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

<Begin Segment 1>

[Ed. note: The interviewer's introduction is not included due to technical difficulties]

EG: Today is Wednesday, October 29th 1997. I'm Elmer Good and we are interviewing Mr. Takashi Matsui at the Densho offices in the Japanese Language school in Seattle, Washington. Tah, dah. And there you are.

EG: Mr. Matsui, you are a Nisei. You were born in this country?

TM: Yes.

EG: Where, where and when was this?

TM: I was born in Oregon. Hood River, Oregon.

EG: When was that? [Laughs] You don't want to tell us how old you are?

TM: 1917.

EG: 1917. Okay. And, it was just you and your parents in the beginning then, in Oregon?

TM: Yes.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

EG: Tell us about the background of your parents coming to America.

TM: My, both my parents came from Fukuoka, Japan -- countryside. I don't know exactly when they came, but I believe they came after the Russo-Japanese war, which ended in 1905. So after that, how soon after that, I don't know. But I was told it was after that war that a lot of Japanese came. In fact, they were urged to come because Japan couldn't feed the population and there were a lot of our returning soldiers and sailors and they were looking for volunteers.

EG: Had your father been in the Russo-Japanese war?

TM: I believe he was not. But one of my uncles was.

EG: But he, he got the impact from the Japanese urging of people to move to America because of the crowding, the economy and so on.

TM: Yes. Some of his friends were already here. And so they wrote to their friends and, I think my father was one of his, or their friends. And that's how they all came here.

EG: That's how come he settled in Oregon? He had friends in Oregon?

TM: Yes. They came to settle -- I don't know how they decided on Hood River -- but I guess it was based on the demand of the labor at that time. It's an orchard area, apples and whatnot. I guess they needed some Japanese labor.

EG: So there was work ready-made for them to settle in that particular area.

TM: Yeah.

EG: Uh-huh. And how long were they in Hood River?

TM: I believe -- well, the way I understood -- they were there for only a few years. Because the living wasn't too easy and the temperature was extreme near the Columbia River, cold breeze. And I guess the living conditions were not so good. So I don't know how that happened, but they decided to come to Seattle.

EG: Uh-huh.

TM: And my father and his cousin and a couple of other relatives were here in Seattle.

EG: What kind of work did they find in Seattle?

TM: I believe one was engaged in hotel business, managing a hotel. And the other one, I'm not sure. I believe my father and others were common laborers in the beginning, and later on he sort of bought a store -- a shoe store. And so his work wasn't too hard compared with others. I don't know where he got the money, but somehow he bought the shoe store in the University District.

EG: So you didn't live in the Japanese district in, around Jackson Street.

TM: Yeah.

EG: You did? But the store was over in the University District.

TM: The store was there but I believe my folks and just about everybody else was living in this area, in the Japanese town, 'Japan Town.'

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

EG: Okay. But you didn't stay in America very long. What happened about that?

TM: No. It was decided by a lot of Issei parents that especially the boys should go back to Japan to receive education in Japan because they thought the American education was no good. [Laughs]

EG: Why, why is that? What was not good about the American education -- and Japan better?

TM: I don't know, they thought that the children should be able to speak, speak the language so they can communicate. And also their Japanese language school here was not quite complete, it was not adequate, in their opinion. So they thought we should all go back and a lot of children, a lot of boys did go back.

EG: How old were you when you returned to Japan?

TM: I was -- they say I was three.

EG: You don't remember.

TM: No.

EG: You were too young. Now, who went back to Japan with you? You didn't go alone.

TM: No, my mother took me back. She was not too well. She was sick, and after she took me back to Japan, she died. So I was brought up by my grandfolks.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

EG: Tell us about life in Japan -- going to school and so on -- growing up in Japan.

TM: Well, the school was not too far from where we lived. It was not heated. We had to remove our shoes to get into the classroom or to get into the building. We had to leave our shoes at the entry where they had boxes. They used to call it getabako, boxes for the geta. So we left our footgear there and then walked barefoot. And except the first two -- first and second graders were exempt -- but the third graders and up, we had to clean our own rooms. And then the upperclassmen used to come around and look around and see if we did all right. And they used to write their opinion as to how well we did on the blackboard. And if we didn't do it right, that team had to do it over again. And, it was a, I believe, very stern way. The way I... after I came back to this country, Seattle -- later on -- I noticed quite a difference between the way school was conducted and class was conducted and the life in American school as compared with the life in Japan.

EG: You say stern, what, who were the teachers and what were they like? Men or women?

TM: I would say they had quite an authority. And I haven't seen this -- but teachers were able to spank the children. And although I heard about American schoolchildren being told to stand in a corner, but they had that, and they could order more. And they certainly had more respect (for) the parents. They had more authority. [Laughs]

EG: How was it with the other children? How did the other students relate to each other and what did the students do on their own when the teachers weren't watching?

TM: Well, there was a so-called class leader -- there was one in each class -- and he would report. So we had to behave. [Laughs]

EG: There was someone watching all the time.

TM: Yeah, yeah. If we misbehaved, it was outside.

EG: Outside.

TM: Outside of school.

EG: Uh-huh. Like what would be an illustration of this?

TM: Well, later on -- I'm not talking about our elementary school -- but later on, let's say in high school -- we weren't allowed to go into a store to buy cookies or bread or anything like that. We weren't allowed. And, but we did. And if we get caught, of course, it was kind of bad. But we used to, you know. But that was outside after we left the school compound, we used to go into a store to buy things which was prohibited. We couldn't even buy ice cream.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

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.

<Begin Segment 6>

EG: Now you were, you were born in America and went back to Japan and were in this school system as a child. Was there anything special about you then in this school because of where you came from?

TM: No. I, I felt I was no different from anybody else. Because I was so small and when I grew up, of course, I only spoke Japanese and the rest of the children accepted me as one of 'em. I didn't feel any, anything different, except after I started to go to high school. Then I guess maybe I told them that I was born in this country, United States, and that after I grow up, I was to come back here. And my friends talked about it, and they expected me to do that.

EG: So they, did they in high school, the students all knew that you had been born in America and had come back to Japan?

TM: Yes.

EG: And you at that time were thinking and planning that you would return to America?

TM: Yes.

EG: You were telling the other students that...

TM: Yes.

EG: "One day I will go back to America."

TM: Yes, that's correct.

EG: And then you finished school in Japan. You graduated from high school.

TM: Yes. After six years, six years in grammar school, I started to go to high school, which was five years. So the total education was eleven years those days. After grammar school those days, at least from our grammar school, I think about fifteen percent went to high school. The rest of them...

EG: Just, just that small number?

TM: ...couldn't go. They were too poor. High school required tuition.

EG: And your family was able to send you, your grandparents. You were living with your grandparents?

TM: No, but my father sent money to my grandfolks. And by the time I was to start high school, my mother -- the stepmother, stepmother because my mother died -- stepmother came back to Japan and, with my stepbrother and sister. So she was in Japan when I started high school.

EG: She was living in Japan?

TM: Yes.

EG: When you started high school with your, with your step-siblings, your brother and two sisters, but your father was still in Seattle?

TM: He went back to Japan a few times. But when I started to go to high school, he wasn't there. My mother took me to high school and registered and let me take the entrance examination and all that. She did all that for me.

EG: And, then you did finish high school in Japan. You would have been what, about eighteen, seventeen, eighteen years old?

TM: Seventeen.

