Introduction of the Interviewee
The interviewee in this paper is a 93-year-old Japan-born woman. The woman was married at the age of 16. The woman is a resident of Yokohama in Japan. She was married to an American husband. At the time of their marriage, her husband worked as a Seaman in Yokohama, Japan. “Her husband was American, and they met in Yokohama and he was a Seamen” (Yamamoto1). When she met her husband, she was working in Yokohama’s China town as a server in a restaurant. The interviewee had traveled to Yokohama, Japan after the war. She came to Yokohama alone. This means that she did not come to this town of her free will: she was running away from war. The interviewee remained here until 33years of age when the two moved out.
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When her husband quit his naval job, he found another job with postal services. During this time, her husband wanted to begin family life as evidenced by the words, “He quit his job…and wanted to start a family out here” (Yamamoto 1). The husband of the interviewee was a German American who was born in Kansas. He spoke German. However, the husband did not want to raise a family in Japan. He wanted the interviewee to move with him to America.
The interviewee’s parents were living in Kansas during the time of her birth. However, the parents decided to move to another place. In fact, Yamamoto says, “He was just born in Kansas then his family moved to Seattle” (2). When the interviewee planned to move from Japan to America, her family was not for such an idea. Her family is still in Yokohama, Japan, including her sister and nephew. However, the members normally visit her in America. Hence, family ties are still there. It is also evident that she did not spend the whole of her life close to her parents because she does not know whether her parents got other children or not. If she had spent her life with her parents, she would be knowing whether they got other children or not.
Perhaps the war period during which she was born was the one that made her separate from her parents and her other children. The interviewee had several siblings. However, the only evident sibling is her younger sister who lives in Yokohama as confirmed by Yamamoto when he says, “She still has family, nephew and sister, in Yokohama” (2). The other is not well known to her. In fact, she says that she has to check and confirm, “There might be more. I have to check” (Yamamoto 6). This statement creates the impression that she does not know whether there are other sisters or even brothers. This tells the reader that her upbringing was not conducive to introduce her to her other siblings. She must have not grown together with them so she does not know whether they were there or not.
Circumstances leading to her birth, upbringing, and adolescence
The interviewee was born sometime before the Second World War. It is not clear as to the circumstances that led to her birth. However, she lived with her parents for only 18 years in China and left for America. There is also a clue that her parents loved her before she left. In fact, they refused the whole plan though their wish could not be heard (Yamamoto 2). She went to America against her parents’ wish. When she first went to Yokohama in Japan, she was running away from the effects of the Second World War. “She came, after… the war, by herself” (Yamamoto, 1) meaning that she was old enough to run away. Another hint about her upbringing is that she might have been a disobedient child because she could not take heed of her parents’ words for not going to America as she did.
It is also evident that she did not grow up with her other siblings because if she could have lived with them then she could have known them. However, she just knew the one who lived in Yokohama in Japan. She is not sure that there were others. It is also evident that she did not live with her parents in her early years since she does not know whether they got other children or not. In fact, she says that, for her to know whether there were other siblings, she has to check. It is also evident that she is not aware of her other relatives since she did not grow with them. She did not stay with them during her adolescence. If she could have stayed with them, she could have known them. However, she just knows only one nephew who lives with her sister at Yokohama.
Feelings/thoughts and Experience of the interviewee relative to individual/families in the readings
The interviewee has seen many things in her life. In fact, the many changes that have occurred have changed some part of her to accept life the way it is. The interviewee does not miss anything from her native Japan because so many years have passed since she left her motherland and that there is very little that can tie her to her motherland. This feeling holds because the only persons she can relate to as a family are two people. Thus, the bond that could have been created by the extended family is not there to make her yearn for it. More so, she left her family when she was only sixteen years of age. She has had a lot of movement since then that has blurred her attachment to many things that glued together the Japanese Society. The interviewee has been through four marriages in her life though she can only count three because one of them was not legalized concerning the law.
