Nikkei Samurai: Japanese Swords and
the Nisei Veteran
Date Run: 8/15/17 – 9/17/17
Nikkei Samurai: Japanese Swords and the Nisei Veteran explores how second-generation Japanese American soldiers of WWII preserved and exemplified the samurai spirit–not only through the heroism of the 100th Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in the European Theater, but through the integrity of the Military Intelligence Service that served in the Pacific. This exhibit is curated by Darin S. Furukawa and Michael Yamasaki, samurai arts specialists from the educational organization Jidai Arts (www.jidaiarts.com).
Since 1998, GFBNEC’s Hanashi Oral History Collection has amassed more than 1,200 audiovisual interviews of Japanese American veterans of WWII.
These oral histories provide valuable insight into the war experience that cannot be conveyed by official records alone.
They capture the feelings and textures of experiences that are as varied as the individuals who lived through them.
Samurai swords given to Japanese American veterans of WWII are discussed within these clips below.
Howard Furumoto was born and raised on a sugar plantation on the island of Hawai’i in 1921, as the son of Japanese immigrants. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor and with the guidance of his family, Howard was recruited by the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) directly out of college. After training at Camp Savage, Howard became a part of Merrell’s Marauders, a secret unit within the MIS. Howard would go on to serve in Burma, where he would lead a scout patrol, interrogate Japanese POWs and translate Japanese documents. During his service, he received a samurai sword.
George Fujimori was born and raised in California in 1920, as the son of Japanese immigrants. In 1942, George and his family were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to Manzanar. George joined the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) because he believed serving in the military would be better for the Nisei than not going at all. After receiving his basic training, George was sent to the Philippines, where he interrogated Japanese POWs. There, he found two samurai swords.
Yoshiaki Fujitani was born and raised on a plantation on the island of Maui in 1923. His parents were Japanese immigrants, with his father working as a Buddhist missionary. Because of his religious background, Yoshiaki’s father was labeled as a “potentially dangerous alien” and sent to a temporary detention facility in Santa Fe, NM. Although Yoshiaki was angered by these actions towards his father and upset at the American government, he joined the Military Intelligence Service (MIS). He was sent to Japan, where he worked for the Allied Translators and Interpreters Section (ATIS). There he met his cousin, who gave him his service sword.
Kazuo Yamaguchi was born and raised in New York in 1925. After Pearl Harbor, Kazuo was rejected from joining the Navy and classified as an “enemy alien.” Kazuo volunteered for the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) and went to Fort Snelling for training. He oversaw a Japanese POW camp and repatriated Japanese POWs in the Philippines. Later, he was sent to Japan and worked at General MacArthur’s Headquarters in Tokyo. There, he was gifted with a samurai sword from a Japanese family.