Yoshiaki Fujitani
Military Intelligence Service

Schools in Honolulu

Like other neighborhood children, Yoshiaki attends Washington Intermediate School.

At McKinley High School, he is influenced by principal, Miles E. Cary, who implements a curriculum emphasizing participatory democracy.

ROTC is compulsory. By his senior year, Yoshiaki is a second lieutenant.

In 1940, he enrolls at the University of Hawaii.

Washington Intermediate

We got to meet more people close hand. So even in this Kapaakea Lane area, we got to know people. We had a lot of classmates, people that we were in Boy Scouts together and so on. So suddenly from a rather isolated place where we had a lot of space, we weren't pressed to do much, suddenly we're in a very active beehive-like atmosphere, where you have to interact with a lot of people.

Troop 2, Moiliili Community Center

And so the move to Moiliili sort of seemed to have given us a little bit more pressure. I was in the seventh grade and so I went to Washington Intermediate. In a way, I was a year younger than my classmates so I've always had that feeling that, "Well, I'm not as old as they are. I don't know as much as they do." That kind of feeling was always there.

One of the things that I experienced at Washington Intermediate was to be hijacked. A guy came up and said, "Give me a nickel." And so I gave it to him but I didn't think that was right to be hijacked that way. And so I reported that to the teacher and so the teacher called out the kid and he was ordered to give the money back to me. And the thing is, I received the money but then I said, "Chee, I wonder, this kid might need it more than I do." (Chuckles) And so I gave it back to him. But, you know, that kind of new experience, I mean, it never happened to me before and I didn't know how to behave actually. But anyway, that was one experience that I can't forget.

[W]e used to walk to school from Moiliili, Kapaakea Lane. We walked past the [Honolulu] Stadium, which was there. And just on the side was [Makahiki Way]. So turn left [at Makahiki], next street is Algaroba. And from Algaroba, straight down to Lokahi, which is Washington Intermediate School. So that was our route going to school.

And from there, though, I guess I started going to Hongwanji. So I think we used to take the bus, jitney, or whatever they call it. Large limousine that packed a lot of kids. So from there, we used to ride to Pali Highway, Fort Street. I think it cost us five cents for that ride.

[O]ur principal was a Mr. [Frederick] Clowes. But I don't remember too much about the other teachers. And I attribute that to a kind of cloud in my mind about things happening. To move from the country to this very busy place. Being preoccupied with a lot of things happening. My not remembering our teachers' names, for instance, is simply evidence that I didn't care about school, or teachers, or whatever.

So I don't remember too much about my seventh, eighth, ninth grade, except that I took music. And of all things, I don't know why, but I chose the violin. Now, guys don't take violin. But somebody must have put something in my ear for me to try that. But, having chosen the violin, it didn't last very long because soon I broke my wrist. I fell down and slid down something that I thought was firm enough. So I fell, and broke my hand, wrist, so I couldn't play. I think it was my left wrist. And so in music, the teacher said, "Well, you can play the drum." (Chuckles) And so that year, I played the drum. Never learned the violin.

And I insisted I was beating it in time but the teacher says, "No, you're off time." Just the simple beat, you know (chuckles). Oh my goodness, what kind of musician am I? So anyway, I remember that kind of humiliating music career that I had in school.

McKinley High School

I think it's very well known that we did have a Dr. Miles E. Cary, who was quite an educator, but I think he was a humanitarian as well. Because when the war broke out, he volunteered to serve in the relocation center somewhere to serve as an educator. He was that kind of a person.

But I think those of us who came under Miles E. Cary's influence were very fortunate. He was the one who insisted that we all learn democracy. And by "democracy," he meant it's a kind of participatory democracy. I mean, you have to be involved in things. And so, he's the number one man that we remember.

But under his tutelage, we had things like the homeroom where we all gathered first and got the news for the day and then went on to other classes. But we were all assigned certain tasks. And so you had your homeroom chairperson, or homeroom secretary, or you were club president, or whatever officer.

And these things were all listed in our annual. So that gave the person a sense of pride, that we did something in school, that kind of feeling. So I think there were a lot of psychology methods used but that educational process that we underwent was excellent.

Aside from Dr. Miles E. Cary, our principal, I remember our teachers. My sophomore teacher was - I think her name was Ruth Gantt, whose husband was a dairyman but she was a teacher. Very sensitive, very bright, so I remember her very well. She was our sophomore teacher.

My junior class teacher was Archie Jackson. I wasn't very close to him. I mean, I didn't really care for him. But you know, he had another brother also in school, as a teacher. Also Jackson, but I forget the first name.

