Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Minoru Kiyota Interview
Narrator: Minoru Kiyota
Interviewers: Tracy Lai (primary), Alice Ito (secondary)
Location: Klamath Falls, Oregon
Date: July 3, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-kminoru-01-0004

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[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

AI: You wrote in your book that when you first returned to Japan and were going -- starting school there -- as you mentioned earlier, that there was, you were not accepted right away. In fact, your classmates called you names?

MK: Yeah.

AI: Could you tell a little bit about that?

MK: Huh?

AI: Can you tell us about that time?

MK: Well, I mean, they called me names because I couldn't speak Japanese as fluent as the Japanese. Plus, I had long hair, and I wore a necktie and shoes, not a sandal. So the difference of custom -- not able to communicate in their language -- contributed to clashes. But in due time, you know -- boys are boys -- they fight, get bloody nose, but next day they are good friends. These repetitions cemented our relations, so much so that in due time I became one of them. And that is very important. Why? Because (...) when the war came, I refused to take up arms and drop bombs in Japan. Why? Because... I'll tell you why. See, the Japanese were poor at that time, very poor, so poor that they came wearing sandals which did not match. (...) They had their lunch, lunch box. They took out their lunch box from their bag, and start eating their lunch, except that that was empty. (...) But out of sheer pride, they took the motions of eating. (...) I knew (then) that the Japanese were poor, but they were a very proud people -- that they would not say that, "I am hungry, I'm starved." They would not steal. No stealing, no looting, no crime. Now, I respect those people. And when you get to know people like that, you don't feel like dropping bombs on their country.

I'll tell you another things. My parents sent me a box of "kisses," all right? And I asked the teacher to distribute them. And the teacher called each student to the front and gave (each of them a piece of "kisses," then the) student will bow. (...) And then the student will come to my seat, bow, and tell me how grateful they are. But they say, "I'm not going to eat this. I'm going to take it home and share it with my mother, father, and little sister." The other guy would come and say, "Thank you very much. I'm not going to eat it. I'm going to take it home and place on the Buddhist altar for my deceased grandfather." Now, when you get to know a people like that, you don't feel like dropping bombs on their country. Now, if the situation was reversed, I think I would do the same. That (is) if I were in Japan and Japan were (...) dropping bombs on the American cities, (I would never participate because of the) close relationship (I have formed) with my American friends. (War, I eventually came) to realize (...) is an extension of national policy. It's not my war. (...) It's the rulers' war.

TL: In speaking with other Kibei, I've heard stories that they were perceived in Japan as being wealthy because of having things like chocolate candy. Did your classmates or other people in the village think that somehow your American connection gave you a higher status or that your, your grandparents...?

MK: Well, well, you know -- in the first place, it's a quite complicated situation. In the first place, the Japanese did not have to come to this country if they were rich. They came to this country because they are poor. But (when you) go back (...) the Japanese will see that (you) are wearing shoes, socks, nice suits, and so on and so forth. So they become envious. (...)

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.