For some Issei during World War II, the alienation, discrimination, isolation, and upheaval they experienced became overwhelming and they became susceptible to rumors connected to a belief in Japan's victory. Literally overnight they had lost the traditional leadership and status accorded to the older generation and were forbidden from Japanese cultural practices that had provided continuity and stability within the ethnic population. Respect for the older generation further declined with the emergence of "victory groups" composed of a small number of Issei who became vulnerable to notions of Japan's invincibility and refused to believe the news of Japan's unconditional surrender following the dropping of the atomic bombs.
As early as 1942 and 1943, various Issei had formed underground kachigumi (victory groups) that disputed American "rumors" of Japanese defeats and strove to keep ethnic pride and confidence alive among Hawai'i's Issei. Even after Japan's official surrender, rumors persisted within the Issei population, such as those concerning the arrival of the Japanese fleet to take over Hawai'i, the impending visit of Prince Nobuhito Takamatsu—the younger brother of Emperor Hirohito—to the islands, and the transfer of Hawai'i to Japanese control. This notion of Japan's "invincibility" during and after the war was not only reflective of the extreme shock many experienced upon hearing the news of Japan's defeat, but it was also a perception fostered in part by Japanese radio propaganda that revealed a curious inconsistency in American war regulations. At the outbreak of war, all local Japanese radio and newspapers were restricted, although authorities still permitted direct radio broadcasts from Japan that were filled with propaganda and news of Japanese victories until February 1942. As many alien Japanese could not read or understand English well, they relied on the Japanese media for news of the war and subsequently many refused to accept the censored news of American war activities when the local Japanese press resumed publication on January 8, 1942. Scholar Andrew Lind noted that during this critical period early in the war, the prohibitions regarding the use of Japanese in radio and print deprived the Issei of "a most effective means of news dissemination and of potential Americanizing influence." In essence, inconsistency in government policy as well as the upheaval experienced by the Japanese who were subject to harsh governmental policies and regulations designed to deter these nationalistic activities, inadvertently contributed to the rise of pro-Japanese sentiment.
In lieu of local Japanese newspapers such as the Hawaii Hochi and Nippu Jiji that had been traditional sources of news and events, but which officials had suspended as part of the new war restrictions, some individuals became subscribers to mainland Japanese newspapers such as the Colorado Times, Utah Nippo, and Rocky Shimpo. These papers propagated false reports of Japanese victories and celebrated Japan's "invincible tactics" and "fighting spirit." To certain portions of the population, the existence of these papers, like the radio broadcasts from Tokyo that were permitted in an environment where officials restricted the local Japanese media and newspapers, seemed to confirm these stories and sanction pro-Japanese sentiment.
Rise of Seichō-no-Ie
Still another factor that contributed to nationalistic Japanese attitudes was the rise of a religious sect called Seichō-no-Ie ("House of Growth"), which likewise helped to promote notions of Japan's invincibility and inevitable victory. Despite its obscure origins in Japan and its small number of converts before the war, this group was able to increase its membership dramatically since it was the only religious group authorized to operate in November 1944 due to its stated objective of providing memorial services for Japanese-American servicemen killed on the battlefield. With the closing of other Japanese religious organizations and the internment of traditional religious leaders, many in the community sought other avenues of religious support and guidance during this period of chaos and anxiety. This group attracted a large number of followers given the syncretic nature of Seichō-no Ie, which allowed adherents of different religions to belong to this sect while remaining devoted to their own faiths. The activities of Seichō-no Ie similarly increased in popularity among the anxious parents of Nisei soldiers as the organization's leaders provided prayers for Nisei soldiers, along with claims that they could ensure their safety. According to government statistics, by March 1946 an estimated 400 members belonged to the Honolulu branch of Seichō-no Ie, with over 1,000 adherents in the territory; observers noted that number was steadily increasing.