EG: You were seventeen then.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

EG: And then what were your plans? You had been telling all your friends you're gonna go to America.

TM: And, why yes. The instruction from my father was that I should come back to the United States soon after the graduation. And the school was over early March and I left Japan, I think, I think about the middle or twentieth of March, and as soon as I got the diploma, I left.

EG: So you told them you were going to go back to America and you did. Where did you, where did you come to in America then?

TM: I beg your pardon?

EG: Where did you come to in America?

TM: Well, I came back to Seattle.

EG: Seattle.

TM: Where my, well, not quite an uncle, but something like uncle was here.

EG: Your father wasn't here?

TM: Father, no. He had gone back two years before that.

EG: Before you finished high school.

TM: And his cousin was here in Seattle. So I came here, relying on him.

EG: You, he was kind of like an uncle, but he was your, he was your father's cousin.

TM: Yes. But I used to call him uncle. [Laughs]

EG: And then they lived here in Seattle.

TM: Yes.

EG: Where in Seattle?

TM: Near Yesler way. Not too far from here.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

EG: And what did you do? If you are a seventeen-year-old boy back in America and you didn't speak any English.

TM: No.

EG: What in the world did you do?

TM: I didn't do anything for the first one month. I couldn't do anything anyway. He said, "Well, stick around and we'll see what you should do." And then, you see, I came here on April 8th, and in May, strawberry season started, and so my aunt took me to Bellevue, across the lake, to pick strawberries.

EG: Your first job in America.

TM: First, first time I was gainfully employed.

EG: Anywhere. In Japan or America?

TM: Well, that's true, yes. That's true. So I picked the strawberries for about a month. It was hard work.

EG: And then what? What after that?

TM: Well, the school over here didn't start 'til September. So the next thing she decided to do was to take me to Sumner, Washington, to pick peas, blackberries, and raspberries, things like that. And during the days when the berries weren't quite ripe, I helped the farmers do odd jobs in Sumner. Until, I don't know, sometime I think in early September.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

EG: And then you went back to school. Here you had finished.

TM: And then I started school here.

EG: Uh-huh. You had finished school in Japan, but you what kind of school then did you go to here?

TM: In Seattle, then there was school by the name of Jefferson Elementary School. That's at Twelfth and Jefferson Street. And they had two or three foreign students' classes and that's where people like me went. And so I reported there. And I forgot just how that happened, but I believe I reported to the principal and I think he said you go to a certain class. And so I went to one of the foreign students' classes.

EG: Who were the other students in the class? Where were they from?

TM: Well, they were, more than half of them were Japanese, like me. There were Chinese, Filipinos and two or three Europeans, white boys. I thought that was kind of funny. But one of them, I still remember, was a big boy, and he was from Norway. He couldn't speak English so well either. So we all were foreigners.

EG: From all around the world. And you were all there to learn English.

TM: Yes.

EG: That was the only subject that you were dealing with?

TM: How to speak. Not so much of a composition, but reading and writing. And then the teacher used to correct our pronunciation. And then I think we had a little bit of American history, early American history. And that was the hardest subject because first time I was exposed to American history.

EG: But you could have told them about Japanese history. [Laughs]

TM: Um, no. [Laughs] She wasn't interested.

EG: How long were you in school there?

TM: I (was), I (was) there, I started in September and came February the following year, and Miss Thomas, our teacher, said I should go to high school. I thought I wasn't quite ready but she said, "No, you're all right. You can start, you might struggle a little bit but you're ready." So I started Broadway High School.

EG: How did you find things there?

TM: Pretty tough. [Laughs]

EG: How, what was tough?

TM: Well, I couldn't converse. Although by then I understood English better. I was able to tell what the people were saying, I was able to read. I knew the grammar, but my composition wasn't so good. And of all the subjects, as I said again, history was the hardest. And we had to read books, and I took my time reading the book, I never could catch up. I was always behind in the history class. Otherwise, arithmetic -- well, later on science, and the bookkeeping and things like that -- mechanical things were easy for me. In fact, the high school that I went (in Japan) emphasized business subjects, business courses. So bookkeeping was natural. It was easy. A little bit of economics was easy. Science, physics was easy. I learned it in Japanese, but over here I had to learn it in English, but the principles were there.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

EG: Now, you said earlier that when you got to school in America, it struck you as being so very different from school in Japan. Tell us about that.

TM: Well, in Japan -- I'm not talking about the grammar school because they didn't have all that -- but in high school they had upperclassmen beating the lowerclassmen for being different. And that's the, that's the characteristics of the Japanese or Japan. Maybe you've heard the expression, that "the nail that sticks out, they will pound on it." So any time anybody looks different, somebody either get jealous or curious, and they used to beat those fellows. In case of girls, if their skirt pleats were too close -- smaller pleats than regulation or standard -- they used to, the girls told me they used to get pinched. So they used to do that and I thought I never seen anything like that in this country and I thought the people over here, the children were very broad-minded, they didn't care. They tried to get along with everybody, and I thought that that was one feature I thought that Japan should improve. I thought that was bad things about Japan and it, I think it's still going on in Japan. They, some of the weak-minded students are committing suicide in Japan, both boys and girls. But over here, of course, you know, nobody, well, at least in Broadway High School, nobody was wearing a prescribed uniform. Everybody wore anything that he liked or she liked. But in Japan we wore a uniform with insignia showing what school we were with and then what class. Right here we had first grade, I had one, Roman numeral one and two and three and whatnot, right here, in the collar, high collar. And then we had to wear a cap, school cap, and that had an insignia. And so you could tell what school you are attending. And some of them had white stripes around them, ours didn't. But grammar school didn't designate the school, but the high school, high school then up, even university. They have a, they had a design right on the cap so you could tell what school you're going.

EG: Sounds very different from the one school to the other. It sounds very, very different.

TM: Well, more militaristic, I thought. And in fact, from, in high school, from third grade and up, we used to have military drills. We had old army rifles, and machine gun, and we had active duty major, army major, among the faculty in high school, and his job was to teach us military subjects, and we had maneuvers. [Laughs]

EG: Sounds like a military institution, a military society preparing for, well, whatever military is gonna, be assigned to do.

TM: And toward the end of the fifth year, we had to go to the nearest army camp where there were soldiers, army soldiers. And we lived with them for two weeks, ate their meals, and did everything with them, took bath, and maneuvers, and whatnot.

EG: And nothing like that was going on in America?

TM: No. Well, no.

EG: In your, in your school experience in America.

TM: Well, over here -- like at the University of Washington -- they have ROTC. And I'm not sure. I didn't take ROTC subjects here, but I'm not sure if they would go and join like say Fort Lewis and then take part in the maneuvers and whatnot. I don't know. Maybe they don't do that. But we did, at our tender age.

EG: It was universal, all students were involved in military preparation. And over here it's an option.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TM: So that brings me to the subject later on if you want to talk about it, but when I was drafted here.

EG: Yeah, we'll want to get to that.

TM: [Laughs] Yeah, but that's later.

EG: Yeah, we'll want to get to that, but that, yeah, so you finished up high school when?

TM: High school?

EG: Yeah, here in America?

TM: Broadway High School?

EG: Uh-huh.

TM: I finished in 1938.

EG: So this is the second time you graduated from high school?

TM: Yes.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

EG: And then, then what did you do, when you finished high school?

