "There goes Tanaka-sensei's daughter," they can point me out, you know, while I'm walking to high school and walking back.

TI: Oh, because, so because your mother was principal at the Japanese language school, you were kind of singled out a little bit, that you were... what's the right word? Maybe had a little more status?

MO: I guess something, that's the word for it. But I didn't like it. So I would... in fact, when I see somebody standing around there, I'll hide. I didn't like people, you know...

TI: And so it was like, maybe it was like added pressure being the principal's daughter?

MO: Probably, probably.

TI: And how would that... is there an example of what that would mean? Would it be because, could you go to all the events? Or what would be an example of it being hard? Or did you have to always do really well in school, was that maybe another example?

MO: "Just, just because she's the teacher's daughter, she gets special priority, special treatment," or something. That's the kind of... every so often, somebody would say something like that which really hurts me.

TI: So there is almost like resentment or envy from other people. And so you felt like you couldn't just be one of the regular students, you always were kind of singled out.

MO: Exactly. I never said these things to anybody. [Laughs]

TI: No, this is, this is good. I think it's important that people understand the prominence of these principals of Japanese language schools. Because later on we'll talk about why they were picked up. But they were, from most communities, the leaders of the Japanese communities.

MO: That's right.

TI: And so was your mother in the same way viewed as a --

MO: It's because she was really, the consulate honored her as one of the four... you know, the honorees were picked up, I mean, they were honored. She was one of the four that was... in fact, I have a picture in that.

TI: So this was later on her life, she got this?

MO: Yes, uh-huh. She got that honor. So things like that, some of my friends resented me.

TI: How about before the war? Did she have very many contacts with the consulate?

MO: She was representing the Wahiawa.

TI: And so what would that mean? What kind of things would she do as a representative?

MO: I'm not sure. What would you say... "Soryojikan daihiro," or something like that.

TI: I don't...

MO: "Soryojikan" is a Japanese consulate. She represented in different areas. She was that person because she spoke Japanese and she could communicate with the so-called community, the higher-ups in the community.

TI: And was that harder for her because she was a woman? Because normally this was...

MO: I think she... because she lost her husband, she had to stand on her own. So she was, I think she was, she became stronger, too.

TI: Good.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: And earlier you had talked about how your father was not healthy, and then he died in Japan. After that happened, you had mentioned earlier, your mother's brother came to help? Can you just tell me about that?

MO: Uh-huh. He was a younger brother, but he felt sorry for her. Something happened... he just got married from Japan, to a woman that was the only daughter in a big family. Not a big family but.... and then they came to Hawaii. And I know husband and wife, when she's not... can't remember the words that I should use. Because she was the only daughter, she was very demanding. So my uncle felt sorry for my mother, too. They came to, they came to help my mother after my father died, to teach, to help with the school. But what happened to...

TI: Okay, so let me make sure I understand this. So after your father died, your mother's younger brother, your uncle, and your uncle's wife, came from Japan to Hawaii to help run the school.

MO: That's right.

TI: And do you know how long they stayed in Hawaii?

MO: When they came to Hawaii, they had one daughter, and then, in fact, she just passed away last, in December of this year, last year. But the next were twins, two twin boys were born. This is when my uncle and his wife came to Hawaii.

TI: And what was your uncle's name?

MO: Tadanobu Wakimoto.

TI: Good. And so he had a daughter and then twins, and then they returned to Japan after that?

MO: Later on they had to. Because my aunt, as I said, she was the only daughter, but she just didn't get along. In fact, because she was the only daughter, she was more of that, not selfish, but very demanding.

TI: And so it was hard for her to raise?

MO: Yes. And then my husband, my father -- my uncle in between, trying to cover up for both sides, you know. So they had a rough life. But they ended up going back. But one thing I remember, when the twin boys were born, that was when President Roosevelt came to Hawaii and they had a big march. So they named them Franklin and Theodore.

TI: Oh, your, I mean the...

MO: Two boys.

TI: The twins? Franklin and...

MO: And Theodore.

TI: Theodore.

MO: That was something I remembered.

TI: That's good.

MO: His boys are still living, I guess, someplace on the mainland.

TI: So Franklin and Theodore, I remember that.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: Okay, so about the time you graduated from high school, let's pick up the story there. So you graduated from high school, you, yes, and then what happened next?

MO: My uncle had gone back to Japan already, and so did my aunt. My mother was by herself, and she... oh, at that time...

TI: 'Cause this is where you had problems with your gallbladder?

MO: Yes, uh-huh, about the same time when I finished. And then doctor at Straf Clinic, they said, "You have to come in and have a gallbladder surgery," and that was going to be a big surgery. And so my uncle said, "Come to Japan, they have better doctors." So I promptly went to Japan, and then I still remember that hospital across from Japan Broadcasting Company, it's called the Ichiyo Byouin.


TI: So this was right after high school, you had problems with your gallbladder, and the doctor in Hawaii said you needed to have surgery, which would have been a very serious...

MO: It's all the way down.

TI: Right. And your uncle was the one saying, "No, you should come to Japan because there are better doctors there." I mean, was that pretty common thinking? That back then, the medicine was better in Japan than Hawaii?

MO: Yes. Because doctors in Japan were coming, educated from, in Germany. German-educated doctors in Japan, they were all going to Germany. They felt that they were more advanced in medical history. So I remember that very distinctly.

TI: And then you went to this special hospital.

