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-01-0005

<Begin Segment 5>

gky: This is tape two with Barry Saiki on October 20th, the year 2000. Something that you said, I'm going to read you a quote that you said. "But the language background of MISLS [Military Intelligence Service Language School] was supplemented prior to school by the fact that our parents told us to learn Japanese, and we learned Japanese in private school. Regardless of our bilingual education, it was paid for by the Isseis, and some of the -- they were paid for by their parents because they were sent to Japan to get that training, and it was that background that was important in the army getting sufficiently was to perform."

BS: That's right.

gky: Can you sort of say that again to me?

BS: Okay.

gky: The part that I like a lot, is Issei, was that background was important for the army to get linguists for them.

BS: The problem with the Japanese language is not very simple, just like Chinese. So you have to have a background. And naturally, the parents spoke to us in the Japanese language, but they implemented their ideas by starting Japanese language school in all the major cities. Every place where there was a large Japanese community, they started a language school. Many of these were church sponsored or, rather, the church backed them up. But they were all paid schools. You paid tuition. At any rate, even though tuition were low, it provided a basic in to education. For instance, the vocabulary form in kana -- hiragana, and katakana, they learned that in the grade school, and then they gradually began to learn more of the Chinese characters. But one hour a day or going to school on the weekend, and, of course, they didn't get a really good education. But they had education in which they could talk with their parents. So then some of them decided to send their children to Japan for education, and so they were sent there and boarded with their relatives. They stayed there for four or five years, and then they came back. And still others were those that made some money. And they decided, well, they'll go back to Japan. And they took their kids to Japan where they got immersed with the Japanese education, but since these kids had American citizenship, you know, they could come back to the United States. In some cases, many of these people returned to the United States.

gky: One of the things that you also said was that some of the other things the occupation did was open the road for many Nisei. How did that happen?

BS: Well, they opened the road in several ways. One, you see, when the West Coast was cleared and all of us were shipped out and sent to the interior states, we found that the discrimination against the Japanese Americans were very light or moderate when compared to the West Coast. And, in fact, in some states, it didn't exist. A classic example is we went to Arkansas. In Arkansas, we found -- we went into town and we were, we wanted to go to a restroom. And there was a -- the only restroom available were the ones at the railway station. And they had "white" and "black." And when we wanted to walk into the black section because we suspected we were considered black, but we were ordered by the stationmaster to use the white. In other words, discrimination in Arkansas at that time applied only to the black, and applied... it's something that we couldn't understand. And yet they had lynching and things of that nature in Arkansas, and we were considered as white.

gky: That's funny, because yet you're not considered white, and that's why you went to segregated war, anyway.

BS: That's right.

gky: That's very ironic.

BS: Then also consider the fact that 20,000 Japanese Americans relocated to Chicago. You know, consider 20,000 people moving into a city, and they had very little problems dealing with the public.

gky: How did you feel at this time in history of being not white, not black?

BS: Well, I don't know. In my case, I didn't feel anything. I realized that I had an inferiority complex from the time when I was going to high school, and to eliminate that, I decided to take public speaking. And I enrolled in it in order to force myself to stand before the class every week to give a speech. And by the time I finished my senior year, at least I was able to get up and say something. But there were many Niseis who felt inferior, you know, and that's the reason why you hear the "quiet" or "silent American." It's true.

gky: Do you think that you had a bigger voice in Japan where you were not a minority, where everybody looks like you?

BS: Well, I wouldn't say bigger voice, because then you're dealing -- the type of work I was dealing with were with the elite, for instance, the government officials or the newspaper people or the political parties, not with the ordinary person. So, and they had very good education, and if you felt that you were elite among them, then you were being a snob yourself because they had a better education than you did, right?

<End Segment 5> - Copyright &copy; 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.