Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Henry Miyatake Interview V
Narrator: Henry Miyatake
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: October 14, 1999
Densho ID: denshovh-mhenry-05-0012

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TI: Well, it's somewhat ironic, too, because the audience that you're addressing, the junior high school, that was the same age that you were...

HM: Yeah. Just about same age.

TI: ...when World War II... so it was just about the same age so it's ironic that you started with that age group.

HM: Yeah, and I thought -- I looked at myself, like you say, and I was able to perceive at that age, a lot of these things that relate to the Constitution of the United States. And I thought, well, the teacher is asking me to make this one-hour presentation. I'll assemble this stuff and I'll try to make it in a form that's understandable for junior high school kids. And I did make that presentation. I had second thoughts about whether I should do it or not, but she gathered three classes together. I didn't know this, but it was kind of going back to my deja vu functions with Gordon Hirabayashi, surviving three classes, the numbers are all the same. And these kids, they were all Caucasian except Robert. He was the only Asian kid in this whole class structure. So when I made the presentation, this kid pops up his hand and says, "What took you people so long?" [Laughs] Well here it's 1973 and here we were evacuated in 1945, well '42. So we're talking about a fairly long time span.

TI: So the comment from the student was what took you so long to come out and say something about this?

HM: Yeah.

TI: And what did you say?

HM: Well, I says, I told him it was kind of like a bad memory, or a bad dream and it kind of takes you a while to really figure out what really happened. But the response was very interesting. They felt very empathetic with my presentation. And the teacher was very surprised at the data I was presenting because here she was not even exposed to the evacuation process, had no knowledge of it. And she was from middle west. I forgot what region she was from, but she had no knowledge of the evacuation process. And so for her it was a very interesting exposure. And all these teachers, they kinda talk about the same subjects; if they're in American history, they tend to belong to the same area. So as it happened, one of her friends that taught in Newport High School got wind of the presentation and I got another phone call. And this was the teacher that had taught Kathryn, my oldest daughter, the year before. And so she said, "Hey, we're talking about contemporary problems in American history, so we want you to come down." I didn't want to do that, because high school kids are more rigorous in their approach. I said oh, gosh, I think junior high school kids maybe I can handle, but high school kids I better stay away from 'em.

TI: And so you declined? So you didn't do it?

HM: I declined initially, but she kept on pestering me and pestering me, and then Kathy came one evening and said that, "The teacher came to me and was asking about that material that you presented at Robert's class."


TI: Okay, so Henry, so Kathy wanted to -- came to you and talked to you about what you said in Robert's class. So what happened then?

HM: Well, I had gone to the open house at Newport High School the year before, and I remember that teacher, because what they do at the open house is you have to go to each one of the classes that your son or daughter is involved in. And so you have to hop around to each of these class activity functions and you have to meet the teacher, and the teacher usually gives you an appraisal of the student and what she might suggest, he or she might suggest to improve the student's capabilities. And I remember that teacher, she was quite an invigorated type of individual. And she was very persistent. And so I told Kathy, well this is something that I think might not be in the best interest of my being there.

TI: Again, because you were afraid that the high school students were going to be too rigorous?

HM: Yeah, because they were, maybe three years higher in education, and they would start looking at the Constitution in a different manner. And I thought well maybe I don't want to get myself involved in this thing.

TI: Because at this point you didn't feel as if you were, "expert" may not be the right word, but knowledgeable enough about the topic to describe, or convince or answer the questions of these high school students?

HM: Well, the other thought that came into my mind was the fact that these kids were now probably the children of the veterans of World War II and the Korean War and their recollection of maybe the South Pacific was not the best memories. So consequently these kids might be biased against the Japanese American situation. That was in the back of my mind because I had some neighbors -- when we tried to get into Newport Hills as a residential real estate purchasing thing, the first couple of houses that I really wanted to purchase, the neighbors weren't too friendly and so the real estate person discouraged us from making the purchase agreement. So I knew that this feeling was persistent in that area. And this was one of the things that kind of shied me away from the presentation. But nonetheless, the teacher persisted. She just... I thought to myself, I want to get rid of this persistence. And I tried to find out what really was pushing her to have me make the presentation. And I thought she's gonna put me in a corner someplace and really give me a hard time and so I thought well maybe, if we're gonna do this redress thing, maybe this would even be a better challenge than the junior high school kids. I mean these guys were gonna to be probably more rigorous in their questioning. So I agreed and did the presentation at Newport High School. And it was very supportive. The kids were very supportive. For one thing, there's more -- Taul Watanabe's daughter was in my daughter's class and there were more Asians there than at Ringdall junior high school, and they had a good reputation about being good achievers and so forth. And they had several Chinese kids were in that school, so the reception was very friendly.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.