Viewers enjoy watching the final, PBS Hawai‘i approved versions of HIKI NŌ stories, but very few have any idea what the students go through to develop their stories to the point where they meet PBS Hawai‘i’s stringent on-air standards. This special episode explores the students’ learning processes by presenting four previously-aired HIKI NŌ stories, followed by behind-the-scenes “What I Learned” mini-documentaries on the experiences of the students who created the stories.
The stories featured (along with their corresponding “What I Learned” vignettes) include:
–A workspace created by and for students called The Canvas (pictured), from Kalani High School (O‘ahu);
–A blind performing arts teacher, from Hongwanji Mission School (O‘ahu);
–A Kaua‘i food truck entrepreneur, from Kaua‘i High School;
–A Navy-veteran amputee who is learning to live with pain, from Wai‘anae High School (O‘ahu).
This special episode is hosted by Kalani High School Senior Anya Carroll and Hongwanji Mission School 7th grader Teo Fukamizu.
This program encores Saturday, Dec. 24 at 12:00 pm and Sunday, Dec. 25 at 3:00 pm. You can also view HIKI NŌ episodes on our website, www.pbshawaii.org/hikino.
The draft in the 1960s and 1970s was a lightning rod that lit up schisms of race, class and culture in American society. But ending the draft has produced unintended consequences, creating a citizenry disconnected from that of the soldiers who experience the burden of war. The question of who serves in America’s military has shaped battle strategy and foreign policy and stranded Americans in uniform for years on distant battlefields. From the Civil War to the conflicts of the Vietnam era, forced military service has torn the nation apart – and sometimes, as in WWII, united Americans in a common purpose. Featuring interviews with the people who fought the draft, supported it and lived its realities, this program tells the story of how a single, controversial issue continues to define a nation.
Hawai‘i’s roughly 117,000 veterans are entitled to an array of benefits, including heath care, social services and educational assistance. In 2014, an audit of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs pointed to delays in claims processing nationwide, but the Veterans Affairs office in Honolulu has already started taking steps to remedy the situation. Are our veterans getting timely access to the benefits they’ve been promised? Malia Mattoch hosts the discussion.
Combative, provocative and searingly blunt, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover was a flamboyant maverick and a unique American. When few thought it possible, then-Captain Rickover undertook to harness the power of the atom to drive the first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus, whose trip under the polar ice pack was one of the great adventure stories of the 1950s. Later, Rickover built the world’s first commercial nuclear power plant at Shippingport, PA. Rickover’s achievements made him a national celebrity, and he appeared on the cover of Time magazine. Many questioned Rickover’s goal of an all nuclear navy, and others questioned his creation of a technocratic elite, his own navy within the Navy. However, few contested that he had transformed the Navy and changed the course of America’s technological development.
Theodore leads a Progressive crusade that splits his own party, undertakes a deadly expedition into the South American jungle, campaigns for American entry into World War I ― and pays a terrible personal price. Franklin masters wartime Washington as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, while Eleanor finds personal salvation in war work. Her discovery of Franklin’s romance with another woman transforms their marriage into a largely political partnership. TR’s death at 60 is almost universally mourned, but provides Franklin with a golden opportunity.
The Late Samuel P. King was the son of a Hawaii Governor and he lived a life of public service. His father, Samuel Wilder King, served in the U.S. Navy during two World Wars and as delegate to the U.S. Congress and Governor of the Territory of Hawaii.
In 1997, Judge King found time to coauthor a lightning-rod newspaper essay with three other highly regarded Hawaiians and a law professor. The essay, Broken Trust, charged gross incompetence and massive trust abuse by the trustees of what was once called the nation’s wealthiest charity, Bishop Estate, responsible for the Kamehameha Schools.
Aloha and mahalo for joining me for another Long Story Short. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Today we get to hear stories from Senior Federal Judge Sam King.
Samuel P. King was the son of a Hawaii Governor and he’s lived a life of public service. His father, Samuel Wilder King, served in the U.S. Navy during two World Wars and as delegate to the U.S. Congress and Governor of the Territory of Hawaii. Judge King is now in his 90s and he’s still a working judge, still hearing cases. In 1997, he found time to co- author a lightning-rod newspaper essay with three other highly regarded Hawaiians and a law professor. The essay, Broken Trust, charged gross incompetence and massive trust abuse by the trustees of what was once called the nation’s wealthiest charity, Bishop Estate, responsible for the Kamehameha Schools. More recently, King and law professor Randall Roth wrote a book with new details of unchecked power.
It occurs to me that you’ve grown up in the hallways, the corridors of power. Your dad was a naval officer, and then he was an elected officeholder; he was the Territorial governor. Maybe that’s why you’re so comfortable with power.
No, I think I owe a lot of that to my mother who made sure that we kept our feet on the ground. And she taught us we were just as good as anybody. And people who had power never bothered me. I guess I never ran into negative power, where they did really do something to me that I didn’t want to have happen. That just didn’t happen to me, so I was lucky. And Hawaii was a very good place to grow up. We moved out to Halekou, which was across the street from where the cemetery is now on the way to Kane‘ohe. And we lived there; I grew up there. It was just wide open spaces. And Kane‘ohe Bay is such a beautiful place. The family we were in the line of inheritance from Mokapu. In fact, when the Army—when the Air Force or the Navy or the Marines, whoever it was, came along, they condemned it. But the King family wound up owning Mokapu when the intermediate people died. I think we got $75,000 for it.
When you were a little kid, did you have to choose between your Hawaiian heritage and the Caucasian side? Was that ever an issue?
No, but we had more Hawaiian influence. My mother’s brothers had formed a Hawaiian group themselves, just when they went with the National Guard to mainland and so forth. So my Uncle Tom played the steel guitar. He took the steel guitar to South America, and then my Uncle Doc played the ukulele, and Uncle Kane played the ukulele, and Uncle Luther played the guitar. So we used to have—at least once a week we’d have a gathering and they’d all play music and sing Hawaiian.
Both of Sam King’s parents were part-Hawaiian. The family traveled extensively to follow their father’s Naval career, which is how Sam King happened to be born in China. Once the family returned to Hawaii, King attended Central Grammar, Punahou School and Yale University. He earned a law degree from Yale as well.
When I came back, let’s see, what happened? Of course, I went to work for the Attorney General and then the Land Department and then for the City and County of Honolulu. I was a prosecutor at the City and County of Honolulu. There were only three of us when Pearl Harbor happened. And the military took over, so we didn’t have a job. So then I applied to go into the Navy, which was a little bit of a problem, because I only have one eye.
Why do you only have—you have a glass eye, right? How come?
