Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Ryo Imamura Interview
Narrator: Ryo Imamura
Interviewers: Stephen Fugita (primary), Erin Kimura (secondary)
Location: Olympia, Washington
Date: August 3, 1999
Densho ID: denshovh-iryo-01-0018

<Begin Segment 18>

SF: The march, that strikes me as a really interesting one because here's -- especially in Hawaii, right? The cultural icon of the JA community is the 442 and Senator Inouye is the sort of, one of the head icons. You know that...

RI: Yeah.

SF: ... I found to sort of go against that sort of a whole cultural thing. But, did you have kinda mixed feelings about some of that, or you just kinda really knew that this was the right thing at that moment?

RI: Yeah, I wasn't encumbered back then by conscience it seems. [Laughs] Just, just what I got very excited in and, prob -- in some ways self righteous about. I know at the same time, they were having hearings in the state legislature about -- I can't remember the exact thing, but it was... the question that was fired at me was, "Hey, the 442 were basically Buddhists. How do you justify their fighting in the war?" I guess, this is more in the area of nonviolence and some anti-war resolutions that we were pressing the legislature to pass. And so they decided to pick on me because, you know, 442 is, no one criticizes them. And so I was on the spot; all, all the people, all the legislators watching. And, sometimes I say some good things. [Laughs] So it's kind of, I said, "You know, you have to understand the position of a young man in 1941 after... 1942 after Pearl Harbor. And even though he's a Buddhist and doesn't believe in taking life, that he's also an American and has family and a reputation -- many other things going on in their lives. So, if they did serve and they did happen to kill somebody in the line of action, I would take it that they had a deep sense of regret at having to do that, and were forced to make these very difficult, sometimes impossible choices at times of war and other emergencies. And so I still stay with my nonviolent stance from Buddhism, but it does not condemn those who fought, because they were doing the best they could under very unusual circumstances." So it kind of, you know silenced the, that opposition at that time 'cause they realized that all of them had gone through similar difficult times where they couldn't just do the ideal action.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.