Traditional Japanese Values

Most of the Japanese American soldiers had come from closely knit communities in Hawaii and on the mainland. Many of the soldiers had brothers, brothers-in-law, cousins, childhood friends, and neighbors also serving in the 100th and 442nd. This common background contributed to the cohesiveness and achievements of the battalion and regiment.

Veteran Stanley Akita who served as president of the 100th veterans’ club in Honolulu was transferred from the 442nd Regiment to the 100th to reinforce the battalion after it had experienced a high casualty rate in Italy. In a June 2003 Hawaii Herald interview, Akita said: “The guys were older and more combat experienced than us replacements. They taught us a lot of things, practical things on how to stay alive in the front lines … Just by watching I learned a lot. They were like older brothers to us guys without experience.”

In the late 1990s, a group of 100th sons and daughters in Hawaii began an oral history project. They found many of the veterans cited Japanese values they had learned from their parents or at Japanese language school as influencing their actions as soldiers. Values they mentioned were:

  • Kamei ni kizu tsuke na – don’t do anything to dishonor the family name.
  • Giri – duty
  • Meiyo – honor
  • Chugi – loyalty
  • Haji and hokori – shame and pride
  • Kuni no tame – give all to your country
  • Gambaru – endure, persevere
  • Shikata ga nai – accept the circumstances
  • Kokomo no tame ni – for the sake of the children of future generations
  • Oya koko – respect of parents
  • On – obligation
  • Kansha – gratitude

In the same interview, Akita was asked what his parents said to him before he left for the war. “My father told me,” Akita said, “don’t ever do anything to embarrass the family and that stayed with me throughout my life.”

In October 1962, 160 veterans and wives took a 30-day tour to Japan, one of many visits 100th veterans made to Japan. Most of the arrangements were made by a wealthy businessman, Hirosuke Ishikawa. At the various cities they visited, Mr. Ishikawa had arranged for the mayor and other officials to greet the group. He also scheduled a senzo kuyo at the Ryozen Kannon Shrine in Kyoto during which one thousand priests from different areas of Japan came to honor the 100th soldiers who had been killed in combat. Even though they had been American soldiers, Mr. Ishikawa believed that they had fought with honor and shared the same blood as the people in Japan.

by Susan Omura, daughter of 100th veteran Kenneth Muroshige. Susan managed the Hawaii State Grant to create the 100th Education Center, including this website.