Posts Tagged ‘Gaman’

The Go For Broke Spirit: Portraits of Courage

go for broke

The Go For Broke Spirit book is poetry. It is poetry that preserves the humanity of man and more. I first looked at the photos  without the text and was driven to my gut with emotions. The  portrait accompanying each story is a novel in itself… each man’s silent story of honor and dignity is  deeply embedded in the seasoned lines on  his face,  his hands, and in his  eyes. You can’t help but be drawn to the text,  knowing that it would compound the powerful photos with their stories. This is accomplished with poetic precision and inspiration.  Both photos and texts powerfully tell the stories of these young Japanese-American men who fought for their country while their families lived in internment camps. Veterans from Hawaii and the West Coast are represented in the book.


More than 80 veterans’ portraits and their stories are preserved in this hardcover book. If this part of our history is to be preserved, it must be through the generations following not only these brave and honorable men, but all others as well.

This book must become a legacy for generations to come so the lessons learned about honor, bravery, dignity, patriotism and human kindness can be lived and practiced by all of us. We owe this to these brave men and their families and to the Issei generation who began this story.  There is no enemy, no hatred, no racism, only ignorance and this can be dealt with, as told by each veteran.


The Japanese cultural practice of gaman ( to accept that which cannot be changed) ,

 on( obligation), and gambatte (perseverance)  are constant in how they processed the indignities of war and racism. The stories told by these Japanese-American men must be universally shared to end all wars and man’s inhumanity to man. Simply, fill each household with a copy of this book.

The Go for Broke Spirit: Portraits of Courage was created by Shane Sato and Robert Hosting.

On a very personal note, the following appeared in the Hawaii Herald in the May issue of 2017.

Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

There’s a piece of unfinished business in my memory that I want to share with the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team veterans on behalf of a stranger in Germany.

When I visited Germany years ago, an old woman looked at me and began to weep. She reached out her hand to me. When I went to her, she took my hand, kissed it and began to speak in German, tears rolling down her face. Her grandson explained that I reminded her of the Japanese-American soldiers from Hawaii who were so kind to her during World War II. Was I from Hawai‘i? Yes, I told her, and I know those soldiers.

For the first time in my life since Pearl Harbor, my face was greeted with tears of joy because of the 100th/442nd soldiers,

As a result, in my Dangerous Woman: Poetry for The Ageless,  I included the following poem to honor the Japanese – American soldiers who are still remembered and honored for their humanity while many of their families were in internment camps back home.



In the Philippines,

World War II follows me into the night.

“Stay indoors after dark, people still remember

Japanese soldiers on Corregidor.”


My sixth-grade student writes in his journal

“December 7: I hate the Japs. I wish they were all dead.

My grandfather told me about them.”


In Hamburg, a woman, lined with age

Holds my hand and weeps to me in German.

I remind her of soldiers from Hawaii.

She has not forgotten their kindness long ago.


Our tears taste the same

In German and in English.

We are the only ones standing

In the aftermath of wars.


  • From: “Dangerous Woman: Poetry for the Ageless”

by Frances H. Kakugawa




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John Batchelor is one of those rare interviewers who read my book, Kapoho:Memoir of a Modern Pompeii, cover to cover as you will note in his questions in this radio interview that was aired in NY a few evenings ago. This will be aired again this month. He told me his favorite line in the book, my grandmother as his favorite character, my father waking us in the middle of the night to let us eat fresh mullet, how he laughed between the pages. What a honor, for this interview.


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The New Cloud from Japan

Charles Pellegrino ends all  his correspondence with “Omoiyari” and he has good reason to adopt this Japanese word.

Dear Frances:Omoiyari: To think of the other person first. The great hope is that such thinking becomes contagious. In America, a variation on the theme is called the “pay it forward” principle. (To think of others, to live in service to others, hoping that [rather than paying back a favor] each person will pay it forward to someone else.) Although it is an improbable hope, the hope is, nevertheless, that in unexpected ways, a ripple effect might reach into, and change the lives of people who might otherwise, perhaps as children in war and occupation zones, think there is no good in the world and otherwise grow up wanting to do something evil. Tsutomu Yamaguchi was one who lived by this principle. Dr. Nagai of Nagasaki and Sadako of Hiroshima – and Takashi “Thomas” Tanemori – are other examples. What’s important about this is that it does not leave all hope in the hands of government leaders around the world, but empowers even children to bring about change.

