An excerpt from

Stone Voices: Wartime Writings of Japanese Canadian Issei
by Keibo Oiwa with a forward by Joy Kogawa

"That Morning," from a memoir of Koichiro Miyazaki

The cold, yellow, early December sun melted into the clean air through which the slowly travelling sound of the church bell announced Sunday morning mass. Having finished my late breakfast, I was absorbed in the sound of the bell. My daughter had gone to Sunday school and the living room was quiet without her. The sun on the piano keys was dazzlingly bright. Cigarette smoke turned mauve in the sun's rays and, swaying like seaweed in ocean currents, wafted up to the ceiling and disappeared. I noticed the subtle sound of the clock in the bookcase. It was 9:30. The church bell had stopped ringing and I imagined the people praying to God.

I turned on the "Morning Serenade" radio program. I felt a suffocating shock and turned off the radio. I couldn't believe it. It was ridiculous. No, I will not believe it, I thought. My hands were trembling. I lit a cigarette and hurried to the kitchen where my wife was busy washing dishes. "The war," I said. I think my voice was shaking. "Well?" she inquired. She didn't pay attention to me. "Japan...America," I said. Then she turned and asked, "What happened?"
I exclaimed impatiently, "Japan seems to have attacked Hawaii!"
Putting a plate on the counter, she said, "You must be joking."
I too wanted to believe that, so I said with some doubt, "Is it a mistake? But I think the radio said..." She could tell I wasn't sure. She said, "Yes, you heard it wrong because it was in English." She laughed and put her hands back into the soapy basin. She may be right, I thought. I wanted it to be so. Yes, it would be ridiculous in the middle of the Sino-Japanese war for such a thing to happen, I thought."
I went back into the living-room with my wife and turned on the radio. The angry voice leapt out at us: "Jap planes attacked Hawaii, Manila..." We just stood there without speaking. Every station was repeating the same thing. There was no doubt about it now. It was war!

"What's going to happen? Will Japan be alright? I'm asking you!" demanded my wife.
"How am I supposed to know? I'm going to ask the office." So I dialed the number and spoke to Mr. I. who didn't believe me. "What, America? This must be some kind of mistake. We haven't heard anything. What's gotten into you? Yes. I will be careful. Goodbye." The calm voice of Mr. I. ended there.
"That's what I thought," said my wife with a sigh of relief on the way back to the kitchen. "Nothing can happen so suddenly. It must have been a hoax." I heard the water running from the tap as if it was washing away all of our worries. However, the radio persistently repeated that Japanese planes had attacked. If this were a radio drama they would have used sound effects to recreate the sounds of a war, I thought. I found out that every radio station was repeating the same news. So as I became convinced that the beginning of the war was a reality, I was overwhelmed by the strange emotion that I was the only one in the world who possessed this very serious secret. I tried to control my adrenaline, but without success. My head was pounding. Impatiently I searched on the radio for confirmation of the attack. The telephone rang loudly. My wife stood by me as if expecting the worst.

"It's true, it's true!" nervously blurted Mr. I. whose calm voice I had heard only moments before. "You are going to put out an extra edition, aren't you?" I asked him. "Well..." Mr. I was at a loss for words.
I hung up. My wife remained silent. Soon the radio began to announce the sinking of the battleships Arizona and Utah. Then there was a special announcement telling all off-duty soldiers to get in touch with their regiments immediately. I felt the hustle and bustle of the war. I felt like myself again. Strangely, I felt very light and almost began whistling. Images of the mighty war planes, the bright red rising sun on their flanks as they flew over the Pacific, came to mind. This must be the turning point for the Japanese nation. This thought broke the peaceful silence of Sunday.

For a while I thought about nothing but Japan. I must have forgotten about Canada. It might have been an instinctive reaction nurtured by the many years of discrimination I had suffered here. When my daughter came back from church in her red coat, she handed a card to my wife. "Tadaima, Mama," she said. She was out of breath from running. On the card was a picture of Christ with holy verse printed below in colour. My wife unbuttoned her coat from behind, her arms around her.,br> "You ran didn't you?" said my wife. "You must be careful. Did you behave well? Were you a good girl?" "Hai, Mama," she said, nodding. My wife blinked, her eyes brimming with tears, and embraced our daughter, squeezing her in her arms. Tears were glistening along her nose. As I watched my wife, my emotions almost exploded. Going to the window, I looked outside. It was so peaceful a morning you couldn't imagine a war. That night I could not sleep. All the years I had spent in Canada came flooding back to me. They were all dry, dark and tasteless, like dead leaves. I realized that I had accumulated years without achieving any of the goals that I had set when I left Japan. The faces of my homeland came back to me. The silhouette of Hawaii on the horizon was still fresh in my mind. As a child I had always been told of the inevitability of war and now it was really happening. Fate, I thought. I also remembered those episodes where the Japanese people became angry with Americans prohibiting immigration from Japan and that there were those who swore to take revenge on Americans. The bloody drama between Japan and America which had become popularized among the common people was now to become a reality. Wasn't it an irony of destiny that I was going to experience it in this corner of the American continent?

Accept fate. Yes, that's right. Now that the Japanese nation was gambling with its fate, I too had to throw in my cards. Gambling is a matter of win or lose, I had to win. I would, without fear, bear the name of enemy alien and stand on the Canadian battlefront. Yes, this was my fate. As an enemy alien I would be branded and deprived of my freedom. But nobody could take away the freedom and the desire to become a dignified enemy alien. This was my only strategy to fight my war. Although highly impractical, I would cling to it for dear life... I felt terrible that all my thoughts about the war overwhelmed my willpower to the point that I couldn't sleep.

The next morning, after breakfast, my wife broke the silence.
"Have you decided what you are going..." Tears welled up in my wife's eyes. "Well, I'm getting there," I replied. My wife did not say anything else, tears were running down her cheeks. My eyes misted over.