Well, it’s plastic now; used to be done in glass. I got a little piece of steel in it when I was about six years old.
I can’t tell which eye it is. Okay.
It’s the one with emo—they always said—the story about the banker. You look into his face—the banker with the glass eye; the one with the emotion is the glass eye. And you know, the Lord did that. Because if He hadn’t done that, I would have gone to Annapolis, and my class would have been the one on those cruisers that got sank, sunk in the bay off of Guadalcanal. And so luckily, I survived that. So after the—when we got bombed in 1940, I applied to go back in the Navy. But I had to go to Washington to get a deferment for this. Because they were taking anybody into things that didn’t need two eyes. In fact, I don’t need two eyes anyway. And I got a waiver, and was put in—they wanted to put me in the legal end. I said, No, no, I don’t want to be a lawyer anymore. So I was in Naval Intelligence, and they sent me to New Orleans after training. Well, New Orleans, you didn’t know a war was on. Then I got a notice that they wanted people to study Japanese. Well, I’d gone Japanese school here, Hongwanji Mission on Fort Street. So I knew a little Japanese, so I boned up, and I went to Washington and got interviewed. And the expert who was clearing us, he handed me number one book that we used, Naganuma one to twelve or was Ambi number one. And he said, Read the first sentence. Well, I don’t know if he did that on purpose, but he gave it to me the wrong way. So I turned it over. And opened it from the back, you know, and kept going until I found the first sentence. And I could read Katakana, which was in Katakana. Kore wa kanji desu. So it had to be; this is a book, you know. So I said, Kore wa hon desu. I was on my way.
And that was to be fateful because that’s where you met the woman who would become your wife.
That’s right. Ann was in Washington, DC after she graduated from Smith, working for the Army. And she found that a little boring. So she applied for this, and she goes and sees the same guy. Well, she had to be about this close to see; she wore very thick glasses. So they took her glasses off and said, you know, Read the chart. So she walked up to it about his far. You know, A, E, I, O, U. Oh, well; he said to her, You’re Phi Beta Kappa? Yes. What did you study? Greek. You’re in.
So tell me about that first meeting and what happened?
Well, I was the only person that wound up at Boulder, who was already an officer. So I was a Lieutenant JG. So they thought I’d been sent there as a spy, actually. And so when the WAVs came in, I was assigned to drill them in Japanese. You know. So she was in the group. She looked good going and coming. I proposed in two weeks. And she said, Maa, which is the Japanese word for heaven forbid, you know. She said, Ask me again Wednesday. This was a Sunday. So I did. And she accepted.
How did you know? How did you know that should be your life mate?
Well, she was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate, I was looking for. And she was nearsighted. Now, she doesn’t wear those glasses anymore. And that’s what I wanted; brains and beauty.
Sam and Ann King have been married since 1942; and they have three children. After the war, King went into private practice and later made the move from lawyer to judge. Appointed to the State’s First Circuit and Family Courts and U.S. District Court, Sam King presided over highly-publicized cases like the notorious double murder on Palmyra Island and the conviction of reputed syndicate crime leader Wilford ‘Nappy’ Pulawa on income tax charges. Despite the seriousness of the issues, Judge King could generally be counted on to bring a little levity to proceedings.
You know, I didn’t see you in court until you were a Federal judge. And I know as a reporter who covered courts that you were the judge people wanted to cover at that time because you would make these wry remarks. And you were so comfortable in that courthouse, and backed by law, and it was fun to see justice take place.
Judicial humor has got to be very carefully used. I never used it at the expense of the parties or their lawyers. Because that’s a no-no. It’s serious business to them. So when I was able to make a wisecrack, it was about something else.
As a judge of character and a Federal judge, do you size people up pretty quickly in court?
Not too quickly. I give ‘em the benefit of the doubt.
But are you usually right with your first impression?
What made you decide to be a judge? You’re a lawyer.
Well, that’s an interesting point. Bill Quinn was governor.
M-hm. And he was—in fact, he was the governor after your dad was governor, right?
Yes. And he was the last Territorial governor and the first statehood governor. So, and I was going home across the the greens outside of the Capitol. And Bill Quinn was going home; he was going the other way. So he said, Sam, Sam. I knew him. He says, You want to be a district judge, a circuit judge? I said, Well let me get back to you. He said, Well, I need to know pretty soon. I said, Well, I gotta ask my wife first, and then I’ll get back to you. So we talked it over, and I told him yes, Monday morning.
You flirted with public office; didn’t you?
Well, I got involved with politics, of course, because my father was involved in politics. Back before I had become a judge, I ran for the House. And I didn’t get elected, but we elected three Republicans. So then when I was a judge—Burns had appointed me. When I came up for reappointment, he appointed me again. So then I decided to run against him. But he wasn’t going to run; it was going to be Tom Gill. When I left the court and announced for governor, he ran.
How important to you was it to be governor?
Well, I thought there were important things that had to be done, but I knew the world wasn’t gonna come an end. I don’t believe government does everything for you anyway. So what they do is—the whole purpose of government is to keep the place safe and take care of the little people.
You know, it seems as though you were very comfortable with the role of judge. Was there anything that really taxed you or was very challenging along the way?
Well, I always had a hard time with criminal cases ‘cause I’m very doubtful about the criminal system and the putting people in jails or one thing or another. I haven’t come up with a better solution. So when I went senior I said, No more criminal cases.
‘Cause you have sentenced plenty of people to prison.
Did you ever experience threats on your life, or did you start looking behind you and locking the doors, and—
No, no. There’s nothing much they can do to work up a hatred of the judge. The judge is only doing what the law says. As I always told them—the guards—I said, The people you gotta guard are not the jury and the judge, but the witnesses.
In 1997, King was approached by University of Hawaii professor of trust law, Randall Roth, with a draft of an essay for publication. It harshly criticized the trustees of Bishop Estate/Kamehameha Schools and fanned the flames of a scandal that would drive the trustees from office and lead to a wave of reform.
He asked me what I thought. I said, Well, yeah, it’s good stuff. But it won’t go very far if you’re the only person putting it out. And he said, Well, will you join with me? I said, Well, I have to ask my wife first. And she said, Absolutely. So I said, Yes, I will. But I said, Just you and me is not enough. Well, he said, who else do you recommend? I said, Well, Gladys Brandt. And she said, you know, Sam King’s with you? And he said, Yes. She said, Count me in. Because she was already trying to do something. And she said, And I’m gonna bring in Monsignor Kekumano, who also was involved in the ongoing problem. And then a little later, he called and said, Well, Walter Heen has been suggested. Oh, I said, that would be beautiful. He was head of the Democratic Party, I was head of the Republican Party.
