Mitsuko “Mitsi” Matsuno Yanagawa ’43

Mitsi Matsunaga was born on February 16, 1919 to Kamezo Matsuno and Tomoyo Nishimura Matsuno. She was attending Oberlin Conservatory during the Pearl Harbor attack and the start of World War II. Despite growing up in America her whole life, she was questioned by FBI and her room was searched.  She graduated from Oberlin Conservatory in 1943 with a degree in Music Education. She continued her education and received an M.A. at the Teachers College of Columbia University in 1944. Mitsi worked for the State Department of Education as teacher and school administrator in Hawaii, becoming Vice Principal of the Kaiolani School. She also founded and became President of her own business, Kelden Enterprise.

In 1946, three years after graduation, she married Yoshio Yanagawa, who had been stationed in the army at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, and later became manager of Hula Land Travel. They had two children, Peter Nobuo Yanagawa and Lauri Mieko Yanagawa. At 92 years, Mitsi passed away in Honolulu on June 14, 2011. She is survived by her brother, Rex Matsuno, her children, one grandchild, and two great-grandchildren.

December 7, 1941

I was a junior when war started and was very alarmed over the ramifications of it all. Momentarily I wondered about my loyalty: “Which side do I belong?” But I only knew how to be an American! But would the Americans trust me?

My dormitory friends remained true friends, their relationship with me never severed. In fact, they were more sympathetic and especially so when the FBI came to investigate.

I was called down to be questioned while my house mother knitted in the background. I felt the FBI was awfully silly and stupid to spend time asking me questions about Japan, how the war started, and communism. How did I know? I had no secret communications. Reading about the bad relationship between the two countries, everybody should have known something was going to happen!

While I was being questioned, another agent went through my room to search for any suspicious materials. One of my dormitory friends hovered over the agent to make sure he left the place in order. And later she reported to me that nothing was taken out.

Is it laziness or the desire to forget all this as “the past” that I don’t wish to recount all the incidents during this period of my life?

Sammy Junsuke Oi, Oberlin 1944, Admissions Essay

Sammy J. Oi, class of 1944

I was born on March 1, 1922. My early childhood days were spent in that section of Los Angeles a little northwest of the central business district. I only seem able to recall the many hills and a park near our home where often I played with my mother and sister.

We moved to the southwestern part of town when I was about four years old and soon after I entered kindergarten. I graduated from elementary school in 1933 and then attended Forshay Junior High School. It was about this time that I joined the Boy Scouts and during the next few summers many enjoyable days were spent hiking and camping at the beaches and in the mountains near Los Angeles. Many friends were made during this period whom I cherish to this day.

I entered senior high school in September, 1936. Up to this time my future was very undecided. What was I to do upon graduation? Yes, I would like to go on to college but going to college without a purpose, I thought, was useless. My father had a successful market business which I could continue if I so chose. Somehow I felt that this was not to be my lot. To be a true success, I thought, one should love his work. It was my intention to live as full a life as possible. I had made the acquaintance of two fellow students and many enjoyable and profitable hours were spent with them, discussing the question, “What are we living for?” I decided that perhaps college would help me to solve this problem.

In my second year in high school, I studied chemistry under Miss Willson, an elderly, crippled lady. Often I had spoken with her after class and in the course of one of these talks, she encouraged me to major in chemistry when I went to college. College, she said, was a place where one should learn to think. Chemistry is the subject which will help you most to think.

I entered U.C.L.A. in the fall of 1939. Soon after school started, my father became ill and was bedridden for over four  months. I was forced to look after his business, an this with my studies occupied nearly all of my time.

It was in the summer of 1940, when I spent my most pleasant vacation. With two friends, I spent a week in the interior of Yosemite. There, we hiked among tall pines and rugged granite mountains and swam in cool Lake Tenaya. There, I learned to appreciate nature.

This year when evacuation orders were issued, I dropped out of school. Now I am confined in a relocation center. My immediate plan is to finish school. I would like to go on in chemistry until I have a master’s degree and if possible a doctor’s. Perhaps I may be able to secure a position as a chemist in some plant or maybe teach in college.

At present I am hoping and praying with all my heart that the war will end soon and that men can live decently in a peaceful world.

Respectfully submitted,

Sammy J. Oi

After receiving a degree in Chemistry from Oberlin in 1944, Sammy joined the Army from ’44-’46, where service included Intelligence Service Language School, Engineer School, and assignment to the Engineer Board until discharge. He spent 7 months in Japan with a Technical Intelligence Team from November ’45-June ’46.  Once discharged, he did not return to further studies, but instead helped his father in the operation of “Oi’s Food Market”, which he later took over. He eventually married a woman named Evelyn. Sammy J. Oi passed away in 2000.