Two Homelands (book)

Title Two Homelands
Original Title Futatsu no sokoku
Author Toyoko Yamasaki; V. Dixon Morris (translator)
Original Publisher Shinchosha
Original Publication Date 1983
Current Publisher University of Hawai'i Press
Current Publication Date 2007
Pages 691
WorldCat Link

Epic three volume novel by best-selling Japanese novelist Toyoko Yamasaki that centers on the identity dilemmas of a Kibei man during and immediately after World War II. Published in Japan in 1983, it was adapted into a popular Japanese television drama the following year. Alarmed by reports that the novel/TV show portrayed Japanese Americans as having split loyalties, Japanese American leaders succeeded in preventing the TV drama from being shown in the continental U.S. In 2007, the University of Hawai'i Press published an English language translation by V. Dixon Morris under the title Two Homelands .

Storyline and Background

The novel's protagonist is Kenji Amo, 29 years old as the war begins. Born in the U.S., he had spent ten years in Japan, from ages ten to twenty, and graduated from college in the U.S. A reporter for the Japanese section of the Los Angeles newspaper, the Kashu Shinpo , the novel begins with his arrest and internment in an Arizona camp after the attack on Pearl Harbor , though he is released after a couple of months, in time to be incarcerated with his Nisei wife Emi, parents, and younger siblings at Santa Anita and than at Manzanar . Another brother, Tadashi, had been stuck in Japan. At Manzanar, he is recruited into the Information Section by his friend and rival, the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) leader Charlie Tamiya. After the riot and loyalty questionnaire episodes, Kenji reluctantly decides to become an instructor at the Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS). Meanwhile, his younger brother Isamu volunteers to join the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and is killed during the rescue of the "Lost Battalion." Wanting to see the front, Kenji is transferred to Australia, where he works in psychological warfare and is reunited with Charlie. He inevitably finds himself facing his brother Tadashi on the battlefield and accidentally shoots him. Though he survives, Tadashi holds a grudge against Kenji. After the war, Kenji works for the Strategic Bombing Survey in Hiroshima and later becomes a translation monitor for the Tokyo War Crimes Trials. His marriage to Emi begins to fall apart, and he finds love with Nagiko Imoto, a Nisei former Kashu Shinpo colleague. But the pressures of the trial and Nagiko's illness and death due to radiation exposure from the atomic bombing bring Kenji to the breaking point.

The character of Kenji Amo was based in large part on a real person, David Akira Itami. Like Kenji, Itami was born in California (in 1911, about the same time as Kenji) and sent to the same village, Kajiki in Kagoshima prefecture, as a young child. Also like Kenji, he returned to the U.S. at around age twenty, learned English quickly, and became a respected columnist and editor at at the Los Angeles based Kashu Mainichi newspaper. Itami also went to Manzanar; also volunteered to become a MISLS instructor; also left MISLS to enlist, seeing action in the Pacific; also served as a translation monitor for the war crimes trials; and also committed suicide, at age 39 in 1950. Itami did not encounter a brother fighting for Japan in the Pacific; that part of the story may have been based on the experiences of another Kibei, Harry Fukuhara. Historian Michael Jin notes that Itami left no writings indicating the reasons for his suicide, leading to Yamasaki's invention of the split loyalties theme—as well as the bad marriage and death of his lover—as leading to Kenji's suicide.

The novel includes many real historical figures—most notably those involved in the war crimes trials—as well as many fictionalized characters clearly based on real people, many of whom are Nikkei . These include Tsutomu Ikejima, a Manzanar dissident clearly based on Harry Ueno ; Orson Aikawa, the head of MISLS who is based on John Aiso ; and Taketora Matsui, president of the Kashu Shimpo , based on Kashu Mainichi publisher Sei Fujii. Yamasaki also fictionalizes key events in portraying the incarceration, most notably the riot/uprising at Manzanar. While Kenji is directly involved in the incident, Itami had left camp before then and thus had no involvement in it.

Reaction and Controversy

Author Toyoko Yamasaki (1924–2013) was a popular and acclaimed novelist in Japan. After graduating from Kyoto Women's College with a degree in Japanese literature in 1945, she worked as a journalist for the Mainichi Shimbun in Osaka from 1945 to 1959. Her first novel, Noren (1957), was set in Osaka and traced the life of a merchant family based on her own from 1896 to 1956. Her second novel, Hana noren (1958) won the 1958 Naoki Prize and led Yamasaki to quit the newspaper and write full time. Her books sold briskly and many were made into movies or television dramas. [1]

After her four volume epic Fumoo chibai (1978), a World War II story about a Japanese POW turned business tycoon, Yamasaki traveled to Hawai'i to deliver a series of lectures on Japanese literature. While there, she learned of the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans and began research for a novel based on that topic. She was also influenced by a growing interest in Nikkei in Japan due to the Japanese translation of Alex Haley's Roots and an airing of the TV series in 1977 and 1979. Futatsu no sokoku was originally published in serialized form in a Japanese magazine, then published in book form in 1983 in three volumes. A television adaptation soon followed the next year. The premiere episode of the TV drama—titled Sanga moyu drew over 30% of the Japanese television audience. [2]

