Densho Digital Archive
gayle k. yamada Collection
Title: Roy Takai Interview
Narrator: Roy Takai
Interviewer: gayle k. yamada
Location: El Macero, California
Date: October 20, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-troy-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

gky: Okay, the date is October 20th, the year 2000. We're talking with Roy Takai. R-O-Y, T-A-K-A-I, in El Macero, California. Roy, can you tell me first, you were in Poston internment camp; your parents were both interned?

RT: My father was interned in the Justice Department detention center at Bismarck, North Dakota. My stepmother was interned at Poston with me.

gky: And you were an only child, correct?

RT: I was the only child for my father. I had a stepbrother who was also incarcerated at Poston.

gky: When you decided to be recruited and go with the MIS, how did they come to recruit you?

RT: Initially, there was a notice put out by the security officer at Poston that they were recruiting for volunteers to attend the intelligence school at Camp Savage, and shortly thereafter it came of recruiters, including one major and two Nisei sergeants came to Poston and started to give us examinations to determine whether or not we knew enough Japanese to attend the school.

gky: What kind of exams did they give you?

RT: The examination was very elementary. And they first asked you to read the Japanese and then they asked you to translate the Japanese into English. And then they started to ask you questions in both Japanese and in English, and they determined through that method whether or not you knew enough Japanese.

gky: How many people went from Poston with you to be recruited?

RT: There were, altogether, eight of us -- three from Camp I, Poston, two from Camp II, and two from Camp III, and there was one other individual from Camp I who was not a qualified linguist but he volunteered anyway.

gky: How did your parents and your peers react when you told them you were going to be going to fight for the country that had put them in camp?

RT: The people that I associated with were all happy that I was volunteering for the military. There was only one or two Kibeis, people who were educated in Japan, who were not receptive to the idea that I was going into the military to fight against Japan.

gky: You had a kendo instructor who told you that the clash between the United States and Japan was coming. Can you talk a little bit about that? Maybe you could start with he told you we were going to come to war with Japan.

RT: When I was about ten years old, my father forced me to take kendo lessons, and during the kendo lessons, the instructor always set aside a period of time to lecture to us. He told us that he had described what kendo was all about, that it was the way of the samurai, the "Way of the Warrior," and that there was certain ethics that were very important. And he said that one of the duties that we all had was to serve our country, loyalty to our country. And he said that eventually Japan and the United States would clash and that it would be a traumatic moment for most of us, because our parents were Japanese, and he said that no matter what happens, you must remember that you are American citizens. "You were born in America, you were educated in America, you had really no allegiance to Japan even though your parents were from there," and he admonished us that we should fight for the our country of birth. In other words, fight for the United States. And I remember those words when the recruiter came and it was no problem for me, because I had this kendo training and through this instructor.

gky: It's a little bit hard for me to understand, and maybe you can help me understand that on the one hand you're learning a sport that's a Japanese sport and you're learning a code that's a Japanese way of living, and yet you're going to apply it to living in America and being an American?

RT: Well, see, kendo in itself translates to "Way of the Sword." Kendo is a martial arts, Bushido. Bushido also means the "Way of the Warrior." The, the kendo instructor was trying to give us the way of the, the way the samurai lived, his ethics, his code, and as it applies to everyday living, for example, he said that the...

gky: He said that...

RT: Yeah. He said that the...

gky: Did he talk about the Way of the Sword?

RT: No, he talked about what obligations we had to our instructor, to our parents, to our country, and he said, for example, he told us, "Never bring shame to the family. Always give your thanks to those who taught you. Always remember that you are an American and that you should be loyal to your country."

gky: How did that make you feel? You, when you talked to your friends, when you talked to Kibei, when you talked to other Nisei?

RT: Well it didn't make me feel bad or good. It's the way I was taught and I believed what the instructor said, and there was no problem as far as my feelings were concerned.

gky: Do you feel that your Japanese-American upbringing helped or hindered you in understanding the Japanese psychology, or maybe your hakujin friends might feel one way but you'd feel another way because you're Japanese American? In other words, how did your being Japanese American either change or influence your thinking of Japan, your thinking of the Japanese people when you were going to go and battle against them?

RT: Well, it was... it didn't cross my mind that I would be fighting any one individual. It was a question of serving our country, fighting for our country, and even though the enemy was the country of my parents, I had no individual contact with those who served in the Japanese military. It was just a question of defending our own country.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.