Legacy of the Sansei – Giving Back by Paying Forward

Legacy of the Sansei – Giving Back by Paying Forward

Photo of Joyce Tsunoda

Joyce Sachiko Tsunoda, Ph.D.
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

I am a sansei by age and generation on my mother’s side of the family. However, I think I am more of a Sengo Issei — a post-World War II Issei — than a Sansei. This is because my nisei mother brought my three sisters and me back to her home in Hawai‘i in 1948. Her Japanese husband — our father — was drafted into the Japanese army while our family was living in the then-Japanese territory of Manchuria. He was sent to the battlefront in the Philippines and was reported missing in action there just four months before the war ended.

I knew no English when I arrived in Hawai‘i. Neither did I know that English was the “mother language” of my mother. At Hale‘iwa Elementary School, I was placed in the third grade because I was too big to be in the first grade. It was the start of my Americanization, and it began with a lot of snickering looks and teasing by my classmates, calling me “Japan bobura! (bumpkin) Japan bobura!”

I was fortunate to have Miss Fannie Howe, a Chinese American, as my teacher. She ignored those children, sat me in the back of the classroom and handed me a book. Between teaching the rest of the class, she would sit with me, point to the pictures on the pages and pronounce the words: “Dog.” “Cat.” “Boy.” “Girl.” I was to repeat those words. When she returned, she would point at each picture. “Doggu,” I would say. “Katto.” Miss Howe shook her head, “No, not doggu . . . dog. Not katto . . . cat.” When the children started to laugh, Miss Howe would shoot them a harsh look and everyone became quiet.

To read the rest of this article, please subscribe to The Herald!

Old Photo of Joyce Tsunoda, with her mother and sisters

Joyce Tsunoda with her mother and sisters upon arriving in Hawai‘i. (Photos courtesy Joyce Tsunoda)

Since 1980, The Hawaii Herald has been published twice a month. The Herald’s comprehensive and varied coverage chronicles the past achievements, current concerns and future aspirations of its distinguished community.

SIMILAR ARTICLES

NO COMMENTS

Leave a Reply