Densho Digital Archive
Densho Digital Archive Collection
Title: Frank H. Hirata Interview
Narrator: Frank H. Hirata
Interviewers: Martha Nakagawa (primary); Tom Ikeda (secondary)
Location: Culver City, California
Date: February 23, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-hfrank-01

<Begin Segment 1>

MN: Okay. Today is Tuesday, February 23, 2010, we're here at the Courtyard Marriott with Dana Hoshide on video, Tom Ikeda and Frank Hirata, and myself, Martha Nakagawa. Frank, I'm gonna start by asking you the name of your paternal grandfather.

FH: Okay. It was Kamenosuke Hirata, or Hirata Kamenosuke.

MN: And then what is your father's name?

FH: Hajime Hirata, or Hubert Hirata in English.

MN: Do you know how he got the name Hubert?

FH: I don't know, but maybe Hajime starts with an H, and so he got that name, I don't know.

MN: And your mother's name?

FH: Shin, maiden name was Yoshizawa.

MN: And what prefecture did your father and mother come from?

FH: Okayama.

MN: Now, your grandfather was the first to come to the United States. Can you share with us how he ended up in Spokane, Washington?

FH: Well, there, as a matter of fact, from the village that we lived in Japan, there were quite a few that migrated to the United States. And in those days, there was the railroad west from the middle west to the East Coast. And you know, Spokane is one of the key locations, because three lines, the Northern Pacific, and Milwaukee, and I forgot the other one, but three of them just converged at Spokane, and then from there diverted north and south to the West Coast, Seattle and Portland and so forth.

MN: Now, your grandfather, after working in the railroads, what did he do after that?

FH: He operated hotels. He got hotels and once my dad was operating about three hotels in Spokane.

MN: How old was your father when your grandfather called your father to the United States?

FH: He was fifteen years of age.

MN: And your father, once he got here, he helped your grandfather in the hotel business, is that correct?

FH: Correct, yes.

MN: And you said he also went to night school. Where did he go in Spokane?

FH: He went to the Gonzaga University, that's a Jesuit university.

MN: And why did he go... did he go to learn English, or why did he go to night school?

FH: Well, he was operating the hotel. And in the hotel business, you have to know the laws as to how to evict the tenants of wrongdoing and so forth, things like that. So he took a course at that school.

MN: And then your father decided he wanted to get married, and he went back to Japan. Do you know how old he was when he got married?

FH: I don't know, but I was born in 1925, and so maybe a couple of years before that.

MN: And your mother did not immediately come with your father to the United States. Why is that so?

FH: Well, because my grandmother, with my dad's, both my uncle and so forth, was farming. And I don't know about the legal matters and so forth, but anyway, she stayed there to help my grandmother and so forth in Japan.

MN: She stayed with your father's family?

FH: That's right, yes.

MN: The in-laws?

FH: Right, uh-huh.

MN: How long was she there with the in-laws?

FH: Maybe a couple of years, about one or two years.

MN: So now your mother comes over, and your family is managing a hotel, and that's when you were born.

FH: Yes.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

MN: What year, and what is your birthday?

FH: November the 19th, 1925. That's when I was born in Spokane.

MN: And were you delivered by a sanba-san?

FH: No, went to the hospital there, and there was the Catholic hospital right on the foothills where you go up to the park up there.

MN: Was this a segregated hospital?

FH: No, it was not. I heard nothing like segregation in those days in Spokane.

MN: So you were basically in with hakujin people.

FH: Correct.

MN: Now, at one point, your family managed three hotels. Do you remember any of the addresses?

FH: Yes. One is called the Raymond Hotel at 325 1/2 Main Street. And I visited that hotel later on, and that hotel is still there with a big sign, Raymond, yes.

MN: These were, what years, what year did you visit this hotel?

FH: Well, that was when they had the Spokane Expo. The year I don't recall, but...

TI: 1974?

FH: Yeah, something like that, yes, correct. The whole family, we rented one of those camp, what you call that, just drove up there.

MN: Now, Frank, what is your birth name?

FH: It's Hironobu Hirata. Hironobu, H-I-R-O-N-O-B-U, Hirata.

MN: And how did, when did you get the name Frank?

FH: When I was going to the elementary school, it's on the outskirts of Spokane, and the school name was Arlington Elementary School.

MN: Do you know how you got the name "Frank"?

FH: That I don't know, but my dad named me Frank, yes.

MN: And you're saying he just started to call you Frank?

FH: That's correct, that's correct. 'Cause going to the American school, I think, you know, cannot even pronounce, can have a Japanese name, especially long one like Hironobu. And so I think he just gave me that name Frank.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

MN: Now you were the oldest of three children. Can you tell us your brother and sister's name starting with the oldest?

FH: Yes. My brother was Ted Hirata, Ted Naoyoshi, N-A-O-Y-O-S-H-I, Naoyoshi Hirata. He was one year younger than I was. My sister was Grace Nobuko, N-O-B-U-K-O, Hirata, who was seven years younger than me, I am. My sister is still surviving, my brother died on January the 6th this year.

MN: Now, from hotel managing, your father became a farmer. Do you know why he switched?

FH: That I do not know, but what I know is that they kind of cultivated that land. There were still some trees there, and so I recall that, with the horse and so on, they pulled out the roots of the tree and so forth, and made that into a farmland. I think that farm is still there, which is managed by a person, I think his name was Shimizu. And they had a relative there, who lives in Gardena area when we visited Spokane in 1974, still having that farm.

MN: Now you said when you moved out there, you started to go to Arlington Elementary School.

FH: Yes, uh-huh.

MN: And you skipped grades.

FH: Yes.

MN: How did that, how were you able to skip grades?

FH: Well, because being in the farm, they need the helping hand, and so they hired some JA high school students from Spokane, the town, and he was working there. And so my dad wanted us to learn English through him. He was our tutor on the farm.

MN: So your father hired a tutor for you and your brother and sister?

FH: Well, my sister was still very young, not born, but myself and my brother, yes, correct. And so I think with that help, I did pretty well in school. And so it was a two semester year, and I went to grade one only for a half a year, and then was in the second grade, and there for only about half a year, and I was already in the third grade. And so when I left for Japan at age nine, I should have been in the third grade, but I was already in the fourth grade.

MN: Now, at elementary school, did you experience discrimination?

FH: No, not at all, because I had very good friends. I still remember their first names, there was Chester and Bob and Jackie, they were my good friends, and I think they skipped with me, some of them once, some of them twice and so forth.

MN: Now, Chester, Bob and Jack, were they Japanese Americans?

FH: No, they were pure white. Because in the surroundings, throughout the whole school, there were only two yellow, myself and my brother, in different grades, and the rest were all white. Not even, I don't think there were even Indian Americans or, needless to speak of Spanish Americans.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

MN: Now, aside from regular school, did you attend Japanese language school?

FH: No, not at all.

MN: How did you learn your Japanese?

FH: Well, my parents, who barely had the eighth grade education in Japan, got some textbooks from Japan, and he was our teacher at home.

MN: But when your parents spoke, did they speak Okayama-ben?

FH: Yes, Okayama-ben, right.

MN: Now, you had also mentioned your father practiced judo when he was managing the hotel. Did you take up judo?

FH: No, I did not at all.

MN: You also said your father loved music.

FH: Yes.

MN: Can you share with us what sort of music lessons your father enrolled you in?

FH: Yes, one was the piano, and piano, we didn't have piano at home, just on the keyboard, black and white. And so there was no fun without hearing the sound, and so we didn't keep the interest very long. And so he shifted to violin, because violin, you can rent it, and you can practice at home. And so that's how I had a little bit of background in music.

MN: When you said the keyboard, black and white, is it like a box that he painted black and white?

FH: Yes, that's right, just like a keyboard, a replica of the keyboard on that piece of paper.

MN: And that's how you --

FH: Move the fingers without any sound coming out of it.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

MN: Now, near your farm, you said you had a "washing house." What is a washing house?

FH: Okay, that is on the same premise, but there was a little creek running through our farmland. And so whenever I, it was more or less a... what would you call that? Crop -- what would you call that? You know, the vegetables and carrots and spinach and cabbage and so forth, things like that. But when you ship that, bring it to the market, you harvest that and throw it into that place, it's like a little dam. Not a dam, but there's a cover on that, a little house, and the water is stocked there, so that you throw it in there and wash it before you put on the truck to ship them to the produce market the next morning.

TI: I've never heard this before. So it's called a washing house?

MN: Yeah, we used to call it the washing house.

TI: And you would just throw the vegetables in there and clean it?

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

TI: And then how would you sell the crops?

FH: Well, my dad, he had a truck, and so he put it on the truck and went to the produce market in Spokane, downtown, and sent it. That's how he made a living.

TI: So can you describe what the washing house looked like? Like how large it was and how it worked?

MN: That I don't recall, but it's a creek, not a big river. And so it's so limited, but still, it was large enough to throw in the vegetables and wash it and prepare it for shipping.

TI: Okay. But, so, did you have to kind of like... did you get wet when you washed it, or was it like something that you just, like, leaned over and washed it? I'm trying to get a sense...

FH: I think it was, just leaned over and washed it, I guess. Not a huge house, but maybe a little hut or something like that.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

MN: So now it's 1935, your grandfather decided to return to Japan, and take you along, and your brother. What was your reaction to that?

FH: I didn't want to go, because you know, going to a different place, I have to miss all those friends, Jack and Bob and Chester and so forth. I very strongly resisted. But I was brought out, and my father said that, "I'm going to buy a toy, toy fire engine." And so with that, I was bought out, and so I finally conceded and decided to go to Japan.

MN: Do you remember if you took that toy fire engine with you to Japan?

