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Title: Frank Miyamoto Interview I
Narrator: Frank Miyamoto
Interviewer: Stephen Fugita
Location: Bellevue, Washington
Date: February 26, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-mfrank-01-0002

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SF: Do you think that that was characteristic of most of the Issei immigrants, that they had things in their background that made them a little bit different or a little more...

FM: Yeah, I would say that the main factor was the push already started in Japan of changing from this feudal, isolated background to, under the Meiji era, a new expansionist country. Now, the other factor however, is that Japan was a deeply ossified country in terms of status arrangements. It was so deeply set in its way, that despite the psychological push that is now present in the Meiji era, the actual fact was that it was difficult for people to move up. And given this kind of contradiction in the situation, there were a lot of people who were disposed to move if they could or disposed to try to do whatever they could to rise, and migration or movement to, let's say, a country like the United States was seen as a way to do it. So that was part of the picture and then there were other circumstances. For example, if you were a second son or third son and were not going to inherit the family property, then you were freer to move. These kind of incentives were often a factor in the migration of the Issei.

SF: Do you have any recollection of what your dad might have thought that he was going to find in America at that time?

FM: No. Well not clearly, but there is this about his orientation that when he came to the United States, he said he came with the idea of staying permanently in this country, which was not the characteristic of most of the Issei parents of that time. The attitude among many Japanese immigrants was they would come to this country, make a killing, and then go back and become persons of status in Japan, which they could not do within the system as it was. So the idea was that migration and then return to Japan would make possible this kind of status mobility that was not possible in the, you know, if they remained where they were.

SF: So this kind of permanent immigrant kind of world view that your dad had -- how do you think that that sort of played out in, in what he did in America?

FM: I think it made considerable difference with us, for example. He had the idea that we should become a part of the American society as much as possible and later I'll tell you about moving from one place to another outwards from the Japanese community, for example.


SF: Frank, you were talking a minute ago about the, the fact that your dad was coming over as an immigrant and I've heard that lots of other folks came over as sojourners, or people who were gonna just make some money and then go back to Japan. What, what's your feeling about how many people sort of came over with the idea that they were going to be immigrants and how certain was that idea and how did that all work out?

FM: Well, I recall that there was one community leader I talked to about this question way back in the time I did my social solidarity study and he said, "Oh, 99 percent came with the idea they would come here and go back to Japan after they'd made the money." Whether that figure's accurate or not, I think there are data which show that let's say fifty percent did in fact come with the idea of going back after they had made sufficient savings, but the other fifty percent were largely unsure as to whether they would remain here or not. One major factor was the hostility that the anti-Japanese sentiment reflected on the West Coast particularly against Japanese immigrants, and the number who could come and be sure of making it in this country in one way or another for certain was very small. And so I'd say the percentage who thought that they would come permanently was probably a very small one. On the other hand, for my father, I think it was a kind of a philosophical issue, that if he was going to try to make it here, he'd better do it with the idea of being a permanent resident and that was the orientation he had and it played out in various ways as I might mention later.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.