Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Frank Miyamoto Interview II
Narrator: Frank Miyamoto
Interviewer: Stephen Fugita
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: March 18, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-mfrank-02

<Begin Segment 1>

Frank M.: Okay, that's the north end of Beacon Hill and the south end, you might say at that time, was Jefferson Park, the golf course down there. And everything going down towards the Rainier Valley on the one side and towards the industrial section on the other. So that's the Beacon Hill that I'm talking about. That's the grade school district. And kids were drawn from all over that hill. So in a sense, geographically, it was fairly (widely) distributed. But, the Japanese churches drew from all over the city also. And the Japanese community organizations, Language School for example, drew kids from West Seattle, from the north end, etc. So the geographic thing was by no means an explanation of why the Japanese communities hung together as it did, in contrast to, let's say, Beacon Hill Caucasians. So then the question is, what was it that was special about this? And somehow I think Japanese Americans, the Japanese community, had a capacity or had a sense of belonging together in a very special way and I'd have to go into considerable analysis to try to tease out what it was, but yeah, it's true. We all had a sense of belonging together in a very special way.

Now, one of the clues perhaps is to be drawn from the question of how did people get drawn into this organization. In the first place, my family got involved in the Japanese Congregational Church very early because our cousin -- my cousin, my mother's cousin were members. So our relatives were members of the church and they had drawn some other Miyazaki people in, and so we had this prefectural and kinship bond as a basis. Then there were in the church, people who came over from Bainbridge Island, or from Everett and other places and they get drawn in, and how does that happen? Well initially there's a certain sense of strangeness about these people who were coming from the outside country, countryside, getting drawn into our organization, but very soon we're functioning in an organized fashion and there's no sense of barrier any longer between this kid who comes from Bainbridge Island, or this kid who comes from Kent down in the valley; we're all functioning together and you know, enjoying each other lo and behold. Therefore we're, we, we're a team in a sense.

I think it's a little like a question of what is, what is it that draws the students together under the rubric of the Huskies, you know. If you get a team of people organized and they're playing effectively against other teams, you then have a common identity with that entity that's very difficult to explain, but nevertheless exists in a very real sense. So, I would say that it was the capacity of these Japanese Americans to come together and then function in an organized setting, effectively function, that made it possible to get the sense of belonging together.

Now in the Caucasian community where I grew up, I never got the sense of being able to organize these people into something that, you know, would naturally hang together. I became a member of the Boy Scouts in that area and we had fifteen boys drawn together under a man named (Mr.) Williams as I remember it. He was the scout master. And he and his sons were some of the big cheeses of this organization, and they were running this organization within the context of the people at Beacon Hill Congregational Church. So I joined because my friend, Roy Gustafson was a member, so we would go there, and we went on hikes and what not. But again, I never got the sense of this group functioning in an organized fashion very effectively. We did a few things together, but the hikes were more the hikes of a small group within the Boy Scout entity among a few friends rather than that the Boy Scout organization pulled this thing together. And even among friends of the kind who, with whom I'd go on hikes, there wasn't the sense of any long term identity. We'd have our individual interests and go off and do that separately, but nothing that held us together over a long term as seemed to be the case in the Japanese community.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

SF: So what is this "functioning together?" What's that mean, that this is this kind of resultant feeling? What, what causes that?

FM: Well, let's take this young people's Christian organization as an example. The church at this Christian organization emerges out of the Sunday school. That's the background. We, as kids, we grew up in the Sunday school from age five or whatever and we, we come to age twelve or fourteen and now we're young people and we're gonna, we have this thing that somebody, someone suggests or someone proposes of having a young people's organization. And so we organize. We organize within the context of this larger organization called the Congregational Church. And the Congregational Church, I suppose one of the things, items, is the fact the Congregational Church among the Issei (was) a pretty well organized entity. It was never a very financially prosperous church. The Baptist Church for example, established it's own church building. The Methodist Church as you know (now) has this Blaine Church. (but) it used to be down on Washington Street, not (where it is now), as a matter of fact. But, the Congregation Church was small by comparison. Nevertheless, the Issei were organized in a way that made it possible for this to be a very permanent kind of establishment. Now growing up within a context of a well-organized entity, it seemed for us natural that we should be able to organize whatever. And I supposed we got the assistance of the elders in this regard. They could help us somewhat financially, they would provide the facilities for our meeting and so on, and so on.

So the framework of organization in the larger Issei community provides a setting within which the Nisei can organize effectively and then beyond that, there must be something interpersonal that makes it very comfortable for us to live, ah, to work together. That was the element that was missing in the larger white community. I never got the sense that my friends -- all of whom were friends from the classroom -- felt as I did about the interests I had. For example, what about organizing a baseball team? Well, yeah, they would like to get together, for baseball, but somehow you got the sense that they also had other interests. They would scatter away from playing baseball and we never got a baseball team organized. Little league as you know, was never organized much in the larger community before World War II. It was only some dozen years after the end of the second World War that I think little league got organized. But in the Japanese community here in Seattle, we had little league types of organization long before the war, and among the handful of people, many of whom would come from distant places just to be able to get together with kids who would enjoy this kind of organized activity. So I'd have to sit down and go through a systematic analysis to try to explain what it was that brought us together in a way that somehow the Caucasian community did not. But it had to do with things like organizational effectiveness, the capacity for it, and also a kind of interpersonal feeling of being naturally warm to each other in a fashion that the members of the larger community were not. They were going off in their independent directions and you couldn't pull them together. Here in the Japanese community you say, "Let's get together and play baseball," yeah, immediately there's a group of kids who are willing to join in, and not only that, but (would stay together), week after week so, you know, that's how things got organized.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

SF: Well -- just kind of speculating here -- but do you think it might have something to do with that people have some sort of common understandings about obligations and commitments or something that would sort of make it easier to get organized, to commit to a longer term relationship? Well, trying to sort of get to what is this, what is it that causes this comfort, this ability to feel good in this social context which makes the interpersonal relationships so lasting and significant?

FM: Yeah. No, I don't think -- you know these ideas of obligation and so on probably, and of interdependence, this kind of thing -- no doubt in the abstract sense existed and played a part. But in the real world in which the kids were functioning, I would say it was something more like this. That, that if you proposed an idea among a bunch of kids -- let me be more specific and more concrete. I grew up learning about the Japanese community with my cousin's family, the Hashiguchis, who lived on 11th and Washington Street. Now Washington Street was the hub of the Japanese residential district in that time. Now that area is (a) housing project. It used to be called the Yesler, or the Seattle Housing Project. Anyway, that hill was filled with Japanese residences back in the 1920s let's say. And I used to go and visit my cousin at 11th and Washington -- they had a small house there. And whatever play activity was going on, I took part in it because it was very enjoyable as I found it. In contrast to the Beacon Hill community where we used to have baseball games or soccer games or whatever, but it was never a lasting thing. It was that, it was not something that would have long enduring permanence. The group would come together and kind of then break off. I had friends whom I regularly played with and I supposed if we'd form gangs, as sometimes happens, maybe then there might have been this kind of permanence that we're talking about. But at least within the context in which I grew up, we did not belong to gangs, at least I did not, and none of my friends formed gangs that I know of. So we were unable to function together effectively within that setting. But on Washington Street, what you would invariably see was groups of Nisei kids focused and in a some kind of group activity on the 11th and Washington, or down on 9th on Washington, or down on 6th and Washington, and as a matter of fact (the) Nippon Kan Hall was down on Maynard and Washington, and that was one of the activity points that I want to talk about in a minute.

But anyway, coming back to this factor that brought us together, I think the fact is that kids were, the Nisei kids were looking for an opportunity to engage in whatever activity they had that was of interest to them. And one of the main activities of course was sports and there was no question, you go down on Washington Street and immediately you could find a group of kids who would be willing to do that. And not only that, but once you got this group together, there was a certain likelihood of permanence in that relationship. I can tell you the kids I grew up playing with simply because at 11th and Washington, these kids would always get together. And they would play baseball or soccer or basketball or whatever we wanted to do on this street corner. Incidentally the street, Washington Street, was a dirt road at that time. I think there was a concrete sidewalk maybe, but it was a dirt road and none of the streets around there were paved. So we could play baseball or whatever, as if they, it was an outdoor field. It's limited, but nevertheless possible. And once we got a game going, why kids would turn up and very frequently they were the same kids you saw the last week or the week before, and so you get to know them. Incidentally we would play all kinds of games. We had one game called Jintouri. Jin is man and tori is take. So Jintouri meant go and capture someone. And there was a certain set of rules by which we, we'd play, we would play Jintouri. Well, obviously this is a Japanese adaptation, game brought from Japan that we played. And Hide and Seek or whatever games could become very elaborate. We'd develop our activities now. One of the interesting questions is why did we not get involved in criminal activities. You know, this is the kind of basis for gang formation and here is a setting within which prostitution and all kinds of criminal activities going and here are these kids growing up on Washington Street within the setting. And we didn't get involved in prostitution, we didn't get involved in gambling. Gambling was very active down in the Chinatown community and we knew about it, but we didn't get involved. Some Nisei did, and some Nisei got into prostitution, in fact I had a friend who became a pimp and I knew he was, but that to me was a kind of a distant thing. But it's a curious thing as to why we did not get into that type of activity. Well, I suppose our family background and the community background played a part in preventing, setting up barriers against our getting involved in criminal activities. But we did not form gangs of that kind, we got, we formed these friendship groups and they tended to be the basis for organized activities such as Boy Scout troops or Christian endeavors or whatnots that channeled us into more legitimate activities.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

SF: In terms of the, sort of pushing the norm sort of thing, I can sort of remember an expression that I've heard is called yogode. Like yogode?

