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-02-0004

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TI: Before you go on, there's one thing I just, occurred to me. Oftentimes, some of the people I've interviewed, they were sent to Japan, because sometimes the parents felt that they couldn't control their child. That either he sometimes got into too many fights or he was undisciplined. And so they'd always say, "Well, we're gonna send you to Japan, because in Japan, they're much more disciplined." Was that also kind of the case for you, too?

RT: Well, I used to get in a lotta fights and everything. [Laughs] No, actually, I think it was partly that, because I was hard to control. Because I was one of those kinda kids, "You call me a Jap, well, you're lookin' for a fight. You're lookin' for a fight? Well, I'll give you one." That was my way of thinkin' all the time. So it was partially that, but it was like they said, "Now, you don't need to go over there to get a real education. We just want you to learn how to read and write the language."

JN: I think his family, they were intending to take all of the kids, 'cause they wanted them to be cultivated. And everybody refused to go, except Rudy went because he was the youngest. So they were really into getting the education, the Japanese education.

RT: Yeah. 'Cause like my dad used to say, "You are Nihonjin. You're Japanese, so you have to act like a Japanese." In other words, stay out of trouble. Don't do things that you shouldn't do, and you should be able to communicate with your relatives. You know, Japanese used to, everybody used to stick real close, because they weren't people that can go out and say, "Oh, I've got an American friend over there. He'll do anything for me." They weren't in that position. And I know like in my days, I remember very well when I was growing up, the Japanese people were very proud, because they never got in big troubles. And one of the things even 'til today I always think about it is, like on New Year's, in them days, celebration was for a week. And all the old men and everybody'd go out and get drunk. They go to each other's home and drink and drink, and go to the next guy's and drink and drink. But even at that, when somebody would get in trouble because he was driving while he was drunk, the first thing they would do is call a (Buddhist minister). And the (minister) would get ahold, like, we were Kagoshimans. The (minister) would get ahold of whoever the head man of the Kagoshima clan in that town is, and then he'd call the association, the Kagoshima Kenjinkai, which was the association. And they would go down and talk to the police department, and get him released. And they would take charge of him.

TI: And this was, I'm sorry, in the United States or Japan?

RT: No, here in United States, (in Salinas).

TI: In the United States. So the Kagoshima Kenjinkai...

RT: Yeah. They...

RT: They all used to stick together. And these were the things, I think a lotta times -- I think what my dad was looking at was, he would like to see somebody in the family become like that.

TI: Okay. So when you say "to be Japanese," he wanted you to embody more of the Japanese characteristics. Although, when he said in terms of your country, your country was the United States.

RT: Yeah.

TI: But he wanted the (characteristics)...

RT: Yeah.

TI: The Japanese (characteristics) to really -- his children to have that.

JN: This, I think, is where it comes from. There was a sense of community. See, that's a lot of what gets lost with new generations.

TI: Right.

JN: A sense of responsibility to your fellow...

RT: And this was something, like my dad always used to tell us, "You are Japanese American. You gotta stick together, help each other." And so I've always, I've always put my dad on a real high pedestal, because he wasn't the person that would say, "He's no good. Don't bother, don't even bother. His thoughts was, if he's no good, let's help him, and maybe he will become good."

JN: The other thing is, even when I was being raised, it was, "You're Japanese American or you're Japanese, and people are going to watch what you're doing. And what you do reflects on family, on the community." And see, it was kind of a (double-edged sword).

RT: Yeah, I think the, the way we were raised was very good. It's not like today, where, well, okay, you holler at your parents and then you go out and do what you wanna do. In them days, it wasn't just to your parents that you felt responsible, you was responsible to your people, all the Japanese in the community. And this really held a group together. And this was what, the reason why, you ask me that questions, there used to be a lot of 'em sent to Japan, because they get in trouble and stuff. That's where it would come from. If they couldn't control them, and if they weren't the type that gonna work with everybody, why they'd send 'em to Japan to reeducate 'em, because that was the way in Japan that you were raised. And I think, even today, if we can practice that here, I think we'd be way ahead of ourselves.

TI: Do you think most of the Niseis that grew up pretty much had that same feeling? That same sort of character?

RT: Yeah. I think all the guys my age and little older than I am and stuff, I think they all grew up with that in thought.

JN: Even younger.

RT: Yeah.

JN: Very self-conscious. Very (self-restraining).

RT: I've always looked at, well, I always looked at the Japanese citizens of this country as the people who've got to shine. In other words, they got to show how you have to be. But then, one of the biggest problem we had was because of our government. You just couldn't do it. Now see, the real good example of this was when they formed the 442nd. Here in Hawaii, the Japanese were a little bit helter-skelter here, because everybody worked on pineapple plantations and things, and it got a little bit rough over here. And they were more individualists of, "I don't like your looks, so I'm gonna do somethin' about it." And this really, well, the people in Hawaii don't like it when I say this, but this really brought out their type of character. There was a lotta good guys, but there was some of 'em in there that were bullies. And like I never, I don't forget the day when I reported into Camp Shelby.

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