Feeling conflicted as a Japanese scholar studying Nikkei (Japanese)

Transcripts available in the following languages:

(Japanese) When I do these studies in America, someone always questions my abilities, asking, “What good can a person from Japan do?” So I’ve been thinking about it for a long time, and… well, it probably is somewhat of an issue, and of course it might be better that, depending on the theme of the research, if, say, someone with first-hand experience of segregation and such can do the research instead, and they would be able to report about it most accurately. But if there’s one thing I can say—from a research point of view—is that it’s also important for someone who wasn’t there to look at the situation from a different point of view, and to see it and research it in this different perspective… and of course it would be a problem if it [the research] was done only from this point of view, but what I want to say is that I think it’s OK to have both types of perspectives. That’s kind of how I feel about it these days.

But really, at one point, I felt like maybe I didn’t have the right to be doing this research, and became really unsure of where to go from there. Well, see, the people who have experienced it can really point out the facts—“Oh, it was like this, and this was like that,” and so on, you know? They can define it from experience. On the other hand, all we [from Japan] could do was read the history books and say that “it was probably like this…” This kind of analysis can be fairly weak and shaky at times. But then again, even if we aren’t able to make these definite statements, we are able to spread ourselves out and listen and see several different examples [from people who did experience it]. So that’s why I think it’s OK to have both [perspectives]. I was finally able to tell myself, that maybe what I’m doing can be of help to somebody. This was a recent development for me—I had felt lost for quite a long time.

Um… but the reason that I didn’t leave my field of study was because of the Issei people that I met in the ‘70s and ‘80s—they had become my treasures, and I couldn’t leave them. Also, back then, these Isseis, after letting me interview them, would often say, “Please write this down somewhere, OK?” So yeah… I continued my work, feeling that this was something that I absolutely had to do. But you know, assigning people as the “subject of research” would make me feel bad sometimes. That’s part of the reason why I had this inner conflict of being a Japanese person doing research on Japanese Americans. I guess I’ve gotten over it a just little.

Date: October 7, 2005
Location: California, US
Interviewer: Ann Kaneko
Contributed by: Watase Media Arts Center, Japanese American National Museum

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