So the idea was to present this very credible group of people with stature in the community.
Yes. The five of us got together and went through this, edited it and so forth. And then said, Let’s get it published! And we knew Randy had an ongoing relationship with The Honolulu Advertiser. But they weren’t ready to print it. They had to change this and they had to do that, and so forth. So we went to the Bulletin, and they printed it the next day.
Makes you glad there’s a two newspaper town.
Yeah. And the introduction is written, you know, by—
Yeah; Dave Shapiro, who said your—
–essay, your joint essay was a bare-knuckled attack on a powerful institution.
It was. But the reason we got out there was because the Kamehameha ‘ohana had already marched on the trustees for similar reasons. And it all but started by Nona Beamer who printed the first letter that complained about it.
Your essay and the work of others before you triggered enormous investigations.
And did it go far enough?
One of the problems was that the Supreme Court was appointing the trustees. And it became pretty obvious that they were picking people without going into enough publicity and public input. But the present system is unstable. The Supreme Court could take it back or the Probate Court could say, Well, I’m not gonna bother with all this nonsense.
What’s a better idea?
Turn it into a not for profit corporation with directors elected by the ‘ohana or a majority of them.
Why do you think that’s not happening?
Oh, I don’t know.
Everything has to get worse before it get better.
Kamehameha points that out that, after all of that happened, and the trustees departed, they’ve really amped up their education outreach, they’re doing a lot more things, they’re more responsive. They went out and got a hold of folks who had been cut off by the previous trustee system, and they were welcomed back in. And so there’s a rejuvenation and a new direction, and I think a lot of people at the school say, Why dwell on this—let’s not worry about making—
–I don’t know—
—who’s dwelling on what. And I suppose there’s an honor in being a Bishop Estate trustee which would not apply to a person who was a director of a not for profit corporation. But every provision of Princess Pauahi’s will has been violated. Her will says there should be two schools; one for boys, one for girls. Now, there’s one school, although they call them the Kamehameha Schools. Probably a good idea. But you know, that’s not what her will said. And she said they should be taught the basic reading, writing, arithmetic. Well, they’re a college preparatory school. So where are the ones way down at the bottom? Now, it is true that wills that are passed for eleemosynary purposes, over a period of years change, because times change. But her will has not been changed. And the one way you could get it a little wider is with a not for profit corporation, as Robert Midkiff has pointed out. But of course, then you won’t have these individuals who call themselves, I’m a trustee.
You heard what former trustee Henry Peters’ comment was about all of the work that you did with your partners on this. He said, The group of Hawaiians who wrote Broken Trust are country club, high muckety-muck Hawaiians.
Well, his most famous saying that I know of is, If I did the things they wrote about in the book, I should be in jail. And my answer to that is, I agree with him.
They violated every provision of trust law that they could.
I think it was referred to as a personal investment club atmosphere.
Yeah; well, they were investing in the same things as the trust. Which is a no-no; and they kept that all in a secret safe.
There’s a lot that hasn’t come out about what happened in those days, isn’t there? A lot of sealed pages.
Well, there can only be so much in the book, you know. If that book how many pages are there; three hundred something? Including the index? If it were a thousand pages, nobody would read it.
Roy Benham had a very interesting quote—
–in your book. He said, you know, Hawaiians are funny in a way, that if you waste their money, you steal their money, they let that go. But you try to hurt their children, and – watch.
That’s what happened. Especially the eliminating the outreach program. They fired people in two weeks for no—said they didn’t have the money. What do you mean they didn’t have the money? They had plenty of money.
You know, you’ve gotten some distance now. When you look back and you see what was done in those times at the old estate, what was the worst thing the trustees did?
The worst thing they did was they ran it as a personal, personal property. Raised their fees, they were getting a million dollars apiece. They said, Well, the law permitted it. Well, there was a provision in the law that limited the amount of fees that a trust could take; but overriding the whole thing is the law of trusts, which says you don’t get paid more than you are worth. And not a one of ‘em was worth what they were getting paid.
Only trustee Oswald Stender emerged from the furor with his good reputation intact. At the time, the estate of Princess Pauahi Bishop was estimated at $10 billion and its trustee appointments were paying nearly $1 million a year. In 2006, Judge King and Randall Roth, a UH professor specializing in trust law, followed up the newspaper essay with a book titled Broken Trust: Greed, Mismanagement and Political Manipulation at America’s Largest Charitable Trust . Today, King maintains a watchful eye.
More recently, I saw in the paper where they said they were going to help the homeless. There’s nothing like that in her will. Maybe as a not for profit corporation, they can do that; tie it onto something. But you know
So you still don’t think they’re going in the right direction?
They don’t seem to be aware of what they’re doing. It’s all right with me; I’m not gonna heckle ‘em anymore.
And that’s what your book shows; it shows the degree to which the power structure was interlocked with the old Bishop Estate trustees.
Yes. But get it away from the courts by having a not for profit corporation, where it has directors appointed elected by the ‘ohana, by the graduates.
Do you think that’ll happen in your lifetime?
Think it’ll happen, ever?
Well I don’t know. It should. The one force that could handle it would be the IRS, which says, You’re not carrying out the provisions of your trust.
You know, your book has created a sensation in trust circles, you know, trust lawyers. I mean, you’ve gotten a very prestigious award, and so has Randy Roth. You know, they consider it a bible of what not to do—running an organization like that as a feudal empire. Do you think it’s gotten the attention and the action it deserves in Hawaii?
I don’t know. I haven’t followed up on that. But it is true that we got told by the University of Hawaii that a college had ordered several hundred books direct from them. Don’t know what they’re gonna do with them, but somebody thinks it’s useful for some purpose.
You’ve been in Hawaii working in the trenches and seeing the corridors of power for a very long time. When you look at what you know and what you think may be ahead, what’s your vision of the future? Are we doing all right?
We’re going to be more and more influenced by California. Both by people and by law. So eventually; that’s why I’m really a backer of OHA, because that’s one place where they can protect the future for our Hawaiians. And I interpret Hawaiian as real Hawaiians; not like me. What do I have; three-sixteenths? You know, I got an eighth from my mother, and a sixteenth from my father; three-sixteenths. I’m not talking about myself. Although emotionally, I’m with them. And naturally, I’m an official of the Federal government too.
So you see OHA as being an institution that—
–can’t be touched.
Except there are a lot of people who want to see those entitlements go.
Yes. There always are. I mean if we’re talking about a bunch of goodies going to be given to a bunch of people of which I’m not a member, well, I’m opposed to it.
And you’re still vigilant, hoping Kamehameha Schools changes its governance.