FM: Yogore?

SF: Yeah, sorry.

FM: Yogore?

SF: When, obviously sometimes Niseis didn't fit the Issei's conception of the perfect son or daughter. What was the -- what was limits pushing, like you know, the way kids dressed, the Nisei kids dressed in those days that was a bone of contention between say the Isseis and the Niseis? Did, did most Niseis try to act out this sort of ideal son or daughter, or did they try to sort of push the limits in certain things in terms of activities or clothes and some things were too American or something of that sort?

FM: Well this clearly varied by individual, so you get in a sense the normal distribution of those who are very conventional and those who are disposed to be out of line. And the ones who tended to get out of line yeah, would wear their dresses too short by Issei standards, or they would pick up on the style of the, there was something known as the Clara Bow fashions. Do you know the name Clara Bow?

SF: I've heard of it.

FM: She's a famous movie actress of the mid 1920s who, she was a model of the flapper, so-called flapper girl. And girls often picked up on this kind of thing and they would you know, try out dresses of that type, or fashions of that, or activities of the type she seemed to be engaged in. And occasionally we would have scandals in the community of a girl becoming pregnant and what not. So there were things out of, that were somewhat out of line that were happening. And the main thing that held these things in line I think was the, where, was in the first place the family. Mother and father would bring considerable pressure on the children to keep them in line and the mother and father, or the family would use the community as the pressure, means of pressure. They would say what would happen if people got wind of the fact that you're... and you know, the image of what people would think if you would, if they knew you were engaged in this kind of thing or that, would be a means of controlling.

SF: So...

FM: The other thing however, I think, is that the parental... the parents themselves served also as models of behavior. And on the whole, I must say that the Japanese community here was a fairly puritanical community, even at the Issei level. There were occasional scandals of course, but on the whole, the Issei were quite discreet if they were engaged in illegal activity or contra-mores activity, but otherwise, the appearance was that this was a very strict, disciplined community. And in a sense, this is a modeling kind of thing that was happening I think for the Nisei.

SF: So it was really pretty rare, or it didn't break out into the open where an Issei father would be philandering or, or something like that?

FM: Yes, it was not an, not common. Or if they were, there would be all kinds of stories running around in the community about this family who's father was doing this kind of thing or that. And it would be a point of control, as a matter of fact, used by parents to prevent their kids from getting involved.

SF: You, you mentioned the thing about the parents using the community as sort of a control mechanism. So, like it's... were you ever directly told something like you'll bring shame on the family if you do that?

FM: Oh yes, absolutely. Told more likely, what would people think if you, you know, they thought you were engaged in this behavior or that? That was the typical way of, of scolding us.

SF: Would, would the community act as a social control mechanism in other ways? What I'm kind of thinking about was, I heard one Sansei describe how in the old days, when they used to go to festivals, like if a child wasn't, wasn't even their child, but they had some part of their uniform or the dance outfit sort of messed up, other people felt sort of free to straighten the kid's uniform up or the, or this costume up so that...

FM: I, I imagine that would be true. Yes. People had a sense of what was proper or right and that if things were not right, it ought to be fixed. And it didn't have to be necessarily your own kids. You help them take care of the matter. I think there was that kind of feeling in the community. Yes.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

SF: I want to go back to a formal institution in the community. The Nippon Kan Hall.

FM: Yes.

SF: And since that was such an important thing. Tell us about that.

FM: Yeah. I'd forgotten -- I should have checked the Japanese history of the community more closely, but in the early 1900s, let's say around 1905 there are accounts of the plays and shibai and things of this kind. Entertainment being put on, and the facility that is referred to is the basement of a hotel or some area large enough to hold an audience. But a rather limited facility compared to what in a sense might have been wanted for activities of this kind. So it was rather common for the Japanese people in the early 1900s, even before the family organizations got well established, for the Japanese community members to get together for festivities, entertainment or activities of one kind or another. Poetry groups, for example, were not uncommon, even in those days. The haiku and tanka poetry groups. And whatever activity that they might have for example, photography. If they wanted to have a show or whatever, they would have some kind of group assembly and then the show and the community members would assemble to observe or see this performance, whatever it might be. And as I say, shibai, the entertainment activity was one of the most common types of things. Now then, it became apparent that a hall of some kind was needed because of the frequency of these activities of this kind which called for a hall where fair sized audiences could assemble. And the facilities that were being used, such as the basements of hotels and such were un, obviously inadequate. So, I don't know just exactly when or how, but Nippon Kan Hall became available to the Japanese community and, around 1910 then, they take over this facility as a place of meeting of, for these activities that I referred to. This building was located on Maynard and Washington Street, right across the street or fairly close by was the old Japanese Baptist church. And I can remember that that church was right near. Now the Baptist church was perhaps the earliest of the Japanese Christian churches to be established in the late 1890s. As I recall the first Japanese Christian minister came and established that church. So, in a sense, it became an area around Maynard and Washington, became a kind of community center type of situation. At that time, also as I think I've mentioned, the Japanese community residences had climbed up the hill because this, Maynard and Washington was on, high above the hill over the business district, which was below. And the residential district then goes eastward along Washington up towards 10th and 12th and even up towards 14th, up from where the Nippon Kan Hall is. Anyway, it was very easy then for the residents who were already congregated in that area to assemble at Nippon Kan Hall for whatever event was held. Incidentally, skid row was skid road, where some of the Japanese residents still were was down the hill from Nippon Kan Hall, and the other residents were up the hill so to speak. So it was a kind of focal point for drawing the people together. Also, the other thing I should mention is that, that the center of the Japanese business district, might be said was at Maynard, 6th and Main Street. And 6th and Main Street was just block, another block down. That's the center of the business district and that's however, down the hill from where Nippon Kan Hall was. So ecologically, in terms of the geographical location, it was ideal for the Japanese community hall to be located. Okay, so in 1910 on, why all the meetings come to be held at Nippon Kan Hall, or if not all, the main activities take place there.

SF: Who, who manages the Nippon Kan and...?

FM: That I don't. You know curiously, I don't know who it was. It was owned as a hotel. I think there were hotel rooms in the upper, upper deck of this building, but the lower area is totally used as Nippon Kan Hall. So, somebody owned the building or yeah, leased it. And was doing -- I can't tell you who it was. But it was one of the hotel buildings, which, the, as you know, it's still there. That was existing from about 1910 on. And once that building got established, then the Japanese Association which becomes pretty active by this time becomes one of the main users of the, of that building for its various assemblies, that is public assemblies. The Japanese Association had its headquarters in the building which is on Jackson and Maynard. Two blocks down from, and it's still there, you know, the JACL has it's offices in that building. But Japan, the Japanese Association then has its assemblies up on the Nippon Kan Hall, and its business meetings at this, at their offices down on Jackson and Maynard. Japanese Association has various kinds of... Well the Japanese community, the Japanese society in Japan has many festivals and annual events that they carry on and the Japanese community often celebrated certain ones of these. In addition, in addition to the Japanese Association, the community had a very strong prefectural organizations as you know. The Hiroshima Kenjinkai, the Okayama Kenjinkai, the Yamaguchi Kenjinkai and so on, and so on. And these organizations also would have their assemblage functions carried on at Nippon Kan Hall. But one of the other prime users was the Japanese Language School, where, at the time I was going in the 1920s there probably were anywhere from 700 to over 1,000 kids at any given time attending the school and if you have a thousand kids involved why, there are all these families that are also sending their kids to the school who in turn would be involved, and if they had any kind of assemblies function it would be held at the Nippon Kan Hall. And, so, Nippon Kan Hall also, there the typical kinds of family aspirations that were involved, musical events -- they wanted their kids to be pianists or vocalists or whatever. And every now and then, even these family activities would be carried on at Nippon Kan Hall, if they had some child they wanted to show as a performer in front of the larger community. In that sense then, the Nippon Kan Hall became a very central, focal point of this organizational activity that I've talked about is rather typical of the Seattle Japanese community.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

SF: What, what kind of strikes me about that arrangement that's so unusual is how, how did they avoid conflicts with all of the different organizations wanting to use the hall?

