Nikkei stories of survival

FAMILY TORN APART: THE INTERNMENT STORY OF THE OTOKICHI MUIN OZAKI FAMILY
Edited By Gail Honda (Honolulu: Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i, 2012, 312 pp., $26, paperback)

GO FOR BROKE! ME AND THE WAR
By Isami (Mike) Tsuji (Fullerton, Calif.: Nikkei Writers Guild, A Division of Japanese American Living Legacy, 2011, 160 pp., $14, paperback)

FAMILY TORN APART: THE INTERNMENT STORY OF THE OTOKICHI MUIN OZAKI FAMILY

These two stories of two Japanese Americans in Hawai‘i — one a composite of an Issei and the other an autobiography by a Nisei — both make for an interesting read. After Dec. 7, 1941, they both travel to the mainland at the United States government’s expense. While the trajectories of these two men seem to parallel each other, their reasons for being in America, their experiences, and their destinations could not be more different.

“Family Torn Apart” is a reconstructed story of Otokichi Muin Ozaki and his family’s odyssey after Dec. 7, 1941. Ozaki’s confinement in six different internment camps and two American concentration camps and his family’s journey to try to reunite is chronicled through extensive use of letters, poetry, radio scripts (Ozaki’s remembrances after the war), archival and FBI files and other sources.

The reader is treated to a complex portrait of an educated, philosophical father and husband who during peacetime was a highly respected community leader in Hilo, Hawai‘i. He greeted Japanese naval ships that visited Hawai‘i, received many awards from the Japanese government for his community service and had pieced together a short wave radio that provided him with news from Domei News that he would transcribe for the Hilo station.

Needless to say, Ozaki was on the FBI radar screen from the late ‘30s for activities that under ordinary circumstances would be part of his job, but when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, times changed and he along with many other Issei community leaders began their journey to internment facilities.

However, his story is unique not just because he was incarcerated in six different internment centers and two concentration camps, but because this story is of a family torn apart trying desperately to reunite on the mainland and a testament of the human spirit to survive. Through meticulous research and skillful editing, we are treated to an “insider’s” view of an entire family and their experiences during those very difficult times.

* * *

GO FOR BROKE! ME AND THE WAR

“Go for Broke” is an interesting short autobiography of Isami (Mike) Tsuji, the other Japanese American from Hawai‘i. His voice comes out loud and clear in a very straightforward account of why he volunteered for 442nd Regimental Combat Team, his experiences as he traveled from Hawai‘i to mainland boot camp in the heart of the Jim Crow South, of visiting one of the concentration camps in Arkansas, his first day of combat in Italy and being wounded in France that ended his war days of World War II.

His story, as he tells it, is not a story of medals or the extraordinary exploits of the 100th/442nd across Europe, but rather a “soldier’s story.” In fact, his saga, precisely because of his understated style, allows the reader to explore not only what was said but what was left unsaid.

No doubt, Tsuji faced many situations where he had to deal with feelings of loss of close buddies, anger, self-doubt, sheer terror of combat, and looking into the face of death itself. He, nevertheless, avoids the temptation of glorifying his own deeds of bravery, courage, and valor on the battlefields to just telling an ordinary soldier’s story.

Speak Your Mind

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Kyplex Cloud Security Seal - Click for Verification