- In Love and War: The World War II Courtship Letters of a Nisei Couple by Melody M. Miyamoto Walters
Melody Walters’ In Love and War is a welcome addition to the growing literature on Japanese Americans during World War II. Instead of the internment on the mainland or the soldiers who fought, she takes as her subject Japanese Americans who lived under martial law in Hawai‘i, about which little is known beyond oral histories. Her source materials are the English-language correspondence between two young American-born Japanese, Yoshiharu Ogata and Naoko Tsukiyama, from July 1941 to June 1943. Walters’ superb editing skills brings out the voices of these two; one, a male from rural Kaua‘i, and the other, an urban female from Honolulu. With their letters, Walters provides readers with a first-hand, eyewitness account of life for many Japanese Americans in Hawai‘i under martial law, both in the city and in the countryside. Walters further provides insightful comments by weaving into the letters her explanation of the content and context surrounding those letters, backed with documents generated from that time period in the Romanzo Adams Social Research Laboratory Records, the Hawaii War Records, and other secondary works.
This wartime romance begins with an introduction of the couple’s “culturally different” backgrounds (p. 15) in Chapter One. Naoko comes from a merchant-class family whose store in downtown Honolulu catered largely to a Euro-American clientele. Her upbringing, therefore, was urban “American”—her religion, Christian; her education, elite; and her language, English Standard. Yoshiharu’s background, by contrast, was rural, “traditional Japanese” since his father was a luna for the McBryde Sugar Plantation on Kaua‘i where an elite education was not possible, Buddhism prevailed, and pidgin predominant. The couple first met in Honolulu during the summer of 1941 after both graduated from college and began working as school teachers—Hawai‘i Island for Naoko and O‘ahu for Yoshiharu. Despite their background differences, both shared a similar view of the attack that prompted Naoko to write, “We are Americans here … but we also have to suffer the humiliation” of Japan’s surprise attack “tactics” (p. 3).
How the two coped with a series of challenges emerges in the subsequent chapters. In Chapter Two, they adjusted to each other’s differing personal interests, with Naoko taking a strong interest in high-brow culture while Yoshiharu, not at all. In Chapter Three, their personality differences come to the fore. Although both of them viewed Yoshiharu’s possible conscription [End Page 179] into the U.S. Army as a detriment, they differed in outlook with Naoko believing Yoshiharu would not be drafted, even though she saw military service as the norm for Japanese Americans after her older brother Ted and his friends volunteered. Yoshiharu, however, was pessimistic, believing he would eventually be drafted even though he steadfastly refused to step forward and sought deferment. In Chapter Four, the couple dealt with the problem of distance separation as they both returned home—Naoko to Honolulu and Yoshiharu to Kaua‘i. Both found their hometowns transformed by the rapid influx of large numbers of military men, the latter providing a challenge for the couple’s trust and mutual affection for each other. Despite these obstacles, the couple decided on marriage, as revealed in Chapter Five, but had to sort out their expectations of each other as both desired continuation of their teaching careers. Their plans, complicated by the many restrictions brought on by martial law and Naoko’s return to her job in Hilo, forced the couple to adjust. In Chapter Six and the Epilogue, Walters shows the couple culminating their plans with a marriage ceremony on June 19, 1943, held at the Harris United Methodist Church in Honolulu, despite all these differences and obstacles. She provides additional information on the other members of the Tsukiyama and Ogata families, sketched against the background of the postwar...