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Adjustment to American life

We arrived in San Francisco okay. As we got off the ship, our parents found us. For them it was a very emotional thing, for us it was kind of awkward. There's two people there trying to hug us and so forth, but we’re saying, “Gee, who are these people?” It’s kind of a strange feeling. Then ultimately, we arrived in Los Angeles. We stayed in anarea called Bunker Hill.

The adjustment I would say was difficult. The language, being the biggest barrier. American English language is not something that's easy to comprehend by Japanese. In Japanese everything is monosyllable and the English language have all these pronunciation and exceptions, and so forth that’ll drive you crazy. Grade-wise, I would get two A’s, one was mathematics naturally and physical education. And then everything else would be F’s, failure, or D. By the time I got to the eighth grade, I was beginning to get the hang of the English language, and I was more or less functional in a classroom.

I think my parents knew our story through our relatives. And I’m sure my parents have very strong, difficult stories of their lives, of their internment, losing everything they had, being thrown into a camp with thousands of other people and coming out with basically no money, and start a new life. All these things are difficult things. And Japanese as a culture, they bear it. They don’t like to speak about unhappy events too much. And I think my parents are no different, they're basically Japanese—although they’re Niseis—their culture background is Japanese.

I don’t think they wanted to burden us with any unhappiness. Most of all their focus was to make our transition smooth. I had to really credit my parents for their understanding and their tremendous effort to make our transition into the American life as smoothly as possible. It's commendable I think.


education families languages parents postwar United States 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

Teacher who helped with lisp

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

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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

Politics in ethnic studies

(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

Center for Japanese American Studies in community

(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

Involvement with ethnic studies

(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

Testing assumptions of Japanese scholars

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

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Barbara Kawakami
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Barbara Kawakami

Kids working hard

An expert researcher and scholar on Japanese immigrant clothing.

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Barbara Kawakami
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Barbara Kawakami

First day of school

An expert researcher and scholar on Japanese immigrant clothing.

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Robert (Bob) Kiyoshi Okasaki
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Robert (Bob) Kiyoshi Okasaki

Grandmother's influence on decision to go to Japan

(b.1942) Japanese American ceramist, who has lived in Japan for over 30 years.

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Jane Aiko Yamano
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Jane Aiko Yamano

Lack of language skills

(b.1964) California-born business woman in Japan. A successor of her late grandmother, who started a beauty business in Japan.

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Jane Aiko Yamano
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Jane Aiko Yamano

Acculturation

(b.1964) California-born business woman in Japan. A successor of her late grandmother, who started a beauty business in Japan.

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Jane Aiko Yamano
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Jane Aiko Yamano

Japanese are more accustomed to foreigners

(b.1964) California-born business woman in Japan. A successor of her late grandmother, who started a beauty business in Japan.

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Wally Kaname Yonamine
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Wally Kaname Yonamine

Training for football by carrying 100-lb bags of grass over mountains

(b.1925) Nisei of Okinawan descent. Had a 38-year career in Japan as a baseball player, coach, scout, and manager.

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Roy H. Matsumoto
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Roy H. Matsumoto

Difficulties understanding different Japanese dialects

(b.1913) Kibei from California who served in the MIS with Merrill’s Marauders during WWII.

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Richard Kosaki
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Richard Kosaki

Teaching at the military language school during World War II

(b. 1924) Political scientist, educator, and administrator from Hawai`i

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