FM: Oh.

SF: And, it seems like an amazing feat to be able to accommodate everybody and then not get into squabbles and little...

FM: I don't know, I don't know what conflicts occurred. I didn't, I never got the impression of there being very much conflict. I suppose the hall must have been scheduled well before hand, annually, perhaps for this event and that and so on. And if an organization could not get a meeting there, then they would go somewhere else, to the churches or whatever other structures that were available. Part of the answer I think is this -- that the Japanese, that the Japanese community was vertically organized. It was organized with the Japanese Association at the top and the Japanese Association had the control over other things. The Japanese Business Association, known as the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, whole slew of business associations such as the Hotel Organization, Material and Grocers Association, the Dye Work and Cleaners Association, the Restaurant Association, all these things were part of the Chamber of Commerce and they were under the umbrella of the Japanese Association. Also, the Japanese Association had an educational branch, one of the divisions within the Japanese Association and they were the overseers of the Japanese Language School or had direct contacts. And this umbrella organization also had kind of a religious branch to it and the ministers would tie in rather, in a not tightly tied in, but they had a kind of organizational contact there. Therefore, with the Japanese Association as the lead organization, they probably -- this, here I have to guess as to what happened -- but I would guess that Japanese Association had first dibs as to the scheduling of all their main activities and then they would be sure that the Language School would get in their lick and that the kenjinkai who were also organized within the business, within the Association would have their arrangements taken care of. And then there were other kin, community activities then that the Association approved of, such as the Kendo Club and the Judo Club and so on. And they would want to schedule their events so they would get in. I, my guess is that the Japanese Association played a critical role in making sure that scheduling went smoothly and that there was a minimum of conflict. And as I say, if events could not be held at the Japanese Language, at the Nippon Kan Hall, then the people would go elsewhere for taking care of their activities.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

SF: You just mentioned the, the Language School and that must have been a really important institution for the Niseis. Can you kind of describe how that was set up and how, how that related to the lives of Niseis in the '30s?

FM: Yeah. The Language School to my knowledge, the early beginnings of the Language School probably took place within the early 1900s, in the first decade or so. The present Language School building, which you know down on King Street -- Weller. Weller and 16th. That set of buildings was established around 1912 as I recall. And the reason why that thing got going, I'm sure, was -- well there were several reasons. One, the Japanese community was, to a large extent -- in the early years especially -- a community of what might be called sojourners who's intent was to go back to Japan once the family made it's mint of money and could go back as well-established status people. That dream of going back to Japan, you know, disappears in the course of time, but there's always a question remaining in the minds of the Issei, largely because of the discrimination that they encountered, as to whether they could ever make a lasting, established settlement here, or they would have to go back. So, the idea was that the kids ought to be trained in learning Japanese language in order to be prepared if they have to go back to Japan. Secondly, even if there was not that kind of intent of, in going to Japan, the idea was that within the, within the family and within the community the, an understanding of the Japanese language was very important. Therefore, the kids ought to learn the language. And thirdly, if the Nisei were to remain here in the country, their chances, however, of being absorbed into the larger community was not, was far from being sure as very limited and the basis for success and their economic life might hinge very much on a knowledge of both the Japanese, as well as English. And therefore, again the thought that it was important for the Nisei to get a good grasp of the language. So, for all these various reasons then, the Language School was thought to be a, a primary necessary institution. I think 80, 90% of families in the community thought likewise and so it was a common practice for all the families to assume that their kids should go to the Language School in addition to attending the regular public school for language training after the day classes. The school then ran from let us say 3:30 or 4:00 in the afternoon on, after the public schools had finished. And in my experience for example, I would finish my school, public school by 3 o'clock, get on a street car up on Beacon Hill and head for the Language School which was three miles away, perhaps. But the street car was a means of getting there very easily and by 4 o'clock then I'd be in a Language School class. Now as far as the kids were concerned, this was a chore because attendance at school all day in the public school would, was enough of a, a demand and then to additionally go every day to the Language School seemed too much. More importantly, at least in my case, the Language School seemed non-functional. All my friends were hakujin. In the family, I spoke a little Japanese. I necessarily had to speak Japanese to my mother especially, but my contact with my mother was minimal, in the sense that if I could talk enough to get my bread and butter and clothing and a few things like that, that was it. We didn't carry on any, any serious discussions of any kind. So the language requirement was then very minimal.

Given the non-functional language situation for Japanese language, I really had no interest whatsoever in learning the lang -- well I, that isn't true. Occasionally I would think gee, I wish I could learn to speak the language. But to learn to speak the language, I thought I had to learn to read the language. And I guess the fact was that speaking the language was non-functional for me because I was not conversing with my mother very much and I was not involved in the larger Japanese community where the language would have been necessary, therefore it was, speaking was non-functional for me. Reading I thought might be of interest, because there were Japanese language things around our house, for example, that I would look at and think "Gee, I can't read this stuff, but it would be interesting if I could." However, as you know, the Japanese language being in terms of characters is very difficult to learn to read and I never got a hang of it in those days and therefore I didn't succeed there.

So for eight years or more that I went to the Language School, I really went there just to be there in body and as far as learning went, there was not very much learning that went on. I would say that the Language School was, for at least the majority of the Nisei, a social event. We didn't learn very much at the Language School, but we were doing what our parents wanted us to do and so that we took care of that. Otherwise, we would play handball, we would play baseball, we would get together for social activities extramurally and that's why I got to know quite a number of my Japanese Nisei friends, at the Language School. The other thing about the Language School was that it was the organized entity through which many of the Japanese community activities were carried out. For one thing, the Language School itself had an outdoor event annually called the undoukai. Undou means exercise function. The undoukai was an outdoor activity in those days, often held at Jefferson Park area, where the parents would set up running events and all kinds of activities where there would be competition and then there would be prizes, virtually prizes for everybody. If nothing else you'd get a pencil and eraser and if you were very good at what you did, why you'd get maybe a package of some confectionery or something like that. Anyway, the undoukai was for us kids a very interesting event, because this was one of the picnic events that our family annually involved ourselves in. We would meet other families that we would, we knew whose kids were attending the Language School, and then we would have these competitive activities. It was a very festive and enjoyable affair. The only thing that I disliked about the undoukai was that it was held in a relatively public place, either the Jefferson Park area or occasionally it might be held in Lincoln Park, you know, on the Sound, down south of West Seattle, places like that. And what I disliked was that because it was public, people, the hakujin people could see us, not only assembled as an alien entity, but in addition to that, we emphasize the alienness by eating with chopsticks and so on, and that somehow to me seemed the wrong thing to do. Nevertheless, the undoukai was very exciting affair and so basically I enjoyed it.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

SF: Frank, when you were talking about the Language School, you mentioned the undoukai and then the, this issue about feeling a little uncomfortable with the Japaneseness, I guess, of the event in the public park, where you had all these Japanese and probably a lot of Isseis speaking Japanese and like you said, using chopsticks. And this seems to be kind of a theme that runs through the kind of Japanese American experience, a sense of how much, how much we want to look "Japanese-y" I guess, or be Japanese or whatever.

FM: Or you mean avoid looking that.

SF: Or avoid looking like that in different historical periods and so forth. Like, so in the '30s, when the Language School used to have these events...

FM: Well this was actually in the '20s.

SF: Or in the '20s, I'm sorry. What was the feeling, I mean did most, were. How self-conscious were people about acting Japanese and being perceived Japanese in, in public so to speak or in the, in a larger American context? Were they self-conscious about it, not self-conscious about it? How did the Issei feel about it, how did the Nisei feel about it? Was, were they on the same page or were they looking at this a little differently?

