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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)

Shunji Nishimura
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Shunji Nishimura

Delivering know-how to the next generation (Japanese)

(1911-2010) Founder of JACTO group

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Masao Kinoshita
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Masao Kinoshita

Life as a student in São Paulo (Japanese)

A central figure for the “Makegumi” (defeatists)

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Venancio Shinki
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Venancio Shinki

Prejudice in Japanese school (Spanish)

(b. 1932-2016) Peruvian painter

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Venancio Shinki
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Venancio Shinki

Closing the Japanese school and deportation (Spanish)

(b. 1932-2016) Peruvian painter

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Peter Mizuki
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Peter Mizuki

Japanese wife with American citizenship

Sansei Japanese American living in Japan and Kendo practioner

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Hideto Futatsugui
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Hideto Futatsugui

The Portuguese exam (Japanese)

(b.1911) Issei educator 

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Hideto Futatsugui
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Hideto Futatsugui

Japanese education in Brazil (Japanese)

(b.1911) Issei educator 

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Hideto Futatsugui
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Hideto Futatsugui

The Japanese-Portuguese dictionary by Dr. Yoshiharu Noda (Japanese)

(b.1911) Issei educator 

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Johnnie Morton
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Johnnie Morton

Attending Japanese school

(b.1971) Professional football player.

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Johnnie Morton
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Johnnie Morton

Talking with Grandmother

(b.1971) Professional football player.

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Peter Irons
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Peter Irons

Learning About the Internment

(b. 1940) Attorney, Coram nobis cases.

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George Yoshida
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George Yoshida

Ways of Fitting In

(b. 1922) Musician

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Clifford Uyeda
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Clifford Uyeda

Japanese Language School

(1917 - 2004) Political activist

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Daniel K. Inouye
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Daniel K. Inouye

First election

(1924-2012) Senator of Hawaii

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Sakaye Shigekawa
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Sakaye Shigekawa

Parents were willing to send her to medical school

(1913-2013) Doctor specializing in obstetrics in Southern California

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