I was born in New Jersey and was raised in Dumont and Englewood.
My family was the only Japanese family in those two communities. My Issei businessman father wanted his three children to be totally American and felt that this was the only way we should be brought up. My Issei mother was a Kobe College graduate. Both parents spoke to their children only in English, so today we cannot speak or understand Japanese.
I was a senior at Dwight Morrow High School in Englewood on December 7, 1941. That day was the first time I saw my father cry.
Although I applied and was accepted by colleges on the East Coast, my father felt I should go to Oberlin as he was aware of what happened on the West Coast. Our family was never evacuated, but the FBI did search our home.
The President of Kobe College and some of my mother’s Caucasian missionary teachers were Oberlin College graduates. This is the reason I applied and, I believe, was accepted by Oberlin.
I never felt different from anyone else growing up until the war years. Our family was accepted in the community, and the community was supported during the war years. The same type of acceptance continued at Oberlin except for derogatory remarks from some of the V-12 men stationed on campus.
If it weren’t for the war years, I most likely would have attended another college. However, I’m glad I’m an Oberlin graduate, as it provided me with a well-rounded background and a social consciousness that has been an asset as a wife, mother, and physician.
Yoshie Takagi graduated from Oberlin in 1946 with a BA in Psychology and went on to earn an MD. in internal medicine and geriatrics from the Women’s Medical College of PA in Philadelphia. In 1955 she left New Jersey to work as a physician in Honolulu. One year later, she married Harold Ohata, who graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University and received an MBA from NYU. Harold served with the US Army Finance Department in Germany during the war. Together, they had four children, Ann Asako, Steven Seichi, Wendy Chiyo, and Michael Tomo. Before her retirement, Yoshie worked as a staff physician then Medical Director of Maluhia Long Term Health Center.
Today in 2013, Oberlin continues to embrace and encourage diversity and acceptance, as well as imbibe its students with an intense social consciousness that shapes them and their work for the rest of their lives.