Densho Digital Archive
gayle k. yamada Collection
Title: Barry Saiki Interview
Narrator: Barry Saiki
Interviewer: gayle k. yamada
Location: El Macero, California
Date: October 20, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-sbarry-01-0002

<Begin Segment 2>

gky: Let's jump ahead a few years. When you were there, after the occupation, what was it like going there for the very first time?

BS: Well, actually, I was in Japan when I was six years old. I'd gone there for a reason. My grandmother was dying, and so my father took myself and five other kids and my mother; the eight of us went to Japan because we knew that she was dying. She was dying. And she actually died about a month later, and, but I spent about a year going to a Japanese school, and my father -- because actually, my youngest brother was born in Japan. Actually, my mother was pregnant here and he was born in Japan. And so after his birth, and after several months, we all returned back to California. So I had some concept of what Japanese life was. Admittedly, it was the village, the rural area of Hiroshima, so I wasn't too sure what I would encounter. Except that the first day that the troop ship arrived in Yokohama, I was greeted by a spectacle which I'll always remember. But we had 2,000 troops on the ship, and there were about thirty or forty men in raggedy clothes on the pier, and they were evidently the work crew. Anyway, the GIs would smoke a cigarette and throw the butt on the pier, and there would be a mad scramble to pick up those butts. And the GIs thought it was funny. So some of them broke up a fresh pack of cigarettes. They broke it into two so you had forty butts, and they threw it, and this caused a mad melee, you know, as they fought to get those cigarettes. And at that time I wondered, "What is this?" The Japanese society, according to my parents, they would never do something like this. Fighting over something as inconsequential as a cigarette, but it was happening, and I was to understand, after I landed, why. And it was because Japan had been so badly beaten, that the entire population, much of the original code, were meaningless to a large percentage of people.

gky: It seems, I guess, hard to believe something so ingrained within Japanese people, as they grew up in school it was drilled into them, that kind of a code, and yet after the war it seems to not have held true.

BS: No, that's right.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright &copy; 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.