After getting married to her first husband, her family was opposed to the idea of her moving to the United States of America. However, she had to move because her husband wanted her to settle in America. Her first husband was a German American who spoke three languages. He worked as a sailor in the navy. When he died in China, she was able to marry again. This step brings in the hint that she wanted to be attached to a man always. One can argue that the attachment that she yearned for was because of the link she had lost with her parents. She needed some form of company. The interviewee was an Issei meaning she was the first-generation Japanese in America who underwent internment during the war (Sone 34). When she came to America, she did not have a problem settling down because of the existence of the Japanese community, which was already established. This experience enabled her to get a job though not one that required specialized skills because there were no schools for Japanese immigrants then.
The interviewee does not feel so much is lost because she has been able to live and work in America since the 1950s. Since her joining the American society, she could be assimilated into the society seamlessly because there were many first-generation Japanese immigrants referred to as Issei who had settled in the American society with who she could communicate (Glenn 32). More so, most of her neighbors could communicate in Japanese. This experience, therefore, made language, not a barrier as such. Although she had to start by doing menial jobs, she was paid, and that she was able to join the union, which remits her dues up to date. Accordingly, she feels that the family in the United States of America is not as cohesive as the family set up in Japan because of the individualistic nature of the American society compared to the Japanese society, which is full of closely followed traditions and customs, which enhance family cohesiveness. Although the interviewee wished to have children, she could not have any. Thus, she had to count on her husband’s children as the children in her family.
After completely missing her husband, she married another man. When they moved to America with the second husband, the woman was not able to have any child while they lived in America. However, she had tried to have children though she did not get any as Yamamoto confirms, “she tried but she was not able to have any” (3). This situation was painful for her. The interviewee did not know the English language when she went to America. However, most of the people in her place of work spoke Japanese. Hence, she did not have hard times when it came to speaking. It was also advantageous for her since the people that lived in her neighborhood also spoke Japanese. It is also worth noting that the interviewee could not remember exactly when she met Junko since she was married four times. However, she recalls that she met Junko at a restaurant that was next to a bakery by the name Fuji where she was working as a server.
Family ties are very weak in the interviewee’s life. There is no bond with relatives and even others would be family members. She personally does not have any family ties will the husbands she has married. Once she leaves them, or once a misfortune such as death happens on one of them, she moves on to marry another one. She encountered a trying moment of losing a husband as it happens in today’s families. The interviewee’s second husband died in a car accident in 1963. They had stayed with her for only ten years. In addition, she got married again in 1965 (Yamamoto 5). In her third marriage, she stayed with a Japanese man of the second generation. To her, this was one of the bad people in the world. Therefore, she did not stay with her for long. This was not a legal marriage since the interviewee was only married legally two times only as evidenced by the words, “legally, she was married twice.”(Yamamoto 5).
In her fourth marriage, the interviewee was involved with another man for a long time. As it can be treated in contemporary times, staying with a man for a long time may be viewed as marriage though not a legal one. She believed that it was also a marriage with her fourth husband in life. According to her, she could not allow herself to be legally married to the previous person since she knew that this one had a very good package. In fact, this hint made her pick the man’s name to be her last name: Hosler. This man had children already: two girls. However, the interviewee wanted children though she was not able to have any.
The interviewee got married at the age of 16 years meaning that she had spent a considerable number of years alone before making a decision to get married. It is worth noting that she spent her later teenage life in marriage to the German American husband. For example, they moved out of Yokohama when she was aged 33years after spending 17 years in marriage to the German American husband. In fact, they would have remained in Yokohama in Japan were it not that the husband wanted to move with her to America. This case indicates her ability and commitment to bring up and sustain a family.
To her husband, starting a family, which meant having children and bringing them up, would only have worked in America and not in Japan. As such, he had to leave his job as a seaman and take a postal job in America. This effort shows his commitment to the family. It is also evident that she had received some education during her adolescence because when she went to America with her husband she was able to acquire a job as a type-sitter. Therefore, she had some technical know-how in the operations of the typewriter. She was also good at reading the Japanese language. Later on, when the Second World War ended, she moved back to her place of birth, Japan, because the impact of the Second World War was very intensive in Japan before. She had moved to China to escape the harm of the war. In fact, “she lived in China for 18 years before coming to America” (Yamamoto 2).