Oh, they’re okay. I’m not spending any time losing sleep over it. I think they’re spending more time opposing the idea, than I am promoting it.
When’s the last time you lost sleep worrying about something?
Gee, I can’t think. I guess it was between Sunday and Wednesday, when I was gonna call and she said, Ask me again Wednesday. So between Sunday and Wednesday, I lost a little sleep.
When you didn’t know whether your intended wanted to marry you.
She kept him guessing for a few days. In his 90s, Judge Samuel King continues to preside over federal court cases in Hawaii and California. I’d like to thank Judge King for sharing his stories with us. And thank you for visiting our website, emailing us with comments and suggestions and for joining me each week for conversations on Long Story Short. I’m Leslie Wilcox. ‘Til next time… a hui hou kakou!
What were your family names in Hawaiian?
I’m the only one doesn’t have a recorded Hawaiian name. My sister, Charlotte, is Charlotte Lelepoki. And then my two brothers. And the youngest sister is Nawahine‘okala‘i. And in between is my two brothers, Evans Paleku‘ukana‘iaupuni and Davis Mauleolake‘awe‘ahe‘ulu.
You said you don’t have a recorded Hawaiian name. Do you have a nickname?
There’s a humble man living in Honolulu who isn’t one to let people know of his extraordinary history. We finally persuaded him to sit down and share it.
Takeshi “Tak” Yoshihara is the first Japanese American admitted to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD. He also is a former internee, whose family was held for three years in so-called “relocation centers” that America built during World War II. Now retired after a Navy career as an officer, Mr. Yoshihara recounts in A Quiet Struggle what life was like living in internment camp cubicles. Despite that loss of freedom, you’ll hear him express great gratitude for his country and what it’s done for him.
After hardships during the Great Depression and World War II, Takeshi Yoshihara became the first Japanese American appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy. In this conversation with Leslie Wilcox, Takeshi talks about what made him an unlikely Naval Academy candidate, and his journey through the ranks and, eventually, to Hawaii.
I like to say that there was this great injustice to me, but on the other hand, what the country has meant to me, the opportunities that were offered to me, far outweigh the injustice.
For three years, Takeshi Yoshihara and his family lived in two small cubicles in a Japanese American internment camp. The experience, while traumatic for the young Takeshi and his family, did not leave him bitter. In fact, this Nisei would grow up to be a U.S. Navy officer, and make history in the process. Takeshi Yoshihara, next on Long Story Short.
Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.
Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. More than one hundred ten thousand Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. What was it like to live in these camps? Tonight, Takeshi Yoshihara of Honolulu shares his story, which begins with his father’s arrival in American more than a century ago.
Your father came to the United States when he was a teenager. Why did he come?
I think he came, as so many from that part of Japan came; their economic opportunities were very limited.
What part of Japan was that?
It was called Hiroshima – ken, so it was in the vicinity of Hiroshima. And Japan was having a very difficult time economically, so a large number of Japanese immigrants came during that period in, probably the early 1900s. He arrived in maybe 1905, or somewhere in that time as a teenager. He was one of those recruited to work on a timber mill that was being built in the middle of a forest not far from Seattle, but on the foothills of the Cascade Mountains.
So, when he wanted to get married, what did he do?
Well, on his trip back, he had complained that he needed a wife. And so, while he was there, his father and my mother’s father made some kinda deal that they would send a young lady after my father returned to the United States. And sure enough, a few months later, she arrived by herself on about a fifteen – day journey aboard ship.
So, his parents picked his wife for him?
Oh, yes; oh, yes. And they were from a neighboring family.
Well, what was your life like as a boy in the sawmill camp?
Well, I came along as the fourth child in a family that was to grow to eight children. My parents were living at that time in a small village. I’m not sure I would call it a village. They called it a camp, Japan Camp. I lived there until I was eight years old, but I still remember going to Japanese schools, learning Japanese culture, and especially the values of Japanese that I still remember to this day, and has contributed to my life. And it was a wonderful life. I think all my brothers and sisters look upon that period there as the most stable and happy lives, beginning lives.
Even though there wasn’t much materially.
Nothing materially. We lived in a little old building that people would call a shack now. But as a youngster, it was comfortable and warm, and we enjoyed it.
But it wouldn’t last. The Great Depression hit, and the sawmill closed down. Takeshi Yoshihara’s family was forced to find a new home, and a new way of life. Not easy for a family from a foreign country who could speak little English at the time.
My father had a neighbor from Japan who was farming a strawberry farm in Oregon. He and his wife had done very well, and they lived in what we considered a very fine home. Through their compassion and kindness, they invited my whole family of eight to live in their home. And there were two of them, and eight of us, so we kinda took over their home for a year. And he offered my parents both to work on the strawberry farm, and that continued for about a year until my father, his friend’s encouragement, thought it was a good time to start his own strawberry farm. And that’s what he did. Now, the home we lived in, and I can remember this very clearly because first thing one noticed is weeds growing out of the floor. Over the years, the land had shifted, and the roof leaked, and there was no water or plumbing.
Definitely a fixer – upper. [CHUCKLE]
[CHUCKLE] Fixer – upper would — not much to do to …
So, it was a property that probably nobody else wanted, and your dad —
Oh, it was an absolutely abandoned house. And I remember, to contain the leaking roof, we got these big vegetable cans of tomatoes or something, gallon cans, and we’d put it wherever it rained. And that was our —
And walked around the cans.
I’ve done that. [CHUCKLE]
That’s right; you did that as well.
[CHUCKLE] But not with weeds growing up out of the floorboards.
We didn’t have water, we didn’t have sewage, or we didn’t even have electricity. So, we had a kerosene lamp, and …
How did you keep warm?
Well, we had blankets, so we kept warm all right. And stoves with plenty of wood to heat up the stove. They had a wood stove.
Strawberries take two years to grow. During that time, Takeshi Yoshihara’s family wouldn’t make much money, but the family was willing to make the sacrifice to become successful farmers. Then, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, and America joined the Second World War.
It was really a shocking incident for them. And of course, your reaction is, what’s gonna happen to us? They were aliens in the United States. Of course, we who were born were American citizens. They feared for a time that they would be picked up and put into prisoner of war camps. And then, I remember we got visits from the local FBI and the police. And here, they knew nothing; they could hardly speak English, and were just doing their business, but they felt intimidated. And then, there was a curfew that came along, and they were restricted from going anywhere. So, it was a heightened and stressful time for them.
Could you feel your parents’ fear?
I could always feel their fear, very definitely. I could feel their disappointment. But I never felt their despair. First of all, they were virtually in survival mode without income, working hard, and their concerns were primarily keeping alive. I mean, feeding their children, having shelter for them, sending their children with clothes to school.
