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Ethnographies of Japanese and Japanese Americans Post World War II
Transcript of Ethnographies of Japanese and Japanese Americans Post World War II
Precious Vida Yamaguchi, Ph.D.
A Presentation for the Friends of
Where are you from?
Well, where are your parents from?
Where are your grandparents from?
How about your great-grandparents?
What they mean is: What is your ethnic identity?
* Interviewed 16 Japanese American people who were in the World War II internment camps
* Anti-colonial framework
* Focus on life during World War II and especially after WWII
* My family; Japanese American Citizen's League (JACL) in Los Angeles, Cleveland, Detroit/Ann Arbor, and Philadelphia; Japanese Consulate Office in Detroit
* California, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan
As a child, I did not know I was Japanese...as an adult, people do not know I'm American.
* Minneapolis with $50
* Nabisco $0.75/hr.
* Rice & pickled vegetable
* 17 years old
My mother found out she had cancer. She had
stomach pains...I remember giving her a bath
at night and she weighed only 70 lbs., just skin and bones. I would carry her to the bathtub and I was only 17 years old. The doctors predicted she would die within that year. So when my brother left to Monterey, he told me, "mom may not last," but she fooled all the doctors and lived to be 95 years old. The doctor passed away before she did! She was an amazing woman!
When we were evacuated, we were only allowed to take one suitcase. I was just a little girl at the time, so I stuffed as much clothes as I could into the suitcase. At the train station, the hinges on my suitcase broke and all of my clothes spilled out everywhere. I started to cry, but my father stayed very calm and helped me with my clothes. Everything around me seemed so chaotic and I was scared.
I was the only Japanese in the senior high school. I hated it. Hated it, hated it, hated it. I didn't have the tools, the self-esteem, or whatever to make friends; I felt very cheated out of my senior year. I do take pride in my parents - I'm getting emotional (starts to cry) - they were quite old. They got jobs as dishwashers (starts crying a lot)...My sister had a full scholarship to go to the university but she gave that up because how can you go to college when your family needs help? So she got a job working at a salad bar.
[Working] managed to boost my self-esteem. I kind of felt good, but I guess I have to say a lot women my generation - relatives - worked. So with the dysfunction that was going on in the family, I've always felt, ohhh... well with my husband, 20 years ago he took his life. During that time I was working. And I went to work two weeks after and to me that was my salvation. You know you have to put your facade, your mask, whatever....
was in Japan until 1947. I was there for four years. I was there for two years during the war, and then two years after, and I worked for the Air Force base...[Japan] didn't have much food. We were rationed with brown rice, they would give us dried daikon, rolled barley, and dried sweet potato, and my mother would cook that. And then we had one loaf of bread for a family of five for a week, of course no milk, no butter, eggs...She grew sweet potatoes and made use of every part of the sweet potato.
When I came back to the U.S. in 1947, I had just turned 19 and I brought my 15-year-old brother with me by myself because my parents couldn't come. In order to get a passport I had to have someone vouch for me. There were a lot of G.I.'s that we knew that had gone to Japan on the occupation force so one of them came down to Fukoa to visit us. I went back to Yokohama with him and he took me to the Consulate office and vouched for me.
(It took Reiko's parents 10 years to make it back to the U.S. The family was originally excluded from the redress, where "each surviving victim of the exclusion and internment," were compensated).