FH: I don't recall. But one thing I recall is that we went to Seattle, Washington, the Japanese consulate over there, and had to sign the application for the paper to go to Japan. And there's my photo, but I could not spell out my name, Hironobu. Because as you know, the Japanese language is an open vowel language. After each consonant, there is the vowel, open vowel language. I could not spell it out. I spelled H-I-R-N-O instead of H-I-R-O-N-O. And so that's one of the reasons that when I came to the United States, I'm not going to use this name Hironobu. Although all the records in Japan, schooling records, are in the Japanese name. But here in this country, I decided to shift to the English name.

MN: So your Japanese language, it sounds to me, was pretty limited before you went to Japan. Is that correct?

FH: Yes, very much so. Very much limited, yes. And for example, whenever we were told to speak Japanese language at home, I used to do that with my brother. But whenever we got into a fight, you know, automatically shift into English and so forth, yes.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: Yeah, I want to ask a couple more questions about Spokane before we go to Japan. Spokane had other Japanese families.

FH: Oh, yes.

TI: Did you, did you ever do anything with other Japanese families in Spokane?

FH: Yes. We used to have the picnic and so forth. It was the Japan Association, and my dad was the head of that organization. And so we used to have the picnic and so forth, yes.

TI: Now, so how did you avoid Japanese school? Because other Japanese in Spokane, I think they had a Japanese school and they all had to go to that. But you didn't have to go?

FH: I was still too young when we were living in town, then we moved out to the farmland, and so it was quite a distance to the downtown, so we never had to go to Japanese language school.

TI: The other thing when I think of Spokane in terms of church, they had two major churches. They had the Methodist church and then the Buddhist church. Was your family involved with one of those churches?

FH: Not at all. But when my brother was young, he had some kind of a trouble in the brain, and he had the surgery. I don't know how he... he did have the surgery, but he got well. And at that time, there was the Catholic, you know, Spokane is a Catholic country, and so one of the pastor, I don't know who it was, came to pray for him and so forth. Which, later on, when my dad was in the fifties or sixties, he got baptized and became a Methodist. But it was, God was working through him in those days, but he never attended any of those. And, of course, religion was, according to the Japanese tradition, it is the family religion, so it was Buddhist, but we never practiced Buddhist, not even had the thing like that, Buddhist altar and so forth, not in our home.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

MN: So now you're going to Japan. Who went with you to Japan?

FH: Well, my brother, Ted, and also there was a friend of ours who was the Kawaguchi family, there were two brothers, and there was another girl, Ueda, I think her name was, Shigeru Ueda, but that's a girl, was already a high school student in the U.S. So all these kids, about seven... one, two, three, four, five, six of them, no, five of them, my grandfather took all of us to Japan in the boat, NYK line.

MN: And when you got to Japan... now, in the United States you were in the fourth grade.

FH: Uh-huh.

MN: But in Japan, you had to start in third grade. Why?

FH: Because of the linguistic handicap.

MN: But in one year, you reached the fourth grade, and you and your brother became yuutousei, honors students.

FH: Yes.

MN: How did that happen?

FH: Well, my dad, you know, I think that he was, although he had education only up to the eighth grade, but he was doing very well, and he was earmarked by the principal of the school. And so my dad wanted us to look at Japanese language, and so contacted this teacher, his name was Mr. Tomioka, Shuichiro Tomioka, but contracted him, and asked him if he would tutor myself and my brother. And so we got a new bicycle, and every day after school, we used to go to his house, and there he had two daughters, both of them Japanese high school graduates, and so they literally tutored us, every day on every subject. That's why we were able to catch up so quickly in the academic work in Japan. I'm very grateful to my dad.

MN: Were you ever teased at elementary school?

FH: No, I don't, I don't recall being teased at all. Sometimes, we had been called "Jap," but I don't have any recollection of feeling bad about it or antagonistic and so forth.

MN: In Japan.

FH: Well... oh, I'm sorry. I'm sorry, not here, but... okay, I'm sorry, I'm mixed up. In Japan, no. No, I'm sorry.

MN: But you're saying in America, sometimes you were called "Jap."

FH: Yes. But not really in a bad way. But in Japan, you know, our first shock was that we had to cut off our hair. No long hair was permitted over there, and then we had to have a uniform, and the backpack and so forth, to go to school. There was quite a cultural change over there. But in spite of that, we got melted pretty well into the Japanese culture and so forth, because all these families in the countryside, they are living there for years and years, and so they're just like one big family. All my schoolmates and so forth are friends. And so I didn't have any... any friction with them at all. Very smoothly.

TI: That's a little unusual, because oftentimes, when the Niseis, especially if their Japanese wasn't really strong, they were often teased or bullied in Japan. But that didn't happen with you or your brother?

FH: Well, once I recalled there was a Japanese language course called the Niisan no nyue, my brother's being drafted into the army. And there it says that Kouchou sensei, Sonchou san. Kouchou sensei, the principal, or the village master there to send him off. And I knew that, the mura, because in the lesson it says, "The train went through the tunnel, and out there, there was a village out there." And so mura I know. And nagai, nagai kasha deshita. The long train was right there, I knew the word "nagai." And so instead of saying "sonchou san," I read, "muranaga san," and everybody just laughed. Because those who were living there, they know sonchou, that's a daily, you know, they use those kind of words every day. But I'm not used to that, and so I thought -- but not in a bad way, just, I remember that. It was a big laughter at that time.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

MN: Now, by birth, you're a United States citizen. But you had to change your citizenship status when you entered middle school. Why?

FH: Well, because in those days, in the middle school, they did not have the foreign student system. Going to the higher education, they did, like, from China and Korea. Well, Korean was Japanese in those days, but China and so forth. But in middle school, they did not. And so I had to have my Japanese nationality. Because when I was born, if my birth was reported to the Japanese consulate in Spokane within two weeks, automatically, I would have the Japanese citizenship. Because Japanese, they go by blood. Here, you go by the place of birth, so there's a difference in the nationality, I mean, the citizenship system. But my dad did not register me, and so I had only the Japanese, U.S. citizenship when I entered that middle school in Japan.

MN: So what was the process to become a Japanese citizenship?

FH: Okay, it was called (yoshi engumi), through the adoption. And myself and my brother was adopted by my real parents, the parents by birth, into their family register, because it is the registry that counts, you know, not the fact of what happened, but the registry. So that's how I gained that, regained my Japanese nationality.

MN: Did you have to renounce your U.S. citizenship when you regained your, when you gained your Japanese citizenship?

FH: No. I never renounced the Japanese, U.S. citizenship, no. I never did that. And I think I was age fifteen at that time, fourteen or fifteen. And so it was done through the guardian, my parents or my grandfather.

MN: And you said in middle school, there was a math teacher that gave you a bad time?

FH: Yes.

MN: Can you share with us the story of your wool pants?

FH: Okay. My parents used to work for the hakujin guys quite a bit, especially my mother, housework and so forth. And so there was a worn-out wool pants, which she got and sent it to me in Japan. And so I was wearing that pants, and we did homework on the blackboard and I was there doing the math, but I could not complete that. And so the teacher says, "Hey, look at this guy, this Amerikan kabure," you know, "He thinks that he's half American. See what he's wearing? No wonder he cannot do his homework." Because in those days, the only thing that the students were supposed to wear was made by cotton, no wool. And so I was mocked there, yes, in front of the whole student. His name was Yoshikata.

MN: Can you share with us what it was like going through the Japanese school system during the war? Did you sing the Kimigayo, and can you share with us what is the Kyoiku Chokugo?

FH: Yes, of course, on national holidays and so forth, always getting into the auditorium, the whole students, and then the Kimigayo was sang and so forth. And what was read was the Kyoiku Chokugo, that Edict of Education, the Meiji era Edict of Education. And what it says, it says about the Imperial Family and so forth, how the Imperial Family, out of love, you know, ruled the country and so forth. And then it goes into the private matter: respect your parents, be kind to your brothers, your neighbors and so forth, things like that. And that was Kyoiku Chokugo, and we had to remember every word of that. And there was an instant, sometimes, there was, the principal was reading that, and he made a mistake. And so he took his own life, because of the fact that he made a mistake in reading the Imperial Edict and so forth.

MN: So all students had to memorize that.

FH: Yes, correct. Correct.

MN: And it was basically rules, to do this, to do that from the Meiji era.

FH: Right, right.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

MN: Now, in April or May of 1941, your parents returned to Japan to join you and your brother. Was there already a sense that Japan might go, go into war with America?

FH: I think my dad, he was very keen in the international affairs and so forth, especially reading between the lines, so that he thought that, yes, it is unavoidable. And so he decided to return to Japan for the reason that he didn't want to be separated from us, you know. The kids are living in Japan, enemy country, and himself and my mother and my daughter, I mean, my sister, living in the United States. And so they all went to Japan.

MN: What were your thoughts about the two countries possibly going to war?

FH: Of course, I was a young kid then, so I never thought about that. But when I learned that, you know, on December, war broke out and so forth. Japan is going to win, Japan would never lose, because we were completely brainwashed, and brainwashed is something like that. Whatever is taught, just swallow the whole thing as a truth, fact. Like the kamikaze and so forth, the Japanese used to, Japan was never defeated or the foreigner stamped their foot on the Japanese soil and so forth. And I was a strong believer in that kind of a teaching.

MN: Now, I've heard, during the war, the city people suffered a lot because they had no food. What was it like living in the Okayama countryside?

FH: Well, of course, out of the crop which was rice and wheat and so forth, it was mandatory to give to the government, and the government allocated that to the city dwellers and so forth. But outside, if that quota is met, then the rest of them are at the discretion of the one who is farming there. And so we didn't have lack of food and so forth in the countryside.

MN: What did your family grow?

FH: It was rice and wheat, mostly. And some vegetables, but that more or less for our family consumption.

MN: In comparison to other farms in your area, was your family farm large, medium, or small?

FH: It was on a larger scale, yes. Not one piece of land, but the way that they bought it, send the money from the United States and bought that piece of land here and there and so forth. But aggregated, that total acreage was pretty large.

MN: Did you help on the farm?

