Education About Asia: Online Archives

EAA Interview with Gary Mukai

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Gary, please inform our readers about yourself. What attracted you to teaching and what kind of work did you do before your present employment?

I’ll always cherish that memorable day in July 1977. I was going to the country of my family’s ancestry for the first time in my life. My grandfather, Buntaro Mukai, left Hiroshima almost a hundred years ago to work as a laborer in Hawaii and then in California. My grandmother, Wakano Mukai, boarded the S.S. Manchuria bound for California as a “picture bride” in 1910 at the age of sixteen. As a third-generation Japanese American, I often struggled with my identity at a young age. Most of my classmates at school were Caucasians and Christian: I was Asian and Buddhist. During the 1950s and 1960s, many public schools in California offered the study of Japan in the fourth grade. I have a copy of the same textbook (Japan: Home of the Sun, Field Educational Publications, Inc., San Francisco, 1963) which I studied from in fourth grade. Let me read you some paragraphs from the section on “Japan and the United States”: