The People Respond to Pearl Harbor

These are the responses that people have submitted to our questionnaire about Pearl Harbor. In order to make the most of this bilingual forum, Zipangu has decided to publish all responses from our readers, both those originally written in English and those originally written in Japanese. We have translated the Japanese responses into English and have listed them here in chronological order. However, because of time and money limitations, it is impossible for us to provide an immediate translation. Therefore, please understand that there is a time gap before the translated version of all responses can appear on this site.

  • Translated Responses from Japanese: on the pink background (11~14)
  • English Responses: on the blue background (11~20)

Response 20: September 16, 2001 8:41PM
Name = Leo
gender = Male
Age = 59
Profession = accountant
Nationality = American
Country of residence=AMERICA

  1. Ancient History

  2. When I was a very little boy. Sneak attack

  3. It was the beginning of the great war.

Response 19: July 17, 2001 10:27PM
Name = Grant
Gender = Male
Age = 25
Profession = Student
Nationality = US
Country of residence= US
  1. The image that comes to mind is the beginning of US involvement in the largest war in history. The Japanese felt justified because the United States was hurting them economically, and sending mixed messages.

  2. In kindergarten I remember learning about the sneak attack by the Japanese, which forced the US into WWII

  3. Pearl Harbor set the stage for a brutal long conflict between two major powers. The Japanese government had underestimated the United States war making capability. And also did not foresee the hate this attack would instill in America.

Response 18: July 17, 2001 7:17PM
Name = texcont
Gender = Male
Age = 54
Profession = small business owner
Nationality = usa
Country of residence = usa
  1. US xenophobia

  2. I was born in 1947 so I grew up in the shadow of pearl harbor being constantly discussed.

  3. to Japanese: American's fear of the Japanese takeover.
    to Americans: the fear of not being in control

Response 17: July 17, 2001 7:17 PM
Name = Mike
Gender = Male
Age = 47
Profession = software
Nationality = USA
Country of residence = USA

  1. I think about the hundreds of sailors who died in the sinking battleships and the enormously successful surprise air attack.

  2. I probably first heard the words "Pearl Harbor" in a history class in elementary school.

  3. To Americans, Pearl Harbor was the event which changed United States' foreign policy from one of isolationism to internationalism.
Response 16: July 13, 2000 3:46PM
Name = Lynne Yamamoto
Gender = female
Age = 39
Profession = artist/educator
Nationality = American
Country of residence = U.S.A.
  1. I think of the bombing and internment.

  2. Since I grew up in Honolulu, I probably first heard those words as the location of the Arizona Memorial. I also saw the movie Tora Tora Tora when I was quite young. I finally visited the Arizona Memorial for the first time last year.

  3. 3. I think it's very resonant in relation to the subsequent internment of Canadians and Americans of Japanese ancestry. It stirred up a great deal of anti-Japanese sentiment in the U.S. In Hawaii there was some of this, but much less so than on the West Coast.

    From what I've read the attack was brilliantly conceived and executed. It was one of the highpoints for the Japanese Navy, yet it was a fearsome moment in terms of the events that followed upon it. I've read a great deal about the Pacific War and thought often of Admiral Yamamoto's statement about awakening a sleeping giant.

Response 15: July 12, 2001 3:28AM
Name = Ralph Libby
Gender = Male
Age = 71
Profession = Retired
Nationality = US
Country of residence = US
  1. A place that was attacked by Japanese forces while their representatives in Washington were discussing accommodations with the U.S.

  2. When the bombing attack took place. It was a Sunday in Oakland, California .I was 11 years old.

  3. To Japanese? I have no idea. To Americans, it means we should always have our forces at the ready, even if "peace negotiations" are in progress.

Response 14: July 11, 2001 10:24AM
Name = TheHistorian
Gender = Male
Age = 46
Profession = Professor
Nationality = Human
Country of residence = Earth
  1. History.

  2. From my father, who was explaining to me how he went to war.

  3. Let's see. That's well over three-hundred-million persons. You want the significance to how many?

Response 13: July 11, 2001 4:11AM
Name = Vicky
Gender = Female
Age = 37
Profession = English teacher
Nationality = American
Country of residence = Japan
  1. Of course, I think about the Japanese attack on the American navy.
  2. I'm sure I heard them from my father, who often watched war-related documentaries on TV. He also liked the movie "Tora Tora Tora".
  3. In 2001, I think one significance of Pearl Harbor is that it reminds us that our two countries have not always had a close and peaceful relationship. Maybe it can keep us from taking that relationship for granted, and we encourage us to search for ways to communicate more clearly and cooperate more effectively. As a historical event, however, I think the meaning of Pearl Harbor is seen quite differently in Japan and in the U.S.

    In Japan, I think people think of the events of World War II (including Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki) as showing the stupidity and the cruelty of war, the important of avoiding war, of maintaining peace.
    But I think for Americans, the message of Pearl Harbor is that the U.S. should always be ready to protect itself against an enemy; Pearl Harbor shows that military strength is important and must be maintained.
    I wonder if it is possible for these two viewpoints to be reconciled?

Response 12: July 11, 2001 3:46AM
Name = Richard Miller
Gender = Male
Age = 39
Profession = Ethnomusicology grad student
Nationality = USA
Country of residence = Japan/US
  1. A military disaster caused by failure to be prepared. Blindness to one's own weakness resulting from arrogance.

  2. I no longer remember...all three of my uncles served in the Pacific during the war, including the occupation of Japan. I'm sure I first heard of it as a child, but I no longer remember not knowing about it.

