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Title: Title: Miyoko Kaneta Interview
Narrator: Miyoko Kaneta
Interviewer: Virginia Yamada
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: October 12, 2018
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-449

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VY: How about later? Did you ever go back to Japan?

MK: Yes. After I did my two years in Hiroshima... oh, the first year of teaching, I went to the university from 1970 through '75 and got my teacher's degree and I was able to teach in the Seattle Public Schools, high school, for two years and I got my tenure. And then we went on strike, teacher's strike, and so I felt kind of silly. I was for the strike, of course, but not comfortable walking around with a placard and things like that, and have people whistle, in agreement, of course, and toot their horns. So I thought, "This is not teaching," and I decided, well, maybe I'll try Japan. And fortunately, I was able to go teach English with a company in Tokyo, and that was my first experience in Tokyo, teaching company people. These were some kind of an automobile manufacturing firm, and so they were all men. And about a year after that, I moved on. I was scanning the Tokyo newspaper and found an actual teaching position for hire at the Tokyo Foreign Language College. And so I thought, well, I want to pick up my credits in teaching, so I think I'll apply there, and I got in. And that school hired teachers from U.S., great Britain, India, any of us who could speak English and teach. And we were all college majors, that is, having graduated.

VY: So did you get to know the other teachers as well? Sounds like it was a pretty international staff.

MK: Yes. And, in fact, there was one teacher, she was not actually a teacher back home in Seattle, but she was hired in, and she was from Seattle. And when I came back, we met again. [Laughs] And she was with one of the popular taiko groups. She's quite well-known in this area.

VY: So you're still in contact with her, you're still friends?

MK: Once in a while we see each other, out in the streets or when she's drumming the taiko for some event.

VY: So how long were you in Japan that second time?

MK: I was there from '79, and I came back in 1984, so about six years, was it?

VY: And while you were there, did you mostly speak Japanese, when you weren't teaching English? Did people think you were Japanese, or did they think you were American?

MK: By appearance, I guess I looked Japanese, until I opened my mouth. But there was one incident when I was looking for a certain train station, and I could not read the Chinese characters. And they had a map on the board, this was at the train station, and I was looking, but I couldn't find any familiar character, written character. So there was a gentleman purchasing a ticket, and so I interrupted him very politely, and asked him if he could show me where such and such station is. And he looked at me, and in a voice that almost had the tone of, "You stupid woman, it's written right up here," and he pointed to the map. And I looked at him and I thought, uh oh. And so in a polite way, I was able to speak enough Japanese then. I begged his pardon, and I said, "I'm sorry, I'm Japanese American from the States, and I have no knowledge of these Chinese characters." He looked at me in shock, and so he did a turnaround, and he was very accommodating, and he showed me where it was. He couldn't believe what he had gone through. [Laughs]

VY: So it sounds like, when you were speaking, you sounded like you were very fluent, and he thought you were Japanese. Then when he realized you couldn't read the characters, then he was surprised.

MK: And I was kind of worried about him later. I thought, when he meets a woman on the street, he's going to ask, "Are you a native Japanese, or are you a foreigner?" [Laughs]

VY: So it sounds like you had a good time in Japan.

MK: Oh, I enjoyed it. It was a learning period, and I got so much out of it. I even took a class in sumi-e painting, and trying to make pottery teacup, which I was not too good at. And tea ceremony.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.