Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Kiyoshi Seishin Yamashita
Narrator: Kiyoshi Seishin Yamashita
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: October 30, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-ykiyoshi-01-0009

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: So when you were at the University of Washington, what was your field of study? What did you study?

KY: My field of study was, I started out a political science major. And the reason for that was that I had dreams of working in a consular office overseas, foreign service, or in the embassy. And ultimately to become one of the employees in the consul office or the embassy in Japan, and help promote U.S.-Japan relations through my knowledge of the Japanese language and then love for that type of a thing.

TI: Now, where did you get that idea, to become a foreign service officer for the U.S. government stationed in Japan? Where did that dream come from?

KY: Now that you ask that question, hmm. Other than thinking of my future and the future, say, in the language field in the U.S., I couldn't think about anything other than government service. So that would give me a good job, a good life, and doing what I like, doing language work and helping to preserve the Japanese-U.S. relationships. Now that you mention it, it's surprising, but I still remember, when I graduated high school, my message to the audience was -- you'll be surprised -- "Japanese national spirit." I still remember that, to an American audience.

TI: I'm sorry, say that one more time. Japanese...

KY: Japanese national spirit. In other words, the Nihon damashi or tamashi means the "spirit."

TI: And that was the topic of your speech.

KY: Yeah, yeah.

TI: To not a Japanese audience, but a general...

KY: General American, yeah. To make them more aware of what the Japanese people were like and the country was like.

TI: And do you...

KY: I don't remember any details. [Laughs]

TI: Do you recall any reactions? Did people like the speech or anything?

KY: A lot of 'em didn't like it, I'm sure, but I didn't hear anything. I heard no comments, pro or con.

TI: Now, would that have been a controversial thing to have done back then?

KY: I don't think so, 1930s. But I don't know, 'cause the war came soon after that, huh?

TI: Well, because 1937...

KY: Yeah, and 1941.

TI: That's a time when Japan is fairly aggressive.

KY: In overseas expansion, yeah. Yeah, going into China, yeah. Well, it was, I guess what I meant was understanding the Japanese mind and spirit. I really don't what made me choose that, but I did. I remember the topic, but I don't remember the contents at all.

TI: And back in those days, in high school and college, did you follow pretty closely what Japan was doing in Asia?

KY: I don't recall making any special effort. I guess general knowledge from newspapers and stuff. Of course, I'm sure I was sympathetic and had a kindly mind toward Japan. One thing was my father was a soldier, of course, this was the Japanese draft, but he was a soldier.

TI: Did your father ever talk about his service in the Japanese military?

KY: No, I don't remember a thing other than the fact that he said he became bald -- maybe I mentioned earlier -- but became bald because of wearing a steel helmet during the couple of years that he served, drafted.

TI: So the helmet was so rough, or it just would scratch all the hair off his head, is that what he was thinking?

KY: I think it's more of a... suffocated. Suffocated, sweaty, anyway... he was bald, and I'm bald.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.