TM: I decided to go to University of Washington because I thought I have a better chance, maybe better opportunity for better job. So, others were looking for job, but I didn't. There were two, three fellows like me, senior to me from Japan, so-called Kibei, and I used to get along with them. And the senior boys said, "It's better that we get as much education as possible, because we will be better off later." So I started to go to the UW.

EG: So you were still living with your uncle's family?

TM: No.

EG: No?

TM: I was living with an American, well, in an American family. I was getting my room and board and I used to help. Like, well, this, I lived in a house where there was a doctor, it was a doctor's house, and I used to drive for him in the evening and Saturday. He used to go and visit his patients and he didn't want to drive, he wanted me to drive. So that's how I was earning my living.

EG: You were a houseboy.

TM: Yes.

EG: Is that, you were a Japanese houseboy. And were you making enough money to be able to go to the UW?

TM: No. And during the summer, like other boys in this area, I went to Alaska to work in salmon cannery. And it was from about some time in June through August. And sometime maybe we used to come back in early September, but at least about a couple of months. And that gave me enough funds to pay for the school expenses, tuition, books and whatnot. The tuition was only about $100 a year, so.

EG: Back then. And you continued to live with the doctor's family while you were in the university?

TM: Well, I changed, changed that to another place. Let's see now... then I went, then I went to work for a businessman who had a wholesale business. And his house was in Laurelhurst, and that was closer to the university and more convenient, so I stayed there.

EG: Did you have any responsibilities there or were you just...

TM: Same kind of a thing.

EG: Same.

TM: And then I knew how, I learned how to cook, so I did the cooking.

EG: Okay, so you were a houseboy again for this businessman and then going to the university full-time?

TM: Yes. Full-time.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

EG: So how did you, how did you experience the university? What happened for you at UW?

TM: Oh, the university wasn't easy, except certain mechanical things, like physics and math and accounting, which I had studied. Others, like literature, you know, trying to read, for a foreigner to read Ivanhoe and some other books, it wasn't easy. And composition wasn't too hard but my paper used to come back with, full of corrections. [Laughs]

EG: Did you have to do it over?

TM: Yes.

EG: And send it back, make the corrections and turn it back in again. That's the way to learn English, though, isn't it?

TM: Yes.

EG: How did your English progress?

TM: Oh, I, I believe it improved. So in the end, I had less and less difficulty.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

EG: And you were majoring in business at the university?

TM: Yes.

EG: And you finished?

TM: No. I was supposed to be the class of 1942, but Pearl Harbor came December of '41. And, well, prior to that, I had to register. And I had, I always carried a draft card. And after I came back from Alaska, I had to report to the draft board and they said my number was up. And I said, "Well, I have another year to attend the university," and then they said I can apply for deferment, which I did. And they gave me a deferment for one quarter, until sometime in December of '41. But the Pearl Harbor attack came, and then they wouldn't defer me anymore. They said I had to, I had to serve. And so I gave up the university and left my belongings, some of them at my uncle's place, and some at my Caucasian family. And got ready to be drafted.

EG: How was it for you with Pearl Harbor? Did things change for you when Pearl Harbor happened?

TM: I personally thought that something was coming. Because up to that time, well, the papers, the radios and consul general -- not the consul general -- but the consul of Japan were invited to speak here and there. His English wasn't too good and not many people understood him, until they hired a Nisei lawyer here to speak for Japan. And I used to listen. And like, well, you were, I was in a restaurant in downtown and right behind me there were people who were talking bad things about Japan. So I knew something was coming up. Nobody knew when, of course. And so when it did come, I thought, "Oh my, now what do I do?" I had my folks in Japan, brother and sister there and myself here. And then I'm going to have to serve in the American army, which I was willing to do. I'm an American by birth. And I was a little bit apprehensive of what people might say or do. But personally, American people were very nice to me. I went to school -- Pearl Harbor was Sunday -- I went to school on Monday and the first class, I forgot what it was, but four or five of them, American boys came to me and said, "Don't worry." They said, "It's not your fault, and so if anybody gives you a bad time, let us know." And I thought they were very nice to say that.

EG: I should say.

TM: Yeah. They said, "Don't worry." And I heard from a couple of (Japanese) girls that the regular bus they took to go to the university didn't stop for them. But, of course, I was driving my own car, so I had no problem with the transportation, but I heard something like that. And then another person, I think, said something like, gas station didn't sell gas to him. You know, but that was one person that said they wouldn't sell him gas. [Laughs]

EG: But you personally didn't have a bad experience, on campus things were...

TM: Personally, on the campus, and on the way to and from, I had no problem.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

EG: Now, let's pick up with your being drafted. There are a couple of questions I have. One, there was a prejudice of Japanese Americans and for a time they were not drafted, but you were drafted. How did that come about?

TM: I don't know.

EG: I wonder if it might be that you were, you were a little bit older. And in the original draft lottery, and your number had come up, before internment and the prejudice that came with internment, I think, and then that's when I think they shut down enlistments of Japanese Americans.

TM: I'm not sure, but my recollection is, about, let's say early '42, a lot of our Americans of Japanese descent in uniform were coming back (from the army). And, oh, I heard they were being sent to someplace in, way in the interior someplace. But anyway, because they were coming back, when my friends threw me a farewell party in February of '42, just before I was to be drafted, I said, I'll come back in a couple of weeks," because they were coming back. And so I said, "I don't need the farewell party." But I don't know, they didn't let me go. And then I know one or two that went down to -- now Seattle Center -- armory and volunteered for service and they weren't taken. They were told to, "Get the hell out of here."

EG: That was my understanding, yeah.

TM: So they got disgusted and then one in particular volunteered for navy and he was turned down, of course, and all that. I don't know how that happened. But about the time I was staying at Fort Lewis, I don't think anybody knew anything about evacuation.

EG: Not at that time.

TM: I think it was kept very secret. And I don't know just what was the thinking of the authority, but I believe they were figuring, "Well, we are going to have to evacuate anyway, why send this man home because he's going to evacuate," or something. I don't know. I wasn't the only one at Fort Lewis. There were a couple of dozen of us.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

EG: Yeah, that was just a peculiar thing. The other thing I was wondering, of course, as far as your being drafted, was your own feelings about it. Because as you say, you had your family in Japan, your brothers and sister, your father was still there?

TM: Yes.

EG: Yeah, and your grandparents, well, your whole family. Your whole family was in Japan and here you were in America being drafted into the army to fight against Japan. What did this mean to you?

TM: Well, it was not too comfortable. [Laughs] But I wasn't the only one. And I don't know, we were all confused. But we had to do what we had to do.

EG: But you felt more American than Japanese as far as military service was concerned?

TM: Oh, yes, yes. Also I knew, and everybody else knew that the Japanese army was not reasonable. They were wrong, they went to Manchuria, started the war saying that the Chinese started, but in fact the Japanese started the war. Maybe they didn't say it in Japan, but over here, we kind of heard and I think that was true. And some Chinese told me, too, that somewhere around Manchurian Railway the Japanese started the trouble, and they said the Chinese did. So that gives them an excuse. No, I think the Japanese army was wrong and then certainly when it came to attacking Pearl Harbor, I was really ashamed and they shouldn't have done it. They, according to their so-called bushido if you want to call it that way, they wouldn't do that, you know, a sneak attack. And that is, should be against their principle, go against their grain, but they did. And I think it was real, real bad. So a lot of us, because on account of that, felt no hesitation to serve in the American army.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

EG: So you were, where did you do your basic training then?

