The U.S.-Japan Council’s Pacific Northwest / Portland region and Shokookai of Portland hosted a unique story of the Japanese American experience during WWII, as told by Ed Kawasaki. Ed was 11 when his family moved from Hawaii to Hiroshima to look after his grandfather. Ed was living in Japan as an American citizen at the outbreak of WWII. When he was 16, he was an eyewitness to the atomic bomb and shared his recollections of that historic day and how he survived the tragedy. Ed’s story also touched on Japanese life as seen through the eyes of an American during the WWII era, including the steps taken by the local governing organizations to cope with being at war.
Ed served his country for two years in the U.S. Army, honorably discharged at the rank of Captain, and 6 years in the reserve for the 442nd. His first-hand stories about the Japanese American experience in America during the period following the war were insightful and impactful. Though the war and bombing were one of the world’s most tragic and devastating events, Ed’s perspectives regarding the outcomes of the bombing are noteworthy:
The war resulted in a new Constitution detailing a democratic process for governing.
The war replaced a military dictatorship with a conservative political structure.
The war provided national security to Japan through the presence of occupational forces of the U.S. military.
The war resulted in economic support from the U.S. which kick-started Japan’s prosperity.
In 1998, Ed attended a high school 50th class reunion in Hiroshima. Many of his classmates suffered through WWII, but later were able to experience the post-war peace and prosperity. Classmates said they were thankful for the support of the economy and security that America provided. They also noted that had Japan been occupied by countries such as Russia or China, the condition of the post-war occupation of Japan and the result may have been very different.
Ed Kawasaki was born in 1929 in Honolulu, Hawaii and today is one of Portland’s most iconic Japanese American citizens and a respected leader within the Japanese American community. The event is the first of a series of events the USJC Portland region and Portland Shokookai will host.
Many thanks to Shokookai of Portland for the photos!