My senior class teacher was someone whose name I have already forgotten. It'll come back sometime. You're dealing with a senior person with senior moments.

And also, I had a speech teacher whose name was Mrs. Spalding. And I remember her because she got us to memorize a lot of speeches and things like that. Like the Gettysburg Address, for instance. And she was one who encouraged me by saying, "Whatever you do, use your voice," she said. So that, to me, I took that to mean that oh, maybe I have a pretty good voice so I better use it.

So my high school experience, generally, was a very positive one. I really enjoyed school. Enjoyed doing a lot of things, including ROTC [Reserve Officer's Training Corps].

I was one of the typists in our Daily Pinion class, whereas our editor-in-chief that year was Amy Hironaka Shigezawa. And she's still around and she's writing. She recently wrote a book about the Pake Patch in the Moiliili area. But Hilda Morita was our managing editor, Richard Ando was our sports editor. These are the guys I remember. I know there was a Sylvia Zane who was the chief typist. And under her, there was Richard Kaneko and myself. And so our pictures appear in the annual, that's why I remember it (chuckles).

The Daily Pinion was the only daily high school newspaper in the state and they take very great pride in that fact. In the publication area, there was also Black and Gold, which was our annual. In our senior year, we knew the editors. They all did very good jobs. I think our annual has won prizes quite often.

In my senior year, I found out I had a deficiency. I was half a point or half a credit short or something. And that was pointed out to me, so I had to go back to take a course during the summer in order to graduate. And that course was the speech course with Mrs. Spalding. So that was something that I thought [was] time well spent. But anyway, we graduated.

Yoshiaki Fujitani at graduation, McKinley High School


At that time, I think [ROTC] was compulsory. If you didn't take ROTC, then you had to take phys ed or something like that. It was, mind and body kind of training purposes. But most of us enjoyed ROTC. Being in uniform and acting smart and all that.

[W]e had drills. And every morning we'd have inspection. So I guess we were being taught many things by that. Being meticulous in things we do, being clean, and so on. Being orderly. But we took it for three years in high school. So in the sophomore year, we were all buck privates.

Yoshiaki Fujitani as a ROTC cadet

Then, in our junior year, we were non-coms. And then in our senior year, we were commissioned officers, cadet commission officers. See, but I was a year younger than my classmates. So where my classmates were captains and majors, I was a second lieutenant. And, well, that didn't do very much for my self-confidence. But, I figured, they're a year older than I am, so it's okay.


Mrs. Spalding suggested that I go into education, that I become a teacher. But I've never felt confident. I look at our teachers and I think, "How can I be like them?" So I didn't take too well to that suggestion.

I entered the university in 1940 without any direction. So, I went into liberal arts, or arts and sciences, taking just the general courses like survey of sciences, and political science, and economics, anthropology, sociology. These basic things. And so what I wanted to be, actually, came gradually, later on.

My mother used to say things like, "I don't care what you be, just be a good one." (chuckles) She was pretty liberal that way. She had an education in Normal School, so she was not only Japanese but very Western. Even the way she dressed with her hat and all those things. There are pictures of her that way. But they just hoped that I would succeed in whatever I undertook, I guess.

[My father] didn't push me to go into the ministry or anything. Of course, the war came, and I went away, left school for a while, and then came back with the G.I. Bill money. And then I asked my dad, "What should I do? I have no idea. I have this scholarship money."

And he said, "Well, you know, you were born in a Buddhist family. If you have no idea what you want to do, maybe you should go and learn what Buddhism is all about." He didn't say anything about the ministry. Just learn.

University of Hawaii

Chee, I don't remember too much about [my first year at University of Hawaii]. See, we lived in Moiliili and so university was right up the hill, and so I walked to school every day. But it was those basic courses.

I guess I wasn't a very good student, maybe C+ or B- kind of a student. I argued with my mother once, about grades. And I said, "You want me to be happy and be a B student, or unhappy and be an A student?" And of course she said, "I want you to be happy."

There was a course on history. I wish I could remember [the instructors] name but he was from Germany. And so I kind of think it was in my second year. I was a sophomore then, in this history - it was world history course. And one day he announced to us that he has to go home. And so we were unhappy about that because he was a good teacher. I mean, we enjoyed him a lot. With a subtle German accent. But that was because his country, Germany, was already embroiled in the war and there were other things coming up.

But I remember some students booed and felt that he was being a traitor to America, when actually, he was being loyal to Germany.

Yoshiaki Fujitani's interview reprinted courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Yoshiaki Fujitani.

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