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-01-0007

<Begin Segment 7>

gky: You know, it seemed that a lot of the Nisei stayed there after they got out of the army, I mean stayed in Japan, and you, yourself did. Why?

BS: Well, actually I didn't stay. What happened is they sent me to Japan. You see, I was in Japan; first it was three years they sent me back to States and, at that time, I figured, "Well, maybe there will be another war. They will call me again since I'm a reserve officer," and so I signed up for three years. They sent me back to Japan again because they needed officers who spoke Japanese. And I was put into a special unit, undercover for about three years. The Korean War started, and then they sent me back. This time I went to the intelligence school, and I was a teacher there for about three years, and then they went to the advanced course. I couldn't get out of the army. And by the time I could get out of the army I had eleven years of service. So I decided to stay for the twenty years. And so they sent me back to Japan, back to the States, I came back to the Presidio. I was with the 115th, we did the background investigations for the West Coast. They sent me back to Japan again, fourth time, there a couple of years. They signed me back to Holabird, and I asked for an American transfer to 6th Army. I came to the Presidio, and I became a staff officer there. By that time I was a lieutenant colonel, and I liked that job because, actually, twenty-five years earlier, because of background investigation, we were kicked out of the West Coast. And in my final year, I was in charge of the military security division which controlled all of the security clearances on the West Coast. And that was a fitting end to my military career, right?

gky: When you first went back to Japan, after the occupation, do you remember how it smelled? Did it smell burned, did it smell fresh, did it smell...

BS: Well, you know my sense of smell is not too good. But you can't say there was anything rotten, because anything that was capable of rotten, being rotten, was being eaten before it became rotten. There was a lot of debris, but I did not get the impression of the trashiness that you find in some of the skid row, you know, in the States for instance.

gky: How did the people look? What was the spirit like?

BS: Well, they dressed in anything that would fit them. You know, the women were wearing mompei. You know what a mompei is? It's a balloon-type sort of a bag, you know. No skirts, like trousers, anything was considered acceptable dress as long as it covered yourself.

gky: Why were they wearing mompei?

BS: Well, mompei is more freedom and movement, and the skirts present also a greater danger too.

gky: So it wasn't because they were told that the American soldiers were going to rape them?

BS: Well, some of them may have said that, but I don't think that was the main reason. The mompei were useful clothing.

gky: How about what were people's spirits like and how did that change over the years? What was it like in 1945 and in succeeding years?

BS: I think in '45 they were hoping to find two classes of people. Those wanted to get friendly with you with the hope of getting something because they're starving, and then there were also the others who wanted to learn something from the American way, talking about democracy. Well, what is democracy? They wanted to learn English.

gky: Okay, you said that was 1945. How about '46? '47? What kind of change was there in the people, their spirit, their outlook?

BS: Well, I think they were gradually able to make use of the farmland and they had the system of rationing, and the food as it was grown, it was put into the rationing channel, so people had more food that they could depend on. So in that way, there was more of a sense of things were improving. Another thing is that it was a period when there was self-reliance, plus reliance on your family. The family became a very important issue. If you had a relative who was a farmer living in another prefecture, you depended on them, and they usually supplied, you know, these families with whatever they had. But there was a greater freedom of movement, too. The movement was important. See, during the wartime, the movement was limited. You couldn't move around. Let me see... it's hard to say exactly when things began to improve. But it definitely began to improve with the start of the Korean War because then the American government, the U.S. government decided that we will use Japan as a base to supply the war material for the Korean War, and therefore, many of the industry -- you see, we went there and said, "Okay, all the big industries are gone. We want to dismantle them. We want to get rid of the zaibatsu." But when the Korean War started, we decided, "No, we better keep these plants operating. Allow the Japanese to use them. Allow them to make things for our use,' and that also meant, sort of a return of some form of prosperity for at least some of the industrial companies.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright &copy; 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.