MO: Yes, Ichiyo Byouin, right across from the Japan Broadcasting.

TI: Okay. And in Hawaii, they suggested doing surgery. What did they do in Japan to treat your gallbladder?

MO: Well, that's the thing. They called it the ryon kensa. They had me swallow a tube, and in five days, they cleared the gallbladder, all that gook was coming out. And I would lie down and watch the thing all coming out. They were irrigating my gallbladder. That's Japan's new way of doing that, and so I didn't have surgery.

TI: And apparently it worked really well.

MO: Yes. In fact, yes.

TI: Interesting. And so after you got well, you were in Japan, why didn't you come back to Hawaii?

MO: Okay, my uncle said, "Since you're here, why don't you do something extraordinary?" Because my major was journalism and art, he said, "Why don't you go to the women's art university?" And he made arrangements for me to attend the Women's Art College in Japan. That's where I graduated.

TI: So your uncle -- and this is the same uncle that used to live in Hawaii, who's now back in Japan. And at this point, how many children did they have?

MO: Nine. [Laughs]

TI: Nine children? And you mentioned his wife wasn't used to having...

MO: And I was just like a maid, I always, they would call me Chiichai Neechan. I would, you know, take care of them. They had a maid, but I would always help her. So it was an interesting experience for me.

TI: So while you were going to this Women's Art College, you would also be kind of the live-in housekeeper, in other words. And what was that like? Did you, was that okay?

MO: Pardon me?

TI: Did you enjoy doing that?

MO: Yes, the children, they all got attached to me. "Oneechan, itsu taberu?" They would come and ask me instead of asking their mother. They were very attached to me.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: Okay, so this is... so you went to Japan about 1939? '38/'39?

MO: No, '39 I graduated.

TI: Okay, '39 you graduated, then you went to Japan, and you said this was a three-year program. So at some point -- well, before we go to the war, when you were going to this, this Women's Art College, could people... or as a Nisei, how were you different than the other, the other girls at this college?

MO: Well, I painted, so I was able to get in. In fact, I had some lessons at Academy of Arts before I went to Japan, so the basics. And while I was an art major in Hawaii, at high school, so I had no trouble, and I enjoyed doing that.

TI: But I was thinking more in terms of, like, language. Was your language different than the Japanese women there?

MO: No, no. I spoke their Japanese language, so they had no trouble with it.

TI: And so in Japan, people couldn't tell that you were Nisei?

MO: No. The only thing they would tease me was that I walked different. I walked too fast. [Laughs]

TI: And that's how they could tell that you were Japanese, okay.

MO: In fact, there's some, we had self-portraits of all my classmates. In fact, I have it in the...

TI: Oh, that's okay. We'll just describe it. So...

MO: So we had lots of fun. We would go sketching. Today we're going to go sketching for the outside, the flowers are beautiful so we're all going to go paint. So there were twelve students in that art class, and they're all women. So we had a special name, Juunisaikai, so I enjoyed that art class with the special group of women. In fact, many years ago, they came to, some of them came to Hawaii to have a reunion here in Hawaii.

TI: Oh, that must have been special.

MO: Uh-huh.

TI: Which, as you're talking, I'm wondering how common was it for Niseis from either Hawaii or the West Coast to visit Japan during this time period? Were there very many Niseis who were in Japan?

MO: During the war?

TI: Well, right before the war. Yeah, right before the war.

MO: There were many from the mainland. But from Hawaii, not too many. But people like I was hired by the Japanese government because I spoke English and I spoke --

<End Segment 10> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: Okay, so let's talk about that. Let me do this more chronologically. So let's first talk about December 7, 1941. How did you hear about the bombing of Pearl Harbor?

MO: I was watching, in fact, radio, they announced it on the radio. "This morning at teiko fujikugun, rikukaigun, shinjiwai itte," they bombed so many warships, and that's what I heard over the radio. And I was saying, "Oh, no, what's going to happen to my family? Because that's very dangerous for.... Japanese bombers went to Hawaii to bomb. And they said, "Seikan gekichin, juuyokan gekichin." That means, "gekichin" means to, sank. So they kept on announcing it, and they would repeat and then the national anthem would play and everybody in Japan was so proud to hear all that. I still remember that very distinctly, I was watching that.

TI: And while people in Japan were really proud when they heard this, how were you feeling?

MO: I felt terrible. I felt terrible because I said, "Now, what's going to happen to my family in Hawaii?" My brother Akira and my mother was all by herself teaching school. So I was starting to worry about them. And sure enough, they, my mother was taken and interned right away because she was a teacher and she knew, she worked, supported the Japanese consulate. So she was on the blacklist.

TI: And so your mother was picked up by the FBI or somebody?

MO: Exactly.

TI: And actually interned on the mainland, so she went from Hawaii to... Texas?

MO: Texas, Crystal City.

TI: But, of course, how did you find out that your mother...

MO: Well, one day on the Red Cross newsletter, I mean, the Japanese newspaper mentioned that all the Isseis and Niseis in America were... what did, we used the word... they were not captured, but there's one word that they used. And then they named people who were, the government took over. Not kidnapped, but...

TI: Well, I guess, imprisoned or...

MO: Yes, uh-huh, something like that. And then, sure enough, I got a... in fact, I have a copy of that. But the Red Cross, according to the Red Cross, there were so many people taken by the American government, and then my mother's name was listed. And so I said, "Oh, no, what can I do now? So it was really worrying me for a while. Then the Red Cross sent me a news report that your mother is, "Ha ha buji, shinpai suru na." "Don't worry, she is well." "She is safe." That's the first time I ever, such a relief to hear that, to get that Red Cross newsletter, Red Cross report.

