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Looking Like the Enemy (film)

Documentary film on the unique experiences of Japanese American soldiers in Asian wars: World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The 52-minute film was made by Karen L. Ishizuka and Robert A. Nakamura in conjunction with the exhibition Fighting for Tomorrow: Japanese Americans in America's Wars at the Japanese American National Museum and screened in the exhibition gallery.

Looking Like the Enemy is built on interviews with Japanese American veterans of the three wars. (Also interviewed is a Korean American, Young Oak Kim, who served with Japanese Americans in the 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team and also served in the Korean War.) The first half of the film focuses on issues unique to Asian American soldiers: racism from fellow soldiers and superior officers; the danger of being shot by other Americans who assume they are enemy soldiers; their own identification with civilians who remind them of their own family members in Korea and Vietnam. The second half includes more general reflections on the ironies of war—including stories about the use of pidgin English as a sort of code by soldiers from Hawai'i; the special esprit de corps only combat veterans share; and Takejiro Higa's story of interrogating former classmates who had been captured as POWs in the Battle of Okinawa—and urge for many veterans to keep silent about their wartime experiences. Looking Like the Enemy ends with an account by Vietnam War veteran Vincent Okamoto of visiting the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., with his young son and the unanswerable questions his son asked him.

Directed by Nakamura and produced and written by Ishizuka, Looking Like the Enemy played in the gallery through the year-long run of Fighting for Tomorrow and was subsequently made available on VHS videotape and later on DVD.

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

Might also like 442: Live with Honor, Die with Dignity (2010); From Bullets to Ballots (1997); The Color of Honor: The Japanese American Soldier in WWII (1987)

Media Details
Release Date 1995
Runtime 52 minutes
Director Robert A. Nakamura
Producer Karen L. Ishizuka
Writer Karen L. Ishizuka
Starring Young Oak Kim (interviewee), Ed Ichiyama (interviewee), Michael Nakayama (interviewee), Ronald M. Oba (interviewee), Takejiro Higa (interviewee), Don Matsuda (interviewee), Robert W. Wada (interviewee), Vincent Okamoto (interviewee), Henry S. Yoshitake (interviewee), Stanley Akita (interviewee), John Iwamoto (interviewee), Roy Shiraga (interviewee), Lance Matsushita (interviewee), Robert S. Utsumi (interviewee), David Miyoshi (interviewee), Archie Miyamoto (interviewee), Ernest Kimoto (interviewee), Martin Tohara (interviewee), Sakae Takahashi (interviewee)
Music Dan Kuramoto
Cinematography John Esaki
Editing Eric Marin
Studio Japanese American National Museum
For More Information

For More Information

Streaming link on YouTube:

Fujitani, Takashi. "National Narratives and Minority Politics: The Japanese American National Museum's War Stories." Museum Anthropology 21.1 (1997): 99-112.

Nishime, LeiLani. "Communities on Display: Museums and the Creation of the (Asian) American Citizen." Amerasia Journal 30.3 (2004–05): 40–60.

Xing, Jun. Asian America Through the Lens: History, Representation, and Identities . Walnut Creek, Calif.: AltaMira Press, 1998.