FM: Uh-huh. You know, there's this article by Kurt Lewin on Jewish self hate, hatred. And what he indicates there about the Jewish people and their feelings of what he calls self-hatred in a country like the United States expresses precisely the kind of feelings that I'm talking about with respect to being the Nisei in the Caucasian community. Now for the Jewish people and for Japanese people -- Japanese Americans -- I think the problem was essentially the same. That there was a lot of anti-Japanese feeling, as there was anti-Jewish feeling, in the 1920s. Particularly in the 1920s, as a matter of fact, because this was the period in which the anti-Japanese agitation to remove, to restrict Japanese immigration was going on, and until the passage of the Immigration Act in 1924 there was a lot of sentiment against the Japanese people on the grounds that these are people who are going to come in and overrun the country with their high birth rate and with their aggressiveness and so on. Now I felt that it was -- personally as a kid in the 1920s -- felt that it was a serious disadvantage to be of Japanese background given this kind of hostility that was directed against the group. In addition, being, being Americanized in the schools as I was, that is, I was taught to sing My Country 'Tis of Thee and to pledge allegiance to the flag and then I would read the history books and so on and learn all about the history of the country and the, which of course was all in terms of, of the Anglo background from which the country, this nation particularly arose. Given that background then, I somehow got the feeling that Japanese-ness was kind of an inferior quality. It was also a time when Japan was as a nation, just barely emerging as one of the developing nations of the world. And I didn't feel that Japanese cultural background was inferior, but somehow I felt that there were, that compared to the capacity of white America to move ahead as it did as a national power, that there was that kind of inferiority of the Japanese society. And given that, somehow I had the feeling that I should become more a part of the Western, the American society. And for that kind of motive, for that kind of aim, being Japanese I felt was a handicap.

Your question is, "How did the Japanese people, the people in the community feel about this?" Did they show this kind of self hatred in a sense? And I would say that probably most Nisei felt this in one way or another at some point in their life, but by and large, the Japanese community was isolated from the larger community. The community was residentially separated. We didn't live up -- most Japanese did not live up on Beacon Hill at that time and they didn't live in an area where they were exposed directly to Caucasian contacts. In fact, my Japanese community friends were curious to know what American community life was like, simply because they didn't, hadn't experienced it. And as far as their Japanese community life went, why it was an isolated, but very active and very interesting life as I have already described. And to them, that was their world. Whereas for me, growing up in the Caucasian world, I constantly experienced in one way or another, some degree of hostility from the community in which I lived. I had lots of friends, I felt, among the Americans, but then there were lots of guys who were strangers to me and many of them were kids who didn't, who took a little, certain amount of pleasure in making things uncomfortable for an alien in their group such as myself, and so I would feel the, the tension of being someone who is different. In the case of the Japanese, there's also the racial factor. The fact that visually, physically we're different. And that too was a problem. There was in our neighborhood a girl who was very American, or very Caucasian in her appearance. She lived very close to where I lived and her name was Dorothy and she was a blonde, with curly hair and very white complexion and so on. And all the kids, the boys in the school thought she was a doll, real doll. I suppose by Western standards, she was in a sense. But I constantly felt the distance from myself from the Caucasian world especially in light of this girl who is somewhat admired by my Caucasian friends, but who for me was at the opposite pole from myself. She was blonde, she was fair skinned, she was everything that the boys thought was admirable. And as for me, I could not possibly think of being in that kind of a circle. And in that sense, I think I felt kind of a self-hatred for being what I was because I could not be part of that world which was white and Anglo and different from myself.

Nevertheless, I also from such knowledge as I had of the Japanese history and background felt a lot of pride in being Japanese. And so there was this conflict within myself of being Japanese, of being something that I thought was worthwhile, and yet at the same time being something that was made fun of by the larger society who -- or the kids in the larger society -- and which, therefore, was for me a personal problem. Among the kinds of problems that we faced was the fact that living in this Caucasian community, kids who were strangers to me would run by and say, "You skibby!" Or "You Jap!" Little kids for example would, they shout at me and then run off and that was fun for them. And so I got the sense of being different, of being non-acceptable and so on from that type of experience. At Halloween especially, we as a family anticipated trouble at our house because kids would come by and throw eggs at our door or they would pull up, turn up dirt and throw it on our porch and this kind of thing and it was very painful to experience this type of confrontation.

So if you ask what was the feeling in the community about this type of thing, I would have to -- I'm guessing -- but most kids did not directly experience discrimination of this kind. There was more talk about it than anything. That is they knew that it existed and that they would have to meet it if they went out into the larger community, but most Japanese, both Issei and Nisei spent much of their life within the community and didn't have to experience this kind of thing personally or directly. They knew it existed because for example, in school, they might experience from time to time some kind of an encounter with the Caucasian world that would tell them there were boundaries, beyond which they could not go without encountering difficulty. They knew it also from the fact that the mass media, especially the newspapers who with big headline, "Japs did this" or did that and so on, would be shown. And there was a lot of feeling about that kind of expression. And even in the cartoons and in the movies, there would be stereotyped Japanese, which were shown in a fashion that made one feel inferior or handicapped for being what he was. So there was a basis of Japanese self-hatred. Now, I recall that in my -- I told you that my father had the feeling that in spite of whatever difficulties you might encounter in a foreign land -- his feeling was if you go there and you have an intention of establishing yourself, you better try to become a part of that society. And I remember that in our commun -- small group of Japanese families on Beacon Hill, he led an effort to become involved in the PTA, for instance, by Japanese families getting together and purchasing a movie projector for the school, at a time when movie projectors were not commonly available in schools. And the Japanese families, three or four of them, living on Beacon Hill got together, and I think my father was one of the instrumental people involved. Purchased a machine that cost a few hundred dollars at a time when a few hundred dollars meant a lot more than they do today. So, this is the way in which some Issei then try, having moved into the larger community and confronted by this kind of difficulty, try to meet the problem by making themselves good citizens within the community. I would say that this type of effort was succeeded in some degree, but then it didn't stop the anti-Japanese hostility or discrimination, even of the personal kind or certainly of the kind that appeared in the newspapers.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

SF: Frank, you probably -- compared to the average Nisei -- were... you had more exposure to the white world, right? Your father had a sort of immigrant mentality as opposed to a sojourner world view. You lived in Beacon Hill with very few Japanese families and kind of away from the core community. You had a lot of white friends in high school and so forth. So, in your case, for example, when you mentioned Dorothy -- this kind of prototype of a sort of mainstream American, or mainstream Caucasian beauty as it were -- would, would it be something that you would be sort of... how would you view Dorothy, I mean? Was it sort of like if you could have her as a girlfriend, I mean, would that be something that you'd wear as a glove, is that sort of a, sort of some far off unattainable thing or...?

FM: Well, when you grow up as a kid in American society and read American fairy tales and what not. What you get is a picture of these little girls who are golden haired and very cute, innocent, or whatever. And this is the kind of image that Dorothy presented as a person. And as I say, the fact that she lived only a few houses away from me, in a sense aggravated the image for me. That she, this is the type of image of, that is represented in the American folk tales and here I am so different from that type of person. Now, if I were, if she were male, I don't know how just exactly how, you know, if an Aryan male, I'm not sure if that would have made such an impact. But the fact that she represented so closely what is depicted in the American folk tales emphasized for me what the difference was between being American, being hakujin and being Japanese was. So... I've lost the question you started to ask.

SF: So, so if, if she was accessible to you, I mean...

FM: Oh yeah, I suppose that's... yeah, you know, in the sense that, you have these images of Prince Charming who saves the golden haired beauty from... this is the kind of story that's told. Yes, I suppose, I imagine within the context of this type of fairy tale background, what she represented. Incidentally, I really have to tell you a whole history about my interest in literature and the western writing. Because that comes into play, in part, in this whole area. But reading the fairy tales, of course, is the beginning of all that. And then it goes on into the story books and novels, and the classic literature of the Western society. But anyway, it's in that kind of context that I think Dorothy figured.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

SF: More probably, when the Japanese community again had these activities in the '20s and perhaps early '30s. Do you think that -- this is jumping way ahead to right after the incarceration. Do you think people became more self conscious or less self conscious about being Japanese and was the self consciousness different from the pre-war days as compared with the trauma of having gone through the incarceration and being so stigmatized by the larger society? And when they came back, how did their feeling about being Japanese, being seen doing Japanese-y kinds of things in a public setting change from the prewar to the postwar era, do you think?