TI: And before you received that Red Cross report, what did people think was going to happen to these...

MO: Well, nobody knew what had happened. Maybe they were kidnapped, or they were gonna be killed or something, shot to death. Because they were hearing about Adolf Hitler being, shooting people. So we thought about the same situation, my mother, too. And then my brother called and he said he heard that she was in the camp, so he went to visit her, and she's fine. So I got the news from my brother.

TI: And this was during the war? Your brother...

MO: War had just started.

TI: So he was able to get you a letter or something?

MO: That's right. In fact, as I said, I have a copy of that.

TI: Well, so while we're talking about your family, so your mother was interned at Crystal City, which was kind of a family Department of Justice Camp. Talk about your brother. What happened to your brother during the war?

MO: Well, I think he was taken, but... no, he was going to the University of Hawaii, and then I think they were called. And I'm not sure exactly, but that place was very good to me.

TI: Okay. I think what I've read is, so your brother, Akira, later on, joined the army, U.S. Army.

MO: Yes, uh-huh.

TI: And was part of the Military Intelligence Service, the MIS, to help interpret or translate documents.

MO: Well, he didn't, I didn't think he translated, but I don't know exactly what he did. I think he said he went to Okinawa, he was sent to Okinawa to do some research over there.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: Muriel, the first part of the interview, we talked about your growing up in Hawaii. And then the war broke out, we talked a little bit about your mother and your brother. So let's now go back to Japan. You're now in Japan, been there for almost three years, and the war broke out. And you talked about the radio when you heard, and how people were proud, you were feeling terrible. Let's, tell me more. So what happened to you in those weeks right after the war? What happened next?

MO: Well, my uncle knew that they were looking for people who can speak English, who can monitor the English broadcasts and translate that into... in my case, I could translate also. So I was one of the three Niseis that were so-called conscripted. One, I was from Hawaii, from Sacramento, and the other person, third person, these are all three women, she was from Canada.

TI: And when you say conscripted, can you describe kind of how that process... did you have to go apply for this or did they come to you?

MO: No. In my case, they knew I spoke, my uncle knew that I... so he recommended me to the general of the General Headquarters. So I was, actually, I was the highest paid employee with English monitoring, for eighty-one yen a month.

TI: Now, so why were you the highest paid?

MO: Because I spoke English, and I could do translation. There were lots of typists in there, Japanese typists, but they just, regular typing there. But I was the only one that could do the translation. I could listen to the radio, so the general... I remember Reverend, Ando Tai was saying, "Shou nani itta ka? Nani itta ka?" They wanted to know what the broadcast is saying. Because we're monitoring our broadcasts from General Headquarters, MacArthur's headquarters, Chester Nimitz headquarters, BBC, ABC, all these broadcasting companies. News is coming in, 150 fighter planes just left Saipan, and they're headed for Korea or they're headed for Yokohama. They want to know exactly what's happening. And many times, when they say that, they left a certain port, that means they're headed for Tokyo or whatever. And we had firsthand information.

TI: Now, when you heard this information...

MO: We had to report it right away.

TI: Would you write it down in English or Japanese?

MO: English. English, and in my case, I could write it in Japanese also, because I wrote... so they valued me, so that's why I was the highest-paid, for eighty-one yen a month. But others, there were lots of, the others were men, graduates of UCLA, USC, and then they could just monitor, get the information, they could hear, get the information, write it down or type it down and then give it to the General Headquarters to pass it on right away. Because their information depended a lot, they depended, the, our information, because the General Headquarters had to have, how to go about... "Now, should we send our Japanese soldiers here or send them there?" But those little things seems very, nothing, but it was very important to those. So they kept on coming in. Our building was separate from everybody else because it was really secret.

TI: And when you think back, you mentioned there were three Nisei women.

MO: Yes.

TI: And there were Nisei men also. Do you know about how many Nisei men there were?

MO: There were about six or seven. In fact, I still communicate with one of the men that graduated from UCLA. And then he came from, he was working for, he has own business. So after the war, we have become very close friends, and he still calls me Chiko. "How are you doing?" [Laughs]

TI: And why would he call you Chiko?

MO: Well, my name is Chiyo. Instead of calling me Chiyo-chan -- he used to call me Chiyo-chan, but now, but now, then they shortened it, so Chiko. "What did they say?" [Laughs]

TI: So there were about ten Niseis working there.

MO: And three women.

TI: And you were conscripted, so I just wanted to get clear in terms of... during, I guess, when you were born, did you retain your Japanese citizenship also? Were you like a dual citizen?

MO: Yes, I was a dual citizen.

TI: Okay. And so by doing that, by being conscripted, then you were essentially being conscripted as a Japanese citizen.

MO: Japanese, right.

TI: And at that point, what happens to your U.S. citizenship? Does that disappear or what happened?

MO: Okay, so I had to, after the war, we got information from the U.S. government, all of us working for the government, Japanese government, we got information saying that anybody who left, who wanted to reestablish American citizenship should leave this country, Japan, by October 15 or something. They gave us a deadline. So we all got on the General Gordon ship to come home. I have pictures of that.

TI: Okay, so the U.S. government realized that there were some Niseis who were in Japan during the war.

MO: They know.

