On Citizenship And The Club 100

Author: Dick Oguro, B Company
Source: Puka Puka Parades, July 1960, vol. 13 no. 7

Dick Oguro describes how the Japanese-Americans became citizens after war and the social, economic and cultural issues before Pearl Harbor and the War that shaped their citizenship.

We members of Club 100 come by, take it for granted, and enjoy our American citizenship as an American birthright bestowed upon us by virtue of we having been born American citizens on American soil, in a Territory under the American flag. However, we were born of foreign parentage, parents whose homeland was the land of the Rising Sun, a warlike country heavily over populated, steeped in military traditions, ancestral Shinto worship, and divine Emperor worship.

Naturally, whether we liked it or not, many of us were made dual citizens by our parents registering us as subjects of their homeland, through the local Japanese consulate. American citizenship was barred our immigrant[sic] parents, and it was only natural for our parents to want their offsprings to be of the same citizenship as they themselves. Thus, dual, citizenship was bestowed upon us, on the whole, without our knowledge.

However, this fact accounted for many of us who were sent to Japan for higher education, in many instances, being conscripted into the Imperial Army for military service of one kind or another Japan has always operated under a universal military conscription policy. Usually, exceptions were granted students pursuing higher education, only upon specific requests through the Japanese consulate here.

The former who performed military service with His Imperial Army, on the whole, remained in Japan to become Japanese subjects, renouncing their American citizenship and living henceforth in the homeland of their parents. The latter who returned to Hawaii and although still citizens were slightly ostracized by being called Kibei’s, being considered more Japanese-fied than American-ized. Conversely, all Nisseis [sic] were never fully accepted as equals in Japan. They were considered too Americanized.

It must be admitted here, too, that the original and most logical intent of our foreign born parents was to have their offsprings (us) someday to return triumphant in wealth and education to their homeland and to assume a rightful place under the sun. Towards this end, no doubt, the language schools were vigorously supported and unwilling offsprings were compelled to attend and absorb, or else!

But the nature of human beings to adapt and adjust to new environment and change is simply amazing. We attended the public schools most of our waking day and spent only a few hours per day at the Japanese language school. English was a more predominantly spoken language in or out of our home. Hence, the logical development of pidgin English plus sign language and accompanying gestures as a necessary means of communication in business as well as for home use by our parents.

Our playmates were from the beginning polyglot, of all nationalities, of varied customs and races, and all living together in and around the same neighborhood. But our mode of life was molded and fashioned by the free public education system which expounded the principles of democracy, the three freedoms and equal opportunity for all. The focal point in our day to day living was the public school that we attended.

Moreover, fears of bitter frustrations of not being able to become “millionaires” overnight changed the outlook of our foreign born parents. With their offsprings growing into manhood under democratic ideals, and their pains of labor being eased considerably by better standards of living, their intense and burning desire to return to Japan to live out the rest of their earthly days dimmed, very greatly. Their only thought now has been that they be granted a last glimpse of their native homeland that many haven’t seen since they left it in their early teens, before their time is up. And we should be duty bound to do this!

Dual citizens were on paper, but truly Americans we were in body and soul. And of course, looking at it very philosophically one way, it was fortunate indeed that World War II came along just as it did so that this point could be proven beyond the shadow of a doubt. And when the blue chips were down, even those who had been labelled[sic]Kibei’s had proven their loyalty unequivocally.

The off-shoot of this war, locally, was to open up citizenship (naturalized citizenship) to our heretofore not-privileged-by-law foreign born parents. And many of our parents have taken advantage of the McCarran Act.

Moreover, the fight for Hawaiian statehood was intensified. As aterritory, we were still denied some things privileged to states.

As a Territory, we were still second-class citizens. With the crowning achievement of Hawaii as a state, however, we have now attained the ultimate in citizenship, first-class citizenship. We are now equal with the rest of the 49 states. We can now have a voice in the election of the President of the United States. We have an active voice in the upkeep of the Constitution, and proportionate representation in Congress. The supreme sacrifice of those who are not with us today WAS NOT IN VAIN!