FM: This is a question which I have some difficulty answering because I feel that my own attitudes were not very close to -- my attitude changes were not close to those which occurred in the community. I was not sufficiently tied into the community as such, except as an observer -- an outside observer. I wasn't tied in sufficiently to be able to tell you what I think happened in the community. However, I do have some comments on what you're asking. I think the very important point to be made here is that the Western society -- now American society changed before as against after the war. Let me cite you a personal example that emphasized for me how much the society changed. Before the war, when I was going to the University of Chicago, I had a very good friend living in the International House where I lived who's of black background. A black American named Franklin Edwards. Came on, went on to become a very distinguished professor of sociology at Howard University. And I had again, at the University of Chicago, many Caucasian friends, and then there were two or three black students there at the graduate school, a very small number. But they were generally quite outstanding black people who had been capable of making it to the graduate program in Chicago, which incidentally was rated at that time the outstanding in the country. So it was something to be able to have gotten into this kind of sociology program. Anyway, one day, Franklin Edwards and I went downtown. I guess we were going to one of the national conventions that was being held in Chicago on that, at that time. And we happened to be downtown at a time when we wanted lunch, so we said, "Let's go and have lunch somewhere" and I saw a restaurant off the side the street that looked reasonable enough. We're not wealthy as you know, as graduate students, but it looked okay for us. And so I said, "How about this place?" And Frank Edwards looked at the place and he said no, he said not there. And then he became very particular as to where he would go. Because, and then, as in due course he explained to me. He says, you know, "A black person cannot go to that restaurant." And it had never occurred to me that the restaurant or the cafe I was pointing to would exclude anyone. Like me for example, I could go into any of these restaurants. Maybe they didn't like it, I didn't know. But anyway, I never had any feeling about being excluded in a place like this, where as Frank Edwards knew that a black person could not go in downtown Chicago loop area into any restaurant and be served. He just, and he knew that he should not do that, so he picked the particular place we should go to. We went to that restaurant and he, we had a nice lunch with no difficulty. Now that to me emphasized the degree to which the black society in the prewar world was excluded from participation in the larger society. That was not a kind of barrier that I'd ever encountered and it surprised me. However, if you think what black America, I mean white America was in the prewar days, you have to think in terms of that kind of experience which I had. Black Americans were totally excluded from large areas of American life. Japanese were of course excluded in certain areas, particularly on the West Coast, but, nowhere near the same degree. However, as Japanese, as a person who was of racially different background from the white world, I had a sense that yeah, I'm excluded from this and that and so on. And I'd better not try to form myself in, or if I do, then I'll have to anticipate difficulties that I'll have to fight with.

Anyway, after the war however -- well, during the war, as you know -- in American society, the black Americans as they moved northward from the South pushed harder and harder for positions in the industrial, military industrial complex and they got FEPC rule, laws passed that would prohibit discrimination against blacks, or from racially colored persons from participation in employment. And by the end of the war, and certainly by ten years thereafter, why American society was totally changed, or changing, or changed from what it was in the prewar world. In the prewar world I described in terms of the kind of experience that Frank Edwards pointed out to me. The postwar world, was a world in which black Americans immediately begin to insist that they be given the same rights of education, for example in Kansas as well as Mississippi, as that of the larger society.

So if you asked what happened in prewar as against postwar and to what degree was, were the Japanese more or less race, race conscious, you've got other factors entering in that makes it more difficult to analyze just exactly what happened. I think the Japanese were certainly, in the immediate postwar era, self-conscious because of the experience which they had. Certainly the detention, their exclusions and so on gave them very strong mixed feelings about this company. The fact that they had been excluded unjustly gave them a sense of the injustice which they had experienced. The fact that they were allowed to come back to this area for example, the Pacific Coast area for example, gave them a sense of well, we've got to reestablish ourselves. And I think that was strong motivation in that direction, but with a certain wariness that, you know, the white people again might be hostile to us in one way or another. But, at the same time, you're seeing, you're now in a world which is rapidly changing from the character of racial discrimination that had prevailed in the post, prewar era. And blacks are now up in arms insisting that we be given recognition and the Japanese people are being carried along with the tide of this type of event and by 1960s you're getting a world in which ethnicity then is no longer -- well, ethnicity is given a different kind of emphasis than it had before.

As a matter of fact, it just occurs to me that another thing that happened in the postwar era that made the world different, the American world different, was the fact that so many white troops landed in Tokyo and in Japan as occupation troops and were there for, anywhere from six months to several years as occupation troops. These people come back to the United States and they now have a totally different kind of concept of the Japanese than the pre-World War America had. In pre-World War era, the Japanese were aliens saying people, totally stereotyped and non-human in a sense. Whereas in the postwar era, there's an appreciation of the fact that these are human beings just like ourselves. They were our enemies, but now they are human beings. And I remember one article in a magazine, I've forgotten which magazine. It was one of the home, women's home companion type magazines in which there is an article about shibui. Shibui means something severe. A little bitter, if anything, bitterness. And the article had to do with Japanese art. And the shibuic quality that is emphasized. In other words, kind of a restraint and kind of stress that is picked up in art of the Japanese kind, rather than the floral and blossoming out kind of thing, it's kind of restricted, disciplined and so on. And this quality, the magazine article goes on to say, is not only distinctive of the Japanese art, but is something that we should emulate. And you know, it was very interesting that Japanese art at this stage -- I mean the American society at this point, stage now comes, comes to appreciate Japanese art in a fashion that they never could have.

One other type of experience that I remember that emphasizes this point. Back in the pre-World War II days, 1939 or '40, I was in New York City once, for the first time. And I went to Japanese restaurant. It was one of the big Japanese restaurants on 56th Street near Rockefeller Center. And the restaurant's name I think was Miyako or some name like that. It was considered "the" Japanese restaurant in New York City, but it was only one of maybe two or three in the whole city that was a Japanese restaurant. The Japanese restaurants simply were not well known to the, or Japanese food was not well known to the American public. And I remember seeing a Caucasian in that restaurant and I thought, was surprised to see that there was an American who would be eating Japanese food, simply because it was so unheard of, or not unheard of, but it was relatively uncommon. Not only that, he was eating, as I remember, sashimi. And I thought, "Wow!" [Laughs], you know, this guy knows something about Japanese society. [Laughs] Today of course, the sushi bar is more American than, than chop suey. And it's, it just indicates how different American society was then, as it is now. And already in the postwar era by the time you got into 1948 to '50 and so on, why you were getting these articles about shibui or what, what there was about Japan that we should understand better and so on and so on and so. It's a totally different world into which the Japanese Americans are now trying to adjust. It's a world in which prejudice and barriers to acceptance are still very definitely there, but it's breaking down, and as you get a breakdown of these kinds of barriers, why people are not predictably behaving in an anti-Japanese or anti-black, or anti-ethnic fashion.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

SF: Okay, if we go back to the 1930s, late 1920s, did the Japanese in Seattle have a kind of an understanding about where they could go? I mean was there kind of a gentlemen's agreement about places like restaurants and things of that sort? Like you just knew that you wouldn't or you shouldn't go to this restaurant because you, you might get something embarrassing, embarrassingly handled or something like that?

FM: I think, very definitely in terms of residence. In Monica Sone's book for example, she tells about venturing, or the family trying to find a home in an area outside the Japanese community and the strong sense of the hostility they might encounter. And that kind of feeling was very definitely present. If you're going to look for a home outside the Japanese community, chances were you would run into one kind of prejudice or another. Now this, we happen to meet in the post-World War II period as well. So, it wasn't something that ended quickly and suddenly, but in the pre-World War II era, outside, anything outside of what you might call the Japanese community area -- and that would run from Skid Road up to maybe 24th on the east side, and anything south of Dearborn Street and north of well, Madison, for example -- if you got outside that kind of boundary, you very well might encounter prejudice, in terms of the possibility in buying homes. People, there were Japanese all over the city, but invariably, they were near what, the transportation lines for example, where grocery stores and dye works and cleaners were established by Japanese, and then they would have their residences nearby, in those kinds of transition zones where residences were not strictly regulated, as they would be in a purely residential area. There was a very definite understanding that you could not possibly hope to buy a, as a Japanese, place in Laurelhurst for instance, or Mt. Baker or, various areas of the city where there was no question that you would be excluded. As for barber shops for example, people just didn't try. You might get turned down going into a barber shop. Restaurants, there were a lot of Japanese restaurants. That is, not only Japanese food restaurants, but American foods, served by Japanese cooks and so on. So, again, there were a lot of choices made without going to someplace where you might run into difficulty. I don't recall that we ever tried any restaurants here in Seattle that we felt might be troublesome. But... well, even in the movie theater, I remember that as a youngster I went with some other Japanese and we would, were directed to go up to one of the galley, gallery areas, you know, upstairs area. We didn't know why, but we had the supposition that it was because there was discrimination. So, unless you pushed and tried definitely invade certain areas of participation, it's difficult to know whether you were excluded or not. Every now and then you would run into something that would tell you, yeah, this is an area of exclusion. But you in a sense had to try it out. By and large, I think the Nisei were not disposed to try out, test the limits of what they could do.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

SF: Were there any people who just liked to tweak the system, so to speak or, sort of...?

FM: Were there any?

SF: Yeah.