TI: And that they had, they were conscripted or they worked for the Japanese, but they gave them an opportunity to regain their U.S. citizenship.

MO: Exactly.

TI: If they came back by a certain date.

MO: That's right.

TI: Okay, that's good.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: Going back, how did you feel about working for the Japanese as Nisei?

MO: I felt like a, very disloyal. But we felt that we were doing it under forced labor. There's a word for that.

TI: So, like, under duress?

MO: Under duress, yes.

TI: And so you didn't really want to do this, but you felt that --

MO: Yes, uh-huh. We were forced.

TI: Did you ever talk amongst yourselves about it?

MO: We did, uh-huh.

TI: And what did people say?

MO: "Sho ga nai, ne?"

TI: Meaning, what was that meaning?

MO: "You can't help it."

TI: "Can't help it."

MO: Because we were in a forced, a situation. There was no way of getting out of it.

TI: Did you guys, did the group ever try to do things to make it maybe harder for the Japanese in terms of the information you gave or anything like that? Did you ever talk about doing that?

MO: Oh, we didn't dare say that.

TI: So you felt that you had to do the best you could and just go along with it. Now, during this time, there were some Niseis who were also, sort of, under duress, forced to do things like radio broadcasts and things like that. Were you aware of any of that?

MO: We were, we were informed about that. But ours was, we weren't broadcasting, we were just listening. So that made a difference, too. Like something, the Rose? What's her name?

TI: Oh, Tokyo Rose?

MO: Tokyo Rose, uh-huh. Tokyo Rose was announcing, actually.

TI: So there was a group like Iva Toguri...

MO: Toguri, yes.

TI: ...was that group. And so did you know where that group was? Were they nearby?

MO: No, we didn't know that... we heard that there was somebody doing that.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: And you mentioned your group was kind of a secret group. Did you guys have a name? Did they name your group a certain thing?

MO: It was the Beppa.

TI: And what would that mean?

MO: Beppa means a separate building. So they would say, "Are you from the Beppa?"

TI: And in general, how were you treated? It sounded like you were, you said you were paid, you were the highest Nisei paid...

MO: Because I was translating also.

TI: And was that pay in relationship to, say, the Japanese workers there?

MO: I'm not sure how much they were getting, but we had a second-class accommodation whenever we wanted to travel. We had vacation time, too. But whenever we wanted to travel, we had second-class accommodation, nitousha. In fact, I wanted to go visit my -- we knew the war was getting close to Japan, and we had to get out of there. And so I was telling, "I think I better go and say goodbye to some of my relatives in Hiroshima and Yamaguchi," my father's relatives. So they said, "Oh, go ahead," and so they gave me the tickets, the second-class tickets. And then I went, I caught the plane -- the train -- and then went to Yamaguchi. But, of course, on my way back from Yamaguchi, the bomb fell in, near Nagoya. And so the train went, going back to Tokyo, they were coming from Hiroshima to Nagoya, and then they called it orikaeshi unten. You just, reverse comes, go right back. So in order to go back to Tokyo, we had to walk from one station into Tokyo side. But that happened once. And here, when we go to the country, we all buy, my relatives would give me sweet potato and daikon and vegetables that we cannot buy in Tokyo. So we had knapsacks full of vegetables, and so heavy, and so I felt like throwing them out, you know. But I said, no, no, it's just a few more of my friends that -- not my friends, but people who traveled with me, they said, "No, mou sukoshi dakara," "Go ahead and take it." So we all came back to Tokyo that night, and the night we arrived in Tokyo, there was a big bombing in Tokyo. And the Americans were bombing. But I'll never forget that night of the bombing, because it started to shine, and then the bombs were falling. So I have written a little article about, "Why me, God? How come I was spared all this?" In spite of all these bombing, and I was able to escape from this. I have written a little message for myself, and I'm going to share that in church one of these days.

TI: Because during this bombing in Tokyo, this large bombing, many people were, were killed and wounded during this time period? Lots of people died?

MO: Oh, yes, uh-huh.

TI: And did you see lots of people dying during this?

MO: And why I was so lucky to escape from all that bombing.

TI: And what did you do to try to be safe during the bombing?

MO: Well, because I was working in a place that was, they left Pearl Harbor time, the fighter bombers, five hundred fighter bombers left... what's that island? That we knew by a certain time, they're going to be hitting Tokyo, so we could go into the shelter. And the shelter at the General Headquarters is so deep. And then nobody, the Americans, the enemy, they... one thing we found out, that they dropped bombs around the General Headquarters, this is where I worked, but they never dropped into our headquarters. Because they wanted to preserve all the things that they needed when the war ended or whatever time comes. So in a way, I was lucky. And I always tell myself God was protecting me from all the miseries that I would have faced.

TI: So there's a lot there. Let me see if I can understand this. So one, because you're monitoring the radio broadcasts, you knew pretty much when the big wave of planes were going to come. The other thing was that they had deep tunnels or rooms in the basement that you could...

MO: Escape.

TI: ...escape. And then the third thing, you worked General Headquarters, and they never really bombed right on General Headquarters, they just bombed around, because they wanted to save the records, buildings, those kind of things. Interesting. You mentioned coming back from Hiroshima to Tokyo, and that plane, or that train journey.

MO: They bombed the station.

TI: Yeah. Was this, how close was this to the actual atomic bomb of Hiroshima?