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Comparisons between the Interviewee and others
When compared to other characters in the books read in class, the interviewee comes out as a flexible person who is able to live in any society and fit in without a problem. She has lived in Chinese society as well as American society. In fact, her adaptability has seen her life in these two foreign societies without a problem. When compared to the characters in the Nisei Daughter, she comes out as a liberal person who is not bogged down by cultural practices that define her origins and heritage. In the book Nisei Daughter by Monica Sone, it is found out that, most Japanese parents of the first generation referred to as Issei had conflicts with their children born in the American society who were referred to as Nissei meaning second-generation (Glenn 12). Most of these parents try to preserve Japanese culture. They have devised strategies for accomplishing this goal. In fact, despite them having come from Japan, they find it difficult to train their own children to follow the same culture due to the influences of the American culture (Sone 15). This kind of conflict does not seem to have had any influence on the interviewee because she has developed coping mechanisms due to her independent-mindedness that cut her filial piety by moving away to America (Hashimoto 3).
The interviewee is different from other Issei because, whereas most women of her time then came in as war brides, war brides were foreign wives brought in from abroad by servicemen after their duties abroad. However, in her case, she came on her own. Just as many women then and mostly foreign women, the only work she could do was the one that did not require any expertise. Most women then worked as house helps or cleaners in buildings. According to Glen, this task is one of the jobs she did then when she came to the United States of America (8). Women during those days could only get menial jobs, which were demeaning because women were looked down upon in a chauvinistic male society. Largely, the interviewee comes out as a person with a mixture of personalities. She keeps some Japanese values when she goes to help her friend who is the owner of the Koraku restaurant. According to Japanese culture, friends help friends. However, in her case, she does not take up employment at her friend’s restaurant because employment would mean that she is paid for the job she does in the restaurant. The interviewee has kept in touch with her sister and her nephew who visit her occasionally. This style of visiting is a common practice in Japanese society that emphasizes filial piety Hashimoto 23). Most Japanese families still have ties with their original families back in Japan.
Personal Reflections as compared to the Interviewee
My experience of family contrasts from that of the interviewee in that I have been able to grow up in a stable family with all the members around me. Compared to the interviewee’s family setup, which was broken up with her movement to a foreign country, my family has been intact all the time. Thus, I have had the opportunity to grow up in the family to a mature age. The interviewee was married at an early age of sixteen years old, which is a very early age for me to get married. In fact, being in my mid-twenties, I feel too young to get married. More so, she was married to a foreigner during a time after just the First World War. I have had the opportunity to stay in my country of birth with my family and to have my education as well in a settled environment, which the interviewee never had an opportunity to experience. When the interviewee arrived in America, she connected with other Japanese and later got a job with a Japanese newspaper as a type-sitter. The marriage life of the interviewee is not a perfect example. However, as she narrates about it, she does not seem guilty of it because the interviewee had been married four times.
It is also surprising that her life was full of misfortunes. One of her husbands died in a car accident. She then married another man. She used to typeset using a Japanese typewriter. The interviewee had lived in Japan and China before coming to Seattle. For example, she had lived in China for 18years. Her reason for staying in China was that she was married there. While in China, she and her husband stayed in Beijing during World War II. However, when the war ended, she continued to stay in China since she chose to do so. This decision differs from my experience with my family. It will be difficult for me to stay away from my family for long as the interviewee does not seem to long for her family. In fact, “After the war, she stayed one more year” (Yamamoto 3) in China. It was because of her family’s health that she moved back. Her main reason for being in China was that her first husband was involved in the war. She waited for her husband though he never appeared again after the war. “Her husband didn’t come back from China…they said he was dead” (Yamamoto 3). The report that she got was that her husband died in the war. This made her search for her husband for a long without any success. She never found the man she had married again. Her effort to search for her husband might match with my desire for the people I loved whom I did not have a chance to see for long. Although I have most of my family members with me, I long for seeing some others who I hear died when I was young. However, as a reality that I need to accept, they will never come back as the interviewee did not find her beloved husband.
Glenn, Everlyne. Issei, Nisei, War Bride: Three Generations of Japanese American Women in Domestic Service. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2010. Print.
Hashimoto, Akiko. Culture, Power, and the Discourse of Filial Piety in Japan: The Disempowerment of Youth and Its Social Consequences. Japan: Stanford University Press, 1999. Print.
Sone, Monica. Nisei Daughter. Seatle: University of Washington Press, 1979. Print.
Yamamoto, Junko. Interview with Japanese elder Tama Hosler. New York: Word Press, 2012. Print.