FH: Sometimes. Occasionally, but not really hard.

MN: What was it like planning the rice?

FH: Yes, correct. Well, it's almost like a grid, because it goes by line. There's a line and a string, and there is a little dot here and there and so forth. And where the dot is, plant right there. Now move it back a little bit, plant there and so forth, to make it a kind of a grid. Because in cultivating, you had to use the machine to just run through that. And so that's what it was. By hand, each one, hand over here and then get a few of them, plant there, and then move to right, get a little bit, plant, and so forth. That's what we did. It's called taue.

MN: And ta was tanbo no ta, and ueru no ue.

FH: Plant.

MN: So plant field.

FH: Yes, right.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

MN: Now, in Japan, what sort of news were you getting about the war?

FH: Well, when I was going to school, I think it was on the city car or something, we heard that the war has broken out, and Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, yes. That was the kind of news that went out. I didn't have television, it was only the, the radio, from mouth-to-mouth, that kind of news we heard. And so at school, on the date that we all assembled in the courtyard, and then there the announcement was made.

MN: About Pearl Harbor?

FH: Yes, correct.

MN: In Japan, Pearl Harbor is considered December 8th.

FH: Yes, correct. It was seventh, huh?

MN: Yes.

FH: Right.

MN: And then during the course of after Pearl Harbor, what sort of news were you getting about the status of the war?

FH: "Japan is winning, Japan is winning, Japan is winning." Not only Pearl Harbor, but succeeding in all the news. Never Japan was defeated, like even in Guadalcanal and so forth, you know, it was all "Japan is winning."

MN: But when you went to go take your middle school entrance exam, you went to Osaka.

FH: Well, that was not the middle school, that was the higher school.

MN: Higher school.

FH: Next level, I went to Osaka and stayed at my friend's uncle's house. And he was the head of the [inaudible] at Osaka Sakai. But he was with the Asahi newspaper. And so being a newspaper reporter, he heard the words from his colleagues who were sent out into the battlefield all over, you know, Southeast Asia and China and all over. And so he said that what has been announced publicly cannot this openly, but it's not the fact. Japan is beaten pretty badly, that's what we heard in those days.

MN: Why couldn't you talk about this openly?

FH: Oh, the MP, you know, Military Police. If anything like that, you know, the sources, grasped, and immediately he would be put into the jail. And once, my uncle, who lived in this country, came very closely to being apprehended by the MP, Military Police. But he did not. It was a dangerous thing to do. There was two dangerous things. One is to speak bad about the imperial family, next is about the warfare, how it's going on, the truth.

TI: So I wanted to... I'm curious. So you're a young man, you're young. What was, what did you believe? I mean, you heard these conflicting information, one side, Japan was winning, winning, the other side, that Japan may be losing. So what did you, what did you think? What did you believe?

FH: Well, I was between twelve and nineteen when I went to the middle school. The middle school is from grade seven through grade, I think, nine, ten, eleven, twelve. But when I was there, these kind of things I heard and I faced. But he impounded into our head that Japan has never been defeated, Japan will never be defeated again. So I was a firm believer of "Japan is winning." "Japan cannot be, cannot lose the war." Battle, I mean.

TI: Did people ever ask you about America? Because you had lived there in the early part of your life, did people ask you what America was like and how they would beat them or anything like that in terms of how we could beat America?

FH: I don't recall. Nothing, nothing.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: As a boy growing up, both, you talked about earlier in Spokane and now in Okayama, how was play different? When you think of your playmates in Spokane and your playmates in Okayama, were there differences in how you would interact or play with your friends?

FH: Well, I do not recall. But just like the kids do, even in this country, if it's elementary school, you play like the other kids do. Same thing in Japan, and so there was no difference. I think we were too young to, especially in the elementary school, to discuss anything like Japan and the U.S., anything like that. Just that Japan is... because the war broke out when I was in the middle school, the first grade in middle school. Until then, there was war, but that was the Chinese war, war between China and so forth. It was a completely different kind of war.

TI: So in Okayama, what would be some games that you would play with your friends? Do you recall any kind of activity or games that you would do?

FH: Yes. The horse, three person making the horse and then riding on the horse, and drag down the other guys and so forth, things like that. And also, the, kicking the ball and so forth. Not a soccer, but a small ball like this, into the goal and so forth and defending. Just like a similar thing that they have in this country. Not much difference, what the kids do. Girls are different. They use little things like this and then with that, you squat down and hit the others and so forth.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: The other question, so when December 8, 1941, how did life change for your family and you, kind of like on a day to day basis? When you think about before and after, what differences?

FH: Well, I think everything got more narrowed in, stricter and stricter control. It was the control of the mine, but control of the goods and so forth gradually. Like sugars and so forth, you know, the allocation of sugar and so forth, things like that, you know. More luxury things and so forth, it was gradually eliminated. One thing that was done was like my grandfather had a golden watch and so forth. Because being in the railroad, have to have the strict time, so he had a good watch, and he had that made into a golden case, a golden case. But he has to give everything to the government. And also, even things made out of copper and so forth, he had to give out to the government, because they have to melt that and made into all kinds of firearms and so forth. So those things, that was a vivid change. Not all at once, but gradually that took place.

TI: And your father, did he ever talk about the war? Because he had lived quite a while in Spokane, and was a hotel owner, a farmer, then he came back right before the war. Did he have opinions about the war? Did he ever share anything?

FH: Well, yeah, he did not talk to us about that. But deep inside, I'm sure that, especially my uncle and so forth as well as my dad, they thought that it can never fight the United States. How big of a country and what kind of a production system they have and so forth. But deep inside, he thought that this is not the war that we should be involved in. But he never talked about those kind of things to us.

MN: What about your grandfather? Your grandfather was a veteran of the Russo-Japan War, and Japan won against Russia.

FH: Uh-huh.

MN: Why couldn't Japan win against the United States?

FH: Well, I don't know. I never talked about that. My grandfather, he never even mentioned things like that. And, of course, the era is different because when we were growing up, and when my grandfather went into the war and so forth, I think the brainwashing was not as rigid as it was when we were going to school and so forth. It was not that kind of control, I think. So we never heard about that through our grandfather.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

MN: Now I know during World War II, the term "gyokusai" was used a lot. Can you explain to us, what is gyokusai?

FH: Gyokusai means, just, everybody just vanished all at once. Like being hit by a big bomb and so forth, just scattered all over and so forth. Like there was a term called "ichiyoku gyokusai." This was when Japan is attacked by the United States, the ichiyoku, it means the Japanese population, one billion, one billion Japanese all "defend our country, and all of us are going to die together." That kind of a, that kind of a thinking was prevailing in Japan.

MN: Was this thinking taught in school?

FH: Oh, yes, yes. Very openly, especially the history course and all those things, yes. Correct. We were firm believers in that kind of thinking, like what happened to Okinawa, we hear that quite frequently. But even the mainland Japan, that those things are going to happen, was our belief.

MN: To die for the Emperor?

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

MN: Did anybody really shout, "Tennoheika banzai," when they died?

FH: That we don't hear, because it's, mostly yelled, "Mom," you know. [Laughs] Although everybody was taught to say, "Banzai," to the Emperor. But we don't hear about that.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

MN: Now, you were telling me the draft age in Japan was twenty, but you were drafted at the age of nineteen. How did that happen?

FH: Because, you know, there were fewer men in the army and so forth, and so they had to recruit more. The only thing that they could do, there was two things that was possible. One is to lower the drafting age, and so I was drafted at age nineteen. Another thing that happened, even by the age alone, it's now going to solve the whole problem. And so for the draft criterion, there was three criterion: kou, otsu, and hei, by the ranking. Kou is perfect; perfect eyesight, perfect body and so forth. And otsu may be lacking somewhere, a little bit, but not bad. It's good enough to be drafted. And hei is completely out. And here, because of my eyesight alone, I was wearing eyeglasses when I was seven in the United States. It was so bad that I did not qualify, I was in the hei. However, they (created) another category: (otsu was called the first otsu and hei was called the second otsu), and then that's a passing grade. That's how I was drafted into the Japanese army with my nationality that I obtained when I went into middle school through adoption process.

MN: And you said you were planning to take the Officer Candidate School exam?

FH: Uh-huh.

MN: But before you took that exam, you were ordered to go out into the countryside. What happened out in the countryside?

FH: Well, we were digging holes. Because when the U.S. Army landed in Japan, we have to keep, hide goods, and we had to defend our country by living in the country cave. And so I was digging, and when I was carrying wood, I got a sliver in my finger, and I got blood poisoning. And it swelled up to here and here and then they say if it go to the arm, that's it. And so they had to amputate this at the army hospital. [Holds up finger]

MN: And then you were in the hospital, is it, was it run by the Red Cross?

FH: Well, yes, at first it was the army hospital, but you know, all those wounded soldier and so forth coming back from the battlefront, there was not enough. And so the Red Cross hospital was converted into an army hospital, and I was there. On June the 30th, it was airbombed by the U.S. And, you know, at nighttime, I was in the bed and almost being hit on the bed with a big stick. And woke up, and there, things were, it was flaming out there. And so the first thing I, the only thing I grabbed, I recall, was my eyeglass. Because wherever I go, I can't anywhere without my eyeglasses. I grabbed that. Nowadays, I have the cataract surgery, I don't use the eyeglasses, but the first thing I grabbed. And then with that, just ran downstairs to the basement. And basement, there was no way to go, so one of the older soldier who came back from the warfront, that guided us, and went outside from the basement. And there I saw the ladder, and so we escaped from there. And we got the blanket, and so we were all told to soak that blanket into the water tank, and then put it over us. That's how we ran through the town to go to the riverbed. But before we reached the riverbed, you know, we go in the cul de sac. And those guys who were guiding us said that, "Thank you so much. This is all we can do. We cannot help you any longer." And so he got some maybe wines and some cigarette and gave to us, "Here, you're on your own, and escape from here." And immediately after that, clang, the building crashed. But we barely escaped. Went out into the broader street, because broader street, even if there's a fire going on, still, there's room to escape. And then, there, we found a, one of the fire, what you call that, the hole, dug in the hole and so forth. Air raid shelter. And so went in there. And the guys who were there before us had some rice, and so we feeded on that and so forth. And it became dawn. Soldiers on the bicycles came around to round us up, and we were rounded together, put on the train, went into the countryside called the Yunoho Onsen. It's a hot springs way out in the mountainside. It was there that the inn was confiscated and turned into the army training there, we met the, December 15th, end of the war.