TM: After about a couple of weeks and more and more of us, the Japanese, American Japanese, Japanese Americans gathered at Fort Lewis and we didn't know where and when we were going. We were getting inoculations every day.

EG: Was this a segregated group?

TM: No.

EG: No.

TM: Like any other place.

EG: Just a group of draftees.

TM: Yeah. And I think we went to Arkansas, Camp Robinson, about April. Either that or toward the end of March. I think probably toward the end of March, from Fort Lewis. And before we left for Arkansas, a couple of boys like us from Wapato area were told to go home and do work on the farm. They said, "You should go home and work on the farm. We need you at the farm," so they were told. [Laughs]

EG: But you were still responsible to the army? Or they were pushing you out to go do farm work.

TM: They were, they were, I think, discharged. Yeah. They were told to go back to their farm and work on the farm.

EG: Now, these were Japanese American boys you're talking about.

TM: Yes, just like us.

EG: Uh-huh. But not you.

TM: No. I wasn't from the farm.

EG: No, so you stayed in the service.

TM: That's right.

EG: At that point.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

EG: And when you finished basic training, then you were recruited to MIS. Is that right?

TM: Not quite.

EG: Not quite, okay.

TM: We finished basic training in July. Bad, hot July in Arkansas. And again, everybody was being assigned here and there and pretty soon nothing but Japanese left. And we had about, again maybe fifteen or twenty of us, and we were doing all kinds of odd jobs, painting a fence or sign, and then we were shipped to Wyoming. Fort Warren, Wyoming and assigned to the headquarters company and that means in the army term, bull gang, and don't do anything worthwhile. 'Headquarters company,' that's what it means. And we were doing all kinds of odd jobs every day and moving things from one place to another to back to same place just to, just to keep busy I guess.

EG: Now, this was a group of all Japanese American men, was it?

TM: A whole bunch of us were there.

EG: Yeah. So it sounds like at that time, even though the army did draft you, they were getting into this bind. The bind that they got into with segregation and then they were kind of not knowing what to do. Huh. I didn't know about that, that is new.

TM: But not all the Japanese Americans were there. No, no, just... I don't know where they came from, but a good many of them came from Arkansas, Little Rock, Camp Robinson. I think some others came from some other place. And then, in fact, some Japanese Americans were here and there, all over the United States. But Wyoming was one of the places. And gosh, I don't know how many we had. Maybe close to a hundred. And that was July. I stayed there until September.

EG: And where did you go in September?

TM: In the Headquarters Company library, there was a booklet, "How to Speak Japanese," or "How to Read Japanese," or a booklet on the Japanese language. And I was looking at it and I found a lot of errors written. The Chinese characters were wrong and the translation was wrong, so we were laughing. And I was telling my friends who didn't know the Japanese, why mistakes like that were made and why books like that were available. And I believe a first sergeant or somebody was listening to what I was saying and I kind of think he reported it to the company commander, and maybe he reported it to somebody. Because in two months or so, yeah, September, I had an order to report to Camp Savage, Minnesota, all by myself. And they wouldn't tell me what the place was and why or anything. They just said, "You go to Camp Savage." So I went to Camp Savage. [Laughs]

EG: You're the only person I know that was assigned and sent to MIS, rather than asked to volunteer.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

EG: You were saying... say that again about what happened when you were in the library with this pamphlet.

TM: Well, this little booklet had a lot of errors -- the booklet on Japanese. I don't know who published it, but it was a small book, and smaller than Readers' Digest and fewer pages, of course. And so anyway, I was laughing and then I guess somebody reported that I knew Japanese or I seemed to know Japanese and somebody reported, and somebody else did something else and then in September I had an order to report to Camp Savage, Minnesota. And so I went there by train. And I expected a big army camp and the train stopped at a so-called square, train stopped by Savage, a town of Savage, a population of maybe eighty or a hundred. And a colored porter said, "Soldier, this is where you get off." So I said, "Where is the camp?" And he said, "I don't know nothin'." Anyway, I got off, took my duffel bag with me and then went to the small station and didn't know what to do. So I was just waiting there, and then a car pulled up and asked me if I was Matsui, and I said yes. "Okay, you come with me." So the driver took me to so-called Camp Savage. [Laughs] Which was sort of like a rest area. It wasn't, it didn't look like a camp at all.

EG: And when did you find out what, what this was all about?

TM: Huh?

EG: When did you find out what you were there and what this was all about?

TM: Well, the driver took me to the commandant's office. And Colonel Rasmussen -- I don't know whether it was Saturday or Sunday -- but Colonel Rasmussen, who was a commandant, interviewed me and asked me if I could read a book, which was a Japanese book, and asked me if I knew what it says. And he says, "Well, what does it say?" So I said it in English what it said. And then he asked me where I learned the language and I told him where I learned, that it was my mother tongue. And how much education did I have and all that. I guess he knew, but he, I guess he was testing me, and he said, "Well, this is where we are teaching Japanese." And this was the first time I heard about it. And so it's been going on since June and classes are halfway over in September. But he said, "You will do. So you go to class A1." And well, I got my supplies, beddings, and the first sergeant told me which barracks to go and then a fellow there says, "Well, this is your bed," and I left everything in there then I reported to class A-1. And it was filled with fellows like me. Most of 'em were Kibei boys.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

EG: Yeah, I understand that the language school, the MIS language school was largely made up of Kibei.

TM: Higher classes were.

EG: This class, yeah, yeah. The Kibeis as a group get all kind of mixed stories about them in terms of loyalty, disloyalty, and so on. But how did you find it with this group of people?

TM: In there?

EG: Yeah.

TM: They were like myself. I didn't find any controversial people. I guess they didn't come. They didn't come to the camp, I guess. But later on, the following year when I was asked to go on a recruiting tour, I found some, you know, diehards, and Kibei that didn't understand. I met some of them. But at the school, I didn't see any of them like that.

EG: The people that, that volunteered for the school were loyal Americans or they wouldn't have volunteered, I guess. Where did you do your recruiting? Where did you find people to try to recruit?

TM: Well, I finished together with the rest of the boys in December. And then we were told we could have ten days' furlough. So I went to see my uncle in Minidoka, Idaho, where the Minidoka relocation camp was. I went to see him. Then I went back and then I was told that I had to stay as an instructor. And they gave me a promotion to staff sergeant, which meant more money, ninety-six dollars -- which was good -- instead of twenty-one dollars. And April of 1943, Colonel Rasmussen said a Caucasian officer -- who was in Japan before the war and so his Japanese was pretty good -- he and I were to cover about six relocation camps. To see if we could find volunteers. And we give them test and we got the cooperation of the project director to gather would-be volunteers, and then we give 'em test, and we got some kind of a commitment from them. And so we went six relocation camps and how many came as a result, I don't know. But quite a few showed up because I knew whom I interviewed. And they were volunteers. There were some Kibei but a good many of 'em were regular Nisei -- never been to Japan but learned some Japanese. But their Japanese could been improved much. But during the course of recruitment or recruiting tours, I met some Kibei who didn't think much of us. But they couldn't say much to me, I was already in uniform. But I think they were giving bad time to those who were thinking of volunteering out.

EG: Uh-huh. Did they know that you were a Kibei? Well, they wouldn't have known unless...

TM: Who, the Kibei boys?

EG: Yeah, the ones that gave you a bad time? Did you say, "Hey, I'm Kibei"?

