Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Rudy Tokiwa Interview II
Narrator: Rudy Tokiwa
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary), Judy Niizawa (secondary)
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: July 2 & 3, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-trudy-02-0011

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: Okay. So let's go back to the conversation with your uncle.

RT: Well, my uncle's thoughts were, "Well," he says, "You know, your family is in America. If we do happen to go to war, I think it's bad if you're caught over here and your family's caught in the United States." And he thought it was better for me to go, come back to the United States, but he said, "Now, it's up to you." And I'll be honest with you, at that time, I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do, until he gave me some days to think about it. And so, I finally felt that, "Well, I don't have to worry about going in the army and stuff, because I'm too young anyway."

TI: Go into which army, the...

RT: The United States Army. Because, see, I was not dual citizen, so the Japanese government would not have drafted me.

TI: Well, when you go back and say you weren't sure what you wanted to do, what were the factors? What were you thinking?

RT: Well, you...

TI: Why would you want to stay in Japan, versus --

RT: Well, the reason why, part of why I wanted to stay in Japan was because of my sister. She's caught there all by herself, her husband, the family. Sure, the husband and the family, they don't know nothin' about us in the United States, except my oldest nephew, so what would their situation be? And so finally, well, so I talked this all over with my uncle. And he said, "No, what you have to do is think about yourself. 'Cause," he says, "now, your sister's life is already set. Because she has been here, she's Japanese, she does, she can't come to America." And he says, "Now, if we go to war, your family, their life is gonna be set. Because whatever happened, it's gonna be, it's gonna happen to the family." So the more I thought of it, the more I thought to myself, "Well, yeah, that's true. My family's in America. That's where I should be. If anything goes bad, anything's gonna happen to the family, I think I should be there with the family." And this was the reason why I said, "Okay. I think I should go back to America." And my uncle was very pleased. He says, "Yeah, I think" -- well, the way he put it was, "I think that's being Yamato damashi." In other words, family's got to stay together.


TI: Your uncle was pleased that you decided to go back to Japan, or back to the United States. But before we go back to the United States, something that I just realized was that, during your schooling in Japan, you were of the age where you would have received Japanese military training. Why don't you just explain a little bit about that?

RT: Okay, now, in Japan, when you become, when you get up into the, what they call the sixth grade, you start your military training. And so, it goes twenty-four hours a day. Say if, at two o'clock in the morning, you hear the bugle blow, you are to get up, get dressed, and be at a certain spot within so many minutes. And that was because there was an attack being held. And then we, we even went out on maneuvers. And in them days, why, you had to be Yamato damashi, and you went short on food and everything, and you went out, and this was your training, to be able to handle all this. To be able to go out there and go for a day or two days and don't eat. And they call that Yamato damashi. And I, now I hate to say it, but I thought that was good training. It made a man outta you. And so, I've always felt that, I think the, that's the reason why the Japanese soldiers were so good.

TI: Well, how did this training compare to your basic training at a place like Camp Shelby, later on?

RT: Well, you see, it was a little bit easier on us, because we were still young kids. But to have a bugle blow at two o'clock in the morning, and you got ten minutes to get dressed and get out there, and your, and line up with your squad. That was, that was impressive. Maybe that's the wrong word, but to me, it was impressive. I saw this happening, and I thought, "Wow, no wonder they're good soldiers."

Because they don't wait 'til you're twenty, twenty-one years old. When you're still a little kid, right at that time when it's really impressive to you, that's when they're teaching you this stuff. And what was amazing is, we'd go out and we'd have maneuvers for maybe the next four hours. And we don't, they, the kids don't go home from there. They go to school. And I've looked at that, and I've said, I've always felt that, gee, that's the reason why they're such good soldiers. Because from the time they're small, they were taught these things.

JN: What do you mean, they were good soldiers? What's a good soldier?

RT: Well, a good soldier's a man that's gotta be able to say, "I got this much food, it's gonna last me for so many hours. And this is what the orders are to me. I've got to carry 'em out." And I think here in this country, a guy could be twenty-one years old, and if he doesn't like the orders to go by himself and go out there and get shot, you think the guy would do it? No, he wouldn't do it, unless he was somebody that was a nut like me. [Laughs] But it's, I used to be amazed. They, when I trained, when I first went to Camp Shelby and we went through our first basic training, and I used to think to myself, "I went through this when I was very young." And I think the basic training that they gave in Japan was much (...) rougher than here.

TI: That's interesting. So the training they gave to the school boys was...

RT: Yeah.

TI: More disciplined, or harder, than the training that they gave the military, the U.S. Army?

RT: The military and the U.S. Army. A good example: here, you're already twenty years old, twenty-one years old, and they tell you, "All right, we're gonna make you double-time for 5 miles." And you'll find in a company there might be twenty guys would fall out. But you never saw that in Japan. In Japan, these young kids, they'd go, and if they'd start wobbling a little bit, why, the instructor would come over and say, "Straighten it up. I know you're tired. I know you're hungry. But get that last bite in your guts, and let's get it out there." They made good soldiers. And I (couldn't) compare the training we went through here and the training I had in Japan. It was completely different.

TI: That's interesting.

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