MO: They bombed the station so the station was all exploded. But people were traveling to get on the train from that station to go to Tokyo, back to Tokyo, couldn't get on because the plane was, train was not going back to Tokyo. So we all had to walk.

TI: So let me make sure I understand this. So the atomic bomb had already dropped at...

MO: At that one station, yes.

TI: At Hiroshima?

MO: No, Numazu. That's near, past Kyoto station.

TI: Okay, so this wasn't the atomic bomb, it was just a bomb.

MO: No, no, just a bomb.

TI: Just a bomb.

MO: That exploded the station, exploded the train.

TI: Okay. But this was all happening towards the end of the war.

MO: That's right.

TI: And so I'm just curious, or I just wanted to note that you were actually in Hiroshima just close to the date of the actual bombing, or the atomic bomb? Within probably weeks of that?

MO: I'm trying to remember those days. Atomic bomb was...

TI: It was like August 6th.

MO: Yes. I was going to, they told me that... it was a little confusing for me.

TI: Yeah, so lots of things were happening.

MO: Yes, uh-huh. But I went to, they dropped the first bomb, and then we knew that the second bomb was going to come again because they announced it through the secret service. They were talking about having a meeting, and the Japanese warlords knew that they were going to come back and bomb the third bombing in Tokyo. But before that happened, they wanted to make sure that they didn't do that. And so, but that's when -- I'm jumping again -- before the third bombing, Japan announced the unconditional surrender.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: So let me make sure I understand this. So the Japanese military leaders, after the first bomb at Hiroshima, knew that there was gonna be a second bomb, and that was Nagasaki. And then they thought there was gonna be a third bomb, and that third bomb was gonna be Tokyo?

MO: Uh-huh.

TI: And so when you heard that, what did you think?

MO: We all got out of Tokyo, our workers, and they told us to. But at that time, the emperor came on the radio and said, "We're going to unconditionally surrender. We don't want any more killing." This is what the emperor said. And so we were so overjoyed.

TI: And so when you say overjoyed, that was how you felt?

MO: Yes.

TI: How about the people around you? How did they feel?

MO: Within our... everybody was so happy because it's haji, you know, embarrassing for the Japanese especially. But we cannot let anymore killing.

TI: And how about the military people? When you think of...

MO: They felt the same. In fact, so there were three or four soldiers that did hara kiri.

TI: And how did you know that they did hara kiri?

MO: In fact, they were in the same compound, and they were not there. They were all, they had killed themselves. Embarrassing to meet their members, that they did unconditionally surrendered. Japan cannot do that, they think they've got win everything, they have to win. But they had gone through that for many years. But that was a day that so many soldiers that decided to keep their honor.

TI: But you were saying also that there were others who felt that they were glad the war was over because the killing would end.

MO: Oh, yes, uh-huh. In fact, we are just, I remember that August 15th, we all hugged each other and just cried.

TI: And who were you with when this happened?

MO: All those people working in the General Headquarters.

TI: And so more than, you were with, like, nine other Nisei, so was that group, and Japanese included, too?

MO: Uh-huh.

TI: Okay, and they were all hugging.

MO: Yes.

TI: Even though Japan had just lost, had surrendered?

MO: Oh, yes.

TI: And this was General Headquarters, so the... interesting.

MO: In fact, we had evacuated from General Headquarters because they kept on bombing the General Headquarters, and we didn't, we couldn't depend on what they were going to, what was going to happen. Although they said they didn't want to bomb the headquarters, you never know in the last minute. That's why when they, the general headquarters, our group evacuated to a nearby, another station, another town, and that's when the emperor made his announcement.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: So I want to backtrack a little bit. During the war, while you were working at General Headquarters, were there any hardships that you and others had to face? Like your situation with food or housing or anything like that?

MO: Okay, that's another thing. We were very lucky because the Japanese government, Japanese soldiers, they went and confiscated whatever food they needed. They didn't care what was, these are really the top, they said, "We don't have any food, so go get some more." They go and dig up the daikon or whatever, anything, food, and bring it. So many times we were getting the, what you call the...

TI: Kind of the bounty or whatever.

MO: Yes, the bounty, that's right.

TI: So you, by working at General Headquarters with the other military leaders, in essence, you were fed okay.

MO: That's right, exactly. I felt terrible sometimes, because the people who lost their food just because the army came and took it away, we were getting it.

TI: And how about housing? Where did you live?

MO: Well, I had own home, so I was lucky. I lived in, right in the Tokyo area. But as far as the housing, I don't think anybody that I remember had any problems because they weren't... my family, nine children and my aunt, they evacuated to Nagano-ken, it's outside of Tokyo. They go to a town there with just, no bombing.

TI: When you, so you were in a pretty good situation.

MO: Yes, uh-huh.

TI: When you were outside General Headquarters, did you see hardships for other people?

MO: Yes, uh-huh.

TI: And what were some examples that you could remember?

MO: Well, they just didn't have enough food. But they would share. In fact, they had the word, tonarigumi. The families, the relatives would help -- not relatives, but neighborhoods would share, and then sell it for cheaper rate, so everybody will not suffer.

TI: During the war, when someone knew that you were born and raised in Hawaii, did anyone, or was there any resentment towards you because of that background?

MO: No. In my case, everybody was very good to me. I really appreciated that.

TI: How about the other Niseis who didn't speak Japanese as well as you did? Did they run into any problems?

MO: I think some of 'em did. In fact, they went and stole things away from, you know.

TI: Oh, so people stole things from them?