Because those two years had been so very hard.
Very, very difficult years.
But you’d think they’d say, Oh, now what? How can this get worse? But you said they didn’t feel this way.
Well, when that notice came, they weren’t prepared to abandon the farm. Even through Pearl Harbor and all, they had worked dawn to dusk, tried to keep up the farm, not knowing what’s going to happen. But when that notice appeared on that telephone pole, they realized that this was it, there’s no alternative, they’ve got to leave the farm.
It was a heartbreaking decision. Takeshi Yoshihara’s father found a friend from church who agreed to run their farm and pay off their debts. The family was then sent to a relocation camp in Portland, Oregon.
They had taken two – by – fours and just built cubicles throughout this large pavilion area with very high ceilings, and used canvas as a doorway for the opening. So, if one were to look upon what we called our assembly center, it would be looking down from the ceiling and seeing all the open ceiling area, but it would look like an egg crate, and you could see maybe twenty, thirty families in each. And every family was given one little cubicle.
Now, could you look over the wall and see the next family?
If we stood on our beds, we could look over the family and see them fighting or having a good time, or whatever.
So, there was no audio privacy, no visual privacy if anyone who wanted to look.
That’s right. And especially in a situation like that, it would be surprising how noisy the night times were. All kinds of noises; people arguing, playing, that sort of thing. So, it was very … there was not much privacy. Then they had an area where we lined up to eat in shifts on picnic benches. But it was supposedly for a short time, so we endured it. The worst part was, right next to this exposition center was large stock butchering facility. Just next to it.
Slaughterhouse; that’s the word I’m thinking about, a slaughterhouse. And we could sense the effects of all the slaughters going on, especially when the wind blew in our direction. It was almost nauseating; it was so bad. And that was combined with one of the hottest summers in Portland. And Portland can get very hot and humid, and without ventilation, it was just suffocating. The authorities were telling us, Well, we’re putting you in here to protect you. And some of the in — I say inmates, but internees [CHUCKLE] looked up and said, How come the rifles are pointing at us instead of the other way if they’re protecting us? So, they changed the name assembly center, I don’t know if for that reason, but we never used it again. It became a relocation center.
Relocation; when we say that today or we say internment camps, there’s a significant minority of people who will correct you and say, You know what, let’s call it for what it is, that’s a euphemism, it was a concentration camp. What’s your feeling about that terminology?
I’ve looked up the word concentration camps, and technically, concentration camps is correct. As I understand, concentration camps is a place where people are imprisoned, not because of what they do, like crimes, but because who they are. And we, of course, were all homogeneous Japanese blood. So, in that sense, concentration camp is the correct term. But from my own perspective, and my deep appreciation for my country and what it has meant to me, I hesitate, because if I were to say it, I would feel like I’m getting close to a Nazi concentration camp. We were not treated unfairly. There was a lot of compassion, understanding by the authorities.
So, day – by – day, you were treated well, but did you think it was the right thing to do to bring people together like that, for that reason?
As a youngster, I didn’t think much about that. My parents didn’t really think much about that, because, here again, it’s the perspective of my family who were really in survival mode, being relieved in a sense. Have all our meals provided, have a good roof over us. So, the word they used so often was “shikata ga nai”, which means, it can’t be helped. And that was their attitude.
So, accept it.
To accept it, and do the best they can with it.
Takeshi Yoshihara and his family stayed at the relocation camp in Portland for four months. By then, they were ready to leave because of the stench and cramped conditions. This time, the family was forced to take a train to a more permanent internment camp in Idaho called Minidoka.
They had built this camp for ten thousand people to house them with all the facilities, all the utilities, and the main buildings were like Army barracks. They were very, very hastily constructed of wood framing, and covered with black tar paper. You could almost see holes through some of our walls. The floors were bare wood panels, and a little potbelly stove sat in the middle of the room to provide heat. So, when we got there, I remember we were issued canva — I guess they call them ticking, where you stuff straw in to make mattresses out of. And we were all given a satchel bag and taken to a place with a big pile of straw, and made our own mattress and returned to our assigned rooms, where there was a canvas cot. And that was our house for the next three years.
One room for a family of eight?
No; I think it was family of six children and below, it was one family; one room per family. We had eight children, and we just couldn’t physically fit into one – family, so we were given two families. And I think we were kind of the privileged families in the camp, because we had two. Everybody we knew had one room, and we had two rooms, and so my parents lined up … let’s see, seven cots in this one row for all my brothers and sisters. And they had one infant, so they took the other room and put the infant with them. And no chairs, no furniture, not else; just a place to sleep.
And was there a cafeteria? Nobody cooked without a stove, I take it.
That’s right. In addition to the barracks, they had … well, the barracks were arranged in blocks for about two hundred and fifty people in a block. And within that block, they had built a central mess hall, and washing facilities, and toilet and shower facilities where we all used it together.
How did that work, exactly?
Well, as a teenager, it was one of the most sensitive time of my life, privacy especially.
I think you were in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades while you were in camp?
That’s right; sixth, seventh, and eighth grade. And I remember being so shy about using the facilities, because both the showers and the toilet facilities were all lined in a row, with no partition between them.
Men and women in different facilities?
In different facilities, but —
But no stalls for toilets.
No stalls; no stalls for toilets. And so, sometimes I would get up like three o’clock in the morning, just worrying about whether anybody would be there with me. [CHUCKLE] But that never went away. I felt very, very humiliated. And I would have preferred at that time, those years, going back to that survival mode where we had an outhouse; one whole outhouse. I would rather have had that than the modern toilet facilities we had in camp.
What was day – to – day life like?
Well, I always have to compare it with how it was before. Before, we were in survival mode, working on a farm, walking to school each day. No friends; just hard work. All of a sudden, we’re in this community of ten thousand people, lots of kids my age. And it wasn’t long before the new normal took hold. And the new normal meant lots of play friends. You don’t have much to play with, but if you get a ball or football, a lot of good times. I didn’t feel like a minority in camp. The new normal took on a life of its own, because the camps were designed for all the residents to find some employment, and everybody who wanted to work found some employment. My father became a garbage collector, and my mother worked as a helping hand in the central mess hall.
So, the internment camp would pay federal wages?
I’m not sure federal wages; they got sixteen dollars a month. Doctors got nineteen dollars a month.
Woo – hoo. [CHUCKLE]
[CHUCKLE] So they were the upper class in camp. But they were mostly paid sixteen dollars a month; that was the going rate. And that’s like fifty cents a day.
So, was there a Minidoka School?
