Densho Digital Archive
Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre Collection
Title: Bill Hashizume Interview
Narrator: Bill Hashizume
Interviewer: Norm Ibuki
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Date: October 29, 2005
Densho ID: denshovh-hbill_2-01-0011

<Begin Segment 11>

NI: When, so when you went to Japan, you went what year again?

BH: We landed in Japan, Yokohama and Kobe, in January of 1939.

NI: January 1939. How was, what was your, you had family, of course.

BH: We had, my father had brothers and sisters living in Osaka. None lived in Wakayama, they're all moved to Osaka and doing business. And we lived close by to one of the relatives, and we kept in touch. They taught us what to do and what not to do, and I chummed around with a cousin of similar age as well as my sisters with their cousins.

NI: How were you received in the school system by the Japanese kids, being, I guess you'd be a foreigner.

BH: "Nisei namaiki." "No yamato damashi?" All that crap. Now, when you, when you, after, when the war broke out, and they had to, some that were in the commercial side of the university, taking commercial courses, or non-technical courses, they were drafted and sent off to war. And you can, you can tell him, says, they hate it like hell because of course, who wants to be killed? And they were teaching me, he says, they're proud to be, die in action, this and that. And heck, the very person that thing, why, you hear mumblings, says hate like hell going to thing, being drafted and going to hell, but heck, they can't voice that in public, but you could sense that.

NI: When you were, at that time, when the war was happening, in Japan, my understanding of yamato damashi is just that, of course, the spirit of Japan, right?

BH: Uh-huh.

NI: But at that time, what kind of Japanese spirit were they talking about? Because there was a lot of propaganda from the government that, as you said, you were brought up with an idea that Japanese were superior?

BH: Right, right.

NI: Well, what did, what did yamato damashi mean? And can you give me an example of what was happening in Japan at the time? What did you hear and see?

BH: Well, one of the things that yamato damashi, you weren't afraid to die for the emperor. And... well, it's pretty hard to explain, but you hear all this yamato damashi and this and that, you don't hear it anymore, but those days, heck, we grew up more freely in Canada as compared to Japan. Japan was more or less close-knitted. You had to do this, you had to comply with the rules of the society or this and that. Now, when you address somebody elder, well, you have to use different kind of words, keigo. And that, it was pretty hard for me to thing, but when in Rome you do as the Romans do, why, I tried to keep up with the Japanese customs and traditions.

NI: Did you have any problems, though, as a gaijin?

BH: Well, lot of people, when I went to Kansai Gakuin, I was, I was resented because I was a Nisei, and my attitude wasn't Japanesey or things like that. The school I went to was bocchan gakko.

NI: I'm sorry?

BH: Bocchan.

NI: Bocchan gakko?

BH: Yeah, well, it's for well-to-do families, well-to-do families. And well-to-do families' kids are bocchans, okay? And some I didn't get along with, some were okay. But my best friends from high school days are the ones that helped me get along with schoolwork.

NI: Through this time, so you were communicating with your parents by regular letters, I imagine?

BH: Well, my mother was there in Japan.

NI: Oh, your mother came with you?

BH: Oh yeah. No, no, my mother came back, but while in Japan, my mother and everybody was there. The only people that, the only brother that was in Canada was my eldest brother.

NI: Okay, and he was taking care of the farm?

BH: Well, he was, he took over the farm, he inherited the farm, he got married.

NI: After your father died?

BH: That's right.

NI: So everybody went back to Japan.

BH: Everybody was in Japan, yes. Everybody was in Japan.

NI: I see. Okay, I wasn't sure. So he was running the farm?

BH: Uh-huh. And then when the war broke out, he had to leave behind the farm, the truck, everything, and the only thing he was able to take was his personal belongings. He had a wife and two kids, and since he knew Japanese, they expected, he was -- well, he wasn't fluent in English, but he could speak both languages. So most of the fellow farmers in Mission, they relied on him to do this, do that, look after them.

NI: So between the cultures...

BH: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. And, but he had to look after his family, too, so he did his best. Made sure that these people went to certain place, this group of people went to certain places and so forth. He looked after 'em. Not only my brother, but the schoolteacher, Japanese schoolteacher. He looked after the thing.

NI: Who was that?

BH: Mr. Kudo.

NI: Okay, I always hear Mr. Kudo. He really got around.

BH: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. And yeah, my brother was the only one that thing. And the reason why, the reason why most of the Japanese farmers moved to the sugar beet farms in Alberta, Manitoba, was that they could stay together with their family. Others, they were broken up and sent to various things.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2005 Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre and Densho. All Rights Reserved.