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https://www.discovernikkei.org/en/interviews/clips/721/

Avoiding the Japanese military

I*: And why did you return to the United States?

Well, that was before the Second World War. And my parents was worried that if I stayed in Japan, they might take me into their, you know, as the soldiers and go to the war. So, I had a citizenship [in] United States. So, if I come back in the United States, the Japanese government can’t, you know, can’t call me for the military. So that was the reason.

* "I" indicates an interviewer (Daniel Lee).


migration World War II

Date: February 4, 2004

Location: California, US

Interviewer: Daniel Lee

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

Interviewee Bio

John Yoshio Naka was born on August 16, 1914 in Brighton, Colorado, to Issei parents. His childhood was spent on his father’s farm in Fort Lupton, Colorado. When he was eight, the Naka family moved to Japan where he formed a close bond with his paternal grandfather who introduced him to the art of bonsai and he developed his artistic talents.

In 1935, at age 21, Naka returned to Colorado and joined his older brother. There he met and married his wife, Alice, and went on to raise three sons. He and his family moved to Los Angeles in 1946, where he had a successful landscaping business with a special emphasis on Japanese gardens until 1968. In November 1950, he and four others founded the Southern California Bonsai Club, one of the first bonsai organizations in post-war America. He also taught the art of bonsai first locally within the Japanese American community, then nationally, and even internationally. He traveled all over the United States, Canada, Australia, South America, South Africa, and Europe to teach eager bonsai enthusiasts. Naka was instrumental in spreading the art of bonsai throughout the western world.

Naka wrote two books Bonsai Techniques and Bonsai Techniques II, which were published in several languages. He was the recipient of numerous awards including the Fifth Class Order of the Rising Sun in 1985 from the Emperor of Japan and the National Heritage Fellowship Award from National Endowment for the Arts in 1992. The John Naka Pavilion at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum was named in his honor.

He died on May 19, 2004. (October 4, 2006)

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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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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Henry Shimizu
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Henry Shimizu

Grandmother convinced his mother to return to Canada

(b. 1928) Doctor. Former Chair of the Japanese Canadian Redress Foundation.

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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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Masako Iino
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Masako Iino

Interest in Japanese migration studies (Japanese)

Tsuda College President, researcher of Nikkei history

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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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Venancio Shinki
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Venancio Shinki

We go to America (Spanish)

(b. 1932-2016) Peruvian painter

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Steve Kaji
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Steve Kaji

FOB's

Hawaii born Nikkei living in Japan. English Teacher at YMCA.

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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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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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Takeo Uesugi
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Takeo Uesugi

Studying in Japan before working in the US

(1940-2016) Issei Landscape Architect

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