Densho Digital Archive
Loni Ding Collection
Title: Kenji Goto Interview
Narrator: Kenji Goto
Interviewer: Loni Ding
Location: Hawaii
Date: December 8, 1985
Densho ID: denshovh-gkenji-01-0006

<Begin Segment 6>

KG: You going to tell about Harry Urasaki?

LD: Yeah, I have seen about the poem that you read, the fact that he could hear Tojo.

KG: You mean from the beginning?

LD: "One student that I recruited..." you said it before, but this is for a new tape.

KG: One of the students that I recruited in Hilo after the war was over and he was one of the early ones to be, to land in Japan. Was assigned a personal interpreter for General Hideki Tojo who attempted suicide. And after I don't know how long, but maybe about a month of being a personal interpreter between the American doctors and General Tojo and between the American nurses and General Tojo, General Tojo recovered enough to be transferred to Sugamo prison. And at the time of his transfer, General Tojo told Harry Urasaki that he had nothing to give him as a memento of his appreciation for what he had for him, so he picked up his coat, which has bloodstains on it because he had shot himself trying to shoot through his heart, but he missed the heart. So this article came out, I think it was in 1959 in the Hawaii Times. So I took lots of interest in this article. Then in 1963 I saw another article in the Hawaii Times saying that Harry Urasaki had sent back the, General Tojo's coat to Mrs. Tojo. He felt that I guess it would be more worth to be given back to Mrs. Tojo than he hold it. And so in 1963, the editor of Hilo Times, Mr. Kiyoshi Okubo, took the coat back to Mrs. Tojo and brought back three poems which Mrs. Tojo had given him to be given to Harry Urasaki.

LD: We have the poems.

KG: Yeah, you have the poems.

LD: Did you hear these stories on occasion about the MI men who, in fact, meet with the family, bring something back to them, sometimes the personal effects of soldiers in the field who died, who picked up their battle flag, a number of other persons who brought back. Somebody from the mainland did that last year, after forty years. Now, why do you think they did that? Why do Nisei sometimes do that, some of them have done that.

KG: You meant sent back...

LD: Send back or even go and visit the family before they sent them back. But could you explain that a little bit in terms of the attitude, the value, what it is that Nisei feels about that family? And there again, it's something that may seem obvious to you, but please explain to someone who needs that drawn out a bit.

KG: Well, I don't know of any other case. But I've read in the Pacific Citizen about a hakujin who had done that. And therefore I don't think this was any Nisei characteristic or anything, I think it was just a feeling of sympathy, how happy the family would be if any of these, for instance, captured flag with all sort of signatures on, but says shusei so and so. Shusei means, or should say, "Congratulations for being inducted into the military force."

LD: No one's ever explained what's on that flag. Could you tell us what's on the battle flag?

KG: Well, in the corner of the battle flag is shuku so and so, shusei. Shusei means being inducted in the military. So it means, "Congratulations." For instance, if I am to be in Japan, and if I am inducted, well, they say, "Shuku Goto Kenji," or, "Shuku shusei Goto Kenji-sama," which means, "Congratulations to Kenji Goto, you are inducted in the military force. And then all the rest are people who send that congratulations with a, what do you call it, rising sun right in the middle, red ball. And so it's... and many of them, I think, have even the address, I think. So when these people brought back these war artifacts, well, after a few years they start thinking, well, even I held it, what am I going to do? Then they start feeling sympathy, compassion for the family who's been waiting for the person to come back. So he would say, "Well, I might as well return this artifact to the family." Many people did that. Then they became close friends, and fellows would go to Japan and visit that family. When Japan became, people became wealthy enough, they were visiting Hawaii and visiting the mainland, even hakujin homes, to thank them for returning these artifacts.

LD: A note about a time that you talked to her about a fellow teacher, hakujin teacher who accused you to your face and also of being a...

KG: The schools in Kona --

LD: Go back to before, this was at the time of the outbreak of war, right?

KG: Yeah.

LD: Okay. Start again.

KG: The schools in Kona had a special vacation schedule. Their vacation months were September, October, November, because that is when the coffee ripened. And so the students would help picking coffee, and this was instituted when the stock crash came in 1929. And I happened to be the president of the PTA at that time, and not that I was the only one who negotiated with the department, the principal and the supervising principal, but many of the parents worked with me, and we worked with the legislature and members of the House and the members of the Senate of the, those days, Territory of Hawaii, and we got that instituted.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1985 The Center for Educational Telecommunications and Densho. All Rights Reserved.