Well, when we went there, of course, ten thousand people arrived suddenly. They had built all these barracks. The first question was, Where will be put the children in school? And the only answer was, in the barracks rooms. No blackboards, just one room. Of course, the next thing they had to do was find teachers. Where are they going to find teachers? Some were teachers already in their professions, but certainly nowhere near the number needed. So, if one had a high school diploma, he or she became eligible to teach elementary school. And I think that was the case when I first went there. A young girl, I’m sure she was just a high school graduate, but taught, and taught very well. And I don’t regret in any way the quality of the education I received, even under those circumstances.
When the war ended in 1945, Takeshi Yoshihara’s family was grateful they were finally leaving the internment camp, but also anxious. They’d lost everything before, and once again, they had to start over and create a new life from scratch.
With my family of eight children, that was an army to take care of, and I know my parents worried a lot about it, where should they go. But one day, they heard from a church in Seattle that offered to make their basement spaces available for us, and they would take care of us and shelter us, and feed us until something better came along. So, we happily accepted. That resolved my parents’ survivor fears, I should say. And, so they accepted, and everybody received a train ticket or bus ticket, and twenty – five dollars per person spending money.
Even your infant brother?
Absolutely everybody; everybody that breathed got twenty-five dollars. Which we thought was very generous at that time. And so, with that, I forget, I think we took a train to Seattle, and the people at the church were there to greet us and to take us to their church. And it was a wonderful beginning, and I consider it a blessing from God that He interceded and found a place where we could start a new beginning.
A month later, the Yoshihara family found a place to live in Renton, Washington. And though there was anti – Japanese sentiment in the post – war United States, Takeshi says the family never felt discriminated against, not by neighbors or his classmates when he started high school.
How was your first day in school?
First day in school; well, of course, I had a lot of reservations walking into that school. But, I think the principal and the superintendent, and the authorities had done a marvelous job preparing for my classmates to receive me. And I was just amazed at how welcoming they were to me. But all of a sudden, I was going from a place of ten thousand others that looked like me, to a place where nobody looked like me. There were only, I think, two other Asians in my high school class; everybody else was Caucasian. So, of course, I felt being a minority again, and a minority of one is a very small minority.
Feeling as though he didn’t quite fit in, Takeshi Yoshihara struggled to make friends in high school. Without much of a social life, he focused on academics, and that paid off. After graduation, he would go on to become the first Japanese American admitted into the U.S. Naval Academy, and have a successful career in the U.S. Navy, where his nickname was “Tak”. Mahalo to Takeshi “Tak” Yoshihara for sharing his story. And mahalo to you for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou.
For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, to the Apple iTunes store, or visit PBSHawaii.org.
And how was your school experience at Annapolis as the first and only Asian in the class?
Well, it was more than that, because here, I had come from a family … well, we were at the chopstick stage, for eating, and all of a sudden you go there. Formal dining table, linen covered white tablecloths, and all the utensils out. All of them. And I’m looking at it, and looking to the side, left and right, and figuring out what’s the proper utensil to use.
You didn’t have computers in those days, so you couldn’t do a Wiki How. [CHUCKLE]
Which one is which?
Part 2: An Historic Journey
Have I experienced failure? Many times. Have I stumbled along the way? Many times. Have I faced dead ends during my career? Certainly.
Takeshi Yoshihara is a humble man who holds a special place in history. After growing up in poverty and spending three years in a Japanese American internment camp, he was chosen to do something no Japanese American had ever done before. Takeshi Yoshihara, next on Long Story Short.
Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.
Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Takeshi Yoshihara’s childhood on the West Coast was not easy. His parents lost everything in the Depression, and again during World War II. At one point, he and his family of eight lived in a leaky shack without electricity. Despite his hardships, Yoshihara persevered and made history just out of high school. His journey started in 1949, with an invitation from a member of Congress; a letter that this self – described loner never expected to receive.
If I had my choice, I would have picked anybody but myself. And I’ll tell you why. Here I was, such an introvert; I lived my own life, I was not socially aware. On the other hand, those attending the Naval Academy, I think ninety percent were varsity athletes, they had letters or stripes on their sweaters, and they were class presidents and Eagle Scouts. And the only thing on my resume, aside from my grades, was the fact that one semester during lunch, I volunteered to be –they called it a patrolman. So, I got to wear the belt, and during lunch hour, I stood at the crosswalk to let students cross. And for that, I got a certificate, which is the only recognition that I had ever received in high school. But the congressman wrote me this letter saying, You have done very well in the competitive examination, I’m considering appointing you to the Naval Academy, but don’t say anything about it, because I have some policy issues to address before you’re notified. So, we agreed to that announcement as an opportunity. For me, it was that or nothing. I’d tried for scholarships; nothing came along, and I was resigned, as so many of us in those days, to find a job probably in gardening and earn some money for the family. So, this was my only chance. And what a wonderful chance, I thought, because they won’t charge you tuition, they won’t charge you for your food or for your room. In fact, they would pay you to go to school. And accepting it was beyond my dreams. And so, we waited, and sure enough, a month later came and he sent another letter saying, You are appointed to the Naval Academy.
It was a big deal. Takeshi Yoshihara was the first Japanese American appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy. However, Takeshi was worried he’d never spend a day in class for several reasons. For one, he’d have to pay his own way across country from Washington State to Annapolis, Maryland, and he feared he would not pass the physical exam.
Well, I had been wearing these glasses since freshman in high school.
That’s what you were worried about; your eyesight.
I was worried; very worried. Because that was the leading cause of people being disqualified in the physical.
What I did was, I just prayed to God that He would heal me, and I just took off my glasses and for the last few months, the strength of my eyes, I think [CHUCKLES] …
The other thing, of course, is, I got sick on anything that moved, whether in a car or a bus. I’d never been on a boat, but I can imagine being on a boat.
So, you were a seasick person applying for the Naval Academy.
That’s right. And I had deep reservations about that; very deep reservations. Yes.
That’s a lot of reasons not to do it, isn’t it? I mean, you have find you way for free, you were broke.
That’s right; that’s right.
You didn’t have the eyesight.
But you did it anyway.
Well, we had a family debate about that. And my older sister was a strong advocate, because she had a lot of fears about me, I guess, not being able to survive in that environment in the first place. So, she was the one that said, You must get a roundtrip ticket, because it’s cheaper, and will make sure you get home. But my argument made out that I’m just trusting God; He’ll find other ways for me to get back, and this is my step of faith to just buy a one – way ticket. So, that sounded good to the rest of the family. [CHUCKLE] So, I appeared before the physical, would you know it, the first question on this long list of do you or do not things, have you had this illness or that illness; the first question is, Do you have a serious problem with seasickness?