TM: I don't know whether they knew I was a Kibei or not. But, of course, we were speaking English and I could tell they were Kibei by the way they talk. What they thought of me, I don't know. But they didn't give me too much of a bad time. They said things, they said things that I wouldn't approve of, but well, under the circumstances there isn't much I could do. There isn't much they could do. If they want to make a situation bad for themselves, that was their business.

EG: Okay, what was it, what was it like at the language school? How did, how did, what were your experiences there?

TM: My experience, in simple term, was an easy life. Teaching them Japanese which I already knew, and I was not a Nisei who stayed in this country, in the United States, all the time. I started in Japan and I didn't have to study much. I enjoyed it. It was easy.

EG: Good duty. [Laughs]

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

EG: And you also, some other good things happened to you while you were at camp, you met your wife there.

TM: Yes. Oh, besides, when it came to, well, it was a army camp and we were teaching these students military terminologies, but to me it was easy because I had all that sort of thing while I was in Japan, and so that made extra easy for me. And that wasn't quite the case in case of those Nisei who were here and learned the language, but never been exposed to military terminologies until they went to the school. About, well... 1943, that next year, they were, the school was hiring all sort of people like a Japanese typists and more secretaries and all that. And one girl came to our place as a Japanese typist. But there was another one, a male Japanese typist, and the school used him as a Japanese typist, you know, use a typewriter, like that. But the director of academic training -- Mr. Aiso, later a major -- decided to use this girl as his secretary because she took shorthand and she was good in typing. And in fact she was sort of a professional secretary. She was from San Francisco and working for a Japanese Chamber of Commerce in San Francisco. So she was the only one available at that time then, and knew enough Japanese and then, of course, English. So she used to be in our faculty room and there wasn't enough chair, chairs around and she used to sit at my chair while I went out teaching. And she, when I came back, she had to move to another chair. [Laughs] That's why, that's how I met. [Laughs]

EG: That's very unique. I don't know anyone who ever met their wife by moving her out of a chair. [Laughs]

TM: Musical chair.

EG: Yeah. I met a lot of people who had marriages arranged for them, but this certainly wasn't an arrangement, this, this just happened.

TM: No, she was warming up my chair for me. [Laughs]

EG: But she wasn't recruited to this job from San Francisco, was she?

TM: No, she answered an ad calling for a Japanese typist, and so she applied.

EG: Where was she? Where did she see the ad? Where was she when she applied?

TM: She was in a relocation camp.

EG: Ah-ha. That's what I thought.

TM: Utah.

EG: Uh-huh. Topaz.

TM: Topaz, right.

EG: So she, this job was a means for her to be able to leave camp.

TM: Yes, and she wanted to leave camp.

EG: Yeah, if she could get a job inland, well then, that would be all right. Did she leave family behind in camp?

TM: Yes. Her parents. In fact, the parents, the brother and sister, were in Topaz relocation camp. So she came alone to Minnesota, Minneapolis.

EG: And you were married there?

TM: After, after a little bit. [Laughs]

EG: Not right after the first move out of your chair.

TM: Well, you know, the Japanese parents were not too easy. And I guess her parents wanted to know what kind of a person I was, my background and whatnot. And my saying so wasn't good enough, so they had to investigate. [Laughs] I guess they did. And eventually my so-called uncle went there to talk to them. I think they were impressed.

EG: That sounds like --

TM: So we got married in 1944, I believe. Yeah, I think it was '44.

EG: That sounds like a fairly typical Japanese arranging of marriage. After you got the ball rolling, they had to do the checking you out to see if it was to be a good marriage.

TM: They hired a go-between and they made it look nice, you might say. We didn't need the go-between, but they hired somebody. [Laughs]

EG: Well, I understand that a lot of Japanese weddings, a go-between is really necessary even though the couple have found each other and gotten engaged and everything, but for the service, you need a formal go-between anyhow, even if, even if they didn't do the job of putting you together.

TM: If any trouble developed, a go-between was the one that had to solve the problem.

EG: That's right. They take on some responsibility, don't they? I hope you were good to your go-between. [Laughs]

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

EG: And so how long were you an instructor at the language school?

TM: Well, through the war. The war was over in August of '45. And school, the MIS language school, in the meantime, moved from Camp Savage to Fort Snelling in, sometime in 1944. And the school after war -- June of '46 -- moved. The entire school moved to Presidio of Monterey, California, and then we moved with the school.

EG: But you had other military service then, too, other than instructor in the language school.

TM: Pardon me?

EG: You had military service beyond being instructor in the military school.

TM: Well, I was still in active duty around June of '46. In fact, after the war was over I could have gotten out, but not knowing what to do or where to go... especially, the Pacific Coast was off limit, and I had a family. And so a lot of us were signing up for another year or two, which I did. And I, at the same time, they wouldn't let me go to the front line overseas during the war, so I asked that they send me after the war to the army of occupation in Japan, which they agreed. And ultimately I was able to go, but not right away.

EG: Where was your family now, your wife and children? Were both children born by this time? You had two children?

TM: No, our daughter was born in, at a station hospital at Fort Snelling.

EG: Uh-huh. Fort Snelling is...

TM: Minnesota.

EG: In Minnesota.

TM: Well, in fact, it's in St. Paul. Closer to St. Paul than Minneapolis. She was born there.

EG: But she moved along to California when the school moved to California.

TM: Yeah, she was, she was six months old. [Laughs] We bought a car, used car, and we drove from Fort Snelling to Monterey. It took us about four days, and well, it was kind of interesting. [Laughs]

EG: Yeah, that's a big trip for a six-months-old. And you were, how long were you there until you finally got to go overseas?

TM: We arrived at Fort -- no, Presidio Monterey in June, and oh, what a peaceful time. The war was over, everything is off ration. Gasoline, no more, no more limit, no more rationing. It was so nice in Monterey. In August I finally got ordered to go to Japan. So I took my family to near San Francisco where her folks were, and I was able to find some kind of housing where some of the ex-army people were living. And I left there in August and came up to Seattle, to Fort Lawton staging area for overseas. So I left for Japan from the Port of Seattle.

EG: What was your rank by this time?

TM: Oh, I was a warrant officer.

EG: Now you were a warrant officer.

TM: Yeah.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

TM: And I got to Japan in September of '46.

EG: Where in Japan were you stationed?

TM: First -- I forgot the name of the place -- but I believe it was Zama. People used to call it camp Zama, but there wasn't a camp Zama. Anyway, we were all sent there for assignment. And some of the people that went with us from here to Japan were calling their friends in Tokyo and Yokohama. And well, I found out that I knew some of the people in Tokyo and Yokohama, but I didn't, certainly didn't know their phone number. But because they telephoned from Zama, so, I said, "Well, let's go to Tokyo and see how it looked like." [Laughs] So we went out. But after about a week I was assigned to MacArthur's headquarters in Tokyo, so-called G.H.Q. And then after that, we got further assignment. But every time we go someplace, we wait to see what they will tell us, and after I went to Tokyo, assigned to Tokyo G.H.Q. First thing they asked was if we had any friends or relatives in Japan. And I said, "Yes, I have a family, the parents." And they said, "Well, we'll give you ten days' holiday, go out and see them." I thought, "Gee, how nice the American army was." You know, so generous. And so I took advantage and went down to Kyushu and saw my parents.

EG: How did you find them? How were things for them?

