Home Community Papa Was a Samurai Warrior! Part 1〜TOKITA TALES

Papa Was a Samurai Warrior! Part 1〜TOKITA TALES


Papa Was a Samurai Warrior! Part 1

By Shokichi Tokita
For The North American Post

Editor’s note. Scarcely recognizable today, the author’s father was a Meiji man, a product of Japan’s first modern imperial reign (1867-1912) following the ending of centuries of the shogunal (samurai) rule of Japan. The Issei was also a veteran of the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905).

What’s this about your papa being a samurai warrior? Your dad was a samurai? Whatever gave you that idea? Do you even know what a samurai is?

Of course I know what a samurai is! I know that just like in England, they were the “knights of olde” who protected the royalty as well as various lesser heads of state, and performed good deeds among the people. In Japan, the samurai were the ones who protected the hierarchy. In the U.S., the closest ones that come to mind are local police.

However, when I was growing up, there was a “learning period” that introduced me to the past societal role of samurai. This is how I learned about that particular Japanese “mibun” or class.

Before World War II, we were living at the Cadillac Hotel in downtown Seattle (today’s Klondike Gold Rush building). As I was growing up there from age four, I became familiar with several objects that related to activities that my father engaged in from time to time.
There was an ultra-long bow — of bow and arrow fame — that I also noted in magazines, books and various publications. There was a “katana” (sword) that was placed on a special shelf, which was also featured in the same reading materials. Third, there was a round, beautiful black container with a whole lot of sticks with feathers sticking out of the opening, under my parent’s double bed, which I guessed were arrows. Lastly, there was strange, long, black clothing like you see in Japanese media from time to time.

I couldn’t read nor understand the texts in these publications. However, the pictures and photos seemed quite interesting because they related to the things and items in our apartment.

In family conversations, the subject of samurai came up from time to time, primarily between Mama and Papa. Most of the time it arose in their talks relating to old Japan. Mama came to America when she was 12 years old, so most of the discussion consisted of Papa explaining things about samurai to her. It was obvious that Papa was quite knowledgeable about them and seemed to admire them greatly.

In those days, Papa rarely talked to me, except to scold and order me to perform a task, but in an aloof and standoffish manner. Generally, Mama would follow up and explain things when it was obvious that I did not understand. Although Papa was a well-educated man with a college background, I’m not sure whether he chose or simply maintained the samurai hierarchy of remaining “above it all.” Thank goodness Mama recognized the difficulty I was having attempting to understand the rationale behind what was taking place between Papa and me.

to be continued