In this atmosphere of heightened anxiety and pro-Japanese sentiment among the Issei population, various victory organizations emerged and encompassed membership from various locations in the island. They included Tōbu Dōshi-Kai (東部同志会 "Eastern Association of Kindred Spirits") in Waialae, Kōsei-Kai (更生会 "Association for Rehabilitation") in Palama, and Hakkō-Kai (八紘会 "Association of Brotherhood") in Kalihi. While disputing claims of Japan's defeat, the main purpose of these organizations was to provide Japanese lunch for prisoners of war every day for nearly two years. Many of these members had split from Hawaii Dōshi-Kai (ハワイ同志会 "Hawaii Association of Kindred Spirits") and Shosei-Kai (処世会 "Holy Righteous Association"), which were originally organized to help "bewildered" Japanese during the period of "mental and emotional confusion" following the war, and to help them "pursue the proper course as Japanese and to educate other Japanese following erroneous paths." One of the activities embraced by these organizations was the entertainment of Japanese prisoners of war incarcerated in Hawai'i. The most aggressive group in propagating pro-Japanese notions was Hisshō-Kai (必勝会"Absolute Victory Group"), which was known as a "kattagumi," an organization which believed victory had been achieved. According to Tokuzo Shibayama, an advisor to Hisshō-Kai, the purpose of the organization was "to give comfort and encouragement to the Japanese by telling them the truth."
In spite of these outrageous claims, some Issei did pay membership dues and belonged to this group. Although exact figures are unavailable, the president of Hisshō-Kai claimed that there were between 3,500 and 4,000 members in the organization. Others have provided more conservative figures of 1,000 total participants, with many holding membership in other organizations. While only formally disbanded in 1977—thirty-two years after Japan's official surrender—many of Hisshō-Kai's members became discouraged much earlier by the evident lack of truth in the claims espoused by its leaders and given the exposés by former members and scathing articles and editorials published by the Hawaii Times that led to a dramatic drop in membership.
Ending of Kachigumi
A decline in participation also stemmed from the disorganization and disagreements among the various groups and leaders that resulted in numerous split factions, many of which were left without a purpose after the departure of Japanese prisoners of war. The subsequent arrival in March 1946 of Earl M. Finch, the "patron saint" of Japanese American soldiers, whose generosity and kindness to the Nisei from Hawai'i in training at Mississippi was extensively publicized by all the major newspapers in the territory—both the English language and Japanese presses—also contributed to the decline of these organizations. This made it impossible for many individuals—some of whom were parents of veterans or knew families of veterans—to express their gratitude and appreciation while maintaining a pro-Japan stance. Further, the publicity surrounding Finch's visit in both the English and Japanese language presses included the first mention among nationalist groups of the merits of Nisei soldiers as opposed to Japanese soldiers fighting for the emperor.
Finally, the arrival of returning internees and veterans further eroded support for nationalistic movements among the Issei as these groups expected public criticism of these activities. Many internees whose families experienced discrimination and alienation from the larger Japanese community, wondered why authorities had not arrested these fanatical leaders while they themselves were interned without any explanation save that they were considered potentially dangerous because of their prominent positions in the prewar Japanese community. Most prewar leaders, including businessmen, newspaper editors, language school teachers, and priests, joined in the criticism of these nationalistic groups. They were seen as damaging to the reputation of the Japanese community, to the reintegration of Japanese back into society, and to the hard-fought gains made by the Nisei who were also returning to the Islands. Some, who had fought in the Pacific theater of the war and who were active during the occupation of Japan—such as the Nisei in the Military Intelligence Service—also brought back newspapers, letters, and magazines from Japan which revealed the "destruction and misery in Japan," clearly contradicting stories of Japan's success.
To some the emergence of these kachigumi possibly suggests support for fears of pro-Japan sentiment prior to and during World War II. A more accurate understanding of these victory organizations would contextualize the actions of these members with the alienation and disillusionment many Japanese experienced as a result of the upheaval of this period as they were confronted by suspicion, fear, and the possibility of internment.
For More Information
Kimura, Yukiko. "A Comparative Study of the Collective Adjustment of the Issei, the First Generation Japanese, in Hawaii and the Mainland United States Since Pearl Harbor." Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago, 1952.
———. "Rumor Among the Japanese." Social Process in Hawaii 11 (May 1947): 84-92.
———. "A Sociological Analysis of Types of Social Readjustment of Alien Japanese in Hawaii Since the War." Master's thesis, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 1947.
Lind, Andrew W. The Japanese in Hawaii Under Wartime Conditions. Honolulu, New York: American Council, Institute of Pacific Relations, 1943.