MO: Yeah, uh-huh. Confiscated or stole it. But it's a whole, everybody is, they'd share.

TI: So let's go back to the end of the war. So Japan surrenders, and so the next thing that's going to happen are the Americans are going to come into places like Tokyo. What was the thinking, what were people thinking the Americans were like during that time right before they showed up?

MO: They just, they were afraid. Many of 'em were afraid, so they were telling all the womenfolks, "Better get out of town." In fact, in General Headquarters, the head made an announcement saying in Russia, when the soldiers came -- no, what country was that they came and raped the women? "If you folks stay around, you're gonna get raped." So we were all told to get out of Tokyo.

TI: Now, how did you feel about that? Because you grew up in America, and so you kind of knew Americans. Did you think that that was gonna happen?

MO: No, I didn't think so.

TI: And so did you say anything to anyone, that Americans aren't like this?

MO: No, I didn't say anything. But that was very, you know...

TI: And so after the Americans came, then what did people start thinking? What happened?

MO: People welcomed them in. In fact, they were having, lots of families were welcoming the Americans that came in, and inviting them to dinner. They had a very nice fellowship. That's the thing I was very happy. In fact, my brother came, and then we brought, and he brought some friends over, and we would eat ochazuke with them. [Laughs]

<End Segment 16> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So you mentioned your brother, so describe the first time you saw him again. So this is, the war had ended, we talked about earlier how he had joined the U.S. Army, the MIS was in Okinawa or someplace. But then at some point, the two of you met in Japan. Can you describe that meeting?

MO: We were so happy we just cried each other shoulders, and then we went to visit our relatives who were evacuated during the war in Nagano-ken. So that, in fact, I have a picture of that, too. It was one of the most wonderful things, to welcome these fellows back.

TI: But let's go back to that very first time that you met your brother. Do you recall, like, the day or the time and the circumstances when you met?

MO: Well, somebody was knocking at the door, bang, bang, bang. And so it's all dark, nobody... and I was afraid to open the door, I didn't know who that was. I could see three shadows, he had brought his friends, and they had come in from... I don't know where he was stationed, but he and some friends came over. They said, "Open the door, open the door." I wasn't going to open the door if I don't know who that is. "Who is it?" And so he said, "This is your brother, Akira." I said, "Oh, why didn't you say so?" [Laughs] Lot of things like that happened here and there.

TI: And what was he wearing? What did he look like when you first saw him?

MO: Regular uniform, you know. But in the dark, you cannot see.

TI: And when you were able to see his face, was it pretty much the same Akira that you...

MO: Yes, uh-huh.

TI: And describe the feeling again, what it felt like when you saw your brother.

MO: I said, "Oh, how wonderful to see that you are safe."

TI: And this was about how much after the war had ended? I mean, this was about what month?

MO: Gee, about a month, maybe in a few weeks. They had come from Okinawa, you see.

TI: Okay, that's a good story.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: During this time, did you have a job after the war?

MO: Yes. I had a -- because I spoke English, a Tokyo radio station hired me as an interpreter. And so that was a nice ending.

TI: Okay, so this was during that period where you said, so you're working as an interpreter, and now you're starting to see some Americans coming in and having ochazuke with them and things like that. So about this time, you also met your future husband.

MO: That's right, uh-huh.

TI: Describe that. How did you meet your husband?

MO: Somebody, they're in a... what do you call that? The group, the battalion, they go back to, they go out into the city of Tokyo and then they have to go back to their own billet. And then he said, "I met a Mrs. Tanaka's daughter," and then Harold said, "Oh, I know a Mrs. Tanaka." "Do you want to go see her?" He said, "Okay, sure." So somebody brought him, I cannot remember what his name was. But my mother's classmate's brother, he was in there. So he knew me, so he brought my husband Harold to the house, I met him for the first time.

TI: So it was kind of through a roundabout way that... so when he said he knew a Mrs. Tanaka, was that your mother?

MO: No, no. It was Tanaka-sensei. There were lots of Tanaka-sensei in the Hawaii Japanese language schools.

TI: And so where was Harold from?

MO: Harry's from Aiea. And then he was in the interpreters group because he was a radio announcer.

TI: So that's interesting. So he was a radio announcer, so he was in, so he was using his language abilities in the MIS on the American side, and you were using your language abilities on the Japanese side at the same time.

MO: Uh-huh.

TI: That's interesting, sort of ironic...

MO: That's right.

TI: ...that the two of you were doing that.

MO: So there was a lot of... and the Niseis started to come and visit me because I'm from Hawaii and I spoke Japanese, I mean, my mother was a teacher. And said, "Oh, I know, I'll bring my friend." They used to come and have ochazuke, so they used to have a lot of visitors. And they would bring me box of candies, things I never saw for a long time. And then that's when I came back to Hawaii, and that's when Harold came to visit me, because he remembers he came to visit me in Tokyo. But they didn't come and visit me until I came home to Hawaii.

TI: Well, do you recall when you met him in Tokyo? Was there something special about Harold that you remember?

MO: No, just another GI. [Laughs]

TI: [Laughs] Muriel, you're supposed to say he was special.

MO: No, he was just another GI. Because there were so many, my mother's students are all GIs, came by to visit me, too.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: Now, with so many Niseis coming to Tokyo, did anyone bring any news about your mother?

MO: Yeah, that... well, my brother knew where she was, because he went to visit her in Crystal City. And then there were a couple of students, her students that were interpreters, too, and they would come and say, "I just saw your mother, and she said don't worry about her."

