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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)

Susumu “Sus” Ito
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Susumu “Sus” Ito

Coming home to his mother after the war

(1919 - 2015) Nisei who served in World War II with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team

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Akira Takashio
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Akira Takashio

First impression of America (Japanese)

Shin Issei – owner of izakaya (Japanese-style tavern) and kappo (small Japanese diner) restaurant, Honda-Ya

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Susumu “Sus” Ito
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Susumu “Sus” Ito

Getting a PhD under the G.I. Bill

(1919 - 2015) Nisei who served in World War II with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team

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Tom Yuki
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Tom Yuki

Felt no hostility in Los Gatos, California after the war

(b. 1935) Sansei businessman.

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Tom Yuki
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Tom Yuki

Requested assignment in Europe to avoid combat in the Korean War

(b. 1935) Sansei businessman.

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Kishi Bashi
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Kishi Bashi

On his songfilm Omoiyari

(b. 1975) Musician, composer, and songwriter

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Kishi Bashi
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Kishi Bashi

The reason for creating the songflim Omoiyari

(b. 1975) Musician, composer, and songwriter

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Michelle Yamashiro
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Michelle Yamashiro

Parents leaving Peru to move to California

Okinawan American whose parents are from Peru.

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Fumiko Hachiya Wasserman
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Fumiko Hachiya Wasserman

Family’s Japanese roots and values

Sansei judge for the Superior Court of Los Angeles County in California

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Kay Sekimachi
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Kay Sekimachi

Moving to Cincinnati after Topaz

(b. 1926) Artist

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Takayo Fischer
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Takayo Fischer

Facing Prejudice as a Japanese American Teenager in Chicago after the War

(b. 1932) Nisei American stage, film, and TV actress

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Mitsuru "Mits" Kataoka
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Mitsuru "Mits" Kataoka

Facing housing discrimination in Rhode Island

(1934–2018) Japanese American designer, educator, and pioneer of media technologies

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Jimmy Naganuma
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Jimmy Naganuma

Immersed in Japanese culture and language

(b. 1936) Japanese Peruvian incarcerated in Crystal City

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Masato Ninomiya
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Masato Ninomiya

What made your parents decide to move to Brazil?

Professor of Law, University of Sao Paulo, Lawyer, Translator (b. 1948)

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Reiko T. Sakata
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Reiko T. Sakata

Parents in Utah

(b. 1939) a businesswoman whose family volunterily moved to Salt Lake City in Utah during the war.

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