FM: Yeah, I think there were, but there were not, they were not, I don't remember. Min Yasui, for example, was clearly that kind of a guy. And, but Gordon Hirabayashi was not to my knowledge. He was around here. I don't think he ever tried to. Of course, part of the problem was that we're, we were too young to venture out very much into the economic world or into the residential world, purchasing world or whatever. We were a little too young to test that kind of problem. Gordon got into various activities, and I did too, because we were at the University. Now the University, after all, is a very special kind of climate. It's an area where a lot of things are permitted, where, which are not permitted in the larger world. And therefore, I ran around with the Caucasian kids and went to their socials and whatnot, without any trouble. But as to whether this would have been true in the larger community, it's difficult to say. My reason for mentioning Gordon, he did for example, marry a Caucasian woman, as you know. And, on the other hand, this girl he married, his father was a very open-minded person, who, Schmoe -- I've forgotten his first name. Anyway, he was, he was one of the leaders who tried to help the Japanese at the time of the evacuation, that type of person. Well, nevertheless, there were certain places in the, a community like Seattle where you could get involved in, across racial line activities and encounter no difficulties, such as the University, which is a relatively, relatively benign climate. And then you can go somewhere else and you know you'd run into trouble. And, that was the kind of world we had.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

SF: You're mentioning the University environment. How, how was the, how was college for you? Say your undergraduate days in the '30s at the University of Washington. What was your social life like? How was it, that experience?

FM: Well, in terms of social life, I was a member of what was called the Japanese-Ameri, Japanese Students Club -- JSC. It was not called Japanese American. It was called Japanese Student Club. I suppose the reason was, that originally, it was established particularly to help the students from Japan have a residential place when they went to the University. I'm guessing, but I think that might have been. Because in the 1920s, for example, there were a fair number of students from Japan attending the University who probably required a place to live and didn't have anything readily available for them. Of course there were also Nisei who were coming into college age and who were attending, and they likewise needed places to, a place to live. The Japanese Students Club then, which was established directly across the, from the campus place where now there's a social works building there, was a very nice location and ideal structure, ideal location for a student, near the library and reasonably attractive building for, similar to fraternities that the Caucasians had. Now the Caucasian fraternities are located north of the campus. This is on the west side of the campus. So that's a separation. Furthermore, it was understanding, it was clearly understood that the chances of the Japanese or Chinese or Jewish person, for example, being accepted into one of the fraternities was very close to zero. And so, the Japanese Students Club, then was the place where you could become, could go for living, but on top of that, it was the social center of, for the Japanese students on campus. The women had a, an organization called Fuyokai for Japanese student women -- women students. And they did not have a residence hall or place. So they would occasionally use the men's club as a facility. And in any event, if they, the men's organization wanted, wanted dances and so on, they would invariably invite the Fuyokai women into the affair, thereby, maintained a social activity of the boy-girl type that otherwise would not, perhaps have been promoted so actively.

SF: Were these two clubs entirely Nisei oriented or were they...

FM: Yes.

SF: ...kind of mixed?

FM: No, they were entirely Nisei oriented. There could have been some non-Japanese there, but I don't know of any.


FM: No, the Japanese... students from Japan were still there in the 1930s, but I think were reduced in numbers as the Japanese foreign policy changed. Before, in the 1920s, Japan had a strong international orientation and promoted the idea of Japanese students coming over, getting trained in American ways and going back and helping the country to become westernized and, or at least knowledgeable about the west. This is the old Meiji tradition of course. And it was continued up until the Immigration Act of 1924.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

SF: Was that sort of a, an occurrence that happened, that changed the attitude of both the Japanese government obviously had some impact, but how strong was the impact on the Japanese government based on the '24 Act and how did...?

FM: I think it was a critical factor. It contributed very substantially it seems to me to the change of Japanese foreign policy and we're no longer talking about Japanese Americans of course. We're talking about Japan -- Japanese in Japan. And for them, I think the Immigration Act of 1924 was perhaps the worst thing that could have happened to international relations. It was a sign to the Japanese people that the American people really, western society really did not accept the Japanese as equals or as respectable people, and that the only way in which the society was going to go ahead was not by seeking the kind of international relations that the liberal governments before that had done, but of turning increasingly toward a nationalistic orientation. An attitude that we beat the Russians in 1905, this is the way we can push our way into acceptance as a nation if we show our capabilities as a military nation. I think, Japan is a nation that is schizophrenic in its nationalist/internationalist orientation. At one state it may be internationalist, but deeply laid is a strong nationalist bent as well and so there's kind of a cyclical back and forth flow of display of nationalism or display of internationalism in the Japanese tendency.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

SF: How did the 1924 Act impact the Japanese American community? How did, were there reactions by the Japanese Association? How, how did this community respond?

FM: The impact on the Japanese Americans I think was this -- it was hard for a Nisei, Japanese American to tell exactly what impact it had on him personally. He obviously, he or she, obviously had to be aware of the anti-Japanese agitation that accompanied the passage of the 1924 Act or leading up to it. And even after that, of course, even after the fact of the passage of the Immigration Act, the American news media then continue using the kind of language that had been evolved during that pre-World War, pre-Immigration Act period and there is continuing suspicion of the Japanese people as a potential threat to American society in one way or another. What, why that should be, one can hardly imagine. But, the public mind being what it is, why it was easily swayed by those who took the view that the Japanese people are an undesirable people in our society, at least some people voiced that kind of view. And therefore, there is persisting publicity in the American media of that kind, in terms of stereotypes and what not, persists. Nisei are clearly strongly aware this kind of sentiment exists. Nisei writers of that period reflect the fact that they were sensitive to this type of attitude that was being promulgated, persistently in the American media.

The Japanese communities however, showed no direct reaction against the thing. In a sense, what, take the view -- what can you do in the face of an American action of this type? The American people or white people are prejudiced and what can, what is, what can you do to minimize that? The effect of the Immigration Act on the Japanese communities, however, economically was of this character: That much of city community, such, a city economy, such as in Seattle or in San Francisco, or even in Los Angeles, was based on the inflow of immigrant, the immigrant population. The hotel business, for example, or even the restaurant and dye works and cleaners, initially get their start because immigrants have to be serviced, especially those who are males, who have no homes to, for someone who would care for them. They have to have a place to live and so on, and so on, so. Many of the businesses which the Japanese immigrants started, were started because of the constant inflow of immigrants who would need these kinds of services. The business community then was, the Japanese business community in Seattle was in considerable degree, based on -- well I shouldn't say considerable degree -- but nevertheless, importantly based on a continuing inflow of immigrant Japanese. If that, when that is cut off, however, there is suddenly a drop off of a substantial portion of the clientele that had counted on certain kinds of businesses. And given that the alternatives are twofold. One, you change the character of the business or at least reorient it to other customers, or you close up and give up. Quite a number of people went back to Japan after the Immigration Act was passed for more than one reason, but among them, the reason that the economy was now very much more difficult to sustain.

So, the Immigration Act had various kinds of impacts. I think it made Nisei, Japanese Americans, conscious of the fact there was a lot of hostility against them, they would have to struggle against them. And so it makes the Nisei wary constantly. It makes them aware of their, of their somewhat questionable status in American society. The JACL, yeah, JACL was organized as you know, in the 1920s. It gets itself established around 1929, I believe. But preceding that, here in Seattle, as well as in California, there were preliminary organizations. For example, in Seattle, it was called Seattle Progressive Citizens' League. And they come up at a time when this anti-Japanese hostility was at its peak, and was sustained during the period thereafter by the continuing American attacks upon the Japanese in one form or another.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

SF: What did these Nisei organizations do to try to combat the discrimination and acts of hostility?

FM: Well...

SF: Or could they do anything, I mean?

FM: There was not much that they could do. They might have perhaps, but the know how was simply not there. And the basis for doing something was not there. Today, of course, you've got Japanese Americans who are in the Congress, who are in important positions throughout the country within the larger society. That was, of course, not at all the case back in 1930. And here in Seattle, for example, Jimmy Sakamoto, who starts his newspaper in 1928 is already a blind man and so that's a handicap for him. But what he could do was try to find or urge, American politicians or American business people to support the Japanese and even try to persuade them in one way or the other. And there was a lawyer named Clarence Arai, whose, got into the public zone realm in some degree became appointed to the Board of Directors of the Seattle Public Library. Things like this. And the aim was to build up a base on which you could begin to exert some influence up on the larger society. But the success of the organization or success of Nisei leaders in achieving this kind of thing was extremely limited and the best they could do was in a sense to look for what you might call "white angels." In fact, there is a terminology of that kind. People who would take an interest in the Japanese Americans and help them. People of some influence and then, thereby reduce the discriminatory activity against them. So, I think, if you ask what degree of success did they have, it was minimal and it was mainly directed towards finding these "white angels" in the larger society. People who were friendly to Japanese Americans. Sometimes friendly because they had American business interests with Japan, but anyway, seeking out these people who would potentially help the Japanese Americans. And that was about the extent of the activity that was going on.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

SF: Do you think that that, prewar experience of seeking out "white angels" is perhaps the only way to combat discrimination, as the kind of only lever that the young Nisei had, may have influenced the way the JACL reacted to the evacuation problem?