And there, we heard some rumors about the Hiroshima, a new kind of bomb was dropped and so forth, and some of the soldiers who was, who lost their eyesight and so forth was escaping, and so we heard about that. We didn't know exactly about the A-bomb and so forth, that was later on that we heard about that, but we heard those kind of rumors. And then say, "Everybody get together," we had to hear the voice of the Emperor. And the Emperor never spoke. Nobody had heard the Emperor's voice except those who are surrounding him. But it was announced that Japan is going to accept the declaration and surrender to the armed forces.

TI: I just wanted to -- when you heard that, what did you feel when you heard the Emperor?

FH: Yes. Maybe some guys were weeping, but some were saying that, "Oh, what a great relief. Now we can go home," yes.

TI: And how did you feel?

FH: I felt that, oh, boy, great. Now we can go back home.

MN: Did you cry?

FH: I don't recall. I don't recall. I was so happy, because all of a sudden, I feel like I've been bounded up by ropes and so forth.

TI: And I wanted to also follow up, going back to the Red Cross hospital. Tell me a little bit about that. Who staffed the hospital? Who was the doctors and nurses in the Red Cross hospital?

FH: All the, I think, all the military staff, I think, headed by the military staff. I don't know about the civilians, whether they were there or not.

TI: This was more military-run.

FH: Yeah, completely military-run, yes.

MN: And I just wanted to make sure, that was June 30, 1945, when the hospital burned.

FH: Yes, correct.

MN: And you mentioned the Tennoheika went on the radio on August 15, 1945, although in America, we think of the end of the war as August 14, 1945.

FH: That's right. Because the International Date time, that's right.

MN: At this time, did you have any idea what was going on in the United States? Did you know that the Nikkei community was put into camps?

FH: I had no knowledge at all, nothing.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

MN: Now, you were still in the army. How long were you in the army?

FH: 'Til November the 30th of that year. Because somebody had to do with the people, for the repatriation, and the soldiers coming back from all kinds of battlefront. And so I was retained to do those kind of work. 'Til November the 30th, yes.

MN: And at the same time, you were studying to go to the National Higher School.

FH: Uh-huh.

MN: Can you tell us what that National Higher School is?

FH: Well, it is a sort of elite school, because the capacity of the nationwide National Higher Schools were equal to the imperial universities. There were seven imperial universities, Tokyo, Kyoto and Tohoku in Sendai, and Kyushu, and also Hokkaido and Osaka and Nagoya. But the capacity was equal. So that if one enters this National Higher School, then it was almost guaranteed that if one does not select between the location and the field of study, he can enter the imperial university. And so the entrance exam was very, very competitive. You had to work very hard to enter that school.

MN: You know, I'm really amazed, though. Here, there's a war going on, and you're thinking about continuing your education. How were you able to find time and the energy to study and think about the future?

FH: Well, ever since I graduated from the middle school, that was my goal, to go into the higher education. But I took about six, seven exams and failed in all of them. And they say that there's no use taking these guys because of the age, I was one year older, going to be conscripted and drafted into the army. And so you go to this school and then drafted into the army, there was no use. I don't know whether that was the reason, or my grade was not good enough, but I failed in all of them. And so after... but I still had this idea of going to this school all through my life, even in the military. I had no books, I had nothing to study, but I always had that in mind. And so when I was released at November the 11th, November the 30th, I said, "This is my goal. I'm going to pursue that." And I think everything worked real well for me because we almost did not miss the class. Very occasionally, very seldom we moved the class, doing the work for the military factories and so forth. But the next year and next year, two years later, they were almost, went to the production field instead of going to school. Like my wife, too, she's about five years younger than I am, but from day to evening, working in the factory and so forth. Matter of fact, my wife is one of the Hiroshima A-bomb survivor, but she was working into the factory when the A-bomb was dropped. Well, this is sidetracking. But anyway, that was kind of the situation. So when I took the exam, even if we skipped classes now and then, but it's very seldom. The other guys, especially about two years behind us, they hardly went to school at all. And so, you know, we were very much... you know, was very grateful that I went to the whole education system. And so I passed the exam and I became a student of the sixth National Higher School, yes.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: When you were in middle school and then in the army, did you ever think about ever returning to the United States? Did you think about the United States?

FH: No, not in those days.

TI: What was your feeling about the United States during this time? You talked about, sort of, being brainwashed, or they always talked about Japan winning and Japan was gonna do this. When you're living through that, what were your feelings about the United States?

FH: Animosity. Like even I used to make the straw models of U.S. president and British prime minister and so forth, and then with the takeari, the bamboo spears, you know. [Makes spearing motion] That kind of a mentality. Completely brainwashed.

TI: Did you ever, ever think about your childhood friends? You mentioned Chester, Bob, Jackie, did you ever consider that, wow, you might have to fight against them?

FH: Well, in those days, I never thought about that. Never thought about.

TI: Now, did it ever come up that you had U.S. citizenship? I mean, when you were in the military, did it ever, was that ever considered or ever brought up?

FH: No, no. We were just a Japanese, a pure Japanese. That's why, even I look at the graduation certificate of the National Higher School in Kyoto University and so forth, it only has Okayama-ken, and then my Japanese name, Hirata Hironobu, nothing else. And so completely living as a Japanese in Japan, and then in this country, completely U.S. citizens.

TI: When you were in the army, were you ever aware of other Niseis who were in your similar situation?

FH: No. Not even, didn't even know anything like that.

TI: And how about later? Later on, did you ever hear about other Niseis who were in a similar situation? They're born in the United States, but they were in Japan and then drafted? Did you, later on, did you hear about more of those type of stories?

FH: No, but especially, you know, Yuji Ichioka, when he had that seminar and so forth, at that time, it was brought up, and I was one of them who was drafted into the national army and so forth, so I participated in that.

MN: This was in the 1980s.

FH: Yes, correct. Later on.

TI: And how do you feel about that? Now you're in the United States, the fact that you were drafted into the Japanese army? What's the reaction of people when they find out that you were born in the United States, but then you were then in Japan and drafted? What kind of comments do you get, or questions?

FH: I don't think that I got very many, especially when this, Yuji's form and so forth. I didn't think that people asked, the antagonistic expression or questions and things like that. It's a fact. That happened, that's all.

TI: But were people surprised that there were so many Niseis who were, who were drafted by the Japanese army?

FH: Yes, uh-huh. But not, you know, I was not questioned in those kind of things.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: Right after the war, you talked about going to school, higher education. What was Japan like during this time? I'm a little amazed that Japan could come back so quickly and think about things like universities and all those things. So talk about that. How difficult were things in Japan in those months after?

FH: Uh-huh. Well, one thing, like long ago, there was the Takigawa Jiken and so forth, the Takigawa Incident and so forth. He was the professor of criminal law in Kyoto University. But he mentioned about the criminal law against the men and women and so forth. And that, because of those thing he mentioned, he said that, "You're so Westernized," and he was fired by the Japanese National Educational Headquarters. And following him, all the major professors in the law school resigned. "If we do not have the freedom of education, freedom of teaching, we'll resign with him." It's called the Takigawa Jiken, Takigawa Incident. But after the war, he resumed the post. And quite a few that worked with him became the professor at the Kyoto University and so forth. Those kind of things happened. Another thing was that there was a great influence, especially before that university, the National Higher School and so forth, those days. There was quite a bit of influence of the communist teachings. What's that... Mein Kampf and so forth, and those kind of, like Stalin's book and so forth, those things were very widely read, and there was quite a bit of shift from one end, the extreme feudalism, to the freedom extreme, more than freedom, socialism, communism and so forth. And there were quite a few students that was brainwashed, and we called that parutai, which is for the party, the National Communist Party. And there was groups like that in the, all the elite schools and so forth. But, you know, they became the leaders of the countries in the foreign service and so forth, you know, once they graduated. But there was a big shift right there.

TI: Well, they became the leaders, I mean, the ones who were -- I want to be clear about this -- that were part of the, interested in Communism? Those individuals? Or... I wasn't clear what you meant by that.

FH: Yeah. Well, they became the student of that parutai group and so forth. But what happened in the days that we went to the National Higher School was that before that, in the middle school, those guys who excelled went to the Yonin Gakkou, that goes from the seventh grade, going into the military school, preschool, to the military academy and so forth, Yonin Gakkou. Or when they are in the fourth grade and fifth grade, they go into Shikan Gakkou, the army officers' school, or going to the Kaidohei Gakkou, the navy (officers) school and so forth. Those who excelled in the classes, there were quite of few of them, went to those schools. Because they thought that if we go into the army, no use being drafted into the army, might as well get a head start. And so all the top -- not all, but quite a few of them went there. And all these, after the war, applied for the National Higher School and so forth. And so the government sent a, GHQ set a cap there. Only ten percent of the student body are allowed to admitted into each separate schools. 'Cause they didn't want to have that kind of guy congregated together and have another thing. It is very dangerous.

TI: You mean the ex-military?

FH: That's correct, that's right.

TI: And so ten percent was the, kind of, maximum number?

FH: That's right, that's right. And so, but we had a very interesting mix right there, having those excellent students who went into the military, became the civilian school students and so forth. And quite a few of them excelled after graduation, graduating from the university and so forth. Became the real leader to restore Japan from the devastation and so forth.

