Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Hisaji Q. Sakai Interview
Narrator: Hisaji Q. Sakai
Interviewer: Patricia Wakida
Location: Walnut Creek, California
Date: April 12, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-475-8

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 8>

PW: So tell me more about what your work was like in Tokyo and where you lived. Describe what it was just like, because this is immediately after the war ended. Well, January.

HS: We stayed in Tokyo for a while, we were assigned to different regiments depending... and I was assigned to the Fifth Cavalry Regiment Headquarters, and there was another fellow named Shintaku, I forgot his name, but he and I were the only interpreters. But they had employed a Japanese, a major whose name was Horiuchi, and he was a nice man, and I'm sure he must have been a pacifist. Anyway, he tried to speak English as I tried to speak Japanese. We got along fine, because I could understand him, he could understand me, and then there was even a younger man, I don't know how old he was, he must have been younger than I was, he was a barber. And, of course, I don't know if he ever charged anybody, he never charged me. And I wasn't sophisticated enough to tip him, but I did give him goods and so forth. But we didn't even have to, Shintaku and I, never had to get up, (no assembly, no inspection), nothing. I could have gone off and stayed away for a month at a time, and they would have missed me. What happened is (that) they were changing officers, and there was no intelligence officer, it's called S-2, the regiment, S-2. Two was intelligence. S-3 was operations, so they just brought in this man (...), and he was Polish, his name was Prokup. And so I (thought), "Here's my chance." All of us were always going for KP, no, what is the place where you buy...

PW: Commissary?

HS: No, you buy and the GIs could buy things. Anyway, there was a place, it wasn't called the commissary, but it was the same idea. And one of my roommates in Tokyo, he went so often he was kicked out, they would not let him. So that day, he gave us all the stuff he had. He had moved up in the black market chain. Anyway, he became a very successful entrepreneur in San Francisco. In fact, he ran a Japanese tea garden for a while, I'm not giving names. But he was a, what you call an entrepreneur. Anyway, I was saving things for my nephew, my relatives in Matsumoto. And the moment that this new S-3 man, who was serving S-2 as well, I went in and I wore what I always wore, they call them camos now, we called them fatigues. I smartly clicked my heels like a chairman, saluted him, and said, "Sir, Sergeant Sakai requesting a three-day pass." He looked at me (puzzled) and said, "Oh, go see your employer," meaning that he thought that I was one of the employees. He never knew that we existed. So anyway, I asked to see the colonel. Colonel knew we were there, he was too busy. He said, "What do you want to do?" I said, "You have interpreters here, and they do what they can, I wasn't even called to interpret once." So I said, "Sir, I have an idea. If you provide me a driver and a jeep," because I didn't know how to drive, "I'll go out and survey the populace and I'll give you a report every day." I knew I wasn't going to do that, so I took the major, the major would give me entre to people in the agricultural service and all that, and we got a free, whatever, the cooks gave us, made us lunch. So the Japanese major, who was my interpreter, was really pleased, because they were starving at that time, so he could take it home to his family. So I'd say he'd make some arrangements, but I wanted to see the Buddhist temple and all these things. If the story wasn't good, I'd make up things. Nobody's going to read all that stuff. And I learned how to type myself at home, so it was terrible typing, but I had an English dictionary. And I was thinking of all the ten-syllable words I could, I was practicing how to write. And that was really worth something, so I learned how to write, I learned how to write fiction, but I always couldn't do, I had to write in the present, I didn't know how to write in the past. So present-tense was all I can... but I enjoyed doing that, I was doing something.

Then I finally got my three-day, I turned it to a five-day pass, I went to see my relatives in Matsumoto. And my family obviously knew the Akabanes. Akabanes were, what you call the politics of Matsumoto, and they made shoyu, they did miso, they made all the things. And Matsumoto was pretty well-off, they were politicians, and they had six children in the Akabane family. My mother's sister, that's my aunt, was an Akabane, that's why we were close to the Akabanes, I guess. I didn't even know who the Akabanes were. And I stayed with Jiro, "Jiro" means "second son," and he was dean of the Matsumoto medical school. And I got "the trots," he knew that. But he's a wise man. The only station, American stations were what they called the Railhead, they just watched the rail station, and they said that, "This American soldier is staying at my house and he's sick." And he'd tell me, "I (don't) understand Occidental bodies," that's a lot of baloney. And I knew how the army worked. Immediately, they sent a doctor and two other officers in a helicopter. In those days, helicopters were rare, and they sent the helicopter to look after me. And they took me back into Nagano. And I don't know if they knew whether I was a Japanese soldier or American soldier. I was isolated away from the general hospital population, and I got fed, I didn't care. After I got well, it was two days or something like that, and when I was discharged, they write on the discharge which hospitals you were in, what you were treated for, no record. We were all given special identification, make sure, so it's all right. I was discharged in New Jersey because I had a girlfriend who was in Washington, D.C., that was the closest. I got discharged in New Jersey, hopped over to Washington, D.C., spent a few days with her, then went back to New Jersey... no, I don't know, Washington, D.C., maybe. I got on DC-4, I was discharged already, but I had my uniform, that's the only clothing I had, uniform, but I knew I can get a free ride. And so all I had to do is wait, and I waited and I got a free trip to San Francisco. Oppenheimer was on that same... but anyway, if you're in the army long enough, you know how things work. Everybody's always... I knew that whatever I was doing, wherever I was, I made up an excuse, and it was always in my mind. If anybody stopped me, I could tell them what I was doing. And I'm sure, to everybody else, they knew, so everybody played that game.

So I got home, and I was not discharged in San Francisco, they would have discharged me. On that ship there was nothing to read, except I'm forgetting... there's a whole four-hundred page book on Catholic teachings, there's a term for it but I forgot. Anyway, I read every page. I said, "I'll never be a Catholic."

PW: What year were you discharged?

HS: When I was discharged?

PW: Yeah, what year?

HS: 1946.

PW: I had one other question about being in occupied Japan. How did the civilians, how did the civilians react to you, Japanese civilians, and also your relatives? Like was there an emotional feeling about your being a U.S. military person?

HS: The only person I was... of course, my relatives, my mother's brother's name was Hachiro. He was a, what do you call, anyway, he was a spendthrift and went to geisha houses and spent money. He's not the bright one. He told my, I forgot who was there, I knew Japanese at that time, says, "Don't talk too much. After all, he's the enemy." So he wasn't too bright. The others were sophisticated enough. And I noticed one of the Akabanes was a, he and his wife went to MIT, and he was a, near the end of the war, he became, what do you call people? Not pacifists, but he wanted to end the war, and he was imprisoned. But he worked for Toshiba. Anyway, the first born in Akabanes, he was mayor, he was everything, and he came over and saw a swimming pool, he put it a swimming pool at the house. And next time I visited, I noticed that the swimming pool was no longer there. It takes a lot to take care of a swimming pool.

Well, okay, but I didn't get to know the major who was my interpreter, he was a real gentleman, a nice person, and I think he was a pacifist. He was transportation officer, so he never saw service, combat service. And the Japanese people were very obedient and I didn't see any people who were the enemy. I met my daughter-in-law's father, he's far right, and I'll just leave it there. We learned Japanese war songs and so forth, and they were, we grew up on the streets, the street where my daughter's father was, he had a home, and he took me around to see all these, what you might call right-wingers. So there were, you just didn't see it.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.