FM: Oh yeah, I think so. The JACL... well, take Jimmy Sakamoto's clear example of that kind of an attitude. The JACL leadership was manned by people who -- in Jimmy's case, he grew up here in the city of Seattle attending language schools where you were taught the Pledge of Allegiance and singing the Star Spangled Banner and so on. And about American history and how great George Washington was, etc. Now here in Seattle, incidentally, we had a principal of a public school named Ada Mahon, who was of Irish background I suspect. Very strong disciplinarian who taught the Japanese American kids coming through her school, you know, the "rah, rah America." If you do good, why you'll be a good American and that's what you want to be. And she was, she had a very positive impact, effect on the American, Japanese American students in this community. But also had a limiting effect on them, in that you got the idea that if you were a good American in the sense of being you know, firm, loyal citizen of the country, why you would be accepted. That was the kind of idea that... and more or less, I suspect that Japanese Americans growing up in that period in California, Oregon, or Washington were trained into that kind of sense. To take another tack, you know this, book by what's his name on assimilation, which emphasizes Anglo, Anglo conformity as the...

SF: Gordon?

FM: Gordon, yeah. Gordon's term Anglo conformity as the dominant American philosophy with respect to assimilation in the pre-World War II era, I think is right on the nose with respect to what was expected. Anglo conformity and if you would take over in American ways of behavior, you would succeed as an American and you would succeed in becoming assimilated and accepted within the American society. JACL leaders like Jimmy Sakamoto, trained as they were in the kind of school we had, and with a kind of strong discriminatory attitudes which I described earlier with respect to black America. With that kind of narrow, provincial Americanism that dominated American society in the pre-World War II era, the Nisei had very little choice mentally in thinking about ways in which they might advance, other than by being good Americans in that kind of a sense. So Anglo conformity was a, in a sense, a bit of nonsense that everybody was sold, was taught and the Niseis accepted it because there was no other model that they could anticipate as the way of succeeding in this American society. Given that, and given the -- also, I think we've, you and I, and Tets have talked about the Japanese attitude about gaining acceptance from the other person as a strong Japanese trait, a strong Japanese value. I think it is fundamental in Japanese training that you take kind of the other person and his attitudes and then try to behave accordingly. And that attitude I think was fairly firmly embedded in the minds of the Nisei, the Japanese Americans. And that again, I think accounted for what Bill Hosokawa has called the quiet Americans or what... is that the term, quiet American? You know, you don't aggressively confront people who have different ideas from you, you try to work with them and thereby work yourself into a position where you can change things that you don't like about the world around you.

The problem of the Nisei, the problem of JACL at the time, at the point where the evacuation issue was in front of them, I think arose out of that kind of background. The fact that Anglo conformity was so strong a philosophy in American society, it was not a world in which, as in the 1970s, ethnic identity had any positive stature in American society. Rather the contrary was the case. If you were, if you were non-American, non-white American, non-Anglo, then you had to become Anglo-like in order to gain acceptance. That was the dominant philosophy of the society and Japanese Americans bought it, probably because there was nothing else they could do. The other thing was the Japanese Americans, of course, were a small group, relatively speaking, with very limited influence and another fact was that the Japanese Americans had never experienced... for one thing there was this Japanese heritage of working towards consensus type of thing. But in addition to that, Japanese Americans had never experienced opposition against the larger society as the black Americans had. Black Americans had, of course, such experiences as, the, the black protest, even in the pre-World War II era under people like DuBois and so on. We didn't have any experience of that kind. We didn't have leadership of that kind. So, JACL gets caught up in that kind of thing.

SF: So you have this kind of Anglo conformity as being the kind of sole world view, not only of the Japanese community, but also the larger society?

FM: Larger, that's right.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

SF: So, on the other hand, you have this really severe discrimination of some sort, or obvious discrimination.

FM: Yes, yes.

SF: So you have Niseis coming up to this, and they're coming of age in the '30s.

FM: Yes.

SF: And so you have, I guess, what some people would call the Nisei problem. What's the future of the Nisei in, in America in the '30s? So, what are the different... what did people think? I mean, you had discrimination, you couldn't go into certain kinds of jobs, professional jobs. They were just simply closed to the Nisei at that time. I understand there were some ideas that people could act, Niseis could act as a bridge to Japan in some kind of trading company thing or something of that sort. So what were, how did people think about what, what was going to happen to the Niseis and what role they were going to take as they matured and so forth?

FM: Well, I think the Nisei at that time, in the 1930s, in a sense were too young to know what the reality was going to be like. By the late 1930s there were a fair number of Nisei who have grown up to the point where they're looking for jobs and so on, and they realized that in this white world, at least on the Pacific Coast here, their chances of getting anywhere is virtually nil. You know, the barrier is very strong and high, and when you come up against it, no opening that could conceivably be attacked. But in the early 1930s they're too young to realize that this is so. This is the world in which they're... by the late 1930s, you've got a fair number of Nisei who either butt their heads up against this and give up. They begin to sell produce on the public market, and there are cases of that kind. There are a handful of those who decide that the West Coast is not the place to be. Minoru Yamasaki, the architect, goes off to New York City because he finds that having received his architect degree from the University of Washington, he gets nowhere here. Nobody will accept him. Of course, part of it is that this a depression era. Seattle is not a great place for architects, simply because there was not that much construction going on and finally because there's this barrier. His friends are getting jobs, but he himself cannot. So he goes off to New York City and makes a name for himself in New York City. And then there are those who go off to Japan because they can't make a go of it here. My cousin, who, one whom I thought was such a great hero because he was a great tennis player, baseball player and so on. Very smart guy, gets a degree here at the University of Washington. Very smart fellow, but he finds that there's nothing for him to do here, and rather than give up, he goes to Japan and gets some kind of position in Japan. A fair number of Nisei did that sort of thing.

SF: Is that a fair, was that a fairly easy thing and comfortable thing for Niseis to do to go to Japan?

FM: Go to Japan? No, I don't think so. But it was one possibility. And if they were smart enough, there was a chance of their getting a job in Japan. Therefore, it was a possibility. Whereas here, their chances of getting up in Boeing for example. If you have an engineering degree, might you get into Boeing? No. Zero possibility. You couldn't even get a mechanic's job. Or if you had an education degree, could you get into a Seattle Public Schools? No. There might have been, but I don't recall that there was ever in the pre-World War II period.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

FM: Now, I got in to the University of Washington and got a faculty position in the pre-World War II era. And you could say, well, there were opportunities perhaps. Two things, I was lucky. Well, let me back off a minute. There were University people of Japanese background teaching at the University, but they were in far Eastern languages. For example, Japanese Language, or Asian culture, which is an area where, which the University of Washington was fairly strong in. But Japanese Americans in any other position in the University, no. There were none. However, at the University I took my undergraduate degree in Sociology mainly because -- well I shouldn't say mainly because -- but one of the reasons I did so was because there was a man named Jesse Steiner who was Chairman of the Department who took a fair amount of interest in Japanese Americans. He was a "white angel" if you like, and in the larger sense also because he was a member of the Japan Society and a few things like that. Now why did he have an interest in Japan? He was, his sociology degree was secondary, following initially a missionary background. He went to Japan as a Christian missionary, became interested in sociology and went to Chicago and got a Chicago, a degree in sociology. Incidentally a fair number of sociologists of that period, back in the early 1900s, were of missionary background or Christian background, theological background got into social activities, sociological activities. So he was one of those who got in from a background as a missionary in Japan into sociology. Then he comes to the University of Washington, chairs the department. And as Chairman of the Department, he took an interest in Japanese Americans. And I was, here I was a student in the department. And he fostered my advancement. If you don't mind, I'm going to tell you a little about my career then, because it bears on what I'm talking about.


FM: Jesse Steiner, was a great -- he wrote a book for his degree, the title of which was Japanese Invasion and then at the time of the, the Pearl Harbor incident, that era, I think in response to the rising Japanese nationalism, he wrote another book called The Japanese Mask, I think it was. The term "Japanese invasion" and "the Japanese mask" suggests the idea that this is, these are people -- Japan -- who, because of their unwillingness to show their true self are dangerous. They will aggressively impose themselves on American society. I mean there is that kind of hint of attitude lying behind Steiner's analysis. And I've never understood just exactly why he took that kind of an attitude, because in his personal relations with me and with people in the Japanese community he was extremely kindly, thoughtful person, helpful, sympathetic. And in fact, at the time of the evacuation, at the time of the Tolan committee hearings, he was perhaps the one person I can think of -- maybe there were two or three others -- who stood up at the Tolan Congressional Committee Hearings and said, "You know, you people are making a mistake in assuming that these are people who have to be, who are dangerous and therefore have to be evacuated. You've got to rethink the basis of your thinking." And so he defended the Japanese Americans, yet he also wrote of the Japanese military. I, I think he was reacting against Japanese, Japanese nationalism and wrote of that as something that was deceptive and dangerous. So there was, there was that kind of... but, to me personally, and to the Japanese students -- my wife Michiko, who got to know him independently of me, before we got married, or before I knew her -- also spoke very warmly of her relations with the Steiner family. He took an interest in Japanese students on campus and when it came to me, he took personally an interest in advancing my career. I would not have gone to Chicago probably for my Ph.D., except for the fact that he intervened and helped. Since he was a Chicago graduate, he knew people there, got me scholarships and so on, and helped me get there. So after I went to Chicago, got my, essentially, all but my dissertation finished, he then got me a position at the University of Washington. This was in the fall of, summer of 1941, before the war. He got me a position back on the University of Washington faculty. So I get a faculty appointment at the University of Washington at a time when there were very few Japanese Americans who were getting University appointments anywhere in the country. And I think he was instrumental in helping me to get that position.