See you later,


…Charlie P

Dear Dr.Charlie:

Acts of “Omoiyari” have become the new cloud from Japan, not the fear of radiation, but inspirational stories of “Omoiyari.”   A Nisei friend of mine told me yesterday, “I am so proud to be Japanese after all these years.”

“Yes,” I told her.” Pearl Harbor took this away from us, it’s been a long wait.”

“Omoiyari” is already happening as seen from these stories out of Japan. frances

from Japan:

Utterly amazingly where I am there has been no looting, no pushing in lines. People leave their front door open, as it is safer when an earthquake strikes. People keep saying, “Oh, this is how it used to be in the old days when everyone helped one another.”

And the Japanese themselves are so wonderful. I come back to my shack to check on it each day, now to send this e-mail since the electricity is on, and I find food and water left in my entranceway. I have no idea from whom, but it is there. Old men in green hats go from door to door checking to see if everyone is OK. People talk to complete strangers asking if they  need help. I see no signs of fear. Resignation, yes, but fear or panic, no.

I am blessed in that I live in a part of Sendai that is a bit elevated, a bit more solid than other parts. So, so far this area is better off than others.  Last night my friend’s husband came in from the country, bringing food and water. Blessed again.

. My brother asked me if I felt so small because of all that is happening. I don’t. Rather, I feel as part of something happening that much larger than myself. This wave of
birthing (worldwide) is hard, and yet magnificent.

Last night when I was walking home (since all traffic had stopped), I saw an old lady at a bakery shop. It was totally past their closing time, but she was giving out free bread. Even at times like this, people were trying to find what they can do and it made my heart warm.
In the supermarket, where items of all the shelves fell, people were picking up things so neatly together, and then quietly stand in line to buy food. Instead of creating panic and buying as much as needed, they bought as little as they needed. I was proud to be a Japanese.

When I was walking home, for 4 hours, there was a lady holding a sign that said, “Please use our toilet.”

At Disneyland, they were giving out candies. High school girls were taking so many, I was thinking, “What???” But then the next minute, they ran to the children in the evacuation place and handed it to them.

My co-worker wanted to help somehow, even if it was just to one person. So he wrote a sign: “If you’re okay with motor cycle, I will drive you to your house.” He stood in the cold with that sign. And then I saw him take one gentleman home, all the way to Tokorozawa!

A high school boy was saved because he climbed up on top of the roof of a department store during the flood. The flood came so suddenly, that he just saw people below him, trying to frantically climb up the roof and being taken by the flood. To help others, he kept filming them so their loved ones could see. He still hasn’t been able to reach his own parents but he says, “It’s nobody’s fault. There is no one to blame. We have to stay strong.”

There is a lack of gas now and many gasoline stations are either closed or have very loooong lines. I got worried, since I was behind 15 cars. Finally, when it was my turn, the man smiled and said, “Because of this situation, we are only giving $30 worth gas per each person. Is that alright?” “Of course its alright. I’m just glad that we are all able to share,” I said. His smile gave me so much relief.

I saw a little boy thanking a public transit employee, saying, “Thank you so much for trying hard to run the train last night.” It brought tears to the employee’s eyes, and mine.

A foreign friend told me that she was shocked to see a looong queue form so neatly behind one public phone. Everyone waited so patiently to use the phone even though everyone must have been so eager to call their families.

The traffic was horrible!! Only one car can move forward at green light. But everyone was driving so calmly. During the 10 hour drive (which would only take 30 minutes normally) the only horns I heard was a horn of thank you. It was a fearful time — but then again a time of warmth and it made me love Japan more.

When I was waiting at the platform, so tired and exhausted, a homeless person came to us and gave us a cardboard to sit on. Even though we usually ignore them in our daily life, they were ready to serve us.