And your problem was serious; right? I mean, you got sick in cars.
I got sick in cars.
I paused a long time, and I think I answered all the other questions to come to that. And I decided, well, for one thing, I want to be truthful. I don’t want to say no, and they find out a month later that I should have checked yes. And besides, the good Lord’s gonna carry me through whatever direction He wants anyway, and if this isn’t for me, there’s something else for me. I felt that faith. And so, I checked, yes.
You do get seasick?
I get seasick. And as far as my eye examination, I think it was at the end of a hectic day for the medical technicians, and I think they just kinda waved me through.
And so, Takeshi Yoshihara became the first Japanese American sworn in as a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy. His nickname, Tak. As part of his studies, he had to spend two summers on a ship; he did, in fact, get seasick. He was so violently ill on his second tour that he almost got kicked out of school.
Well, the saying goes, when you get sick, you’re afraid you’re gonna die, then you get so sick so you’re afraid you’re not going to die. And I was in that latter stage for three weeks coming back. I wished I could jump over the rail and just end it all, because it was that bad. But when I got back in the fall, the authorities convened the board, and they said, Reports are that you’re unfit for the Navy, and we’re going to discharge you now, and will not let you permit to go any further, you will not graduate with your class, and you’ll be just discharged. And I agreed with everything they said, except I said, Well, if you look at my records, my very first physical questionnaire and every subsequent one for four years, I put what I honestly thought I was, which is seasick, and nobody questioned me about that. And I think that took them aback a little bit, and they checked it, and they called me back and said, You know, you’re right, we should have kicked you out before you entered. But now that you’re in, we’re gonna make sure that we give you the opportunity to graduate. You’ll get your diploma, but you will not get a commission to be an officer in the United States Navy.
How was your school experience in Annapolis as the first and only Asian in the class?
Well, it was more than that, because here, I had come from a family… well, we were at the chopstick stage, for eating, and all of a sudden you go there; formal dining table, linen covered white tablecloths, and all the utensils out. All of them. And I’m looking at it, and looking to the side, left and right, and figuring out what’s the proper utensil to use.
You didn’t have computers in those days, so you couldn’t do a Wiki – how [CHUCKLE]
Which one is which?
That’s right. And that went with so many other things. I never really learned how to Make a tie, for example. We had to wear neckties a lot. And all those other things I had to learn.
The things that were common to the other kids who were kind of BMOCs, big man on campus in their hometowns.
That’s right; that’s right. So, I think that’s part of the wisdom of the Naval Academy, that they never let you be assigned into a single room. They know that you could get help from your classmates and your roommates, and I think that’s a good way that they have there. So, I always had classmates or roommates throughout my four years, and I think that was a good experience.
And they mentored you, to an extent?
Oh, yes. We just became best friends. But being plebes — we were called plebes as soon as we were … as we took the oath of office as a midshipman, which all students at the Naval Academy are called. It was a shock and awe experience, because what they do is, they immediately do everything to strip you of any of your personal habits, personal ways. What they want to create is an empty bowl in which they start building up your character, your personality, your habits, things like that. So, I think maybe some of these hard football programs when they go out to football camp, they may face that kind of circumstance too, where they want to break you down, then build you up. And that was called Plebe Summer, and for seventeen hours a day, for six weeks, the one single thing you have is pressure. Physical pressure, mental pressure, moral pressures.
And the pressure, you mean to say, it was never racial discrimination?
I never experienced racial discrimination.
Even right after the war like this?
That’s right. I experienced a lot of mischievous tricks, but never racially motivated.
Eighteen – year – old Tak Yoshihara adapted to life in the Academy. In the beginning, he struggled to stand out in a very competitive field.
You wouldn’t believe how competitive in those days the Naval Academy was. It was important whether you stood tenth, or twelfth, or a hundred or five hundred. And we started out with twelve hundred. Everything was based on competition. It’s changed a great deal now, but back in 1949, your class standing was the most important thing, and it was cumulative over four years. And there were people in my class that were repeating classes that they had taken. My best friend at our wedding, who lives here, he had already graduated from Yale in engineering. I don’t know why he wanted to start all over again, but he was taking the exact same class in engineering. So, he played Bridge most of the time. But, here I was struggling, thinking I might what they called bilge out, which is flunk out, which many did. But, I loved academics, and that was my source of self – esteem in high school. My only source of self – esteem was to get good grades, and so, I worked twice as hard as anybody else, and I’d take home my grades, and my parents would be happy for me, and I would feel built up.
So, you had the discipline.
I made the discipline, because that was a good source for building up my own self – esteem, when I had nothing. And so, I carried that through the Academy, and I kept plugging away, and plugging away, and plugging away. And I’d start climbing up the ladder, so to speak, in my class standing. But then, every week, you knew where you stood. You took a quiz in every class every week, and on Saturday morning they’d put your results on a board in numerical order. So it was very, very competitive.
Did you enjoy that competition, the academic competition?
I don’t think anybody really enjoyed that competition. And I might say there was one exception. Everybody took the identical course, except we had a choice in language. And, we had a choice of French, German, or Russian. I chose Russian, because I knew everybody had taken French or German in high school, and I wanted a level playing field. And sure enough, nobody had taken Russian before, so that was my entry into foreign languages. But everything else identical course, identical exam, and then at the end of the week, you knew where you stood.
Well, from twelve hundred with whom you started, how many ended?
Nine hundred and twelve. And they left for a number of reasons. Just the environment was not good for some, and academics were not good for some. So, I don’t know why they left, but there was about a thirty percent reduction in attrition.
So, that must have been some day when you graduated.
How did you celebrate?
Got married two hours after graduation.
So, you were busy with something other than Annapolis?
[CHUCKLE] I was very busy with my studies, but along the way, I met my wife Elva, and just fell in love with her. She had gone to a college in Boston, and transferred to Johns Hopkins University to get her bachelor’s degree in nursing. And she graduated at about the same time that I did from the Naval Academy, so we were both wondering where we’re going after we graduate. Of course, I was in the Navy, and not a place that she would travel to, I’m sure, so we decided best that we get married, and that’s what happened. [CHUCKLE]
The year was 1953; and while Tak Yoshihara was a newlywed, he thought his chance at a career in the U.S. Navy was over, until, one of his instructors at the Academy stepped forward.
