Densho Digital Archive
Steven Okazaki Collection
Title: Gordon Hirabayashi - Jim Hirabayashi Interview
Narrators: Gordon Hirabayashi, Jim Hirabayashi
Location: San Francisco California
Date: December 3, 1983
Densho ID: denshovh-hgordon_g-01-0005

<Begin Segment 5>

GH: Yeah, when we talk about the conservatism of the Japanese Americans, we're generally thinking of the Nisei and in terms of postwar, the 1950s era. Now, that, I think we should remember it was a quiet era for all Americans. They were recovering from a decade long total depression of the 1930s, and total war like we've never had before. World War II. So they're getting on with getting themselves shaped up. In the meantime, certain kinds of human rights, legislation and other things are slowly coming in. But I think the concern of the Nisei, was to get on with an economic stabilization, not to be poor and hungry like most of us were during the Depression.

JH: I think there was tremendous recovery at that time. Because at first we were wondering what the effects of the war would be. And I remember prior to the war there were hardly any Japanese that were in civil service or the professions, or teaching. And then suddenly, very soon after World War II, the Japanese made tremendous moves into the general society.

GH: When the restrictions were moved, the kinds of education we were getting without knowing how we were gonna use it, suddenly had places to be put. And so they moved in fast. They moved rapidly in terms of social economic hierarchy.

JH: So I think there was no reason for the Japanese to be very much in the protesting mood at that time, because they were making it into the society quite rapidly. It was only after that that the changes in the '60s came about, and the unrest.


GH: The conservatism of the Niseis weren't just because they had been trained to cope with survival and not confrontation. And that kind of training carried on, not so that they were sort of inactive, relatively speaking, but they were, they even were vigorously opposed to any kind of activism. And Jim could tell you some experiences in the late '60s, early '70s, the opposition he got, in terms of citizen responsibilities and so on.

JH: Well, it was during that time that we had to go out to get support from the community and many of the conservative people, simply because the style that they used before was non-confrontational, not to rock the boat, and to be good law-abiding citizens. So that they didn't see that the style that we were using in order to get certain changes made in society, so that there was quite a bit of opposition within the community itself.

GH: They were afraid that if we got too involved, we would get backlash.

JH: They would lose the kind of advantage that they had worked hard for.

GH: Yeah. By being quiet and hard-working. Good qualities, but there are times when you have to speak out.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1983, 2010 Densho and Steven Okazaki. All Rights Reserved.