Densho Digital Repository
Friends of Manzanar Collection
Title: Grace Hata Interview
Narrator: Grace Hata
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: West Los Angeles, California
Date: March 16, 2012
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1003-10-21

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MN: Do you want to share about going to night school at all?

GH: Well, I was working during the day. I went to the Daihachi Koto Jogakko in Tokyo, which, the name was changed and I met a person later on who knew exactly the high school that I went to, but I went to night school there. And after work I'd go to school, 'cause it was Shinagawa, it's very close to my aunt's house where I could walk over. And my father had explained to the principal that I was from America, and he knew and the English teacher knew, but one night I had to go to the art class and I just had a feeling that that teacher was eying me. But I also know that we speak in Japanese over here, but it's, there's a lot of colloquialism, and it's not really perfect Japanese. [Laughs] And so when I went to class there I'm always trying to listen carefully to what he's trying to say, and I got the assignment. And over there I was one of the taller girls so I was sitting in the back, and because some of these girls come from sixth grade, they get into jogakko, so they're much younger and a lot of them have had a terrible life with both parents dead and they're living in caves and what have you. They had lots of really, really terrible problems compared to me, but they were there at night school. And this other girl that told me it took her three tests, three tries to get in, and she knew these kids and she would tell me about the different ones sitting in front. And I just thought, compared to them I'm so much, I'm so lucky. So then the teacher said to me real loud, "Oi, omae." He says, "Okappa teshi teru darou." "You're not allowed to have your hair cut like that." And I looked around and I thought, "Oh, he's talking to me." [Laughs] So I nodded my head, and he said by the next time I come (you) better have (your) hair cut like that. He says, "You put a little lipstick on and you'll look just like the streetwalkers out there, panpan." And the kids started giggling, and it just made me really upset because I thought this is an institution of learning and these, some of these kids are younger than me. And I said, I have never been brought up like this, like this country was at that time, with all the prostitutes and the streetwalkers and all this kind of stuff. I never saw that in Gardena. And to be compared to somebody like that -- because they would be doing things on the streets, and you could see all these things -- and I thought, "No, I'm not gonna be like that. I'm gonna get an education and I'm not gonna end up like these women here." So I went back, got my shoes in my homeroom, and I ran home. "I don't have to take this." And so later on my mother says, "Whoa, you're home early." You know, "Ningen te gakkou mon ga nai to. Jidai ni okureteshimare masu." I get that thing. I was gonna have a date after that. The guy, I told him, "Don't come to school, come to the house." So I was just sitting there, and pretty soon the teacher, the homeroom teacher, the English teacher, the vice principal or whoever he was, he came to the house and talked to my mother. I could hear them at the genkan. And finally my mother said, "Come on out." So I went out and I told the teacher about what happened, and I said, "I was so upset that he would compare me to what I would consider lower than an animal, to somebody like that." I said, "I'm not dressed like them. I can't help the way I look." I said, "I tie my hair in a ring back here. I don't braid it, and I'm not certainly gonna cut it in okappa, that's for sure." And I said, "I'm here to learn about Japan. I'm here to learn about the good things about Japan, but if I can't learn those things," I said, "I don't care if I go to that school or not, because I'm gonna go back to America as soon as I can get my citizenship cleared." And I said, "At least the high school (in the U.S.) will prepare (a person) for some kind of job that you could live without having to become like your women over here." So I said, "I'm not, I'm not gonna go back to that class. I don't have to be humiliated by a person like that." And so they apologized to my mother, that he (should have) actually been the principal, but with the change of educational system in Japan that he got demoted, so to speak, to be just a one-classroom teacher, and they were very sorry that this happened. And they said, but the thing is, I have to pass in every class or I cannot be promoted into the next grade. So I told 'em, "Don't worry about that because," I said, "I don't intend to stay here that long." So that was my education there, which was very sparse, very little. [Laughs]

MN: How long were you in Japan?

GH: A year and four months.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.