The Hawaii Nisei Story
The Hawaii Nisei Story is a website that’s a presentation of the oral histories of Americans of Japanese Ancestry. I went to a presentation where Shari Tameshiro, Cybrarian and Webmistress at Kapiolani College, presented the site. The site is a virtual museum exhibit.
There are text transcripts from the interviews, pictures, larger historical context, and video excerpts where you can see the interview.
She showed us the story of Takejiro Higa, born in Hawaii, spent a portion of childhood in Okinawa, then came back to Hawaii when Japan went to war (in order to avoid serving). He then served in the American armed forces doing intelligence. What he went through in his return to Okinawa is amazing.
One day, Takejiro is ordered to report to corps headquarters. There he sees a huge map of the southern half of Okinawa. He freezes as if doused with a bucket of ice water; he realizes the next target is Okinawa.
Then next, he showed me - oh, he asked me, “Where did your grandfather used to live?” So I pointed in the general area of the map. And then he pulled out one big picture again. And this entire block of my village, exactly how I remember, 1939. Because this village has no military value, so no bombing, no nothing, no shelling. Entirely as is. So I quickly located my grandfather’s house. And from there, I finger traced all my relatives homes. All intact. Okay, I feel good, you know. Anshin [relieved]. Then third one, he pulled out one more map.
One more picture, showing a bunch of Okinawan haka facing the ocean. Beautiful scenery. So I look at that, I guess I look at the G2 officer, “What’s the big deal about this picture” kind of face, I think. Ho, he scold me, “G*dd*mnit, look at it carefully, we think the whole island is fortified.”
Quickly realizing they had a misconception, so I said, “No, no, no, no. Chigau, chigau [You’re mistaken].This is the Okinawa special grave above the ground burial tomb. And then I described to him how it’s made, what the inside looks like, what its shape, all this for. And I explained to him it’s shaped like a woman’s womb. And the entrance is where the baby comes out. And in front of the entrance, there’s a square mound, see. That represents the woman’s breast. And in front, get the small opening where families get together on special occasions. Obon [Buddhist summer festival] like. And then celebrate, offer senko [incense] and whatnot. I explained to him and what the inside looked like. So this is not fortification.
So at that point he tell me, “Junior, you’re going to help us from here on. Every day. For that, whatever you see, whatever we talk about, whatever anybody else talks about, not a word to anybody unless on a need-to-know basis. You understand?” “Yes, Sir.”