Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Henry Miyatake Interview VI
Narrator: Henry Miyatake
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: October 28, 1999
Densho ID: denshovh-mhenry-06-0014

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: Well, this is a good segue into that, because a few months later, after the Day of Remembrance, February of 1979, there was a meeting between the congressional delegation and the committee, National Committee for Redress, to talk about sort of next steps. And it was at this meeting that there was a decision to, rather than to seek redress directly, to actually go about it in terms of having commission hearings. Can you talk a little bit about that and how that all came about?

HM: Well, December of '78, we had a meeting down in San Francisco, the National Redress Committee. And Ron Mamiya was appointed as one of the representatives for the Northwest. And I was one of the members also. And we had this meeting about what position should be taken relative to the whole issue of redress with the congresspeople. And well, Ron Mamiya and myself, we decided, well, since we have all the support for the Seattle Redress Plan, we're gonna use that as a national springboard for talking about what we should address in the national redress bill. And that was our position. And, and it was adopted as a basic guideline of how the national committee would conduct itself relative to meeting with the Nikkei congresspeople. And that was in December. So when they had the meeting in Washington, D.C., I don't know what happened. Nobody really explained to me what happened. I asked Clifford Uyeda in front of a whole bunch of people at Cherry Kinoshita's house one day. I said, "Clifford, what's, what really happened in these meetings with the congresspeople in Washington, D.C.?" And he says, "I can't remember. I can't remember." I said, "Clifford, this was a meeting with all these congresspeople. What really transpired? You have never given me any record of what transpired. There's no meeting notes. Nobody talks about it. What really transpired in this meeting?" He says, "No. I don't remember."

TI: Did you ever ask Ron Mamiya...?

HM: Yes, I did.

TI: ...because Ron was there also.

HM: Ron's kind of reticent about talking about the whole thing. So I asked him, "Did you present the Seattle Plan?" Because he brought the flipchart and everything else with him. And he never has given me a complete "yes." He keeps talking about different things, evading subjects. But I keep asking, "Ron did you make presentation of the Seattle Plan like you were supposed to?" And have never been given a direct answer. So anyway, I don't think there ever was, because this whole issue about what we were trying to do, what the objectives of the program, did not come about. The commission was, to me, it was a facade to delay this thing for another ten years. And the fact that Mineta and Matsui both voted against taking Mike Lowry's bill out of the committee... Mike Lowry makes this bill, puts it together, and gets it into the legislative subcommittee, and what do you know? Matsui, before he got elected, promised a 100 percent guarantee. I'll use his term, "Hundred percent guarantee that I will support the bill that Mike Lowry presents in Congress." And what does he do? He votes against it. Mineta votes against it.

TI: So at this point, what do you think was happening? At this point, they've rejected, after adopting the Seattle Plan, they're now going a different path, and it's being led by the national JACL. How was Seattle, the Seattle Chapter of JACL, viewed by National at this point?

HM: Well, there was a motion on the, on one of the JACL meetings in Seattle, whether we should depart from the national organization because they're not doing what they were supposed to do. I mean, they voted on the national convention. They were supposed to be doing this. We voted for it in 1976 in Sacramento, and we voted for this thing in 1978, and it hasn't come to pass. So one of the feelings was that, "Let's do it ourselves," and let's drive a bunch of community groups together, and try to do this as a national effort. But it was voted down, of course. But people looked at us as a kind of bunch of weirdos up in the Northwest. "It rains up there so much that you guys got nothing better to do than think about all these dumb things." Anyway, they had a lot of disparaging remarks about some of the things we were doing. But after that, this thing that Inouye brought up about the commission, and then -- to me, it was already a rehearsed program because Kaz Oshiki had made mention of things earlier than that about having the kind of congressional study on the whole process, about evacuation and the history of the incarceration process. And so Inouye was really prepared for this thing. And I think it was a matter of, his priorities were Indians were first, and let's worry about the Japanese later. And so I think his feelings related to, well, let's keep these people happy by doing something relative to maybe a commission study, and then we'll see what comes out after that.

So to me, the concern was all the Isseis are dying, and I forgot what the number was, but they were dying at a pretty horrendous rate. And I used to try to calculate the Seattle Isseis dying, prorated to the, all the Japanese American population. And the numbers are pretty impressive. And to me, the people that were most deserving were the Isseis. They took the brunt of the punishment. They took the largest economic loss. They suffered the most, from my point of view, because the younger kids like us, it was an experience that wasn't very good, but nonetheless, it wasn't earth-shattering experience. It wasn't totally traumatic. It wasn't psychologically overwhelming, like for Isseis. Because I know people that committed suicide in camps. And, I mean they really took it hard. But for kids that were just goofing around in the camp, it didn't affect us as much. So I felt the Isseis should be the first priority. We have to take care of them. And some of them are in destitute condition. They could use whatever money or funds that they could get from Congress or whoever.

TI: So the main concern of yours was the urgency, I mean, to go through commission hearings would take years.

HM: Yes, and maybe nothing will come of it. You look at commission hearings from Congress, and they go on for years. And they have another commission. And when it comes down to it, nothing comes of it. Like the Warren Commission hearings. I mean, it goes on for a long time about Kennedy's assassination. And then, now they're finding out that they dumped the casket in the Atlantic Ocean, and nobody talks about that. All this stuff is covered up. So asking Congress to do something -- except for them to put us into a camp, which was done in two days -- in Congress, it's like asking for a slow-burn process. When is it going to affect the individual? But I was very uncomfortable with that.

TI: What did national JACL do? So they made, at this meeting, a decision to seek the hearings. How did they communicate to the other chapters, or how did they know that this is what their membership wanted?

HM: Well, we had the redress committee meeting in San Francisco. And Raymond Okamura, there's a number of people there. And I had talked to Raymond before. And I knew what he was, he had done on the repeal of Title II, and lot of these independent actions that he took upon himself. So I said to Raymond -- he says, "You guys have lost your" -- what did he call it? He inferred that we lost our initiative and we weren't pursuing the redress process rigorously enough, and it's time for somebody else to take over. And I didn't disagree with him because I was, I was out of it for quite a while. But I thought we had his support. But when it came down to the vote, whether or not we would go along with the commission thing or go ahead with the way that the national convention dictated, and how the national board had indicated, Raymond voted for the other side. And then the other person that was voting on our side, he voted also for the commission approach.

TI: So Seattle was, or you were, I mean, essentially isolated?

HM: Yeah. Ron and I were the only ones that said, "We won't go along with that. We've come this far." We shouldn't have somebody in Congress dictate to us what we should be doing. We should take it upon ourselves and have a referendum amongst Japanese Americans, and say, "Well, what route do you want to take?" Make it a real democratic process. I hate for somebody in Congress to tell me how I should behave, and how I should vote, and how I should think. That is not within my realm of what I consider constitutional government. But if you look at Senator Inouye's history and his book that came out long time ago, he emulated Lyndon Baines Johnson as a model of political expediency, proficiency, a model of political strength. Well, if he's using that kind of model, then I daresay our principles and our priorities are kind of different. But, you know that's the way politics are, I guess.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.