Letter from Kenji Okuda to Norio Higano dated July 15, 1943

Letter from Kenji Okuda to Norio Higano dated July 15, 1943. Higano Family Papers, Acc. 2870, Box 1, folders 9-11. University of Washington Libraries: Manuscripts, Special Collections, University Archives.

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211 No. Professor
Oberlin, Ohio
July 15, 1943

Dear Doctor:

Back in college again am I after a month of traveling which was climaxed by one glorious week in a hospital with pneumonia - and finally settling down to some letter writing. Thanks a lot for your damn prompt reply, and I’m not only sorry but upset about your reports on the ERC. Watching these Navy boys (730 of them) marching around campus, and in training to “preserve our democratic traditions,” I can’t help feeling the utter hypocriticalness of it - not a single black face in the group, and of course Niseis aren’t even considered. And some of these “intelligent” fellows go around making dirty cracks about 4F’s to the 150 civilian men left on campus. It’s hellish!

I suppose you're back hitting the books again like mad. To hear you mention the St. Louis weather so often will soon convince me that you have the damndest weather in the U.S. We’ve had plenty of moisture since I’ve been back, but today is one of the few warm days - can still sleep with a blanket on. It won’t be long, though, before we’ll be getting some honest to goodness heat! And I’ll remember the Vit. C & salt tablets - still recuperating from the week in bed - also have a board job wiping silver which does get quite warm at times.

How is everything else going with you? I think that I have a little news to report - observations, personalities, etc., and so I’ll begin. Sally Shimanake left Oberlin today with the family for whom she’s been working to spend a month at Rochester, Minn.., where the husband, an Army Major? (M.D.) is getting some training at the Mayo clinic. Instead of coming back here, she’s going straight down to Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, about 120 miles south of Cinncy, and will probably be there for a couple of years. I understand, also, that Chiyo Tamaki, Shiz’s sister, is there in St. Louis as a nurse - have you bumped into her yet? She’s engaged, I think, to Eichi Kaiwai - so goes the reports. Swell girl -

In Cincinnati I met Seiichi - had the wrong number all morning, and finally caught him about an hour before I had to leave, so I had a short session with him at the Cinncy station - beautiful building. He’s working like hell (he’d better watch out for his health!) in the cafeteria at the U. of Cincinnati- and frozen to his job since the Army came in. However, he’s hoping to go to Antioch College in the fall - my sis met May, Tamako, Sueko, Seiichi, and others when she went down to Cinncy - and she reports him trying hard to get in. I hope that he makes the grade.

Eleanor Ring visited us in Oberlin for a couple of days after attending the NLCC (YM. YW) conference at Lake Geneva. She had an interesting story to tell - Friend’s Center asked the Ring’s to take care or house two Nisei soldiers back on furlough, and they accepted. When Eleanor opened the door, there were Tosh and Squeeky Kanazawa. She left Seattle before they did - I ran into her in Chicago, but came back to Oberlin the day before she came in. I’m still sore at the way I missed meeting Tosh - I’d planned to go into Chicago on a Sat., June 26, only to get sick from the hellish ride up from Florida, and didn’t get out to Chicago until June 30, days after Tosh had left for Cinncy to see Seiichi. I cursed the luck, only to have Eleanor tell me that Tosh was back all day the day before I left Chicago. What a life! Also visited my cousins, met George and Amy Kaminishi, had George (my cousin) drive me down to the Loop from Evanston once - but had a hurried time there in the big city.

I’ll send you a copy of the Time Magazine you request - I have an extra copy so hang on to it if you want to - if not, I’d like it back - which Student Relocation sent me. I didn’t even know about it until my dad wrote me while I was in Chicago. I think that they got the whole dope from Student Relocation - my quote sounds somewhat familiar, but I can’t place it.

The Dies Committee investigations, as far as I’m concerned, are pure hot air, but they are doing their damage. There is no effective method of combating the hate hysteria except by facts which newspapers heading the Dies Committee regrets wouldn’t give much space to, and so the task boils down to me of personal contacts and “spreading the gospel.” I wish to hell that Dies would get down to facts, but worse yet is the fact that there are so many in this country who take his word as the gospel truth - damn them. Not much that we can do except by supporting organizations and individuals fighting for us.

The presence of the Navy unit has certainly changed Oberlin, and I’m afraid our academic standards will suffer. Some of the big, hulking bruisers from out West, with little to show for all their bulk, are making life uncomfortable. The social situation is complicated by the fact that there are only about 130 women in college for the summer - but the civilian men aren’t doing so badly. I really don’t know if this is the Oberlin I want to study in, but there seem to be no real alternatives. My parents want me to stay in school; I realize that I’m making no strong stand on anything - a coward at heart - but what can I do? I’m just riding along on the wave now - but I can’t drift forever. I need guidance, direction, conviction, and courage to live up to that conviction. If I can stay here long enough, I’m hoping to apply for a Shansi position - to teach at the Oberlin in China for 3 years - or to try to go to some foreign school for graduate work. On the other hand, the cloistered walls of academic systems seem musty and out of place for me to spend the duration of the war in them. I’ve got to do something!

Tomorrow I’m taking a short trip to Defiance, Ohio, a short distance beyond Toledo, for the week, and to speak at a Congregational Conference. The next week-end I’m planning to go down to Antioch to visit my sis - she claims she’s got a date with a redhead lined up for me - ah well - that’s life -

Be good

P.S. What’s Sakiko’s address?