Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Takashi Matsui Interview I
Narrator: Takashi Matsui
Interviewer: Elmer Good
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: October 29, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-mtakashi-01-0005

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EG: I always remember seeing pictures of Japanese students in groups, like in military formations in, on school grounds. Was this part of your school program?

TM: Gathering as a group?

EG: Yeah, on the school ground. A formal... oh, exercise groups outside of the school on school grounds. I remember seeing pictures like that.

TM: Yes. I don't remember too well during -- yeah, in grammar school, too -- and during the high school. Before class started, weather permitted, we were outside and the teacher took attendance and then we had calisthenics for the entire school for about twenty minutes, twenty-five minutes before the first class started. So, is that what you mean?

EG: Yeah, yeah, that's the sort of thing I remember seeing pictures of. And at that time the emperor worship was an important part of the Japanese culture and set into the schools, as I understand it. How was that?

TM: Well, the emperor was revered. They were very proud of -- the Japanese were very proud that the family continued (for) so many 2000 some odd years ago -- had never been a broken line, they used to say. And so it was very unique and the Japanese are supposed to be very proud, and he is the supreme being. He was a descendant of some kind of god. And that, it was... well, in fact, he was a member of the imperial family which is one, either... well, I guess you call that a caste. Then next came peers, marquis and dukes and whatnot. And then, well, in the olden days then they used to say that next is the samurai and then are farmers and artisans and the last one was the merchant. But the imperial family was the top strata of the nation.

EG: And this was, this was part, this was drilled into your school...

TM: Yes.

EG: ...curriculum, and the programs in the morning. In America we used to salute the flag and say Pledge of Allegiance to America. You had something like this as the whole school, when the whole school was assembled in the outside at the beginning of the day?

TM: Well, every school had a small shrine. I would say the height was about maybe seven feet, eight feet high, maybe a little higher. And in that shrine, miniature shrine, was a picture of the emperor and empress. And that was supposed to be very sacred. And we had to face toward that little shrine no matter how we get to the school ground. And we were supposed to bow toward the shrine. And on our way out we do the same. And everybody was... all the children were told to respect the emperor. And then, of course, after they grow up, the soldiers were supposed to fight for the emperor -- not for the country, but for the emperor. Not for the parents, not for the... you might say the liberty and freedom, the principle, or the spirit, but they are supposed to die for the emperor.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.