TI: Well, in some ways, it sounds like a very interesting time to be a young man, because in some ways, there was so much uncertainty in terms of what would go forward. So what did you think? I mean, what were your thoughts in terms of what Japan needed to do to rebuild?

FH: Well, it was democracy. Democracy. And you know, there's a great story about that, Bob Watanabe's wife Ruth. Ruth told at one of the JACL meetings, Emperor meets with MacArthur, and MacArthur says that, "The first thing you have to do is you have to do is you have to democratize Japan. And to do that, you have to have election. Through the election process, you have to become Japan, democratized." And so Emperor says, "What? What? You were always bombing us, we couldn't sleep, we didn't even have the time to 'erect,' so how can we have 'erection'?" [Laughs] And so MacArthur says, "Well, you have to be careful in pronouncing the word. It's not 'erection,' it is 'election.' Because in Japan -- sorry for the sidetrack -- but Japanese language, there's no difference between the "L" sound and the "R" sound. Ra, ri, ru, re, ro. The "L" and "R" makes no difference. But that's what Ruth Watanabe at the JACL meeting, when there was about three hundred people or something, and there was a big laughter.

TI: [Laughs] I never heard that one.

MN: Never heard that one? [Laughs] Oh, is that recorded, too? That's okay, it doesn't matter. Anyway, and so the election, that was most important thing. And so democratization, that was the issue right there, yes. And so democratization went to the extreme, like release of the, those Tokudai Kyuichi and so forth, you know, the communist big head and so forth, all released from the prison and so forth. And that there was activity going on within the communism documents and so forth. And the students, they were always, like even in this country, like in Berkeley and so forth, you know, there was the freedom movement and so forth, there was quite a bit going on, especially at the elite schools.

TI: But at some point, I know from the United States' perspective, there was concern about the communism in Japan during the occupation, and they had a strong shift in terms of trying to really quash, sort of, the communist movement. Do you remember that? Do you remember a change in, sort of, during the occupation, the Americans coming down harder against communism?

FH: Well, no, we do not. We were not. But we heard about an incident when somebody was, there was, in Kyushu, a person who wanted to assassin the Emperor and so forth, things like that. And, of course... [makes sound effect]. We heard things like that, yes. And so it seemed like there was some activity like that we made before the end of the war. But you couldn't speak ill of the Emperor and so forth, yes.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

MN: I'm gonna go back to your National Higher School years. You said when you were attending National Higher School, you worked in the U.S. military on commissary. Did you meet any Nisei MIS people there?

FH: Yes, I did. He was a guy from Okinawa, and I call, I do not recall his name, but we used to chat very frequently, yes.

MN: What did you talk about? Did you talk about what was going on in the United States?

FH: No, no.

MN: Did he know that you were American citizen?

FH: I don't recall. I don't recall. Maybe he did, but I don't recall.

MN: So other than that, you had no interaction with Nisei MIS or any soldiers?

FH: No.

TI: But how did your feelings about the United States change after the war? I mean, so now the war is over. Before, you talked about how you had this, almost this hatred towards America. So the war is over now, and now you're starting to meet American soldiers. So how did things change for you?

FH: Complete change. It was not what we were told the Americans were, American soldiers were. Like there was a scare, quite a bit of scare during the wartime and so forth to beef up the anti-U.S. feeling and so forth. You can never have the Americans on Japan, Japanese soil, because all the Japanese males would be castrated, and all the females, they'll be turned into... well, those kind of things, you know, bad things. But it was not so once the U.S. soldiers started coming around. Very generous, and very, you know, person with a deep heart inside, yes. Because when I was going to school and so forth, and the National Higher School and so forth, we visited a British -- especially in the Okayama area, there was British and Australians and the American soldiers. But one of the soldiers had the bible study at his own residence and so forth, things like that. And gradually learned about what was taught about the Westerners, American and British and so forth, completely different. Not like what we were taught to believe in.

TI: And how long did it take in terms of that change from one way of thinking to the other, how long do you think it took for Japanese people to change their thinking about Americans?

FH: Well, I don't think, in general, it took very long. Of course, there were incidents like what happened in Brazil and so forth, you know, the kachigumi and makegumi, the winners team and the defeating teams and so forth, things like that. But that was more or less isolated. And I think as far as the PR, U.S. PR and so forth was very good, worked very effectively. So it didn't take very long for the Japanese to change their thinking and discover what wrong they were being taught to believe in and so forth. I don't think it took very long. Well, otherwise, you could have incident happening here and there and so forth, but we very seldom hear about those kind of things. Like attacking the Western soldiers and so forth, you never hear about that.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

MN: Well, in fact, your father returned to the United States in 1949, which was pretty soon after the war. Why did he return to the United States?

FH: Because he had been living here so long, and he even had the property in Spokane, Washington, hotel and so forth, which was in custody of one of his friends out there, and so he decided to come back. It was more or less temporary that he was staying in Japan, farming over there. The rice, crop, farming.

MN: So he considered the United States more of a home rather than Japan?

FH: I think so. Maybe half and half, but definitely, U.S. was home, yes, correct.

MN: And why did your mother stay behind?

FH: Because she had tuberculosis, and so she could not be cleared to enter the United States.

MN: And how about your brother and sister?

FH: My brother and sister, they, you know, followed my dad. They were called back to this country. In those days, there were two things. One was whether one was a communist or not, that was very strict. And the other was the financial obligation for those who are to call their kids and so forth to this country. So my dad, you know, he signed the paper and they gradually called him to return to the United States.

MN: And he was living in Spokane again?

FH: No. This time, my dad, instead of going to Spokane, he first, there was a friend that was in Los Angeles area, and so he visited Los Angeles and then went to Spokane. But then decided to get rid of the property up there and then come down here. And he bought the property at 1911 Colby Avenue, which now is in my possession. But he bought the property there. Because he had a couple friends from Okayama, there was very strong Okayama prefecture here in Los Angeles, and like Miyake and Naramura, Naramura was a realtor, and so he bought the property from them and settled down here in West L.A.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

MN: Now, meanwhile, you were still in Japan, you were accepted into Kyoto University. What did you major in at Kyoto University?

FH: It was law.

MN: And why did you choose law?

FH: Well, because my dad, when I were a young kid, he always said that there are two profession that one can, one can excel in. One is the law and the other is the medical field. And so I just followed that. But the courses that I took was, instead of a strict law, it was more or less the public administration kind of unit that I took.

MN: And when did you graduate from Kyoto University?

FH: 1952.

MN: Were your parents at your graduation ceremony?

FH: No, they were here in this country. So they could not attend any of the graduation ceremony.

MN: Now, a year after you graduated, you became Christian in 1953. How did that come about?

FH: Well, I think it is a long, long history. Like my brother, when he suffered from the brain tumor or something, was healed there and so forth. And then attending the bible study at the officer's, the British officer's home and so forth. It was a very, very gradual process. But one thing I recall, I was a nasty boy when I was in Okayama and so forth. And one day, after drinking and doing all the, all the sinful things and so forth, I was walking back to the Okayama station to catch the train back to my countryside home. And when I was passing in front of that church, I heard the very joyful, it was a youth group having, I think it was a celebration or something like that. And so I just walked in and say, "Hey, take me in," and they say, "No." And then they call the pastor and the pastor come out and say, "Hey, it seems like you are very much drunk. We cannot take you in now. Get sober and then come back again." And so I think I went back the next Sunday or something like that. And then attending the Sunday worship service, I felt as if the pastor is speaking only to me, that kind of feeling I had. And so gradually, I started attending. Not only when there was service, but various meetings and so forth. And I even became a Sunday school teacher and so forth, and after being Baptized and so forth.

MN: And this is all in Japan, still?

FH: Yeah, still in Japan, Okayama. And so Okayama church, that was my home church.

MN: Did your family have a problem with you converting to Christianity?

FH: Oh, no, not at all. Because my parents, even when they were in Japan after the war, used to invite the pastors from city of Okayama. Okayama church and another Shinyae church, that is the Methodist church. But having the pastor there at our home and having the house meeting in the countryside and so forth. And so they were not Christian, but our parents, my father as well as Kano, which is my uncle, used to have a gradual process of becoming Christian and so forth. Later on, they became Christians. But was gradually exposed to Christianity. And one person, if I can mention, name is... Bob... he is a professor at the School of Theology in Claremont.

MN: Suzuki?

FH: No, no, he's an American, but he has quite a few books and so forth. He even came to our house and spoke through the, let's say, occupied forces. My uncle used to be an interpreter for the Japanese intelligence, CIA and so forth. And so he was even invited from Kobe and spoke at our house. Bob G. Cobb. Cobb, C-O-B-B, yeah. And so it was a gradual process, I was exposed to Christianity. And so after attending those meeting and so forth, I became a Christian on Christmas Day, Christmas service.

MN: Christmas Day 1953?

FH: I think so. My parents, after coming back to this country, they became Baptized, too, both parents.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

MN: You were married in 1957?

FH: '57, yes, correct.

MN: Can you tell us how you met your wife?

FH: Yes. I was the French language major. I mean, in the National Higher School, they had a literary class. There was a literary class and science class. Literary class, there was a A, B and C. A specialized in English eight hours a week, and German four hours a week. And B, German eight hours a week and English four hours, and C, French eight hours a week and four hours of English. And the professor, there was an educational system change in Japan after the war, so that the school, the National Higher School system was abolished. And so the professor went to Hiroshima and became a professor at the Hiroshima University. And that was his main job, but as a side job, he became he professor at the Hiroshima Women's College where my wife was a student. And so when I told this professor that I'm going back to the United States, he said that, "There is a young woman that I would like you to meet." And so he came to Okayama with his wife and with my wife and so forth. And then we met. And then we decided to, you know, get married and so forth. That's how, yeah.

MN: What is your wife's name?

FH: Japanese name is Hisaye, but when she got naturalized, she became, she adopted Patricia. Patricia Hisaye Hirata is her legal name.