TI: Okay, good. In fact, there was, in particular I read about, there was one woman, Jean Ito?

MO: Jean, yes.

TI: So tell me about her and how you met her.

MO: Okay, she was in the same camp as my mother, her family. And then so she came to visit me with somebody. But she was working in Tokyo after the war, and then I met her through... there's a group of foreign nationals. We were all foreign nationals after the war, American citizens, but... born in America but not considered Americans. So we could go and have meals at the General Headquarters, all those who worked for the, for the General Headquarters. So that's where I met Jean. And then Jean, as we were talking, she said, "Oh, I know your mother. We were in the same camp, Crystal City, Texas." So that's how we became very close. And then she used to come and stay with me. I think an exchange ship, Jean's family decided to come back, come to Tokyo, come back to Japan instead of going back to... I don't know. Very confusing around there.

TI: Well, going back to Jean and her talking about your mother, do you recall anything she said about your mother and what she did in camp, or anything like that?

MO: She said, "Oh, Tanaka-sensei was so good. She always taught us about Japanese school." They had, in their camp, they used to have classes so that they won't forget their Japanese. They had Japanese school, and she was, she had, especially, she would teach the young girls how to sew, how to arrange flowers, a lot of things that ordinarily they don't get. So they all remembered my mother. And so when Jean came over after the war, I was so happy to see her with all the information. In fact, before, she came to Japan because she was on the Gripsholm exchange ship.

TI: Right, okay. And so it was just comforting to hear about your mother and that she was doing well, and actually helping lots of people, it sounds like.

MO: That's right, yes.

TI: That's good.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: So earlier we talked about how to regain your U.S. citizenship, you had to return to the U.S. by a certain date. So let's pick up the story there. So I believe this was about 1947 that you had to return. So you come back to Hawaii, so describe that. What's the name of the ship, and what was it like coming back?

MO: General Gordon was the ship, I think.

TI: Okay, the General Gordon. And what was the ride back from Japan to Hawaii like? What was the General Gordon like?

MO: That's a troop ship, so we had to, people like us, Niseis, we decided we wanted to come back to Hawaii to regain our citizenship. So there were about fifteen or sixteen. What was it...

TI: And how was the trip on the General Gordon coming back?

MO: Oh, we were just gagging because we're not used to riding a long, it was about seven or eight days. And it's not like flying in an airplane, we were really sick. Half of us were really sick. But when we saw Pearl Harbor, everybody got excited. "There's the island, yay, we're home, we're home."

TI: And describe the reception. Who was waiting for you when you reached Hawaii?

MO: Well, a few people, my old friends. Because they knew that the troop ship was coming back, so there were about half a dozen of my old friends from the church. They were there, and they greeted me and took me back to Wahiawa. And then my mother was so happy to see me.

TI: So describe that first meeting of your mother. Where were you, where was she, what was that like?

MO: I can't remember. Just excitement that we were home safely. And she kept saying, "Yokatta, yokatta."

TI: Was this the same home that you left?

MO: Yes, uh-huh.

TI: Okay, so she lived in the same place.

MO: No, I think it was a second home, because the first home, they had taken it away from her. She was a language teacher, so they confiscated her first home. She lost a lot of things that she had. But some people were so kind that they said, they took the things and threw it up on the ceiling so that nobody would take it away from her.

TI: Oh, so by throwing it up on the ceiling, that actually saved these items.

MO: Yes, that's right. Some friends, her students were very good about that.

TI: And what was your mother doing in Hawaii? I mean, what kind of work was she doing when she returned?

MO: When she came back from the war? Well, she was beginning to teach her ikebana or sewing or whatever. And then, in fact, some of the students said, "Oh, I used to go and have..." in fact, one lady that keeps calling me, she said -- I just met her recently -- she said, "Oh, you know what your mother used to do? She used to teach us Japanese. We have to get up at six-thirty in the morning so that she could teach us Japanese." These are young men, and they really appreciated that. In fact, one of the girls, Julia, just recently she's communicated with me again.

TI: And so Muriel, so initially you lived with her?

MO: Pardon me?

TI: So when you got back, you lived with her?

MO: My mother?

TI: Yes, with your mother?

MO: Yes, uh-huh, for a while, until I got, I got proposed and got married.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: And so picking back up the story, so Harold came to visit you when you got back to Hawaii?

MO: Uh-huh.

TI: And then he proposed to you and you got married. And then what happened? Where did you guys live after that?

MO: Well, you know, he was a strong Buddhist. So I said, I don't know if you read that story, but I said, "If you go to church with me every Sunday, I'll marry you." [Laughs]

TI: And he was okay with that?

MO: Oh, yes. He's been coming to church. Everybody just laughs about that, you know. That he's one of the strongest, strongest Buddhist tuned Christian, been coming and he's been doing a stewardship chairman, he goes around teaching the students how to, and he teaches Bible class every Sunday. In fact, last, until he died last year. He had a Bible class.

TI: Oh, that's a good story. I didn't know that part. So he converted from Buddhism to...

MO: He was a strong Buddhist. In fact, the Hongwanji wanted to send him to Kyoto to become a Buddhist priest. But his older brother was a principal at one of the schools, said, "Harold, don't go to Japan, you go to the university and get your degree from American school." So that's the way he did, he learned, he went to University of Hawaii and got his degree.

TI: That's good.