He was an officer at the Academy who had been grievously injured during the Pearl Harbor attack or the Japanese attacked on his ship, on his battleship. And he had come from three generations of admiral, and he had every expectation to succeed as part of his family tradition. Well, I didn’t know him well; I just took one lecture from him, but he heard about it. Well, as a result of Pearl Harbor, he had lost his leg and he was the only officer on campus walking with a wooden leg in uniform. So, they had made an exception for him. And he contacted me and said, I know a remote part of the Navy you’ve never heard about where officers never need to go to sea, and I just want to know if you’re interested in serving in the Navy. Well, I jumped at that, because it would have been a shame for me to complete Annapolis and be reported that I was discharged for being unfit for service in the Navy. So, I jumped at that, and within a matter of a week or so, he had gone to Washington, D.C. and had a waiver prepared for me so that I could ultimately join what was called the Civil Engineer Corps in the Navy.
But first, you had to get a civil engineering degree?
Yes; that meant I had to wait a year, and I would be sent to a very nice school called Rensselaer Institute of Polytechnics, a private college in Upstate New York, where I got my bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, and then I received my civil engineering degree and became officially a part of this navy that I knew nothing about.
And what did you do as a civil engineer in the Navy?
Well, first of all, I had like ten different stations. [CHUCKLE] But my first trip was out to Midway Island. From New York, traveled.
So, definitely not the cushy first station; right?
With the atoll. [CHUCKLE]
It was middle of the Pacific. You’ve heard of Midway Island.
Gooney bird central.
It’s only one mile by two miles. And when I got there, Elva was pregnant, and the day our son arrived …
Did Elva give birth on Midway?
Yes. She was the first one that year to give birth on Midway; it was in March. And it coincided in 1957, when a tsunami hit the Pacific that very night.
So, she gave birth while I was out clearing out the airfield which had been inundated with trash and everything else. And so, we have memories of our little time in Midway together. [CHUCKLE]
You know, nothing you’ve described has been really easy so far in your whole life.
Well, no, I thought it was not that difficult. From Midway, I went to Las Vegas, and nobody knows that there’s a naval base in Las Vegas.
Who would think a landlocked state, right?
They don’t now; they did it for a very short time, and I happened to be along when they needed somebody to be in Las Vegas. So, I had an interesting career there. But the rest of my career was more peanut butter type things, where I built things, and took care of the sewage and the roads, and everything else, interspersed by opportunities for education. And that’s what I loved so much to do from way back. That was a passion for me that I developed in high school. I always had a passion for education; still do.
That passion for education drove Tak Yoshihara to get two master’s degrees, and a PhD, while serving in the U.S. Navy where he rose to the rank of Captain. At one point, he was sent to Vietnam, where he was the deputy in charge of construction for all U.S. military services. He helped build ports, runways, and barracks during the war.
Periodically, the Navy … I think it’s kind of a carrot – and – stick approach. When you get to the point where you’ve completed your obligated service, or thinking about leaving and maybe going to school, or getting a job somewhere, they’d put this carrot out and say, If you’re interested in graduate school, we’ve got a few openings and you’re welcome to apply. And so, you can understand how grateful I am, how the Navy changed my life. Here, I may have been a laborer as a gardener following in my father’s footstep, or being here in Honolulu, living in paradise. So, I credit a great deal to the wonderful, wonderful government that I’m so proud of.
Somehow, I just don’t picture you ordering people around.
Well, I don’t either. I would have never thought … entering the Navy in any form, whether it’s the lowest enlisted man or anybody, being able to get up and shout, Don’t give up the Navy, or Don’t sink the Navy, or these famous sayings that thank God, I’ve never been in that position to do so.
But you’ve led men.
And later, women.
My styles have been very different, and I’m grateful for that opportunity.
Well, what was your military style, your naval style?
Well, I like to say that whenever I had people under me, I never forgot my roots. I wanted to be an encourager. I try to find ways for people to realize their hopes and dreams. I was a helper, and a leader can be a helper.
In 1974, after twenty – five years in the Navy, Takeshi Yoshihara retired and moved to his wife’s hometown here in Hawaii. Soon after, he took a job working for Hawaii U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga.
I worked for him; I agreed to help him for two years. Elva was teaching at the Kapiolani Community College, so I felt I could take off two years, and they were one of the most wonderful years of my life. A senator who is one of one hundred most powerful people in the country, being senators, and I saw the world in a different light from power; the power that they have.
Did that necessitate a move to D.C.?
I moved to D.C. We kept our house, and Elva took her second year of teaching as a sabbatical, and so, we lived the second year in Washington, D.C. Had a marvelous time. Going to that capitol every day, and just being in awe of all the senators and congressmen, and hearing them speak, and that sort of thing. It was a wonderful experience.
There you are, back to government service. Did you do other government service?
Well, I returned, and the federal government established and wanted me to head a Federal Energy Office out of the Federal Building here, which I agreed to do, and it covered the entire Pacific. I did that for three years, and through Governor Ariyoshi, I got the privilege of starting the first State Energy Office in the State. I did that, and then I later worked for Governor Waihee. Both governors were wonderful people.
Throughout Tak Yoshihara’s life of ups and downs, his love for his country and his faith in God never wavered.
Very much so, Leslie. I’m glad you mentioned that. Because, how can a family of eight children be so blessed.
In the Depression, during a world war.
We’re still all alive; all eight of us, from eighty – eight to seventy. And our closeness is as tight as can be; and it’s because of one thing, God at the center of each of our lives. Have I experienced failure? Many times. Have I stumbled along the way? Many times. Have I faced dead ends during my career? Certainly. Well, what got me through is, in every case I had stretcher bearers, beginning with God maybe sending people on the way. They could have been friends, family certainly, people praying for me. God has given me the opportunity that I’ve sometimes taken, where I could pray for others, where I could, in raising my children act as a stretcher bearer in their growing up. And then, when I took command or supervised people that I had to lead, I could be a stretcher bearer for them. I could inspire them, I could encourage them, I could hope to see them fulfill their aspirations; and to that extent, I was a stretcher bearer. So, we can all identify, if we’ve gone through life’s trials and triumphs, as both being a patient as well as a stretcher bearer. And we’re blessed.
Takeshi “Tak” Yoshihara watched his younger son follow in his footsteps. David Yoshihara also graduated from the Naval Academy and also became a Captain in the U.S. Navy. And just before our conversation in 2013, Tak and his wife Elva happily celebrated their sixtieth wedding anniversary. Mahalo to Takeshi “Tak” Yoshihara, the first Japanese American ever appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy and a career naval officer. And mahalo to you for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, a hui hou.
For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.
Does Elva speak Pidgin at all?
No, she does not at all. I mean, she’s third generation, so her parents were like me; they spoke English. So, she never spoke Japanese or Pidgin. She grew up in this area, and I think she understands pidgin.
I’m sure she does.
Well, yeah, we all do to a certain extent. I love Frank DeLima.