December 7, 2013, marks the seventy-second year anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. Americans certainly remember the date for the sake of our elderly veterans, and for the fact that we entered World War II as a result.
Alice Takemoto, Oberlin College, ’47.
What do the Japanese think about Pearl Harbor?
It depends on the age or generation of the person you ask. Younger people certainly don’t have the same reaction as older people. Yoshiteru T. (b. 1970) is frank and simple about it. He thinks it was a big mistake, but, the current cultural disposition now is that the United States government did in fact know about the attack before hand, and let it happen. This changes the view, certainly.
But, then there were the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan had ravaged the East for five years or more, wreaking devastation and cruelty on every people of eastern Asia. Japan was an enormous, surprise force in the world. The United States government made no surprise attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. All were well-warned. They simply didn’t believe until they saw and felt the nuclear explosions. It has been said that 52% of today’s Japanese people condemn the bombings, but 73.2% can’t are unsure of when the bombings took place. Thus the cultural context of moral issues trump the data of history itself.
Junichiro Koizumi (left) follows chief Shinto
preist in Tokyo January, 2004.(AP photo)
What many of the baby-boomer generation (after subsequent generations) are barely aware of is the infamous internment camps to which American Japanese people were sent to. There were many, mostly for taking Japanese people away from the west coast, and placing them somewhere east of the Rock Mountains. (There were two camps, however, in Arkansas.) Some 110,000 Japanese-Americans were relocated to these camps. They weren’t prisons; they weren’t torturous, nor were they slums. They were just precautions, or so we are told.
Certainly, when the popular Filipino Michelle Maglalang Malkin published her raging second book, In Defense of Internment (2004), she made the case for racial profiling not only for the Japanese, then, but for the Arab (Middle Eastern) terrorists today. It was a matter of management, safety, and security for the nation. Every nation has the right to defend itself. The “camps” were not for mistreatment, starvation, experiment, or any other such cruel design at all. And it was all very temporary in purpose.
Michelle Maglalang Malkin, Filipino American patriot.
Of course, considering the way the Japanese armies treated the Filipinos in their own homeland (and elsewhere), one cannot expect to hear any too positive a regard for the Japanese coming from Michelle Maglalang Malkin. Nevertheless, her points must be considered.
What I personally never knew about was the fact that many Japanese students on the West Coast were sent to colleges and universities in the mid-western United States. I never knew that 17 Nesei (second generation Japanese Americans) were sent to Oberlin College. Both myself and Michelle Malkin graduated from Oberlin, I in 1974 and she in 1992. I certainly never heard anything of any Japanese connection. I knew that Oberlin had a traditional academic/cultural connection to Asia, particularly China, but, housing Japanese American students during WWII is something that was never mentioned when I was there.
The Fall 2013 edition of the Oberlin Alumni Magazine has an entire article on this educational incident, by Lisa Chiu. It is six pages of very interesting text and photography.
On the cover, there is one of the most elegant, innocent, and lovely photographs of a young Japanese lady student you’ll ever see. Her name is Alice Takemoto,’47, and she is apparently live and well, with a book, no less. It appears like some dream from the past, when Oberlin reached out, as it often has, to those in social distress of one kind or another.
On this Pearl Harbor Day, then, let’s remember a dream. A dream of honor, heroism, pride, racial dignity, tolerance, and just simply innocence and beauty. No one can beat the white American, when he conscious enough to wield his strength; no one can respect honor more deeply than the Japanese; no one is more racially aware and proud than the Japanese, either. But, in the case of a young coed student at Oberlin, I have to say, simple beauty has its place in the arena of greatness.