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-01-0009

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LD: You've been, you're really known for, is the, your activity, your service with the Japanese American community keeping cultural heritage intact, in fact, in heading up this committee for so many years. Why do you think it's so important to keep the culture alive?

KG: Well, number one, I think the United States is really a melting pot. I heard the other day that New York is just as much a melting pot as Hawaii, only maybe the different racial group gather there than Hawaii. And I think before the war, I believe this white supremacy idea came about because the Caucasian population did not know enough of the Oriental culture and history. And now that things are changing, and I think that up until the war, World War II, it was more what was, for instance, here in Hawaii, used to say, "Americanized, Americanized." Even some Japanese would use the word beika, means Americanized. Now, what is American culture? I did not think those days, but now when I analyze, it was nothing but the European culture. But after the war, especially, I think with the occupation force going to Japan, and many of the American GIs staying there for two, three years, they began to understand more about Japan. In Los Angeles I was there for the Veterans, AJA Veterans Convention, and I went to eat at a Japanese restaurant, and I was surprised that so many Caucasians were eating Japanese food. They knew more about Japanese food than I knew. They knew the name of the sushi and different things. [Laughs] So I think the Americans are getting more internationalized in their thinking. So... but I think there are many people in the United States who should be, understand more the Oriental culture. So this centennial of the coming of the so-called kanyaku imin, we debated as to what to name, versus saying, well, "Let's name it contract laborers centennial celebration." Now, I said, "Let's use the word kanyaku instead of government contract." And the others accepted that idea, so we called Oahu kanyaku imin centennial committee. And now, other races, other ethnic groups are using kanyaku imin, kanyaku imin, just like it became just, I think it's adopted like sukiyaki or judo. And so one purpose of this centennial celebration in my writing that I write, I usually say that not only that Sansei, Yonsei, Gosei know about the history of their ancestors, their forbearers who came from Japan to Hawaii, and with sweat and tears, built up the educated Nisei. And the Nisei fought in World War II, Korean, Vietnam Wars, with blood. They spilled their blood so that the Sansei and Yonsei would have a much better life.

And so what made the Japanese people, why did the Nisei have that yamato damashii spirit, gambare spirit? Well, it's because it is the heritage brought by the Issei. Why are we a little more girigatai than other races? That's the way I feel. For instance, if you're invited to a dinner at some party, well, we bring something in return, ten dollars or twenty dollars or twenty-five dollars. And you don't try to get everything free. So I think all these traits, I think, has been brought. Then while the songs and dances and things, in June this year, all kinds of groups came from Japan, showed these things. I think by doing that, the other ethnic groups, and especially Caucasians, would understand more, not only Japanese, well, in this case Japanese culture.

And then we issued a book written by Roland Otani, we commissioned him and had a book written on the Japanese in Hawaii, essentially on struggle, and we sold it for three dollars per copy because we felt that if a book was sold for twenty-five dollars or thirty dollars, very few people would buy and read it. But when it is sold for three dollars, it will sell. If anybody acquires it, most likely that at least around eighty-five, ninety percent of them will read the book. And we sold twenty thousand copies, and I know that some Nisei and some Issei who came and bought fifteen, twenty copies at a time, said, "I have this many, twenty grandchildren and great grandchildren. I want them to read, everyone to read one of these." And in that way, they would appreciate. And other races, too, bought this book. Then other groups published this photographic history of Japanese in Hawaii. And by having this celebration, I think the other races, other ethnic groups, got to understand Japanese better than they used to. So I think the United States is getting to be more international minded. Now there's even talk right now of knowing one more language than English... I think I gain a great deal by knowing Japanese. I studied French and I studied Spanish, but due to lack of use, I've forgotten them. I can recognize words, but I cannot speak in a complete sentence. But Japanese, I've had so much contact, because I can speak Japanese, I have made lots of friends in Japan. And even being asked to serve as the general chairman of the centennial celebration, I think my knowledge of the Japanese language has helped to, for the people who selected me because of my knowledge of Japanese language.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1985 The Center for Educational Telecommunications and Densho. All Rights Reserved.