Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Frank Miyamoto Interview I
Narrator: Frank Miyamoto
Interviewer: Stephen Fugita
Location: Bellevue, Washington
Date: February 26, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-mfrank-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

Stephen Fugita: This is February 26, it's a Densho interview with Professor Emeritus Frank Miyamoto, who was the former (acting) Dean at the University of Washington in the College of Arts and Science, former Chairperson of the Sociology Department, former President of the Pacific Sociological Association and a real pioneer in lots of different areas for Asian American Social Scientists.


SF: Frank, I'd like to start by having you tell us a little bit about your parents' background in Japan and what kinds of hopes and what kinds of cultural background they brought over here.

Frank M.: Yeah, my father and mother both came from Miyazaki-ken, which is in Southeastern Kyushu. It's a remote part of the country as far as the Japanese are concerned. They call it and consider it to be back woods. In any event, they were born in the early part of the Meiji era in the 1870s, so it's fairly early for the Issei population. And my father grew up in a family in Miyazaki city that was relatively poor, but a shop keeping family of some kind, and on the other hand, they had fairly strong middle class kinds of aspirations I think. In terms of his own character, why he had hopes of becoming, for example, a school teacher and training sufficiently in school to get that kind of position, which I think is fairly indicative of hopes that were a little beyond many of those to be found among Issei of that period. In any event, his family had economic financial difficulties and he therefore had to quit school earlier than he hoped. He goes to work and takes care of his mother who becomes very ill and works very hard towards maintaining the family's economic status.

SF: When did he have to quit school?

FM: Oh, when he was in his -- chuugakusei -- early junior high school years I think. So he doesn't get too far in his education. However, one thing I should say about him, was that he always had kind of academic or scholarly interests, which I think was passed on to me clearly. In any event, one of the things I remember very clearly was my mother telling me how faithful my father was in trying to help his mother, who -- his mother who was sick. And the kind of devotion he showed in trying to take care of the family affairs considering the difficulties that they were in. That type of impression of what the Issei were like has stayed with me all my life and has given me a kind of model of what I should be in terms of effort, of concern for the well-being of parents and this sort of thing. To go on, however, he became connected with some kind of small importing or exporting firm in Miyazaki fairly early, and as a young man then gets appointed to a position in Korea -- and possibly in Manchuria, I don't know -- by this company to conduct their business. And so there are indications then of this Japanese expansionism that was occurring in the early Meiji era and he is already a part of it when he is still a relatively young man. He comes back to Japan however, because the Korean (investment) failed or didn't succeed as they had hoped, and in Miyazaki when he comes back, he meets my mother, marries her and decides that the next step he should take is to come to the United States.


FM: Now my mother -- I should tell you about my mother also -- comes from also from Miyazaki, out in the country. Not, well it's not so much country as in a town away from Miyazaki City, but comes from a relatively wealthier family. Wealthier only in the sense however, that they were able to engage in speculative mining for example, which is the kind of thing her father was involved in and she gets to go to Beppu where there is (an) onsen -- a, you know, a spring, bathing spring -- and to Osaka and things like this which I think was less characteristic of many of the (Issei). So, she has a background of that kind and she (got) married once earlier, and that marriage fails, however, I think as much as anything because she wouldn't put up with the kind of fooling around that this husband engaged in. She then is a divorced woman at the point where she meets my father. I mention this background because I think whatever might have impelled women to leave the area was a factor in the kind of migration which was involved for her, especially because she was well enough off to have lived well enough in Japan already. And yet this divorce probably preyed on her mind and so she, having remarried, she then decides that it would be interesting to come, let us say to the United States.

SF: The kind of picture I'm getting is that your parents were well-equipped in terms of education or and they had a lot of resources. They were kind of adventuresome because of these things.

FM: Yeah, I think the atmosphere of Japan as a whole was already adventuresome, but southern Japan, Kyushu was probably a little more disposed in that, well I shouldn't say southern Kyushu, the southern part of Japan was a little more disposed in that direction because the Dutch influences in Nagasaki, for example, and foreign influences were very much stronger in the southern part of Japan than in the northern part. And this is the kind of influence that's affecting people -- the immigrant population in places like Kyushu from which my mother came and father came. In any event, that's the background out of which they come to the United States around 1905.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.