Pacific Citizens: Larry and Guyo Tajiri and Japanese American Journalism in the World War II Era

Article excerpt

Robinson, Greg, ed. Pacific Citizens: Larry and Guyo Tajiri and Japanese American Journalism in the World War II Era. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2012. 344 pp. $60.

Pacific Citizens tells the story of the struggle for equality by Japanese Americans through the writings of Larry and Guyo Tajiri. They were a married couple who edited the newspaper that gives the book its name. But the Taj iris' story, although it covers in detail the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, is not a bitter one. Many of the couples' family members and friends were interned, but the Tajiris were not, instead voluntarily evacuating the West Coast in 1942 to take over the Pacific Citizen, a monthly newsletter published by the Japanese American Citizen League (J ACL). The league had moved the newsletter to Salt Lake City and wanted the Tajiris, who were both experienced journalists, to transform it into a newspaper to replace the Japanese American newspapers on the West Coast that had been closed because of the internment. With little money but a lot of determination, the Tajiris made the newspaper a major voice for the Japanese American community, keeping it going through the difficult war years and afterward as a weapon in the fight for equal rights and a general forum for progressive ideas.

In fact, this collection of the couples' personal letters and articles in the Pacific Citizen and other publications is a positive example of how the United States corrects its errors and learns from them. Larry Tajiri wrote in 1 943 in the magazine Asia and the Americans: "No American will claim that democratic processes work perfectly or that there have not been errors of judgment. If the indiscriminate evacuation of Japanese from the West Coast was such an error of judgment, every American will be proud that democracy, in the midst of an all-out war, can begin to rectify its own mistakes."

Before the war, Larry Tajiri had been naive about Japanese militarism. In 1938, he wrote in a joking tone about the conquest of Nanking that "the polite gentlemen from Tokyo scaled the historic wall of the city of the Mings" and claimed it was good news that order had been restored in Asia. He concluded there was not a great threat of an American war with Japan. But when war came to America, he was deadly serious about the need for America to win, even to the point of castigating Japanese American draft evaders in the internment camps and other Japanese American newspapers that had encouraged their protest.

In 1945, Larry Tajiri wrote that the internment was not a happy experience, but that the benefit of the experience was speeding the integration of Japanese Americans into the broader society. …

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