Stephan, John J. Hawaii Under the Rising Sun: Japan's Plans for Conquest After Pearl Harbor. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1984.
- Research for this article was supported by a grant from the Hawai‘i Council for the Humanities.
- John J. Stephan, Hawaii Under the Rising Sun: Japan's Plans for Conquest After Pearl Harbor (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1984), 172.
- Yukiko Kimura, "Rumor Among the Japanese," Social Process in Hawaii 11 (May 1947): 84-85.
- Yukiko Kimura, "A Sociological Analysis of Types of Social Readjustment of Alien Japanese in Hawaii Since the War" (master's thesis, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 1947), 29; Yukiko Kimura, "A Comparative Study of the Collective Adjustment of the Issei, the First Generation Japanese, in Hawaii and the Mainland United States Since Pearl Harbor" (Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago 1952), 330.
- Andrew W. Lind, The Japanese in Hawaii Under Wartime Conditions (Honolulu, New York: American Council, Institute of Pacific Relations, 1943), 19.
- Lind, Japanese in Hawaii, 21.
- Kimura, "A Sociological Analysis,", 51, 202, 207.
- Kimura, "A Sociological Analysis," 62-65; What People In Hawaii are Saying and Doing, War Research Laboratory, University of Hawaii, March 1, 1946 Report No. 8 ([Honolulu]: n.p., 1952).
- Kimura, "A Sociological Analysis," 69.
- The Romanzo Adams Social Research Laboratory (RASRL), A-1989: 006, Box 10-11, "Mr. Y., Waialae Ave., April 11, 1947," 3; Yukiko Kimura, "A Sociological Analysis," 136.
- The Romanzo Adams Social Research Laboratory (RASRL), A-1989: 006, Box 10-11, A FORMER HISSHO-KAI LEADER AIDING RELIEF PROJECTS FOR JAPAN: Exposes Inner Activities of 'Katta-to,'" 22 July 1948.
- The Romanzo Adams Social Research Laboratory (RASRL), A-1989: 006, Box 10-11, "Mr. Inokuchi, Hawaii Doshi-kai, April 8, 1947," 1.
- The Romanzo Adams Social Research Laboratory (RASRL), A-1989: 006, Box 10-11, "Interview with Mr. Tokuzo Shibayama—advisor of Hissho Kai," July 9, 1948, 1.
- The Romanzo Adams Social Research Laboratory (RASRL), A-1989: 006, Box 10-11, "MEMBERSHIP FEE OF HISSHO-KAI IS $10.00—4,000 PAID-UP MEMBERS," July 26, 1948.
- Kimura, "A Sociological Analysis," 126.
- "ハワイ島必勝会解の辞," Hawaii Hochi, November 17, 1977, 4. The Romanzo Adams Social Research Laboratory (RASRL), A-1989: 006, Box 10-11, "KAHALUU MEMBER OF HISSHO-KAI EVICTED FROM FARM: Refused to Re-new Lease Because He Believed Rumours," July 9, 1948; The Romanzo Adams Social Research Laboratory (RASRL), A-1989: 006, Box 10-11, "HISSHO-KAI SHOULD DISBAND—PAU: We Should All Try to Get Along Happily," June 30, 1948; The Romanzo Adams Social Research Laboratory (RASRL), A-1989: 006, Box 10-11, A FORMER HISSHO-KAI LEADER AIDING RELIEF PROJECTS FOR JAPAN: Exposes Inner Activities of 'Katta-to,'" July 22, 1948.
- "Earl Finch Given Rousing Reception," Honolulu Star Bulletin, March 5, 1946, 1.
- Elizabeth Jones, "AJAs Fete Finch At Luau In Palama Auditorium," Honolulu Advertiser, March 7, 1946, 1; "Earl Finch Given Honorary Life Membership in C of C," Honolulu Advertiser, March 26, 1946, 1.
- Kimura, "A Sociological Analysis," 139.
- "Nisei Officer Shocked At Local Skepticism On Japan Defeat," Honolulu Advertiser, December 6, 1946, 6.
- Kimura, "A Comparative Study," 367-369.
- Kimura, "A Sociological Analysis," 142-143.