By PHIL SHIGEKUNI
Marion and I just returned from a 12-day Mediterranean cruise. We boarded the Celebrity Solstice in Barcelona Spain, and visited Nice, France; then Florence, Rome, Naples and Venice, Italy. We also visited two Slavic countries, Kotor in Montenegro and Dubrovnic in Croatia.
An appealing thing about traveling is that it gives us an opportunity to meet people from different places. At our dinner table every evening were Ron and Karen, who live in Denver. Karen grew up in the southeastern part of Colorado.
I told her about our family being interned at Amache, which was located close to a small town, Granada, in that part of the state. Marion told Ron and Karen about the three and a half years her family spent in Rohwer Arkansas, before relocating for a short time to Little Rock before returning to Lodi, where they had originated.
Ron and I were 8-10 years old during the war. He told me something I remember only too well about how the Japanese enemy was depicted as ape-like creatures with buck teeth. I told Ron that our country had to dehumanize the enemy in order to motivate Americans to kill. I did not tell Ron that, as an American, this kind of propaganda made it hard for me to feel good about also being Japanese. Being imprisoned didn’t help, either.
I told the two of them that in 2008 I attended a conference held in Denver sponsored by the JA National Museum, which commemorated the redress bill 20 years previously.
As part of the conference, a caravan of buses went to Amache. I told Ron and Karen how much I was moved by being able to walk once again on the ground where our barracks once stood.
I was pleased to tell them about the presidential apology and redress compensation we received. From his facial expression I could see Ron felt a sense of satisfaction in our receiving this sort of recognition from our government.
Ron and I were in the service during 1955-57. I was in the Army, stationed at Fort Carson, which was close to Colorado Springs, not far from Amache. Ron was in the Navy based in San Diego. His duties took him to Japan and the Philippines.
Margaret and Alan are recently retired French teachers from Belfast, Ireland. Since I spent 35 years in the L.A. city school system, we were able to share our experiences in education. I had questions for them about the clash between the Irish Catholics and Protestants, and how the conflict was finally settled. Margaret told me about hearing bombs explode while walking to school during that era. I told them it puzzled me that there could be such hostility between two groups of people who, outwardly, were so much alike.
Jim and Stephanie were from Hawaiian Gardens, a community close to Long Beach. Before we could get to know them, we wondered why they stopped coming to join us at dinner. We later found out that Jim had contracted an intestinal virus. They consulted with the ship’s doctor, who promptly quarantined Jim for two days. Before his retirement, Jim installed phones for Verizon. Marion and I are Verizon customers and we shared stories with them.
Two of our last stops were at Kotor and Dubrovnic. These towns brought back some distant memories from the 1990s. The map on the wall inside Dubrovnic showed the many places that had been hit by bombs during the 1990s wars. The two towns were adjacent to one another and in separate countries, Kotor in Montenegro and Dubrovnic in Croatia.
I recalled our U.S. involvement with a conflict in Bosnia, which is located just north of these port towns. I intend to look up more on the history of this intriguing part of the world. Because these small towns, over the centuries, were subject to attack, they were surrounded by stone walls. Walking their narrow streets was like being transported to a sort of Disney-like fantasyland.
These 12 days have offered a great chance to relax and see interesting and fascinating parts of the world, and to meet some interesting people.
I told Ron, Karen, Margaret, Alan, Jim and Stephanie I would email them this column.
Phil Shigekuni can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.