SF: Were you the first Japanese American or Asian American in a mainstream department, other than oriental languages or art.

FM: To my knowledge, I think I was. Now, one other person who got an appointment about that time. No, I think this is, no. I was, at that time, yeah. After the war, George Tsutakawa got a position at the University on the faculty. You know, Tsutakawa, the artist. And, but that was after the war and after I had also gone back to the University on the faculty.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

SF: I want to go back in your academic career just a bit, and ask a little bit about your classic study, Social Solidarity, which became the, a classic and still is used today. How did, how did you come to that topic for your thesis? How did that develop?

FM: Steiner was instrumental in getting me into it. When I started sociology, I went into it because -- well, let me back off a bit, and make a short story long. [Laughs] From the time I was a kid, I became interested in literature and my father, who was a furniture dealer, would go to the second hand furniture sales and pick up furniture to sell at his shop. But among other things that would turn up at these auctions where he bought his second hand furniture, were library books and phonograph records, things like this. So he brought home records of Caruso and there was a famous singer named McCormick, John McCormick and the Beethoven symphonies and what not. So I got to learn a little bit about those things through the records he brought home. He brought -- he brought home a set of, of -- oh God, a short story, I just had it on my mind, but forget about that. And then he purchased for our family, a set of twenty volume Book of Knowledge. Now the Book of Knowledge was for me, in that time the source of all great knowledge and I became interested. I had a kind of an encyclopedic interest anyway. So I read these things night after night. My mother would find me reading under the bed covers. [Laughs] And she would tell me you're going to wreck your eyes doing that, and so on. But that's how, what I became interested in. And I became very much interested in literature, thereby. Poetry for example, Wordsworth and all the others who turned up in the Book of Knowledge fascinated me. And the Shakespeare and the writers all fascinated me. And so then, oh God, this book, set of short stories by the American short story writer. God, I can't think of his name. (Narr. note: Referring to O. Henry) My father brought home this set of fifteen beautifully bound books that he picked up at the auction. And by God, I read those things night after night because they fascinated me. They were beautiful English, American English style writing. And I learned about construction of short stories. I learned about the writing style and so on. And therefore, I became interested in the idea of becoming a literary person. And my father said no. For Japanese Americans, there is no possibility of your getting anywhere in that kind of field. You've got to have something more practical that you can sell. Whereas, literary skills is not the kind of thing that will get you anywhere in this world. I don't know whether he was right or wrong, but he, his notion was that you do have to have some kind of skill you can sell, whereas, you know, literary skill is not that kind of skill.

So I tried engineering the first two years I was in college and I was really not a very good engineering student. I do pretty well in certain kinds of areas of engineering. But in other kinds, in other areas, I'm not very good in physical sciences, or relatively not good. So by the end of the second year -- incidentally my father died when I was already in high school, before I got to college. By the end of my second year in college, I was in college in 1930, '31, '32. This is the beginning of the depth of the Depression. I have to drop out of school after two years of engineering. So I, when I go back to college after this period of earning a living for myself in order to continue college, by that time, I decide that engineering is really not for me. I've got to get back to something that is closer to my, the heart of my interest. And although I concluded that my father probably was right, that English literature for example, is not a salable product, nevertheless, sociology was a topic, or social sciences was a topic that interested me and I thought, I'm going to pursue what I'm interested in. And once having gotten into this department of sociology and taking a few courses, I became acquainted with Steiner and he encouraged me. But again, interestingly, Steiner says to me. And this is entirely independently of my father. He says, you'd better take some foreign business courses, foreign trade or something like this, as a back up. He didn't want me to count on sociology as a thing I could make a lifetime career. So in the early 1930s, why, even well, Steiner, who was an intelligent and wise man, felt that you know, a Nisei should not count on being able to make a name for himself, except in something like foreign trade where possibly my Japanese background would be an advantage, rather than a handicap.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

FM: Well then he -- I continue in sociology, I get my degree at the University in that field and by this time, oh, and then I decided I would go on for my Master's degree in sociology and I could do it only at the University of Washington, so I'm hanging on there. And as I come up to a thesis topic, I wasn't sure just exactly what I wanted to do. But the idea of the Japanese community had always interested me, partly because in all the reading I had done, I got a sense for, you know, the interesting and somewhat unique quality of the people and behavior of people in the Japanese community. This characteristic style of behavior that, the organizational bent that was characteristic of the community. The strong network of relations that characterized the -- and all this kind of provoked my literary sensibilities. Gave me a sense of a community that was rather interesting and worth writing about. But I had not, up until this point really thought of it in sociological terms. I was thinking of it as the setting within which a novel might be written or something like this. But now I'm a sociologist. So when I had to find a master's thesis, I kind of talked with Steiner about this community interest I had, and he encouraged me with that thought. Now one reason was that he himself was an analyst of communities. He had written books on small community studies. So he was directly in line with his own interest and the kind of idea he had, he thought was worth pushing. And so I then went to work on it.

What I realized as I got into it was, that there were some very striking features of this community, the Japanese community in Seattle, that were quite interesting. The network of relations is the thing that really caught my eye from way back when, but having matured into this kind of sociological interest, the fact that there were these obligatory relations that were characteristic, for example, of the way in which my father carried on business in the Japanese community. And the obligatory relations that existed among relatives and among the ken folk. Also, the networks of the, oh, the formality of relations. The bowing and the, the common phraseology that was used by the Japanese which is so, so characteristic of the Japanese people distinct from almost any other people I know of. All this kind of fascinated me, and therefore I thought of this as the thing I would like to write about. Now, as it happens, I also have strong theoretical interests in sociology and I realized that the German terminology, Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft fitted very nicely into what I was trying to analyze and I was at that point, a very strong student of Durkheim and his distinction between mechanical and organic solidarity, again caught my attention as something that was reflected in the Japanese community. Incidentally, at that point, my thought was, the Japanese community is Gemeinschaftlik, where as the American community Gesellschaftlik. Now at the present time, I've revised my notion that the, in the Japanese community, there's an overlap of both the Gemeinschaft and the Gesellschaft that, in the sense that Hayashi says you will find primary relations in the secondary relations area, and vice versa. I think that's the way I would word it now, but, back then, in the 1930s, I thought of the Japanese community as predominantly, and maybe it still is, predominantly a kind of Gemeinschaft and here is then the larger community, the Gesellschaft community and I was interested in the question of how these two things fitted together... so, this is the type of thing that led me into writing about the Japanese community.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

SF: And, and so it was very well received and so that was kind of a launching pad to Chicago in part?

FM: Well, yes. Now, it was, when you say it was well received. As far as I knew, I had written a Master's thesis and it was going to go in the library and that was it. Steiner, who was at that point on the Board of Directors of the University of Washington Press, encouraged me to, about getting this thing published. He'd helped me in editing my original manuscript, the M.A. thesis. Having come out of the Japanese linguistic background, there were a lot of shortcomings in my writing style at that time. I think because of the amount of reading I'd done in western literature, I had a certain skill in writing that I had not, otherwise would not have got, gotten. But also, you know the Japanese style of communication is indirect and it has a lot of formality, formalization to it and it has a tendency toward the passive voice, as over against the active voice. All these kind of things are inherent in my writing style at this point. And Steiner very kindly takes time to you know, edit a great deal of what I had written, so that it would, could be made more distinctively publishable. So he was a critical help to me in advancing along this kind of career that was gradually finding myself involved in, without, you know, really intending that I should. I had not ever thought this is what I've got to do. I rather kind of drifted into this thing, and with the assistance of a man like Steiner. I might have ended up doing anything else but sociology. I suppose I would some, something that involved writing would have been involved simply because I thought writing as a very desirable thing. But, it probably would have, not have been necessarily in an academic field.

SF: So you finished Social Solidarity. It's published and then you go to the University of Chicago.

FM: Yeah. Now, before I get to Chicago, go back to the University of Washington.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.