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His family Traveled to Japan in 1940

My father received words—through letter—that his father was gravely ill, and that he was not expected to live much longer. And that he desperately wanted to see his children as well as the only grandkids they had, that was my brother and myself. My father packed us all up very early in 1940, probably around January. So, my brother Kenny, myself, my father and my mother, who at that time was eight months pregnant. That's a pretty difficult situation to be traveling in those days, at that late stage in pregnancy. We have a photo of us on the ship. Although she was hiding her bump, tummy, she was definitely pregnant and she was determined not to have the baby until she arrived in Japan and reached the destination where she was born, in Furue. On February 20 of 1940, my younger brother, Albert Kenji, was born. That takes us in[to] February. Then we stayed in Japan until June of that year. There were parties and lots of reunion[s].

Miraculously my father—my grandfather I meant—his health greatly improved during this period. Basically he was suffering from probably what they classify nowadays as depression. He took to drinking too much sake probably. His health was declining, but when we got there he started to behave himself and his health improved, until he found out that we were all returning to United States. That was in June. By that time the money has run out. My parents still had [a] home in Los Angeles, which they had to take care of. When my grandfather's health started declining, they decided to take care of their business in [the] United States and then return to Japan to take care of my grandfather. Well, to show good faith that they were planning to return, they left my older brother Kenny and myself in their care. That was June of 1940. However, the war started and my parents and the whole family were interned in Poston, Arizona along with all the other Japanese American in the neighborhood. And they were there for the duration of the war.


families grandfathers grandparents Japan parents World War II

Date: September 3, 2019

Location: California, US

Interviewer: Masako Miki

Contributed by: Watase Media Arts Center, Japanese American National Museum

Interviewee Bio

Howard Kakita was born in 1938 in East Los Angeles, California. His family took him to Japan in 1940. His parents and younger brother came back to the United States in 1940, to take care of the family business, but Howard and an older brother, Kenny, stayed in Japan.

When the war broke out, his family in the U.S. were incarcerated in Poston, AZ. On August 6, 1945, the Atomic bomb was dropped in Hiroshima. Howard was 0.8 miles from the hypocenter and survived. He and Kenny came back to the U.S. and reunited with their family in 1948.

Howard pursued a career in computer engineering. After his retirement, he joined American Society Hiroshima-Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivors (ASA) and has been actively sharing his A-bomb experience. (September 2019)

George Ariyoshi
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George Ariyoshi

Prom during the war

(b.1926) Democratic politician and three-term Governor of Hawai'i

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Jean Hayashi Ariyoshi
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Jean Hayashi Ariyoshi

Possibility of being adopted by aunt

Former First Lady of Hawai'i

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Jean Hayashi Ariyoshi
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Jean Hayashi Ariyoshi

Day Pearl Harbor was bombed

Former First Lady of Hawai'i

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Kazuo Funai
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Kazuo Funai

First work in America (Japanese)

(1900-2005) Issei businessman

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Kazuo Funai
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Kazuo Funai

Japan vs. the United States (Japanese)

(1900-2005) Issei businessman

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James Hirabayashi
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James Hirabayashi

Little interaction with parents

(1926 - 2012) Scholar and professor of anthropology. Leader in the establishment of ethnic studies as an academic discipline

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James Hirabayashi
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James Hirabayashi

Life in camp as teenager

(1926 - 2012) Scholar and professor of anthropology. Leader in the establishment of ethnic studies as an academic discipline

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James Hirabayashi
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James Hirabayashi

Gordon's parents' experience in prison

(1926 - 2012) Scholar and professor of anthropology. Leader in the establishment of ethnic studies as an academic discipline

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Robert Katayama
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Robert Katayama

Being ordered to keep a diary that was later confiscated, ostensibly by the FBI

Hawaiian Nisei who served in World War II with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

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Mike Shinoda
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Mike Shinoda

Connecting to Japan

(b. 1977) Musician, Producer, Artist

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Barbara Kawakami
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Barbara Kawakami

Surviving after father's death

An expert researcher and scholar on Japanese immigrant clothing.

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Barbara Kawakami
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Barbara Kawakami

Washing for Filipino bachelors

An expert researcher and scholar on Japanese immigrant clothing.

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Barbara Kawakami
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Barbara Kawakami

Bombing of Pearl Harbor

An expert researcher and scholar on Japanese immigrant clothing.

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Barbara Kawakami
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Barbara Kawakami

Helping soldiers

An expert researcher and scholar on Japanese immigrant clothing.

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Mas Kodani
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Mas Kodani

Fun at concentration camp

Senshin Buddhist Temple minister and co-founder of Kinnara Taiko.

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