TM: They were relatively well-off. They were living on a farm. My father had an orchard there. That place was good for peaches, pears, figs, and whatnot, and persimmons. Not apples. Apples were good in the northern part of Japan but not there. So they had big enough land they were able to raise their own vegetables, so food-wise, I guess they didn't have any trouble.

EG: The war hadn't destroyed the area where they were?

TM: Oh no, no, no destruction. In fact, my father said there was a small airport built not too far from there. And maybe the airport was attacked because he said he used to see American airplanes flying over. But no, our, our house was intact.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

EG: What did your father think of you after... this was years...

TM: I was wondering about that. I was wondering, you know, what he was...

EG: When was the last time you saw him before now? When you left as a boy?

TM: Well, in 1934.

EG: When you left Japan.

TM: When I left Japan.

EG: All these years...

TM: And this was 1934 to 1940...

EG: '45 or so.

TM: '46. So about twelve years.

EG: And this was the first time you met your brother and your sister?

TM: No, I had met them before.

EG: You had.

TM: But certainly...

EG: Oh yes, they were born before you left Japan, weren't they?

TM: Yes, they were born here in Seattle.

EG: Your brother and sisters?

TM: Uh-huh.

EG: I thought they were stepbrothers.

TM: Yes, stepbrothers and (stepsisters) born here in Seattle.

EG: Oh, so your stepmother came to live in Seattle.

TM: Yes.

EG: Oh, I thought, okay. And then the whole family moved back to Japan. Okay, I didn't get that right.

TM: Yeah, I was wondering how they would react to me. But they were very happy that I was alive, they were very happy that I went down to visit them. Which... and then I was very happy that they felt that way. [Laughs]

EG: Here you were in American army uniform.

TM: I was in uniform, yeah. No, they said they were very happy that I was doing all right. Because my immediate brother, younger brother, served in the Japanese army and never came back. So my mother told me at that time, my stepmother told me that the brother never came back. But I came back, so she was very happy.

EG: So you just had two sisters, then, in Japan anymore.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

EG: And what was your assignment in, in Tokyo, then, in G.H.Q.?

TM: After I went back, they assigned me to a scientific, economic and scientific section in the forestry building. And there was an office known as fundamental research, whatever that meant. They were responsible for the precision machine or machinery that I guess MacArthur's or Allied forces gather from the schools and the places like that. And like let's say engineering department of universities had precision machinery. And the, I guess occupation forces took 'em. And they were in storage, and about that time the university was saying well, now that war is over and we need to educate our students and we would like to have those machineries back. And the job was, our job, including mine, was to see if they really needed them, and which machinery and when to return them. And so, soon after I was assigned to them, we took a trip to various universities and talked to 'em to see what we could do.

EG: The department of restoring and building up Japan again.

TM: Yeah. And I guess I didn't stay there long enough, but eventually I think the machinery was returned to the universities. Not the commercial factories, but the universities.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

EG: Then you came back to America again in 1950. Would that be right?

TM: Well, after that particular job was over, I was assigned to the Ninth Corps headquarters in the northern part of Japan. And I went there and in Sendai they said, "Well, we want to assign you to Eleventh Airborne in Sapporo, northern part of Japan." The Eleventh Airborne Headquarters says, "We're going to assign you to Hakodate, the southernmost port, part of Hokkaido," and there we were going to start processing repatriation or repatriates, the Japanese repatriates from the northern part of Japan. And so beginning about December, latter part of December, close to Christmastime, we had to screen returning Japanese, and we were mainly interested in the military personnel to find out something about the Russian armed forces. And so that was December of '46. And then pretty soon the port in (Okhotsk) Sakhalin froze and the ship couldn't go in there anymore so we were told to go down to southern part of Japan and do the same thing. Start, no, we had to actually start from nothing, repatriation center in Hakata, that's the same as Fukuoka, Japan.

EG: Repatriation, what does this involve? I'm not clear. Is this Japanese soldiers being...

TM: Civilians and soldiers coming back from first northern part of Japan, you know, the Sakhalin because at the end of the war the Russians said, "We want all of Sakhalin." So the Japanese had to go home, come home. And then when we went down to Kyushu about February of '47, the Japanese were still coming back from Dairen, Port Arthur and some other places in China. They were coming back from Manchuria, they were coming back from China, just by the thousands. And, of course, that wasn't the only place. There (in Intario) there was another repatriation center. In Japan seaside, there was another repatriation center, some of the friends of ours went there to do (the same kind of work).

EG: What did you do for them? In these repatriation --

TM: Well, of course, we were, our job was strictly military intelligence. And so we wanted to know what they found out, what they knew about mainly Russians. What kind of weapons they saw, unit, high-ranking officers, what they found out about Russian army. And my job was to make up the questionnaires and have my men do the interrogation. High-ranking officers I did, but they had to do the interrogation and then make a report and I read it and I revised, edited it and we submitted -- I forgot where the report went. But, that was our job.

EG: And then the people being repatriated needed to find a way to wherever in Japan they were wanting to go and get resettled and wish them well.

TM: The civilians, we didn't bother the civilians. Well, there were Japanese government people there where these returnees had to register. And they received a little bit of money, a little bit of food, and they got, I think, a free rail ticket so that they can go home. It was pretty sad.

EG: Uh-huh. I should think. Yeah, the rebuilding of the essentially destroyed country.

TM: Yeah, it was pretty sad. But, well, then my active duty was over.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

EG: You were discharged in Japan?

TM: Yes. I went back to Zama again to be separated. But in the meantime, my commanding officer in Hokkaido said that I should stay. He says, "We need people like you. We want you to stay." I said, "No, Colonel, I been in the service for five years. This is already peace time, and besides, I think I'd find a better job in the Tokyo-Yokohama area." And that was true. They had the war crimes trials just about beginning, B-class, and they were looking for a lot of investigators, people like me. And a friend of mine said, "We need you, so come on down." So I took that job.

EG: Uh-huh. Investigator for the war times, war trials.

TM: Yokohama was a war crimes defense. And Tokyo was the prosecution. And so we lived in Yokohama and the trials were held in Yokohama. The prosecutors came down from Tokyo. Prisoners were held in Sugamo prison, which was in Tokyo. But our job was to go around, asking questions of potential witnesses, get their statement and then interview the accused themselves. They ranged from corporal to very high-ranking officers, you know, generals.

EG: And you were working for the defense --

TM: Yes.

EG: -- of these people. Who were their attorneys? Did they have their own attorneys or were they provided?

TM: No, the attorneys were assigned.

EG: Were assigned from the American military also? Both defense and...

TM: This was war crimes. International, not the Far East, the A-class. That's Tojo and others. But these were perpetrators. You know, they denied medical supplies, food, and mistreated our fliers and our POWs. And, of course, the trials were held all over, Manila and China, and all that. But these accused were already in Japan. And so it took about, gee, I don't know, about two and a half years from '47 to...

EG: '50.

TM: Close to '50 when I returned to Seattle. It took all that. It was pretty sad. When you lose a war... you never should lose a war. [Laughs]

EG: But this was in defense of the people who were being accused of having done bad things during the war. And there was trial and there was effort at justice apparently, if you provide defense for these people.

TM: Ours, our trials, too. The judges were American and others, like Australians. I didn't see any Chinese, but British, British, Australian and the American officers. I think they were all the field grade officers. So they were the judges. Our job was to defend these accused, the best we could. Some of 'em were sentenced to be hanged, others received life, others received less, lighter sentences. But pretty sad when you lose a war.

