Our House Divided: Seven Japanese American Families in World War II
Tomi Kaizawa Knaefier, 1991
The author starts off comparing the Japanese on Hawaii and the advent of WWII to the battle of Gettysburg, both of which pitted people of the same nationality against each other in deadly battle.
The author was barely 12 years old when Pearl Harbor happened. The event is told by her in a very personal manner since she was actually there when it happened and is of Japanese ancestry. What she writes about how the GI's came to the town she lived in and how the town ended up reacting to that is really good (things go well), and her personal account is absolutely fascinating of everything that was going on at the time, from the martial law right on to dances (which she wasn't allowed to go to-too young.)
She also had relatives living in Hiroshima, but they were on the outskirts of the city and thus were not killed by the effects of the atomic bomb. She notes that some of the Issei (first generation Japanese immigrants) did not believe the war had been lost; if fact, they thought that Japan had won the war. The author concentrates on how families were split apart by their feelings relating to the entire war experience.
She writes a lot about what happened in Hawaii after the war and how the Nisei rose economically and politically.
The first family interview starts right off revealing that Japanese propaganda during the war claimed that the G.I.s would rape all the women, and that women should look as dirty as possible. Fumiye Miho had seen the racial prejudice in Hawaii so she moved to Japan in 1939 to teach English. Three of her brothers, however, chose to volunteer for the U.S. military during the war. One was rejected but worked for the community in other ways. Two were accepted, but one was killed in a training accident. Their father, meanwhile, was detailed on the mainland for the duration of the war.
More information on the family is given, and more fascinating information on Fumiye's life in Tokyo where she was even called a fool for wearing an American hat in the time leading up to the war. She lost her teaching job since teaching English was now forbidden and later ended up living at her sister's house on the outskirts of Hiroshima.
She talks about how in Japan, even when it was losing the war, all the propaganda said it was winning the war. She talks about what happened right after the atomic bomb was dropped. She worked as an interpreter for the Japanese military officials during the occupation and writes about how astounded they were that the Americans behaved so decently towards them. She eventually returned to Hawaii to regain her U.S. citizenship and became a quaker.
The next chapter concerns the Asami family and how the husband was arrested at midnight on Dec. 7. He was the managing editor of a bilingual newspaper that was pro-Japan. The family ended up heading back towards Japan although they ended up getting off the boat in Singapore and working there for a newspaper.
As the fortunes of war changed the family was told they would need to leave Singapore. The father and his youngest son boarded a ship traveling under a U.S. safe-conduct pass. but it was sunk by an American
submarine and both died.
The rest of the family moved to Hikari in Honshu. One of them ended up having a lot of hatred towards her since she was not regarded as being properly Japanese. She worked in different jobs right after the war although she had to quit one since her boss, an American, wanted her to become his mistress.
The third chapter is the Tanaka story. One woman was taken by the FBI on Hawaii since she was the principal of the Showa Japanese Language School. She ended up at the Crystal City, Texas camp. One son ended up working as an interpreter and translator for the U.S. military. His sister was in Japan, working for Japanese intelligence by monitoring communications. As with the other chapters, information is included about what happened to the various family members after the end of the war.
The fourth chapter is the Yempuku story. One son fought in the U.S. military and others fought for the Japanese (the one was in Hawaii, the others lived in Japan.) Chapter 5 is the Miyasato story. One son was in Japan and in school and was subject to the military indoctrination that occurred during that time. He lived with about thirty Nisei in Tokyo. That was where the one brother's feelings about Japan changed as he was subjected to prejudice and discrimination for being a Nisei and not a "true" Japanese.
Chapter 6 is the Fujiwara story. Teruto Fujiwara grew up in Hawaii, but when he was 14 his family moved to Japan. He was in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped and was injured. He describes what happened to him (and it's not pretty).
Chapter 7 is the Yamamoto story. Kazuyuki Yamamoto recounts how he was born in Hiroshima, moved to Hawaii and taught at a language school while his wife and three daughters, who were born in Hawaii, had returned to Japan to care for his sick mother. When he returned to Japan he was one of those who was convinced that Japan had really won the war and realized when he got there just how wrong he was.
His wife and one daughter were killed in the bombing of Hiroshima.
This is a very interesting book in that it is very personal and does exactly what it set out to do - show how some families were split by the war and the consequences of what happened to them.
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