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"Go for Broke! ~Hawai‘i Nikkei Nisei no Kioku~ Memories of Hawai'i Japanese Nisei" Clubhouse Film Showing

On a warm afternoon of Saturday, September 16, 2023, 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans (100th IBV - Club 100) members, family, friends, and community members gathered in Turner Hall of the clubhouse to view the film, “Go for Broke! ~ハワイ日系二世の記憶~ Memories of Hawai'i Japanese Nisei.” This documentary, directed by Hiroyuki “Matsugen” Matsumoto (松元裕之), chronicles the beginning of Japanese immigration to Hawaii in 1868 by Gannenmono (“first-year people”), who served as migrant workers on sugar plantations; the experiences of Japanese Americans born in Hawaii; Nisei who served in World War II as members of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and Military Intelligence Service; and the lasting legacy of the historic veterans who fought for freedom and against racism, returning to their island home eager to improve the societal conditions that awaited them.


The documentary includes interviews with 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT), and Military Intelligence Service (MIS) veterans from Hawaiʻi. Matsumoto-san has conducted extensive research over the years, spending much time visiting with veterans and members at our clubhouse. A special preview screening of this film was held at the clubhouse in 2012, prior to a showing held by Director Matsumoto at the Hawaiʻi Convention Center that year. The film was again shown at the Convention Center in 2015 as part of the Honolulu Festival.


"Go for Broke! - Memories of Hawai‘i Japanese Nisei" documentary film with oral history interviews.
Film poster for “Go for Broke! - Memories of Hawai‘i Japanese Nisei,” directed by Hiroyuki Matsumoto.

The film was initially produced to share the story of the Nisei veterans within Japan, and the interviews are conducted in English and Japanese with subtitles. Screenings of the film have been held in various cities in Japan, including Hiroshima, Kumamoto, and Fukuoka, where many of the Japanese Americans in Hawaiʻi have roots. However, Director Matsumoto has since recognized the need for these stories to be told outside of Japan as well, and appreciates opportunities to show his film in Hawaiʻi.


Interviewed in the film are 100th Infantry Battalion veterans Robert Arakaki (B), Eugene Eguchi (A), Hiram Hagiwara (A), Edward Ikuma (HQ), Stanley Izumigawa (A), Sunao Kadooka (D), Arthur Kurahara (D), Susumu Nakagawa (C), Robert Sato (A) and Leighton Goro Sumida (A). Interviews with veterans from the 442nd RCT, and Tom Yamada of the MIS are also included.


Matsumoto-san shared with us how he developed his passion for perpetuating the stories of the nisei veterans. In 2007, Matsumoto-san lost a dear friend, Shinichi Tashima, to cancer at a young age. Shinichi was a Japanese calligraphy artist living in Kumamoto, and in a phone conversation just three months prior to his passing, he had learned of his friend’s wish to hold a calligraphy exhibit on Maui. Shinichi had once been told that since his calligraphy had such a unique style, he should hold an exhibition on Maui. To aspiring artists in Japan, Maui symbolizes a thriving arts scene, and a highly appealing venue. This dream had been planted in him, and he had longed for years to bring it to fruition.


Hearing this, Matsumoto-san was struck with a sense of fate, because he coincidentally had plans to visit Maui for the first time in just a few days. He promised his friend that he would check out the level of recognition of Japanese calligraphy and art gallery venues while on Maui, and send photos of scenes in Hawaiʻi to Shinichi, who had yet to visit the islands.


Arriving on Maui, Matsumoto-san met with Dorothy Nakata, former president of the Maui Kumamoto Kenjinkai, and her husband Ronald. They heard him out in earnest, and graciously agreed to assist with helping Shinichi to organize an exhibit once he created Maui-inspired calligraphy.


Unfortunately, Shinichi passed away without being able to create the calligraphy pieces. Hearing that Shinichi clung onto his dream of having an exhibit on Maui until the very end, Matsumoto-san was determined to see it through. He returned to Maui for a one-day exhibition of Shinichi’s calligraphy work. Dorothy and the Japanese American community on Maui were greatly supportive in the planning and execution of the exhibit. Shinichi’s family, friends, and a television crew from Kumamoto attended the event, and his family was very touched.


While spending time with Ron and Dorothy on this visit, Matsumoto-san learned through them about the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center (NVMC) and Kansha Preschool on Maui. Dorothy shared with him how the socioeconomic status of Japanese Americans today is thanks to the efforts of the nisei population, but the younger generation is starting to lose this awareness – therefore through the Kansha Preschool, the Japanese American community on Maui hopes to be able to convey this to children from a young age.