The popularity of the book and TV drama in Japan was greeted with skepticism in the U.S., particularly among Japanese Americans. A New York Times article noted American objections to the book: that white characters were portrayed as uniformly bad and prejudiced, that it portrayed Japan as the victim of the war, and that it portrayed Japanese Americans as having split loyalties. In the context of the Redress Movement then in progress, Japanese American leaders also criticized the book, most without having read it. Clifford Uyeda called it "an anti-American piece" that "will reinforce old fears and prejudices." Historian Yuji Ichioka (who did read the book) called the portrayal of Nisei "downright outrageous," writing that Yamasaki has "used the Japanese-American experience with white racism to stir up anti-Americanism in order to goad her contemporaries to reevaluate their received notions of about Japanese militarism." In Far Eastern Economic Review , William Wetherall criticized the plot that saw Yamasaki inflict "all the misfortunes that could possibly have struck Japanese-Americans" onto one family and accuses her of exploiting Japanese American misfortunes "so that Japanese can vicariously suffer their sorrows, and narcissistically re-examine the Pacific war..." The Japanese American Citizens League led a successful effort to prevent Sanga Moyu from being shown on Japanese language television stations in the continental U.S. [3]

Having previously published English translations of two earlier Yamasaki novels, the University of Hawai'i Press published a translation of Futatsu no sokoku by V. Dixon Morris as Two Homelands in 2007.

In addition to the dramatic license taken in the description of the Manzanar riot/uprising of December 1942, there are a number of other errors in the portrayal of life in the concentration camps. At Santa Anita, there is one set of showers for men and women and inmates are allowed to shower only once a week (pages 51, 54); in actuality there were separate showers and no such restrictions. At one point, Yamasaki cites 170,000 as the number of Nikkei under government supervision in the U.S. (174); it was around 130,000. The book begins with Kenji in an Arizona internment camp soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor (1–2); however, there were no army run camps in Arizona. Terminal Island is described as being emptied of Japanese Americans in December 1941/January 1942 (23); this took place at the end of February 1942. The Santa Anita detention camp is administered by the War Relocation Authority (43); it was actually run by the army. Kenji and his family transfer from Santa Anita to Manzanar (75); almost none of the Santa Anita inmates go to Manzanar—nearly all at Manzanar go there directly without going to another " assembly center ." Manzanar is described as having "thirty-four blocks on the south side and twenty-four on the north" (79); it actually had thirty-six blocks total. The fictional Manzanar newspaper, the Manzanar News , begins publication after the riot/uprising in December 1942 (173); the actual Manzanar Free Press began publishing in April 1942. Later in the book, a character goes to an internment camp in Oregon, then to "Roseburg" (480); there were no internment camps in Oregon and "Roseburg" may be a reference to the Lordsburg , New Mexico internment camp.

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

Find in the Digital Library of Japanese American Incarceration

Two Homelands

This item has been made freely available in the Digital Library of Japanese American Incarceration , a collaborative project with Internet Archive .

Might also like: Color of the Sea by John Hamamura; Midnight at Broad Daylight by Pamela Rottner Sakamoto; Dear Miye: Letters Home from Japan, 1939-1946 by Mary Kimoto Tomita

For More Information

Publisher website: .

Ichioka, Yuji. Review of Futatsu no sokoku . Rafu Shimpo , Mar. 19, 1984, 1–2 and Mar. 20, 1984, 1–2.

Jin, Michael. "Beyond Two Homelands: Migration and Transnationalism of Japanese Americans in the Pacific, 1930–1955." Ph.D. dissertation, UC Santa Cruz, 2013.

Wetherall, William. "Japan's Pop Roots Fails to Cast New Light on Minority Problems." Far Eastern Economic Review , Oct. 13, 1983, 62–63.

———. "Dual Nationals Caught in a Storm Over their Mt Fuji Inheritance." Far Eastern Economic Review , June 7, 1984, 40–42.


  1. Sachiko Schierbeck, Japanese Women Novelists in the 20th Century: 104 Biographies 1900–1993 (Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, University of Copenhagen, 1994), 153–56; "Novelist Yamasaki, Champion of Social Issues, Dies at 88," The Japan Times , Sept. 20, 2013, accessed on February 22, 2017 at .
  2. Schierbeck, Japanese Women Novelists , 154; Pacific Citizen , Sept. 16, 1983, 6; Hawaii Herald , Nov. 4, 1983, 22; William Wetherall, "Japan's Pop Roots Fails to Cast New Light on Minority Problems," Far Eastern Economic Review , Oct. 13, 1983, 62–63; Clyde Haberman, "Japanese TV Series Depicts Nisei Plight," New York Times , Feb. 16, 1984, accessed on February 22, 2017 at .
  3. Haberman, "Japanese TV Series"; Clifford Uyeda, "Futatsu no Sokoku: Synopsis and Comments", Pacific Citizen , Dec. 23–30, 1983, A-36; Yuji Ichioka, Review of Futatsu no sokoku," Rafu Shimpo , Mar. 19, 1984, 1 and Mar. 20, 1984, 2; Wetherall, "Japan's Pop Roots," 63; Rafu Shimpo , Mar. 20, 1984, 1.

Last updated June 10, 2020, 4:31 p.m..