Military Intelligence Service
Yoshiaki Fujitani is born August 1923 in Pauwela, Maui. He is the second of eight children born to Kodo and Aiko Fujitani.
Both parents are issei. Educated in Japan, Kodo is a Buddhist minister from Shimane-ken. Raised in Hawaii since the age of four, Aiko aspires to teach; but, lacking U.S. citizenship, she is ineligible to teach in the territorial public schools.
Yoshiaki and his siblings are dual citizens of Japan and the United States.
I was born in 1923. In a small town called Pauwela. Pauwela, Maui.
[My father's] name was Kodo Fujitani and he was a minister at the Pauwela Hongwanji.
He was the second son in this family. I forget my grandfather's name. But in Shimane prefecture a place called Hikawa-gun Hisagi-mura in Shimane. There was a temple named Gekkoji, which is a very nice name. Gekkoji, "light of the moon." And Dad was the second son of three sons. And so he didn't have the responsibility of taking over the temple. His elder brother was supposed to take over.
And so he was, you might say, more adventurous and he did what he wanted to. But he wanted also to study Buddhism so he was in school at Bukkyo Daigaku - in Kyoto - when he was asked to accompany Otani Kozui on his expedition to Southeast Asia or South Asia. And so he went and later on came back and continued his studies of Buddhism.
So he continued his studies [as a Buddhist missionary] after he came back from India. And got his tokudo [ordination rites], his kyoshi, his ordination. And he was sent to Okinawa for a year. And this was in 1915, 16 around that time, maybe a little later. And so he came back from Okinawa. And then he was sent to Hawaii.
He came to Hawaii in 1920, I believe. So he was a latecomer.
And so he was at the main temple on Pali Highway originally and I think he taught at the school. But then he was transferred to Pauwela Hongwanji.
[My mother's] name was Aiko Furukawa and she came from Toyama prefecture.
Her dad was, well, we were told that he was a masseur. But later on we found out that in Toyama, the so-called masseur was a kind of a paramedic kind of a person who had certain talents or skills, in medical practices. But we think he was more a pharmacist who used to do masseur work as well. And so he wasn't just a simple masseur but he had certain credentials in pharmacy.
And he and his wife, with their only child, who was my mother Aiko, came to Hawaii in 1907 or 1908 around that time. And they went to Kauai. They lived in Hanamaulu.
[S]he was four years of age when she came to Hawaii and so she went through the public school system. And I'm not sure how they did it but she chose to go into teaching. So she went to Normal School. And I always like to believe that when a person was ready for high school, it was either high school or if they chose to go to Normal School.
In N. America, normal schools were for training primary school teachers. In Continental Europe, different normal schools also trained teachers at secondary and tertiary levels. (Oxford English Dictionary, 2006)
But anyway she came out to Honolulu and attended Normal School. And while she was attending school, she stayed at the Hongwanji [Mission] dormitory and served as a housemother, you might say. And so the connection with the Hongwanji was very, very early.
Well she wanted to [pursue a career in teaching] but because she was an alien - you know she was four when she came so basically an alien - she was not permitted to teach. I guess there must have been some kind of law. And so she went on to commercial college or something to learn secretarial skills. And maybe that's where she learned typing and stuff like that.
I'm not sure whether she was a very strong Buddhist or not but it seems the people from Toyama - in fact there are a lot of her relatives who were here at that time already and they're not all Hongwanji Buddhists either. I mean, we have some pretty strong Methodists, Christians, in the family. And so they belong to Harris Memorial [a Methodist church], for instance. That is the Oyama family and so on. But well, it just so happened that Mother's folks belonged to a Buddhist temple so the emphasis wasn't on a person's religion. They were what they wanted to be, you might say.
[My mother] was at the Hongwanji as the housemother, at dormitory, girls' dormitory. And so Dad came to Hawaii at - he was in his thirties already. But he was thirty-five and Mother was twenty when they got married. So there's a fifteen-year difference. But she was there and it must have been a kind of a shimpai [arranged marriage] kind of a deal where they wanted to marry this minister, single minister, getting on in his age. Yeah. He's getting older so they said, "How about it?"
(Chuckles) So I guess that's the way they got married.
And so they got married and went on to Pauwela. And seven of us were born in Pauwela.
And another was born later in Toyama. Within a period of twelve years, I think eight of us were born. So anyway, after the seventh, I think Dad got instructions to move out to Honolulu. And so they decided, okay then, they'll move out.
And at the same time, Mother decided to take the three youngest kids to Japan to visit her home. And so I think it was in 1934, around that time, that she left. And when they came back, there were four children. (Chuckles) One was born in Toyama. So there are eight kids.
[W]e're all Americans, of course, we're all born here. And even the eighth, I guess she was registered at the consulate, the embassy. And so there was no problem with that.
[W]hen we were born, we were all given dual citizenship because - I forget the technical term - but the Japanese from Japan who bear children in a foreign country, would claim that child as a citizen of Japan. But in America, a person born here is an American citizen. And so we had the dual citizen. And, of course, that was cumbersome and caused a lot of problems. And so most of us severed one side. Well, most of us, the Japanese side. So we don't have dual citizenship anymore.
Well, in our family, because Dad spoke only Japanese and Mother was bilingual, we gravitated towards Mother, all the time. We hardly went to Dad. And so we found it more comfortable and, of course, we had the advantage of an English [-language] upbringing.
In some respects, as I look back, I was not very conscious of any difference in our being Japanese or American or whatever. At Pauwela for instance, Mother used to be very good in relating to people of different races.
And so we remember the Inciong family, (chuckles) for instance, in Haiku, who used to join their friends who were members of the Pauwela Hongwanji in youth activities and things like that. And Mother made them feel very comfortable. And so, I guess, we learned from that, too. That, we might look different but we're the same, that kind of attitude.
Yoshiaki Fujitani's interview reprinted courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Yoshiaki Fujitani.