MN: Now, there's some stigma about hibakusha, and your wife is a hibakusha. Did you have any concerns about marrying a hibakusha?

FH: Of course, at that time, I did not know, but later on, that became known. But I don't think so. Because they may think that it may affect the following generation and so forth, but I don't anything like that. We did not see.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

MN: Now, you weren't able to return to the United States until 1957, and why is that?

FH: Because I was conscripted. I was drafted into the Japanese army. Because of the fact that I had the Japanese citizenship, going to school and so forth, I had to be adopted into the parents' family registry, and so I got the Japanese nationality. That's why the government took me to the Japanese army.

MN: And how were you able to return to the United States?

FH: I was a minor at the time when my Japanese nationality was gained, not by myself, but through my guardian. And so there was a litigation, I think his name was Kasama, Shig Kasama's brother, who was living in the San Francisco area, who was the leading attorney, and worked for the cases like me. And through the Japanese government, to the effect that they took me to the Japanese army and so forth, even though it was not out of my own will, but because of the nationality at that time. I was a minor, and so it is not my will that I became the Japanese citizenship. And so the fact of the Japanese citizenship has been negated right there, would affect myself being drafted into the Japanese army. And so Japanese army had, legal interpretation is that Japanese government mistakenly took in somebody who does not even have the Japanese nationality, and so that was cleared. And so as far as United States side, I was U.S.-born, it's a fact, unchanging fact, and so who was born in this country, I still have my Japanese citizenship. Although because of the fact that I have never renunciated my Japanese, I mean, U.S. citizenship. So I'm still U.S. citizenship, that's why. I got the U.S. passport, went to the consulate in Kobe and got one time only passport to return to the United States. Very unusual case. That's how I came back to this country.

TI: So let me see if can recap this and see if I understand this. So part of the reason you couldn't come to the United States was because you served in the Japanese army.

FH: Uh-huh.

TI: And so this attorney established the fact that, in some ways, it was against your will. That you were...

FH: Minor.

TI: A minor when you were adopted and got your U.S., your Japanese citizenship, that then allowed the Japanese government to conscript you, or draft you. Once they established that that was against your will, then they established that, so that in theory, you should not have been in the Japanese army. So then it went back, so that got nullified, and the fact that you were born in Spokane, in the United States, established that you were a U.S. citizen.

FH: Correct.

TI: So that allowed you to come back to the United States.

FH: Correct.

TI: So this attorney had to kind of work through all the channels to establish this, but once it was established, then you could come back.

FH: Right, right.

TI: Okay, good.

FH: This Kasama, I think, he went to Chuo University, and so there was a Foreign Japanese Ministry and so forth, but he worked with him very closely on the Japanese side of the law and so forth.

TI: So the question I have for you is why go to all that bother? I mean, why did you want to come back to the United States?

MN: Well, my parents were all back here and my brothers and sisters were here and so I wanted to come back to the United States. As a matter of fact, when I graduated from Kyoto University, I was a employee of a very good company. It was a Sumitomo Metal Industries, one of the, you know, the conglomerate. But I didn't stay long, only for about half a year, I quit, 'cause I wanted to come back to this country. And didn't like the way that, you know, even in the Japanese corporate circle and so forth, it's so, it's like a family structure, which is good, but you know, no, hardly any freedom at all. So I quit only in about a half a year. And they said that, "I never seen a guy like you, graduating from the university, one of the top university, and then working for such a great company and then quit in about half a year." Said, "I'm gonna quit," and that's it. Seemed like I was very independent.

MN: So you came back here, your family's living in West L.A. And then you enrolled in UCLA. Why did you enroll at UCLA?

FH: Because at one time, I was thinking about going into ministry, and to do so, I had to brush up my English.

MN: And why didn't you go into the ministry?

FH: Well, because of the family. My kids were born, two of them were born and so forth, and I had to make the living instead of going further into any kind of study.

MN: So is this when you found your job with the Japanese Chamber of Commerce?

FH: That's correct. 1962.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

MN: Now, you were really involved in trying to save Little Tokyo from further encroachment from City Hall. But you did not even grow up in Los Angeles. Why was it of a concern to you to save Little Tokyo?

FH: Well, being the executive secretary to the Chamber of Commerce, it was more or less the hub of all the activities of the Japanese American community. Because traditionally, in the line of the prewar Japan Association, all these, those living in this area had something to do with the Chamber of Commerce. It was like the headquarter. Like they had the Little Tokyo Businessmen's Association, the Nisei Week festival, the Japanese American Hotel and Apartment Association, and whatever, you named that, it was centered around the Chamber of Commerce. Even when they had the Noguchi case and so forth, Chamber of Commerce was very deeply involved in this.

MN: You're talking about Thomas Noguchi, the foreigner.

FH: Yeah, that's correct. And so when... there was a city government, rumor that the city government was going to take one side of Little Tokyo, East First Street. It's not the, shopping district had to be a street on both sides, I mean, the business on both sides of the street, and we had to fight that. And so there was a group organized, I think Howard Toriumi was one the leader in those days, who was the minister of the L.A. Union church. But he said we have to do something, and then Bruce Kaji and so forth, we got together. And first, I worked with the property owners. There was a group called the Little Tokyo Property Owners Association, found out who owned those properties and so forth. And then, this news came to the... I think it was Mike Masaoka's brother, who was in San Francisco somewhere, who was working for the federal government, and who knew about these kind of redevelopment and so forth. And so he kind of stepped in. And then Lovret... I forgot his first name.

MN: Reuben Lovret?

FH: Reuben Lovret, yes. He worked for the city in this area. And so he became the advisor to our group. And then he said that to do this, we had to organize the citizen's group. Not only the property owners, but the businessman, and all avenue of service, everybody has to pitch in. And so the LTRA, the Little Tokyo Redevelopment Association, as an official group was organized. And he gave us all the way to go, the guideline as to what to do and so forth. That's how I got involved in LTRA.

MN: Did Mr. Lovret ever share with you why he had to meet with you folks during his lunch hour or after work?

FH: Well, I do not recall that, but I think there was an article in Rafu Shimpo, something about Lovret's thing, isn't it? Yes.

MN: My understanding is that his boss did not want him to meet with the Little Tokyo group. He was very anti-Japanese.

FH: Oh, yeah? I didn't, I didn't know about that, but he was very sympathetic toward, he was French, I think, isn't it?

MN: Norwegian.

FH: Oh, Norwegian?

MN: Norwegian and Spanish.

FH: Oh, was it Spanish? That so? That so. He was a great man, yes.

TI: Now, were there a lot of arguments in the Japanese community during this time about how this should happen in terms of how to fight the encroachment by City Hall, were there different, I guess, strategies or ideas of how to do this, or were people pretty cohesive?

FH: I think like in any organization, there's always the pros and cons. How can we fight the government, let the government do whatever they think is good? And there's the other sense that, "No, that's not right, we have to fight for our own sake." But anyway, we got together, and Bruce Kaji was an official leader. He was in real estate and so forth, he knew the business real well. And so we -- [sneezes] -- excuse me. We stuck together and fought the way through, yes. And first thing was they established the boundary. I think there's a map and so forth as to, between this street and this street. And then gradually went into the political activities with the city as well as the federal government and so forth. Because federal is involved in this as well.

TI: But there's something you said that struck me. Because many of the people working were put into camps. And so here was a case where the, where they pretty much had to follow what the government decided what to do. In this case, they decided to fight against the government.

FH: Yes.

TI: When they were fighting against the government, did their incarceration during the war, did that ever come up? Did people say, "We have to fight because of what happened during World War II"? Or did any of that sort of discussion or talk come up in these meetings?

FH: I don't recall. I don't recall the tie between what happened during the wartime and after the war. I don't recall --

TI: Or just the feelings. Like they, "We followed the government during World War II and we were put in camps. This time we're gonna fight against them." Did you ever hear anything like that?

FH: No, I don't think so. I don't think so.

MN: Anything else you want to share about the Little Tokyo, saving Little Tokyo? 'Cause I know that's a huge segment in itself, but I just want to have a little brief comment from you regarding anything else you remember. Did you folks think you could save First Street North?

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

MN: I mean, did you think you could save it? Because they wanted to take that over. They already took one block of First Street for --

FH: That's right.

MN: Eminent domain.

FH: And so it was going straight through, which was going to cut off completely the north side of East First Street, yes.

MN: That's a big battle.

FH: It is. It was.

MN: Did you think you could win it?

FH: Well, I don't recall win or lose. I had to fight, and so I fought and did real well in that fight, yes.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

MN: Was it easy to galvanize the community?

FH: They did, they did. And you know, one way to galvanize the community is the crisis feeling. Whenever there's a crisis, you stick together, is that right? And so I don't know whether that was the intention or not, but it worked real well.

TI: So talk about that a little bit. When you say... you're right, when there's a crisis, people will, they react when things happen. So when you guys were thinking, trying to get the community involved, how did you make it into a crisis? What did you say to the community so that they would, they would do things?

FH: Well, if the north side of East First Street is taken away, there is no Little Tokyo. Bring it to the extreme. Because there would be no center. East Second Street was not considered as the main street through. Like, as you said, already the City Hall has taken away that portion over there. And so if it's all the way down to the Alameda Street, it was taken away, no more Little Tokyo. And so people said we had to do something, we had to stick together and fight this.

TI: So the fight was, the crisis was, "If we don't do something, Little Tokyo would disappear. It would cease to exist."

FH: Right. But thinking of what Little Tokyo is today, in those days, it was like that, it was purely Japanese. Of course, there was a Chinese restaurant and so forth, but it was mostly, purely Japanese. Like in any churches and so forth, the churches used to be the Japanese, but nowadays, there are the Chinese, there are the Koreans, there are Caucasians and so forth. Like each individual church in West L.A. or wherever it is and so forth. Same thing's happening in Little Tokyo nowadays, too. It's more of the Asian town. Just like what happened in Brazil, San Paolo, it used to be the Japanese town, and it turned into the Asian town and so forth. Same things that happened in Little Tokyo. Is that right? Don't you get that feeling?