EG: Yeah, that sounds like a sad assignment.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

EG: So while you were... after military service, on your own in Japan, working in the repatriation, you also had time to do some things for yourself, didn't you? Did you get to travel, did you get to see your family again?

TM: Yes, after my family came to join me, which was latter part of 1947...

EG: Your wife and children?

TM: Yes.

EG: Oh. No, I was thinking of your Japanese family, but fine, I didn't know that your wife and children came to Japan.

TM: Yeah, they came to join me about Thanksgiving time of '47, and stayed until summer of 1950 when we came back here.

EG: Oh, grand. I didn't know that that had happened.

TM: Yeah, so wife had good experience, you might say, of Japan or in Japan for about, what is it, about two and a half years or so.

EG: Did she have any family there that she could visit?

TM: Yes, she had her cousins and uncles in Hiroshima.

EG: Hiroshima?

TM: Yes.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

EG: What was Hiroshima like after the bomb?

TM: Well, the first time I saw Hiroshima after the war was on my way to Kyushu. And the train stopped at the Hiroshima station. So they only had a few minutes. And I got off the train and saw just everything was flat. Nothing was there. And, of course, that was only a few minutes because the train had to, you know, stay only for a few minutes. But after -- that was when I was there by myself -- and after family came, because her people were in Hiroshima, we took a trip down. And even then, things were not normal. Of course, they had lots of sick people, housing was bad, damages, and just lots and lots and lots...

EG: How did her family escape the bomb? They must have been out from the center of the city.

TM: Uh-huh. Her cousin was away from the center of the explosion. So he was saved. I don't know about her uncles and all that. I guess they were not in, close to the center, but her mother's side, I understand there were quite a bit of damages. And then I think her, one of her cousins disappeared. They don't know what happened to her.

EG: Just never heard of again. That would be a hard time.

TM: As far as that goes, place like you've heard of Yahata steel town in Kyushu? I went by there on train and there wasn't anything. Just the chimneys. And that was true in the area between Tokyo and Yokohama. You can go miles and miles and miles and nothing but concrete chimneys standing. Nothing was, nothing else was there.

EG: And yet MacArthur set up his headquarters in Tokyo. There must have been enough of Tokyo standing to make it, start making a new government?

TM: Well, there were, I think they were purposely not touched. Because around imperial moat -- the emperor's moat -- there were a lot of these nice buildings. And one of the nice buildings was Daiichi Insurance Company where MacArthur made the headquarters and...

EG: And the palace, of course, was not touched.

TM: It was a modern building, yeah.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

EG: But also, while you were in Japan, you continued your education. How did that come about?

TM: Oh, I thought it would be nice if I got a degree from a university in Japan. So I talked to a friend of mine, a Japanese friend of mine, about that, and he introduced me to a university and they wanted to see my transcript from the University of Washington. And I showed them and they gave me a credit for just about all the subjects that I completed here. So I didn't have much to go. And I did go some evening classes and attended lecture, and about a year later they give me a diploma.

EG: A BA in Economics. Uh-huh. You were a business major at the UW and then finished that there.

TM: So I have two degrees.

EG: Now you have two bachelor's degrees and two high school diplomas. [Laughs]

TM: Two high school diplomas. [Laughs]

EG: You do everything twice. [Laughs]

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

EG: Anything else about your stay in Japan that we'd like to know?

TM: Yes, well, I thought... I stayed in Japan I guess you can tell from '46 to '50. And because I lived in Japan before that, I was very sympathetic to the people there. I would try to be as kind as possible. I was not too friendly to their black market people, but otherwise I try to be, I try to be friends of the Japanese. When I was up in Hokkaido, of course, those are the days our jeeps were breaking down all the time, there weren't enough parts. And so the boys from, our boys from Hawaii were in the motor pool, and they were supposed to repair the jeep and keep it up and all that. And when they couldn't maintain on a scheduled, on a regular schedule, according to the schedule, they used to blame on the Japanese. And so the Japanese came to me and said, "We can't do anything. There aren't enough parts, the right parts, and so we can't repair. And yet this fellow from Hawaii gave us a bad time." And I had to go and talk to the soldiers from Hawaii who didn't understand (Japanese) too well. And then after that was straightened out, I believe the soldiers from (Hawaii) understood and they were not as harsh to the motor pool workers.

And, well, something about postwar Japan. The Japanese soldiers who came back, no job maybe, and they were struggling and selling all kinds of things, personal things, personal property at so-called 'Ginza outside store.' They put up a tent, they have about six or seven feet wide store on outside, outside of the Ginza stores. But they had a tent over. They called it Ginza stall. I still have picture. And they were selling just about everything they had. And this soldier -- I could tell, because he had a uniform -- selling among other things his medal, and I asked him not to sell it. And he said, well, he had no choice. He has to feed the family. So I said, "Well I'm in a different army, but your blood is no different from mine and I feel bad, and so I give you (the) money. So take 'em home and don't bring 'em out." And he said he would appreciate very much, but he thinks he will bring 'em back again. So after I gave him enough money he said, "I'll give them to you." And I said, "No, you earned it and you should keep them." "No," he said, "I will, I'd like to give them to you." And so I said, "Well, let me keep that for a little while then." I want to do that so he won't sell them to different people. I still have 'em. I still have 'em. And that was in Tokyo and we were living in Yokohama and about a month or so later, I wanted to return that to him, but I couldn't find him anymore.

EG: That's a sad story.

TM: Yeah that's one of those pretty sad things. You know, I gave him a soap, candy and money and all that. And there was another, another instance when a Japanese from here in Seattle, he was here in Seattle, and he went back to Japan during the war or soon after the war. Exchange ship maybe. And I happened to see him. And we worked in a salmon cannery together and he was in pretty sad condition. I happened to see him and he recognized me and he said, "I hate to beg, but my wife just had a baby, she doesn't have milk, so can you find me a couple of condensed milk?" And I said, "Why, sure." And I went to the PX, and I wasn't supposed to do it, but I got a case of condensed milk, so big, and I give him the whole case. And he cried. And I said, "If you need any more, I'm, I live in such and such place, don't hesitate to call me." And I gave him even my phone number. And he never called me back, but I was happy to do that. There are many, many stories like that.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

EG: Well, and you, you are such a special person in the middle of this. Here you are, an American soldier, and back in your home country, and both sets of people belong to you and you belong to both sets of people. It must pull a heavy drain, an emotional drain on you to be in the middle, or on both sides. Yeah. I've never heard any stories of Americans in Japan in the occupation being badly treated by Japanese in any way. And certainly you, of course, being identified with both sides and speaking both languages, you would, you would have it easy. But the Japanese apparently didn't have bitterness, or didn't display bitterness to the conquering army. At least I haven't heard stories.

TM: There must have been some.

EG: I would think so.

TM: But I never seen anything like that. I never heard, but there could have been. There could have been, especially in the beginning, when even after the emperor's announcement, some of the so-called Imperial Guard soldiers were trying to barricade the Imperial castle and trying to separate the emperor from others.

EG: That goes back to your, your...

TM: That was soon after the war was over.

EG: But that goes back to your story of Japanese education in the public school there of serving the emperor, not Japan, not the government, not the upper class, but the emperor as the person to be protected and cared for.

TM: And some the Japanese soldiers, when they charged in the final battle, they used to say, "Long live the emperor," like the British would say, "Long live the king," or queen, and that's how they die.