  3. I can't speak to Japanese, although looking at the media is seems like there is great ambivalence. It was a major tactical success, and a demonstration of Japanese strength--but it was ultimately suicidal as well, and represents the excesses of the militaristic period. For Americans I think it depends on age, historical interest, and perhaps overseas experience. I think for a lot of Americans who have never investigated the entire historical conquest, "Pearl Harbor" = "sneak attack," pure and simple. Is this perpetuated in the public schools? Hard to say...there is no national coordination of public school curricula in the US, unlike Japan. When I was in school, we spent so much time on the 17th-19th centuries that by the time I graduated from High School we had just made it to the Depression.

Response 11: July 3, 2001 12:40PM
Name = john robinson
Gender = Male
Age = 32
Profession = lab technician, DJ
Nationality = US
Country of residence = US
  1. US Propaganda
  2. Probably in elementary school history class, or else overheard in adult conversation.
  3. As a collective 'memory', Pearl Harbor would appear to resonate more within US culture than in Japanese. The US collective consciousness is (often unknowingly) informed by an endless but fragmented collection of media propaganda on the military maneuver: from WWII era cartoons to ongoing movie and TV allusions.

    Much of this equates Japanese culture (as opposed to Japanese government) with dishonesty, "sneakiness", insincerity, and deceptiveness at best--and with racial inferiority at worst. As an extension, these concepts are emphasizes in nearly every discourse, as opposed to the nearly indistinguishable yet more favorable concepts associated with the US"; s military maneuvers: clandestine, tight security, covert, 'in the interest of national security', and stealth.

    This phenomenon is crystallized in FDR's famous announcement of the attack which has become inextricably bound to the actual historical event in public memory:

    "The United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan--a surprise offensive. " "Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory."

    Is there a type of military offensive other than one that is sudden, premeditated, secretive, and deliberate? Aren't these in fact the features of a successful military maneuver? Pointing out the antonyms of these terms ("unhurried, expected, unintentional, spontaneous") clearly unveil their propagandistic nature as they could never describe any military maneuver.

    Perhaps equal in popular discourse is the characterization of Japan as deceptive and manipulative in regards to suddenly 'giving up on peace talks' and attacking Pearl Harbor. In truth, nearly every nation is in some form of "peace talks", or more correctly, negotiations nearly all the time (the two nations were not yet at war: why are these always referred to as peace talks?).

    War often begins as the result of failed negotiations: Is there a historical event where two nations mutually decide that negotiations have failed and mutually agree on a starting time for war? Again, that characteristic of Japanese deception is emphasized over US intelligence's lack of preparedness must be seen as a result of effective re-framing propaganda on the popular consciousness and memory.

Kaito 14: June 24, 2001, 9:20 PM
Name = Gan-chan
Gender = Male
Age = 32
Occupation = Self-employed
Nationality = Korean
Country of Residence= Japan
  1. The attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese military

  2. In a class when I was an Elementary School student

  3. Memorial of the war

Kaito 13: June 19, 2001, 10:52 PM
Name = KAITO
Gender = Male
Age = 36
Occupation = Student
Nationality = Japanese
Country of Residence = America
  1. The start of the Pacific War between America and Japan. A surprise attack. Americans apparently hold a grudge over Pearl Harbor.

  2. When I saw the movie “Tora Tora Tora” as a child.

  3. Pearl Harbor was an event that Americans will never forget, as they have never before had a land attack on their country, aside from their War for Independence. At the same time, we had never been faced with a land attack on Japan prior to the war. It may have the same significance to the American people as the attacks on Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Okinawa have for the Japanese. While these events are certainly tragic, they are also humiliating. Although Pearl Harbor is an event that occurred long ago, the implications of how Pearl Harbor will be seen throughout history is just beginning.

Kaito 12: June 7, 2001, 7:48 AM
Name = Samugari
Gender = Male
Age = 61
Occupation = Self-employed
Nationality = Japanese
Country of Residence = Sakai, Osaka, Japan
  1. I asked a 79-year old acquaintance of mine about his feelings and opinions toward Pearl Harbor. He explained that 5:5:3 is the cause behind the attack. This term refers to the ratio of each of the following countries being allowed to bear arms: England 5, America 5, Japan 3. This dictatorial demand of restriction of weapons in Japan led the commander of the Japanese military to ultimately engage in the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Surprisingly, the upper ranks of the Navy at that time were not enthusiastic about this operation, but the upper ranks of the Army eagerly promoted the execution of the attack. In other words, the Army was rather conceited that they had never yet lost a battle. When the military gains too much power, even intellectuals and politicians are unable to stop them, despite the fact that the war is a reckless one.
  2. I have friends who are second-generation Japanese-Americans who were locked up in a camp as a result of Pearl Harbor because they might provide the Japanese military with information. When I speak with these friends, some of them often cry as they recall this severely sad time in their lives. They are at least in their seventies, and I am happy that they are peacefully living out their later years with enjoyment. Even after they returned home from the camp, their house was targeted by guns. They were accosted by people saying, “Jap, go home.” I have heard that even today, Japanese-Americans are seen as being insignificant. However, my friends who are second-generation Japanese-Americans never speak about such things to me. This is probably because they are proud that they have worked hard to become Japanese-Americans. I would like Japanese people who live both in Japan and around the world to try even harder so that people from other countries recognize how great Japanese people are. The attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese has made those same Japanese people suffer, and I do not want this issue to be settled simply by racial discrimination. As time goes on, I hope that there will be more people in the world who do not judge other people by the color of their skin or differences in their nationality.
Kaito 11: June 3, 2001, 9:11 PM
Name = Keiji
Gender = Male
Age = 52
Occupation = Company employee
Nationality = Japanese
Country of Residence = Japan
  1. An unfortunate war. The start of a war that Japan stood no chance of winning. It led to Japan's subordination to America after the war.

  2. I cannot remember since it was so long ago.

  3. A sneak attack upon Americans.

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