Midnight in Broad Daylight

Midnight in Broad Daylight

by Pamela Rotner Sakamoto

Overview: Meticulously researched and beautifully written, the true story of a Japanese American family that found itself on opposite sides during World War II—an epic tale of family, separation, divided loyalties, love, reconciliation, loss, and redemption—this is a riveting chronicle of U.S.–Japan relations and the Japanese experience in America.

After their father’s death, Harry, Frank, and Pierce Fukuhara—all born and raised in the Pacific Northwest—moved to Hiroshima, their mother’s ancestral home. Eager to go back to America, Harry returned in the late 1930s. Then came Pearl Harbor. Harry was sent to an internment camp until a call came for Japanese translators and he dutifully volunteered to serve his country. Back in Hiroshima, his brothers Frank and Pierce became soldiers in the Japanese Imperial Army.

As the war raged on, Harry, one of the finest bilingual interpreters in the United States Army, island-hopped across the Pacific, moving ever closer to the enemy—and to his younger brothers. But before the Fukuharas would have to face each other in battle, the U.S. detonated the atomic bomb over Hiroshima, gravely injuring tens of thousands of civilians, including members of their family.

Alternating between the American and Japanese perspectives, Midnight in Broad Daylight captures the uncertainty and intensity of those charged with the fighting as well as the deteriorating home front of Hiroshima—as never told before in English—and provides a fresh look at the dropping of the first atomic bomb. Intimate and evocative, it is an indelible portrait of a resilient family, a scathing examination of racism and xenophobia, an homage to the tremendous Japanese American contribution to the American war effort, and an invaluable addition to the historical record of this extraordinary time.

Deanna Boe (11/13/18): This is another extraordinary non-fiction book about WWII. The stories just keep on coming and they only seem to be more fascinating. How can that be when the war ended 73 years ago? For those of you who have forgotten or didn’t even know, at the turn of the last century Japanese were not allowed to become citizens after they had moved to the United States. First generation Japanese were called issei and no matter what were not allowed citizenship, although second generation (or those born in the United States), who were called nisei, were allowed to be citizens, thanks to our constitution. This is an exceptional book with a remarkable story about one Japanese/American family caught up in the war.

The book centers on the Fukuhara family. The father, Katsuji, was an extremely well respected and hard working member of the Auburn, CA community in the 1920’s and ‘30’s. He was admired by all. Unfortunately, he died during the depression which forced his wife and family of 5 children to return to their mother’s ancestral home in Hiroshima. (An interesting side note concerns the 1920’s when twenty-five thousand immigrants from Hiroshima lived in the U.S. – more then from any other area of Japan.) It was during the depression that newspapers spouted “Japs Must Go.” In short, anti-Japanese sentiment was already high before the war.

Once in Japan, two children of the Fukuhara family were anxious to return to the U.S. It was the daughter, Mary, and the second son, Henry. It wasn’t long after their return that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, which then forced the relocation of all the Japanese in the U.S. to be sent to “concentration type of camps.” It is at this point Henry and his sister lost all contact with their family still in Japan. Unfortunately, Henry had terrible eyesight and so when he volunteered for our military, he wasn’t accepted. Interestingly enough, because of his fluency in Japanese and English, the military soon realized his value as an interpreter. His services were greatly needed when the U.S. attacked the various islands in Asia. Ironically it is the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima that kept Henry from being part of the proposed military land invasion. Henry had worried about this knowing his three brothers were probably part of the Japanese military. Once the bomb was dropped his concerns only escalated because he knew his family was living there.

I cannot begin to do justice to this wonderfully written book in a short review. I can honestly say it is one of the most fascinating, well researched, intriguing novels I have read. The author does such an outstanding job of showing you the lives of these members of this family! It reads like a fantastic novel but it is all true, about a real American family whose lives were unbelievably involved in World War II simply because they were of Japanese ancestry. I can only think about how my ancestry is German and how our lives would have been affected if we had been sent to those types of camps that the Japanese were. Obviously “race” played a large factor here.
Rating: *****

Faith Bowers (07/05/18): This was a book recommended by a CA book club and I really liked the book. It is fact but reads like fiction so the writing is very clear and you get to know the characters. The book centers on the oldest son of the second set of first generation children from Hiroshima immigrants to Seattle in the early 20th century. It was considered important to send your children back to Japan to learn how to be Japanese at an early age and his two older siblings were without their parents for 7 years.

The descriptions of both Japan during Japanese wars in Hiroshima, life in the town and Japanese schools where the children attended, avoiding conscription and WWII are all new information for American readers and that is where the author does her research and writes. The book will stay with you long after you finish reading. I have not yet read Celeste NG’s first novel but I will now.
Rating: ****

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