Suntory (a juice company) is giving out free drinks, phone companies are creating more wi-fi spots, 1,000,000 noodles were given by a food company, and everyone is trying to help the best way they can. We, too, have to stand up and do our best.

Whenever there is a black out, people are working hard to fix it. Whenever the water stops, there are people working to fix that too. And when there is problem with nuclear energy, there are people trying to fix that too. It doesn’t just fix itself.

While we are waiting to regain the heat in the cool temperature or have running water, there were people risking their life to fix it for us.

An old woman said, on a train: “Blackouts are no problem for me. I am used to saving electricity for this country, and turning off lights. At least, this time we don’t have bombs flying over our heads. I’m willing to happy to shut off my electricity!”

In one area, when the electricity returned, people rejoiced. And then someone yelled: “We got electricity because someone else probably conserved theirs! Thank you so much to EVERYONE who saved electricity for us. Thank you everyone!”

An old man at the evacuation shelter said, “What’s going to happen now?” And then a young high school boy sitting next to him said, “Don’t worry! When we grow up, we will promise to fix it back!” While saying this, he was rubbing the old man’s back. And when I was listening to that conversation, I felt hope. There is a bright future, on the other side of this crisis.

Dr. Pellegrino’s reference to Takashi Tanemori   book, “Hiroshima: Bridge to Forgiveness” appears in one of my blog posts. I also posted reviews on two of Pellegrino’s books.

Shikata ga nai….Gaman….Omoiyari

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Being Japanese

Shikata ga nai.

Gaman, Gaman, Gaman.

We are Japanese.

During my high school years, my Japanese girlfriends and I tried so hard to not be or look Japanese  after Pearl Harbor.  We thought getting rid of our slant eyes would do the job.  And besides, all those Hollywood stars had “double eyes” without our  epicanthic folds. How did we change the shape of our eyes without plastic surgery?   We cut a thin strip of transparent  tape and taped it over the eyelid  near the eyelashes  and voila, we  had instant “double eyes” or  Haole (Caucasian)  eyes.  Of course if the tapes were not the same size, we’d have uneven “double eyes” but,  we didn’t  look Japanese, or so we thought.

After the disaster in Japan a few days ago,  journalists are reporting  the Japanese character:

There are no looters and street crimes  in the streets , unlike other disaster places in the past so there is one less problem  for the government.

When food is brought into a room filled with hungry people, the Japanese quietly form a single line, without being told,  and patiently and quietly wait  their turn.

One woman in her  80’s escaped on her bicycle and later commented:  My home and village are all gone but I’m grateful  to be alive. I wonder what my daughter will do because she always wanted to be independent.

A businessman, who sold wood stoves in his shop, packed his truck with his stoves and distributed them to the survivors. ( Since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese refer to themselves as survivors and wish not to be called victims.)

Charles Pellegrino sent the following thoughts of the Japanese working at nuclear plant:

The people actually working to save the sites are the ones in real danger, being exposed to (for example) rare isotopes of nitrogen that last only a few seconds to a minute… but they may be exposed (presently) to constant streams being renewed every few seconds. They know this; and to me they are like the firefighters running up the stairs in the Twin Towers while everyone else was running down. There are real heroes out there who need to be in our thoughts – and some of them were almost certainly killed in the external containment shell explosion. And yet the rest have gone back in, giving it everything they’ve got.

The behavior of the people in Japan is an example for the world. Maybe one of  the good things that will come out of this is a lesson – by actions and not just by eloquent speech – that Omoiyari is not just a word, but a way of life.
And maybe, just maybe, we can hope that the way will spread, outward and outward.

These  stories of the Japanese remind me of the two words I was raised with,  in our  family.

Shikata ga nai: It can’t  be helped. This is how it is.

Gaman: quiet endurance, embrace it and rise above it silently

Today, that young girl who didn’t want to look or be Japanese  realizes  she was wise in not letting go all things Japanese. It’s a blessing to know, part of that so-called Japanese character has not been taped away.  It’s a good thing those scotch tapes weren’t permanent.

Yes, I am Japanese . And my heart is there in Japan today.

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