Midnight in Broad Daylight, by historian Pamela Rotner Sakamoto ’84, follows one Japanese-American family from their prewar years on the American West Coast to the irradiated ruins of Hiroshima. This journey is so thematically freighted and robustly researched that one imagines it could have been stretched, if she willed it, to four different books: one covering the quintessentially American work ethic of the Japanese immigrant class on the West Coast in the 1930s and their struggles during the Depression; one covering the shameful indignities visited on that class during their forced internment in wartime camps; one on the unique experience of the Japanese-Americans who enlisted to fight for their country as infantrymen and interpreters; and one on the family-level effects of the dropping of the atomic bombs.
Harry Fukuhara was born in Seattle on Jan. 1, 1920, to Kinu and Katsuji Fukuhara. As the child of Japanese immigrants, he was known as nisei, along with his siblings, Frank, Victor, Pierce and Mary. Although systematic and bureaucratic prejudices made life more difficult for them as immigrants, the children had a fully American childhood. The town of Auburn, Wash., embraced the family as upstanding. However, after the Great Depression corroded the family’s finances and Katsuji succumbed to an illness, Kinu made the wrenching decision to move her children back to Japan.
For Harry, though, home would always be in America. He and Mary moved back to the United States after just a few years in Japan, parting with their mother and other siblings. Forced to fend for themselves, Harry and Mary made ends meet. That is, until the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the anti-Japanese sentiment that inflamed the country and the establishment of the internment camps.