This encounter inspired Matsumoto-san to think of ways that he could support their efforts from Japan, to repay his appreciation for their warm assistance with Shinichi’s calligraphy exhibition. However, he knew that the majority of people in Japan did not know about the nisei. He formed a non-profit in Japan called, “NAC-J (Nisei veterans Action Center of Japan),” which operates on the concept of, “on wo uketara, rei wo kaesu (once a recipient of a kind favor, return it with gratitude).”


Under this non-profit, he decided to produce a documentary that would educate the Japan population about the Hawaiʻi nisei story. It was then that Matsumoto-san happened to see Robert “Bob” Sato (A) on a television program. He was able to get in contact with Bob Sato, and in 2009, visited with him at home, and also visited the 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans clubhouse, 442nd RCT Veterans Club, and Nisei Veterans Memorial Center on Maui. This is how he embarked on a journey that has filled him with the utmost respect towards Nikkei Nisei. Matsumoto-san says, “the more I learned about the nisei, the more I realized how incredible they were. Japan also owes so much to the nisei for their contributions in the recovery of the country post-war.” Little by little in Japan, there has been an increase in those who know of, respect, and appreciate the Nikkei Nisei.



Interviews with 100th Infantry Battalion veterans Robert “Bob” Arakaki, Edward “Ed” Ikuma, and Robert “Bob” Sato are incorporated in the film.

Interviews with 100th Infantry Battalion veterans Edward “Ed” Ikuma, Robert “Bob” Sato, and Robert “Bob” Arakaki are incorporated in the film.


Veterans featured in the film vividly recall planes flying overhead in the early morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941 and announcements over the radio of “this is war!”; their journey in “complete secrecy” from Honolulu to an unknown destination (Oakland, California); training in Camp McCoy, Wisconsin and Camp Shelby, Mississippi; brutal battles in Italy and France, which left many severely wounded and others killed in action. One veteran notes that his senninbari (a fabric belt with 1,000 stitches) sewn by his mother, which he tied to his waist, protected him from some of the perils of war and ensured his return home. Fraught with emotion, another veteran says, “What I went through is nothing compared to what my parents went through,” referring to the tremendous hardships his Issei (first generation) immigrant parents endured.


A common thread that wove through the fabric of these interviews was that these Nisei Japanese Americans never forgot the moral values of On (obligation), Gaman (endurance), and Ganbari (perseverance) instilled in them by their Issei parents, thereby proving their steadfast loyalty to the United States (the country of their birth) and serving their country with pride and distinction.


Director Hiroyuki Matsumoto at the 100th IBV Clubhouse showing of his film, “Go For Broke! 〜 Memories of Hawaii Japanese Nisei 〜.”

Director Hiroyuki Matsumoto at the 100th IBV Clubhouse showing of his film, “Go For Broke! 〜 Memories of Hawaii Japanese Nisei 〜.”


A brief question-and-answer period ensued, during which Director Matsumoto, with the assistance of translator Amy Kwong, stated that he sensed an “invisible power” and a calling to produce this film, which was to educate the people in Japan about the role of the heroic Nisei Japanese Americans during and after World War II. The film has been well received in Japan, with its people being immensely moved by the testimonies of Hawaii’s nisei veterans. Director Matsumoto related that his non-profit organization, Nisei veterans Action Center of Japan (NAC-J), established 13 years ago, strives to strengthen the relations between Japan and Japanese Americans in Hawaii. In this connection, NAC-J supports the Kansha Preschool operated by the Maui Nisei Veterans Memorial Center.


Director Matsumoto, Doumo arigatou gozaimashita! We appreciate all that you do to share the history and experiences of the American soldiers of Japanese ancestry during World War II, including those of the men who served in the 100th Infantry Battalion.


The film is viewable thru Vimeo On Demand here. https://vimeo.com/ondemand/goforbrokenisei


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This article has been reprised from articles published in the August/September 2023 and October 2023 Puka Puka Parade newsletters, written by descendants of 100th Infantry Battalion veterans Jean Imada (daughter of Haruto Soma (Charlie)) and Amy Kwong (granddaughter of M. Eugene Kawakami (Able)). Back issues of the Puka Puka Parade can be viewed online, courtesy of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa eVols digitial repository — the most recent issues available to the public can be viewed here: https://hdl.handle.net/10524/66742. For more about the 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans Puka Puka Parade, please visit https://www.100thibv.org/post/puka-puka-parade-newsletter.

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