TI: And so how do you feel about that?

FH: Well, I think whether you like it or not, that is the general tendency. And so if it's like that, let it be so, yes.

TI: So let me ask two questions here. First, going back to saving Little Tokyo, how well do you think the group did? Did you get everything that you wanted, or were there some things that didn't happen?

FH: I think it worked very well. Very well, yes.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

TI: And so you save Little Tokyo, and now I'm hearing that, okay, so you saved, when you saved Little Tokyo, it was almost all Japanese. But now, over the decades, it's changing, it's becoming more Asian.

MN: Right, the character is changing.

TI: And you said that's just the way things happened? What would you like to see in the future? If you could dream, because you were so involved with saving Little Tokyo, if you think about, like in the future, what would you like Little Tokyo to be?

FH: Well, I think that's the precise reason we have the National American Museum and so forth, to preserve what it was, what is history, and preserve the value system that used to exist and so forth. But we cannot, we cannot enforce that into the whole entire Little Tokyo area, because change is change. It changes by generation, people change, thinking change and so forth. And so if that is so, that is the course to be taken. That's, I personally...

TI: Thinking about how much has changed, they're doing more development, they're talking about the transit center and all that. When you think of change and where it's been, where do you think it's gonna go?

MN: Well, it's going to change more, because the transit center, it was mostly change in the property, you know, the Chinese and Koreans buying property and businesses here and there and so forth. Now, with the transit system coming from all over, down from the Watts area and down from the Hispanic center and so forth, it's gonna be more of a mixed, at least the customers are concerned. I do not know about the property owners and the business owners and so forth. But the makeup is going to change when the customers change and the business owners have to change their thinking, too. How to cater to this variety of, mixed component of the customers. And so I think, whether one likes it or not, it is going to be a gradual change.

TI: And yet, when you say "Little Tokyo," you got the community organized and working together. Again, when you think about the future of Little Tokyo, should, do you think the community should be doing similar kind of thinking and organizing for the future of Little Tokyo? Or do you think it should just evolve as, as it's going? What do you think the community should be talking about and doing right now?

FH: Well, I think that if this is the general trend, then no use fighting it. It's good to preserve what it is and so forth, that's the precise reason that we have the Japanese Cultural Community Center as well as the Japanese National Museum and so forth. But no use fighting the change that's going on. If there's a change, let it be.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

MN: I'm gonna switch gears a little bit. Frank, you're a Kibei-Nisei. Do you feel more connection with the Japanese nationals, or more connection with American-born Niseis?

FH: Well, I think now it's American. For example, if it's Olympic and so forth, I would think of what's the U.S. doing first before going to see Japan. Of course, Japan I will. But like the Winter Olympics, South Korea's doing pretty well, as well as China, so Japan is... I was thinking of the U.S. more. Because of the fact that not only we are living here for so long, I think I'm living in the U.S. much longer than I've lived in Japan. Japan is only twenty-two years out of eighty-four years of my life, and the rest of them are living in this country. Not only that, but my offsprings and the grandkids and so forth, my extended family, not in Japan at all. I have one auntie who is ninety-two years of age, and a cousin who is about seventy-something. But, and then I have cousins here and there. But when you get to cousins, it gets more and more remote. More or less like history, you know, like this guy has been the director of this country and so forth, I mean, his company and so forth in Japan. It's very remote, not like those persons who I persons who I daily contact. Like over here, we had the grandkids and grandson, and granddaughter who was age fourteen, a granddaughter who was age thirteen and so forth. But this granddaughter, she is a hapa, the mixed, husband is six-four, he's a pure Caucasian, works for Toyota motor company. But out of the Manhattan Beach middle school, the class of three hundred fifty students, she ranks number eight academically. [Laughs] And so this where heart is, more than what's happened in Japan. Japan is more or less the country where I have all the memories and so forth. Yeah, and went to school up to all the twenty-two years of memory and so forth. Not real, nowadays, but here, your life is right here.

MN: Now, we talked about it a little bit earlier, but when was the first time you went public with your story that you were a Nisei in the Japanese army?

FH: Well, I think when it came real public was by the forum that Yuji Ichioka had.

MN: And you -- just to reiterate -- did not get any hostile reaction to that when you went public with that?

FH: No, I don't think so. I don't think so. Because Yuji, he wanted a couple of categories. One, the university you graduated and went to Japan and so forth, wrote a book and so forth. That lady in San Francisco, and there was another guy that was a graduate of the (University of Utah) and went to Japan and became the professional interpreter and so forth, I forgot his name. Very well-known person. And then one category was the JA who served in the Japanese army, and that's where I was chosen to be on the board.


MN: But there are not a lot of Nisei who go public about being in the Japanese army.

FH: Oh, yeah?

MN: I don't know anybody else except you and Mr. Sano.

FH: Oh, yeah?

MN: Do you know others?

FH: I don't know. I don't know.

MN: Do you think there is some shame associated with this?

FH: Well, my cousin, too, he was, into Japanese army and so forth, but he went to Korea and he became ill and so forth. And he's still living. And not even talk about those kind of things. He was drafted and so, drafted and voluntarily going into the army as the tokotai and so forth is completely different. Tokotai, may have been forced, but you know, in the end, it's a voluntary category. But like myself and so forth, it was drafted, and no way to resist. You had to, had to take it in, just had to follow, yes.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

MN: I want to switch gears into JACL. You're a JACL member. How long were you a JACL member and which chapter?

FH: From 1962 when I started working for the Japanese Chamber of Commerce. Akiyama Gunmai, and who was that guy, the Catholic priest there?

MN: Yamazaki?

FH: No, no, Catholic priest, hakujin guy who was with the Berno church there. Hakujin father? Clement, Father Clement. And so long time, and we used to meet at the... what was that restaurant? Little Tokyo on East First Street... Japanese restaurant there.

MN: Daruma?

FH: Not Daruma, East First Street.

MN: Far East Cafe?

FH: No, no, right on the, little south from where there was the movie house there.

MN: Sanko-low?

FH: Eigiku. Eigiku. We used to meet quite often, and there was a restaurant called the Eigiku restaurant, and we used to meet there fairly frequently. And being a Chamber of Commerce executive and so forth, I was called in and so forth and I immediately became a member.

MN: What did you think about the JACL?

FH: JACL? I think it has done a great job, especially in the early days and so forth working for the civil rights of the Japanese Americans and so forth. But now, it's gradually diluted. Civil Rights Movement is fine, but now, it's spread out to the other Asians, not only Japanese Americans but Chinese and Koreans and so forth, and Vietnamese and so forth. And in a way, it has lost the focus. Yes, the civil rights could be the focus, but you know, the focused group. And just like what's happening in the Little Tokyo all over, you know, things are changing. It's a matter of change. I think that's what Obama calls change. It is change, things do change. And so JACL is completely different from when it was first organized by Mike Masaoka, and I think Sab Kido and so forth, those guys. And Sab Kido, I hear that he was beaten in the camp. Said that, you know, the Japanese is winning, Japanese is losing and those kind of things, and he stood up for the U.S. citizens' rights and so forth, and he was beaten pretty badly I think.

MN: Did he actually personally talk to you about that?

FH: No, but I... no, not personally, but I heard about those kind of things, yes.

MN: And you were good friends with Saburo Kido, is that correct?

FH: He was a great man, he was a great man. Because almost daily I visited his company, he was running the Nichibei Times. Shinichi Bei, I'm sorry, Shinichi Bei. They had three Japanese, JA papers, one is the Rafu Shimpo, and Shinichi Bei, and Kashu Mainichi Bei. The Shinichi Bei was the first one to go, and then the Kashu Mainichi. Rafu is still existing, but I used to be the executive secretary to the Chamber of Commerce being the hub of the Japanese community activities, almost eighty, I wrote a news release and sent it, brought it to those papers.


<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

MN: After you were with the JCC, where did you go work after that?

FH: After JCC, I worked for Port of Los Angeles in 1970. Because Fred Wada, he became the Harbor Commissioner. And the harbor, there was business between Japan was skyrocketing in those days, and he wanted Japanese, I mean, somebody who can speak the language in the business development era. And so he took me in, not through the civil service exam, but through a contract. I was a contract worker in the Harbor Department for about two and a half years. And then there was a guy that came from Japan, the Nakano Warehouse and Transportation (Corporation), they wanted somebody who can manage their company. And so I was hired there as the general manager, vice president. And then after that, Fred Wada became the director to the Bank of Tokyo. And so here again, it seemed like I'm following him or he's picking me up or I don't know. But I started working for the Bank of Tokyo in 1975 at age fifty, started working for the bank. And I worked for the Union bank for about seventeen years. Lot of people think like, even Martha thought that I was a banker all through my life. That's not the case. I worked only for about seventeen years, but from a company outsider. And how I did that, each time when I take a new job, I take a couple of extra courses and so forth and going to the UCLA extension and so forth. I know this much about this business. And then, okay, you're hired. Bank was different. I was hired because Nakano Warehouse and Transportation, the business got bad, and so I was going to lose the job, and so I went to the Bank of Tokyo manager then, whom I knew since the Japanese Chamber of Commerce days, and said that I'm going to lose the job. "You're a banker, you have a lot of clients, and so find a place for me." And he said, "Give me your resume," and I submitted it to him, he called me back and said, "Well, you're going to lose a job. Won't you think of working for the bank?" And I said, "Okay, I will." And I had quite a bit of a salary cut in those days, but I started working for the Union Bank, which I did for seventeen years. And so I got all the retirement benefits and everything, full benefits.

TI: And what kind of work did you do at the bank?

FH: Bank I was the public relations field.

TI: Okay, so you didn't have to really know finance so much, but just more community, public relations, that kind of work.

FH: Right, but the finance and so forth, I took a couple of courses. ABA, American Bankers Association, to have the AB... American Bankers education arm, and I attended night courses and took a couple of courses in the general, how does the use of the fund, how to make, take in the deposit and how to use it lending, and all the fields and those kind of things. I took couple of courses, and that's how I worked with the bank. And so I knew a lot of things, those kind of academic background and so forth. Because those people have worked for the bank for twenty, thirty years. They hardly know about these kind of things. How the bank operates, how does the bank profit? Taking in the funds, lending it out and get the spread there and so forth. And have to have the asset and the liability, had to know all that. But I've known that at least here, academically.

MN: Well, Bank of Tokyo was also very big right after the war. Didn't they help the Kajima Corporation? Didn't they finance them when they first started to rebuild in Little Tokyo?

FH: I think so. And not only after the war, but even the prewar days. It was once the first bank that came to the United States, Yokohama Specie Bank, YSB. That was more or less the agency of the Japanese government in Sacramento. And then Sumitomo followed that, but it was the first one. And then after the war, those kind of banks were, GHQ said they had to change this, and then it became the Bank of Tokyo. A... what do you call that? Commercial bank and so forth. But before, the it was the bank, the financial arm of the Japanese country, Japanese government itself, very strong. So even the Bank of Tokyo had a very strong tradition of that. All of the Japanese consulate, embassy and consulate employees, they had an account with the Bank of Tokyo, not with the Sumitomo.

MN: Of course, now it's known as Union Bank.

FH: That's right. And then the Bank of Tokyo bought the Southern Cal First National Bank in San Diego, and then became an American bank. And then the Union Bank was on sale, the British bank, Union Bank was sale, and so the California First Bank bought out the Union Bank, the British bank, and then changed its name to Union Bank. And then it merged with the Mitsubishi Bank, subsidiary of the Bank of California. Bank of California is the oldest bank in the state of California. And so it merged and then became Union Bank of California. And then about last year or so, I think they changed their name again to the Union Bank. It's why it's the Union Bank of California. (Then it reverted to Union Bank, as it stands today.)

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

MN: Now, just your personal... how many children do you have?

FH: I have two now. I had three, but I have two.

MN: You have a daughter and a son?

FH: That's correct, yes.

MN: And one daughter who passed away.

FH: That's correct, yes.

MN: Can you share with us their names?

FH: Yes. The oldest one was Darlene, Darlene Kumiko Hirata, but she died at age twenty-eight. [Interruption] And the next one is Alice Reiko. Alice Reiko Hirata, who married to Randy Miketa, M-I-K-E-T-A. "Miketa" sounds like Japanese, but it's not Japanese, it's more or less Hungarian and Italian mixed name, Hungarian, I think. And he's from Columbus Ohio, he works for the Toyota Motor company now. He's 6'4". And so that's our daughter, and then the son's name is Curtis, Curtis Hirata. He's a bachelor, I think he's about age fifty. And so it'd be nice if he got married, but it seems like that's the way nowadays, boys and girls, is that right? Want to enjoy their own life instead of getting married and so forth, family and so forth. But he works for the... what was that? Parde Home, P-A-R-D-E Home. That is one of the five largest homebuilders in the United States. He worked for another company like that, but he lost job and then he landed on this job, company, which, Los Angeles office, which is in, on Wilshire and Westwood, near there.

MN: Can I ask something about your wife and yourself? Did you have a Christian marriage?

FH: Yes, we did. At the Okayama church. Because she was baptized in Hiroshima. Went to Hiroshima Jogakuin, that's a Christian, Methodist institution, and they had the missionary. And through her influence, she was baptized. She wasn't a Baptist, but she got married there, yes.

MN: So you folks didn't do a --

FH: I mean, she got baptized.

MN: Did you not go through the sansankudo or anything like that, the traditional...

FH: No, no. Just the Christian... at church. My parents were in the United States, we didn't have them, but we had this professor and his wife and so forth, who introduced us together. And then the other were all the church friends and so forth, Sunday school teachers and all the church members, they attended the wedding at the Okayama church.

TI: So I have a question, this is kind of shifting gears, but earlier you were talking about the occupation, and you mentioned your uncle working for the U.S. government as an interpreter. Can you tell me again what he was doing?

FH: Interpreter. Interpreter, because there was the GI and so forth stationed in Okayama, and they need an interpreter. And he barely went to the eighth grade in elementary school and then lived in this country for so long, so you know what kind of English it was, it was a pidgin English. But at least he was good enough to go around in the car with them. Not the real business kind of thing.

TI: So he would go around with an American and he would help interpret.

FH: Right, in the jeep, that's right. That's right. Just to get away from the daily needs of the American soldiers and so forth.

TI: And in general, how did Japanese feel about other Japanese feel about other Japanese working with the U.S. government? Was there any stigma?

FH: No, no ill feeling at all. Because when his son was in Korea and got the tuberculosis and was sent back to Japan and so forth, his life was saved because of his father who worked for the U.S. government, got the... what you call that, the medicine and so forth, was able to use that, and that's why his life was saved. Antibiotic and so forth.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

MN: So my other, other question is, you've been able, I think about your life and listening to your interview, you've seen a lot happening to the United States and Japan from an early age, I mean, you saw the war. And then you saw the occupation, you helped participate in some ways, the economic resurgence of Japan. You saw that, you worked with the Japanese banks. Even today, the United States is the number one economic power, and Japan is still number two. What do you think in terms of the future of U.S.-Japan relations? They're military partners in some ways, there's an alliance between the two countries. But going forward, what do you think will happen between the United States and Japan?

FH: I think it'll be more or less according to Obama's thinking. It'll be more U.S. and China instead of U.S. and Japan. Although he visited Japan first and, you know, as a matter of courtesy and so forth. But wasn't that interesting when he was meeting with the emperor of Japan? [Laughs]

TI: So what did that mean? He both bowed and shook his hand.

MN: I know. I think somebody has, you know, who has instructed him and told him what to do, in general, what the Japanese do when they meet the emperor and so forth, they bow very deeply and so forth. He mixed that up with the American culture. He should stick with only one thing, just bowing or just shaking hands, shaking hands. When he tried to do both at once, that's why it was a weird picture wasn't it, on the TV screen?

TI: But you're, what you're thinking, though, is that the United States is going to start paying more attention to China than Japan in the future.

FH: Yes.

TI: And so -- go ahead.

FH: But it is so important that the U.S. think of Japan and Japan think of U.S. I think Japan is always thinking of the U.S., but the U.S. side, knowing that China is going to surpass Japan and so forth, the national product and so forth, things like that. But still, Japan is very, very important. And what is important is looking into the technical field and so forth. Lot of those technology and so forth that Japan, I mean, China as well as India is using, more or less are adopted through the Japanese technology and so forth. And so that, you'll have to always keep a keen eye on. And so although China's exceeding the scientists and so forth, U.S.-trained scientists going back to China and so forth and working very hard. But still, Japan, I think, is going to play a big role in that field, yes. But one thing Japan has to do is Japan has to wake up. I would say, "Wake up, Japan." Especially the younger generations. They became Westernized, yes. That's good, but it went too far. Just looking at the pleasure side of Westernization instead of sticking to what they had been blessed with. So that's, that would be my call to the Japanese people, especially younger people, "Wake up," yes.


But in fact of that, in this country, it's completely different. Like the pastor at our church, Western United Methodist Church, her name is Becky Hirata because she was married to the Japanese in the Kyoto area with the surname Hirata. But she was born and raised in Osaka area, and but she doesn't even speak the Korean language, but she teaches Japanese language at the community colleges here and there and so forth.

MN: And she's Chinese?

FH: No, Japanese. Pure Japanese now, but she's of Korean background, yes.

MN: And they adopted a Japanese name?

FH: Well, of course, the husband is Hirata and so forth, but Becky is her first name. And the mother, she herself went to the seminary. Her mother, too, went to seminary and so forth, born and raised in Osaka. And so I think in this country, it's completely changed how people think about those of Korean ancestry and so forth. It's one example, but I think it's happening not only particularly in our church, but happening all over. This is why, in a way, it's a diluting of the Japanese character and so forth in the Japanese churches, but things are changing. It's a change in a good way.

TI: And so I just want to make sure I understand. So you're saying, in the United States, things are changing. I guess people are, Japanese, Japanese Americans are more accepting of, like, Koreans, Korean Americans. But in Japan, how would you say...

FH: I think in Japan, too.

TI: Japan also?

FH: Japan, too, I think is changing. Because we had, my wife's nephew's son going to the Japanese language school, Kaplan Japanese language school in the Westwood area. And there was a Chinese, I mean, Korean student. And so on the bicycle, he sent them all the way walking with her to the house and so forth. I didn't think they had any romantic relationship, but anyway, things like that. And you know, it's so open. No difference between the Korean and the Japanese and so forth, and these are not the Korean Americans, but they're Koreans learning the English language there and so forth. So I think things are changing. More acceptable nowadays, no change.

MN: There were some Japanese Americans who renounced their citizenship and returned to Japan. Were you aware of that?

FH: I did not know about that. Later on, I learned about those things, but not in those days that I was living in Japan. I heard about that.

MN: Okay, I'm... asked all my questions.

TI: So, Frank, thank you so much. This was, for me, this was a joy, because your life is very different than the life of Niseis.

FH: That others that you've interviewed? Uh-huh.

TI: Yeah. This is very good. So thank you so much.

FH: And maybe it has to do with my character, too. More outspoken in a way.

TI: No, you are very, very outspoken, very articulate, so thank you.

FH: Well, but I'm very grateful. First I thought that, why am I ever going to Japan? I should have stayed in this country, went to the university here, and then excelled in one specialty field and so forth. But if so, I do not have the kind of a background, understanding of the Japanese culture, the difference between the Japanese American and the pure Japanese and so forth. But now I do, and so I'm very grateful for the path that I have taken throughout my life.

MN: Yeah, thank you very much.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.