EG: So here with the occupation there was the royal guard concerned with caring for and protecting the emperor.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 33>

EG: Okay, and then in 1950 you returned to America again with your family.

TM: Yes. I had to finish or complete the studies at the University of Washington.

EG: To get your second your degree.

TM: So that I could get my degree. And I did come back and complete it.

EG: And you settled in, in Seattle as, as home. Where did you, where did you settle in Seattle when you came back?

TM: Well, we first, we didn't know where to go. So we were living in an apartment not too far from here. Then after about, I guess about a half a year, we bought a house in Lake City. And we lived in that house for about eight years or so. And then had another house built a little bit north of that. And we stayed there about thirty years and now we live in condominium. [Laughs]

EG: What did you do when you came back to Seattle? First you went back to University, University of Washington to finish.

TM: I went back to the university. I finished my studies. I got my degree, and well, that was 1950, the jobs were hard to come by. And so I thought maybe I would go to graduate school to get master. So I started, and then in the meantime I took a vacation and went to California. My wife is from, her folks were from, were in San Francisco and I came back and there was a job waiting for me. So I quit going to school and took the job.

EG: Now, your family is a daughter and son. Let's see... how old would they have been when you came back? They would have been, what, school age when you returned to Seattle -- the children?

TM: When we came back in 1950, our daughter was four years old. Son wasn't born yet.

EG: Oh, okay. Okay. And what was your job, the job that was waiting for you?

TM: It was a import-export company in downtown Seattle. It was the biggest import-export house. And we were doing business with the Far East, mainly Japan, and Korea, and Hong Kong. And after about five years of that, people in Japan that I met while I was there wrote me saying they were going to open an office in Seattle -- that was Mitsubishi trading company -- and that they would like to have me work for them. And so I left that American import-export house and went to work for Mitsubishi in 1956. And I worked there for thirty years and retired.

<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 34>

EG: And during the time that you were living in Seattle and working at export/import, you were active in a number of civic kinds of activities, too. Did you take a part in the reparations issue or what was your feeling about the reparations issue?

TM: When the first... I don't know what it was, but when the first team from east, Washington, D.C. or New York or whoever they were, came around here, interviewing the first generation, because of language difficulty, I was asked to interpret for them, and I did. And also about that time -- I forgot exactly the time frame -- but the first generation was allowed to become U.S. citizens. And there was a school here, how to prepare for the examination. American history and whatnot, so I helped that, too.

EG: Because you were especially good at American history. [Laughs]

TM: Yeah I think so. I think so. [Laughs]

EG: I just had to be mean. [Laughs]

TM: So I was able to help 'em and I was happy to do that. Yeah, in addition to being with a trading company, there were other community activities. Like over here, Japanese Community Service, Japanese Language School, Japan-America Society -- which is mainly a gathering of Japanese and the American businessmen, professional people. But I was active in those places and also a little bit later on I became active in, with the Nisei veterans and our own MIS veterans and Lions Club and whatnot.

EG: You were...

TM: It wasn't my choice, but they invited me to take part, so I did.

EG: You were, and still are active with the Japanese Language School. I understand there was differences, strong feelings of difference in the Japanese community about the Japanese language school, around the central issue of the Japanese American community should work at integration into the dominant society and not seek to separate itself out, and that the Japanese language school was not a good idea -- some people felt -- because it would be kind of a separatist kind of thing from integration. The people coming out of camp having these kinds of mixed feelings. What can you tell me about the, that whole issue?

TM: Well, I guess there's always a group of people against everything. But the large majority of the second-generation parents who had growing children, large majority of them, I understood -- I wasn't here I was still in the service -- came here in this office and asked that the language school restart. This was, oh, I don't know, about sometime in 1940s. So that their children, the third generation, could attend the school here. And so they started. I don't know the enrollment, not like the prewar time, when they had, what more than 1,500 students here in this building, and not that many, but maybe must have been several hundreds of the third generation.

EG: So there was strong enough support to make sense that the school should be in operation again, even though there was divided opinion in the Nikkei group. And the people opposed to the school weren't that opposed to...

TM: Well, they didn't have to come.

EG: They would allow it to be, and if people wanted. And you were on the side of the school. Of course, you've been a language teacher all your life.

TM: [Laughs] Yes. Sort of.

<End Segment 34> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 35>

EG: I'm interested in another issue that's a current issue. Some people are saying that the Nikkei community -- because the young people are marrying out in such large numbers -- that the Nikkei community is going to disappear in a matter of some few generations down the road. Now, your son married out, what do you feel about that whole issue?

TM: Well, it's, I think it's a difficult issue, but it's an individual choice. We cannot tell our children what to do or what not to do. The first generation was, you might say, narrow-minded. So they even thought that the second generation like us should not marry anybody outside of their community. In other words, our folks came from Fukuoka and they thought that we should find somebody from Fukuoka and not Hiroshima or some other place. They were against, sort of against that. Wellm that was one thing. Then they thought that then Japanese should stick to the Japanese, but the second generation didn't marry out. But when it came to third generation and fourth they had more freedom, independent thinking and Issei parents all gone, and the new parents were more broad-minded. So it's getting to be that way. I imagine something like half of the Japanese are marrying out and so...

EG: Yeah, I understand somewhere about 60 percent for the, for the Sansei, Yonsei.

TM: Well, could be. Could be. So one of these days there's going to be like South America, I guess. They were marrying their natives and the Caucasians and everybody. Oh, like Hawaii. So I guess that's what's going to happen. Whether that's good or bad, who knows. And then what are we to say, how are we going to judge? And it's a difficult issue... I don't know. [Laughs]

EG: People don't seem to have... the people themselves, individuals, don't seem to have a problem anymore in terms of prejudice to marry. Interracial marriages are gettin' so common, that the people themselves don't seem to be discriminated against. So as you say, it's happening and it's going on and maybe after a while we're going to be more like, like Hawaii.

TM: I hear Jewish people are still that way.

EG: They have the same issue going with them, yes. They just don't have the physical racial component that the...

TM: And they have religion, too.

EG: They have the religion, yeah.

<End Segment 35> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 36>

EG: Well, is there anything else that you had thought about when you were planning to come for this interview, or things that you wanted to tell us that we haven't talked about?

TM: Well, I thought that when the first generation came, they brought some nice things. They brought Japanese culture, some of which are really good, like the respecting the parents, honor and honesty, and hard work, and all that. They brought that idea here and they taught that to their children and I think their children are now telling their children the same kind of a thing. Maybe to a lesser degree, but I think Americans in general think that the Japanese Americans have a fine quality that originated in Japan. And Issei, of course, found out that the very nice things about the United States, like independence and freedom and all that. In Japan, the spirit of independence is lacking. They are always relying on somebody. They are always waiting for orders from somebody to do something and they are not as creative. But my, my hope is that our children will not forget their good Japanese spirit, culture, and they adopt good part of Japan and combine that with the good part of the United States. Some ideas about the United States is not as good. But if they can combine the good part and they use the good part, I think they will be good citizen. And that is my wish and I hope I was able to convey a little bit of that today.

EG: You're a wonderful person to come and be interviewed and you're a unique person, I think, in, of all the people that we're talking about, you embody the Issei and the Nisei and the Kibei, all within yourself. And your comments about the good of the two cultures and melding of the two cultures I think is very valuable and I appreciate it very, very much.

TM: Yes.

EG: Thank you.

TM: Yes, sir. [Laughs]

<End Segment 36> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.