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-06-0015

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: So after there was a, the JACL, they met and they decided to go ahead and support seeking a commission. They went to the various JACL chapters and took a poll vote on this approach. And there were two chapters who voted against the commission approach. And that was obviously Seattle. But the other one was Chicago. Can you tell me why, or what was going on with Chicago that made them different also?

HM: Well, Bill Hohri was very active in the Chicago chapter at that time. And he's also, he was very active with the Methodist church program. And Bill was our guest in Seattle several times. And because of my preoccupation with other problems that I had, Frank Chin thought that it would be advisable if we had somebody that was a little bit more directed on the redress issue, focused, and more effective. [Laughs] And he was totally right. And so he got all of us together -- Shosuke, Chuck, Ken, all of us -- and he says, "Hey, this guy, Bill Hohri is a very strong spokesman, both from a religious level, a layperson, as well as speaking out on issues. And we should have him over, and we should try to get him to be the spearhead of the redress program." So Bill came over to Seattle, and we had dinner at Emi Somekawa's place in Puyallup.

And so, the first meeting, I think Bill Hohri said, "Now, I got to think about it. This is something that's a big challenge, and I have to dedicate myself to it, and I don't know if I have the time or the ability to do it." So the second time we met, he said, "Okay." He agreed to it. And the conditions were that we would be, Shosuke would be the liaison for us to him. And this is in regards to the redress situation. And everything was rolling along pretty smoothly for about the first six months. And then, he used to, Bill Hohri used to write a newsletter to all the people that were donating money for the redress process. And in the newsletter he would make articles about, well, he made one article about the "Rape of Nanking." And I was kind of disturbed at that one. Then another article he wrote was about the Manchurian experiments that the Japanese Army did to the civilian population and POWs. And when he wrote the second one, I thought to myself, "What is this thing about writing articles about the history of Japanese military in the Asia?" It has nothing to do with redress. In fact, it kind of stifles the whole effort. And Shosuke got perturbed at that, too. And he wrote a letter saying the issue is redress, not, not what the military did in China, the Japanese military did in China. So things got disconnected about at that point. I guess Bill felt that, well, he doesn't have to answer to us. He's going to do it his own way. And that's what started his own campaign.

TI: Now, at what point was that organization called NCJAR, or National Council for Japanese American Redress? Was that a name that was adopted very early on or was that later on something that William Hohri did?

HM: Well, this was, Hohri, did. Yeah. And he decided that he would try to make a national conglomerate of individuals that would be interested in pursuing redress under the, initially under what Seattle Plan was. Unfortunately, Bill was another person that really didn't understand where the monies were coming from and why we were doing these things. And I tried to tell him that Wayne (Horiuchi), after the 1976 convention in Sacramento, well, Wayne was in a very difficult position.

TI: Now, who is Wayne? Wayne Hori?

HM: Yeah. No. I mean, Wayne Horiuchi.

TI: Oh. Wayne Horiuchi. Okay.

HM: Yeah. Wayne was a Washington, D.C. representative for JACL. And he knew what had transpired on the, the revocation of E.O. 9066 process. [Laughs] I think he felt kind of guilty about not giving us due credit anyway. But, so anyway Wayne, he approached me to try to make amends in Sacramento. And I told Wayne, "You know, you guys seem to have a very strong opposition to the Seattle Plan. But we've tested this thing with our own congresspeople. And they feel very comfortable about the bootstrap, that we're gonna fund our own restitution process, reimbursement process." So I told Wayne, "Since you guys got such a big hang up, why don't you try some people that were completely unconnected with the states that had Japanese Americans in it, and tell 'em, 'Here's a plan that the Japanese have come up with, and they want to do this kind of bill. Would they feel like they would have to oppose the bill, or would they go along it? And it has to be based on constitutional rights of an individual.'" So he did that. He put together a summary of what we constituted in that package. And then, consequently, he provided the information to all the legislative aides. And the feedback was, six out of the eight people that he had exposed this information to, said, "No, we'll go along with the bill, because it's not coming out of our direct obligation budget." And two of 'em said, well, they don't know. They don't care. They're not that interested. But the feedback was that, of the states that were not concerned with Japanese Americans as individuals or don't have any constituents to any degree, they would go along with it because we are financing it through our own trust fund, through our own tax deductions.

TI: That's interesting because it's been speculated that when you look at the whole process and find out what happened, that the commission hearings was actually very beneficial to the ultimate passing of the Civil Liberties Act of 19...

HM: Okay.

TI: ...'88. Are you thinking that it could have been passed back in 1978?

HM: Or '6?

TI: Or '6? 1976?

HM: Well, when -- this is going back to when we were discussing the thing with the domestic affairs office, when Gerald Ford was in office. And one of the things that came up was, well, this was during the discussion about the draft that I prepared for them, of what should be in that draft when Ford revokes E.O. 9066. I had a lot of things in there, and it kind of reflected on my paper of the American democracy and what it means to me, but it was a kind of shortened up version of it. I talked about the record of the fact that no Japanese Americans or anybody of Japanese ancestry had been ever convicted of any sabotage, treason, all this, sedition, all this stuff. I want that to be in the record and have it, put it on the, what became the American Promise. But during that discussion period, when Gwen Anderson was talking to me -- and she was the head of the domestic affairs office -- I asked her, "Would the president be opposed to having some kind of compensatory program that can be developed to help, do a token damage offset for the damage that was done to us?" And she says, "Well, I don't know. But we'll feed it through the pipeline." And the response that was given to me by Gwen Anderson was, "No, I don't think there's a problem." So from Ford's standpoint, he was in a situation of, of being in support of it.

TI: But countering your viewpoint is that, and this is again from the congressional delegation...

HM: Yes.

TI: ...of the Japanese Americans, felt very strongly that the hearings were needed as a sort of a step towards that direction. They didn't feel comfortable going directly at that point.

HM: Yeah. For their education, I think it was essential, because they didn't do the homework. I mean, Senator Inouye was not convinced that Japanese Americans were affected in Hawaii. I mean there was a lot of presumptions that were made because of a lack of knowledge. It was the darkness which created ignorance, which created the apprehension. But if you look at the constitutionality of the issue, to me, if you round up 115,000, 120,000 people, and you put 'em into enforced incarceration process without due process of law, without martial law being declared, we're talking about a constitutional issue. You can't do that. So it becomes, whether you could get 51 or 50+ percent of the 435 members of House of Representatives and fifty people in the Senate to go along with this kind of issue, if they can't go along with it, then the Constitution doesn't mean a damn thing to me. And the way they threw us into the camp, they disregarded the Constitution. So the monkey's on their back also because they, they wrote Public Law 503, and they banged it through Congress in two days flat. And that's the real bill that put us into the camp. And that was part of Congress's action. So there's a, Mineta and I have had a kind of a bumpy road on our relations. And I don't feel that he's really delivered on his commitment. People like Joel Pritchard and Mike Lowry, Mike Lowry especially, have gone out of their way to help us.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.