MO: And he's very happy about that, he said. [Laughs]

TI: That's a good story. So what kind of work did Harold do after the war?

MO: He was... after the war, what was he doing? He was a salesman. And then, in fact, fabric salesman, and he had artists design prints for Hawaii, Hawaiian prints, he would ask the artists to draw pictures, design fabric designs so that he could sell it to the... you know, in Hawaii, you want Hawaiian prints to make aloha shirts. Like Iolani Sportswear and people like that, he would sell it. "If I had this Hawaiian print with Iolani name on it, would you buy it?" "Oh, sure." So he was selling a lot of fabrics like that. He was a good salesman.

TI: And during this time, what did you do after the war?

MO: I was an art teacher, and I also worked for the Girl Scout headquarters. I was office manager at the Girl Scout headquarters.

TI: And how long did you work with the Girl Scouts?

MO: In fact, I'm still... [laughs].

TI: You're still working?

MO: I don't work in the office, but I was the office manager for the Girl Scout headquarters in Waioli Street. They invited me to be the honorary person the other day. [Laughs] But yes, I'm still a Girl Scout.

TI: And during all this time, you also had children, too.

MO: Yes, my son, Paul, and my daughter Ann. And Ann is a very active Girl Scout in Reno, Nevada.

TI: And where does Paul live?

MO: Paul lives, he lives in Hawaii. In fact, he just moved in with, after Harold died, he just moved in with me.

TI: Okay.

MO: He and his wife, and he brought four cats. [Laughs] So we have meow, meow.

TI: Oh, that's why when I went to your house to pick you up and I brought those chocolates, you didn't want the cats to get the chocolate. [Laughs] That was funny. Okay.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: When... the other thing, and the way I got to know you was through your church. Can you tell me a little bit about the significance of that church? You mentioned a little bit of the history, but it's a pretty amazing history.

MO: Yes. That church is 120 years old. In fact, the first... you saw that Nobuko Miyake? She's one of our pastors now, the most recent pastor. And the first pastor was... the consul general of Japan became a Christian. Oh, this is -- sorry, I can't remember right now.

TI: Oh, that's okay. But the name of the church? What's the name of the church?

MO: Harris United Methodist Church.

TI: And was this primarily a Japanese, Japanese American church?

MO: Yes, uh-huh. In fact, it was, because there were, a lot of pastors are Japanese, and so in order to accommodate both those people, we have a... in fact, just last Sunday, last Saturday, we had a memorial service for one of our 102 years old pastor that just passed away, Reverend Tanabe. But that's how it is. Our church is really well-known. The first pastor, his wife... oh, he was a consul general of, the Japanese consul general, and he was a drunkard. He always drank sake. So the New Year's Day, they would send big barrels of sake to our Japanese consulate. And the wife got so mad she said, "No more sake." She just went and busted all the sake barrels that came from Japan. [Laughs] So that's another lesson, no more sake.

TI: Oh, that's a good story.

MO: But anyway, it is a very historical church. So I'm, at this point, I'd like to invite you to come and join us.

TI: I will do that. That sounds like an interesting place.

MO: I have a seat in the last row. That's where I sit every Sunday.

TI: [Laughs] Okay.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: So my final question here is, I think about your life, and I've interviewed lots of Niseis, but they always looked at the war from pretty much the U.S. side. You're kind of you unique in you're one of the few Niseis who were in Japan watching the war. And I was just wondering, what's your thought about war and World War II when you think about what happened? Any insights about the war between the U.S. and Japan?

MO: You know, we have to learn from this kind of lesson. We just have to learn to forgive and forget. That's the main thing that I'd like to say: forgive and forget. Don't just have a grudge all the time, but you have understand each other, why they do that, and then talk it over.

TI: Good. And actually, I have one more question, just about your mother. I just want to find out whatever happened to her. How long did she live and what was her life like at the end?

MO: Hundred and two years old. In fact, I still hear her, "Undo shinasai, undo," to do exercise. She has a special exercise that she does every morning before she gets out of bed, before she goes to bed. Puts her hands on, both arms up and shake it, make the blood circulation good. And then the other one is the goldfish exercise, you put your arms on your head and just put your feet up and wiggle back and forth, and that circulates your blood. So that's how she keeps well, she kept well. She used to walk a lot. She used to walk from one hill, she would catch the bus. If Haverly isn't there at the bus stop to pick her up, she would start walking all the way to Houghtailing and come up to our house where we live.

TI: And about how long would it take to do that walk?

MO: I don't know, I never timed.

TI: But it's a long ways.

MO: It is, yes.

TI: Several miles.

MO: But she just, that's on Beretania, that street that she... and just as you're coming from the Rineback, in Chinatown, beginning of Chinatown.

TI: And how old was she when she would do this?

MO: She must have been about seventy or eighty. But to this day, I'll never forget her because of... and he would keep saying, the one thing she always said, drink a lot of water. [Laughs] Drink a lot of water and then do exercise. Those two things, she always said that. "Eight glasses of water," she said.

TI: That's good. So that's the end of my questions. I was wondering, is there anything else that you wanted to say in kind of ending this interview?

MO: Well... don't forget to forgive and forget.

TI: Good. Well, Muriel, thank you so much for taking the time.

MO: Oh, you're very welcome.

TI: This was delightful.

MO: It just reminded me of so many things that I can't even remember.

TI: Well, now you'll have this recording, so whenever you want, you can go back and look at it and remember these things.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.