Densho Digital Archive
gayle k. yamada Collection
Title: Kan Tagami Interview
Narrator: Kan Tagami
Interviewer: gayle k. yamada
Location: Mililani, Hawaii
Date: January 5, 2001
Densho ID: denshovh-tkan-01-0010

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gky: So how do you feel about being part of the occupation army, what you did, what you were responsible for doing, how you helped the Japanese people?

KT: Well, I wasn't in the lower level who really dealt with these people, but I did meet a lot of people during cocktail parties and things, which I felt that they understood what my thinking was. I think a lot of European Americans didn't, really understood Japanese well, but I did and I took the tone that the Japanese won't be under occupation too long, and when that times comes, you had to be standing on your feet and think for yourself. All that type of philosophy I'd been preaching right along, and that there'll be bad feelings about the occupation, not everything was going that smoothly. I was telling them that no matter what happens, the first thing is to gain independence and the occupation will be dissolved and they'll be on their own. I had no doubt that they would do well if they were on their own. They didn't need to play monkey business with GHQ. I knew the time would come when they will become fully independent and hoped that they would be our friend.

gky: When you first went to Japan, it must have been very different by the time you left Japan, what, five years later?

KT: Yes. Most of the -- when I got there, the whole city was in rubbles. But there'd been a lot of construction going on and business coming back. They no longer depended on the U.S. assistance in the form of aid and things like that. They still did, but they weren't dependent on them. We did a lot for them, but it was quite different when I left. There were houses coming up, businesses coming up, and people were more than ever full of pride. One of the things that I noticed during the war, or right after the war, you don't, Japanese don't dare leave anything on the sidewalk or outside their sight. But when I left, things were pretty much even, pretty trustworthy. Things could be out on the curb and nobody would pick it up. It would have been gone in a lickety-split fashion in the earlier days. They're getting back their pride and sense of responsibility, I believe.

gky: So pretty much a lot of the values that they were instilled, that were instilled with them as they grew up, were coming back now.

KT: Yeah, coming back.

gky: Were coming back to the people as a whole?

KT: Yeah.

gky: They'd sort of lost this mentality of having lost the war, being defeated.

KT: Yeah. Like I said, one of the big noticeable things was women getting ahead and with more responsibility. But I think that as soon as the necessity to eat is no longer, you know, a necessity, there seemed to be some quest for self-responsibility and something better than just getting something to eat. So I think that's good because they'd gone through that and they're getting back. Hopefully they'll be our friends.

gky: Can we go back a minute to Hiroshima? And when you went back there was, when you went back there on the mission from the general, the first time you had been back there since the bomb was dropped?

KT: Yeah, the first time.

gky: How did it make you feel?

KT: Well, I...

gky: I mean, because your family was from the area also.

KT: Maybe I'm a little bit like the other Japanese, because when I saw Hiroshima I felt deeply about the loss and destruction. But to me, it was war, you know, something that happened. In contrast, my European American was with me, was shaking his head. He says how bad, how disgusting, about the bomb. I don't feel that way. This guy is expressing the same thing that a normal American would. It would be disgusting seeing, especially my first cousin who was disfigured. But to me, it wasn't revenge or anything like that. It's the war that that happened. And to me, I never even thought about feeling bad about my cousin. I just felt that it was war and hopefully that it would go away.

gky: Anything else you can think of that you might want to tell us about the MIS, and serving in the MIS, particularly as it relates to any patriotic feelings you may have had, or any ways in which you served your country when your parents were in an imprisonment camp here in the U.S.?

KT: Yeah. That's something; most of our parents and brothers and sisters were in camp, including mine, I felt anger, you know. Here my people are behind the... and here I'm serving the country. There's something about it that sort of disturbed me. I didn't think it was right that they're behind barbed wire, because they're American citizens, and I hope something like that will never happen. Well, the most recent was about Iranian. We got into quite a hustle about Iranians in the United States. We wanted to throw them all in a camp, or chop their head off, that kind of stuff. But it become hysterical for a while. I was telling my wife, I hope they don't -- they remember the Nisei debacle that happened, you know, so many years ago. And sure enough, the government started to put down that kind of feeling about picking up every Iranian and send them back, you know, that kind of stuff.

gky: What effect do you think what the MIS did in the war had on the redress movement and improving the image of Japanese Americans after the war?

KT: Well, in the -- not a general sense, but I think a lot of Americans worked with their Japanese American counterparts in the war, and it was clear to them that what they had done and aid their, assisted their war effort in the Pacific by translating, documenting, interrogating prisoners. So I thought the work that they did wasn't headline, but every American that worked with them or heard about them, knew of MIS work and there's not one word spoken about otherwise. I think they haven't been headlined like the combat people, like 442 or 100th, but they did a tremendous job, I think.

gky: Okay. Anything else?

KT: No.

gky: Okay. Thank you very much.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2001 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.