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MIS: Human Secret Weapon (film)

DVD cover. Courtesy of UTB + Film Voice Inc.
View in the Densho Encyclopedia

Feature length documentary film on the history of Japanese Americans in the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) during World War II. Written and directed by Japanese filmmaker Junichiro Suzuki, MIS: Human Secret Weapon is the third film in Suzuki's trilogy of documentaries on Japanese Americans during World War II.


MIS: Human Secret Weapon is based on dozens of interviews (most in English, but a few in Japanese) with former MIS soldiers, those who served with them, Japanese and Okinawans who encountered them during the war, and various experts and notables who share their thoughts on the impact of the MIS. After brief thoughts on the significance of the MIS by musician Jake Shimabukuro and actress Tamlyn Tomita, the film begins with MIS veteran Takejiro Higa and his wife in Honolulu, following them as they attend a ceremony of the new visitors center at the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial in 2011, as they recall the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The film next turns to the Kibei status of many of the men, the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans on the West Coast, and the rigorous curriculum at the Military Intelligence Service Language School , which began in San Francisco, but moved to Minnesota after the exclusion. Next, we hear stories from the men of their service in the Pacific, whether in combat, as interrogators, as translators of valuable documents, or as creators of propaganda aimed at both Japanese soldiers and civilians. The film then turns to the Battle of Okinawa, focusing on the role of Okinawan Americans who were able to save the lives of civilians by convincing them to surrender and exit the caves and tombs in which they were hiding. The film highlights the story of Higa, who describes his mixed feelings in landing in Okinawa where he had largely been raised and who discovers former classmates from Okinawa among those he ends up interrogating. He later visits relatives in Okinawa who were initially angered by his role in the war.

With the end of the war, the film turns to Japanese American MIS soldiers in the occupation period, with several describing the miserable conditions Japanese civilians faced in the early postwar period. In discussing the intelligence role played by some in the MIS, the film highlights the exploits of Richard Sakakida , though he had passed away by the time of the film and is thus not interviewed. The film ends with the awarding of the Congressional Gold Medal to members of the 100th Infantry Battalion , 442nd Regimental Combat Team , and MIS in 2011 and with reflections of notables ranging from Senator Daniel Akaka to historian Franklin Odo on the significance of the MIS story.

Additional Information

Director Junichi Suzuki (1952– ) is a well-known Japanese filmmaker of both fiction and non-fiction feature films for both theatrical release and Japanese television. As of 2016, he had directed 27 feature films. Moving temporarily to Los Angeles in 2001, he became acquainted with the story of the Japanese American World War II experience through meeting local Japanese Americans and became interested enough in the story to make the documentary film Toyo's Camera: Japanese American History during World War II in 2009. He followed this up with a second documentary, 442: Live with Honor, Die with Dignity in 2010. MIS: Human Secret Weapon was the third and last film of his Japanese American trilogy. Aided by the financial support of prominent Japanese American physician Paul Terasaki (his credit reads "... was made possible by Dr. Paul Terasaki"), the film began shooting in February of 2011 and included interviews in both the United States and Japan as well as various historical sites relevant to the MIS story. The film received a limited theatrical release in Los Angeles and New York in April of 2012 and was widely screened around the country and in Japan subsequently. [1]

Reviews were mixed, with reviewers praising the significance of the story and the cinematography, but finding fault with the way the story was told. George Toshio Johnson in the Rafu Shimpo notes the "many marvelous stories—funny and horrifying, poignant and wistful, ironic and wondrous" and Jana Monjii calls it "... a sensitive portrayal of the war on both sides—America and Japan" on [2] John Anderson of Variety calls the work of cinematographer Masashi Kobuchi "often spectacular." [3] But other reviewers called the filmmaking "a bit clumsy," "hamhanded," "flat-footedly pedestrian," and "intensely, ceaselessly boring." [4] In particular, reviewers found Suzuki's penchant for milking the tears of veteran interview subjects exploitive, with Anderson writing that "Suzuki all but shoves the camera into his interviewees' tear ducts...." and Film Journal International writing that "Suzuki's camera rudely thrusts itself into the old men's faces to catch their emotions; this tendency, along with horrid, bathetic music and clumsy, stilted narration, help to aesthetically demean an unquestionably great subject." [5]

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

Might also like 442: Live with Honor, Die with Dignity (2010); Fifty Years of Silence: The Untold Story of Japanese American Soldiers in the Pacific Theater, 1941-1952 (1992); Uncommon Courage: Patriotism and Civil Liberties (2001)


  1. Junichi Suzuki website, ; George Toshio Johnston, "Into the Next Stage: Filmmaker Junichi Suzuki Completes Nikkei Trilogy with 'MIS: Human Secret Weapon,'" Rafu Shimpo , March 29, 2012, , both accessed on June 15, 2016.
  2. George Toshio Johnston, "Into the Next Stage: 'MIS: Human Secret Weapon' Delivers Humanity," Rafu Shimpo , Apr. 12, 2012, ; Jana Monjii, "'MIS Human Secret Weapon' Looks at Little-Known War Efforts,", March 31, 2012, , both accessed on June 15, 2016.
  3. John Anderson, Variety , Apr. 8, 2012, , accessed on June 15, 2016.
  4. Quotes from in order: Neil Genzlinger, "Hidden Mission of Japanese-Americans in World War II," New York Times , Apr. 5, 2012, ; Anderson, Variety ; Mark Schilling, The Japan Times , Dec. 7, 2012, ; and Calum Marsh, Slant Magazine , Apr. 5, 2012, , all accessed on June 15, 2015.
  5. Anderson, Variety ; Film Journal International , Apr. 6, 2012, , both accessed on June 15, 2015. Two other reviewers—Marsh in Slant Magazine and Schilling in The Japan Times make the same point.
Media Details
Release Date 2012
Runtime 101 minutes
Director Junichi Suzuki
Producer Shigeto Terasawa (chief producer)
Writer Junichi Suzuki
Narrator Lane Nishikawa
Starring Jake Shimabukuro (interviewee), Tamlyn Tomita (interviewee), Takejiro Higa (interviewee), Fumie Higa (interviewee), Grant Ichikawa (interviewee), Thomas Sakamoto (interviewee), Stephen Payne (interviewee), Herbert Yanamura (interviewee), Hitoshi Sameshima (interviewee), Bruce Kaji (interviewee), Daniel Inouye (interviewee), Irene Hirano Inouye (interviewee), Harry Akune (interviewee), Richard Hamasaki (interviewee), Yoshiaki Fujitani (interviewee), Ted Tsukiyama (interviewee), George Fujimori (interviewee), Richard Hawkins (interviewee), Norman Kikuta (interviewee), James McNaughton (interviewee), Toru Kobayashi (interviewee), Carol Jensen (interviewee), Al Nipkow (interviewee), Harry Fukuhara (interviewee), Dick Hamada (interviewee), George Fujimori (interviewee), Thomas Tsubota (interviewee), Ken Akune (interviewee), Isao Oka (interviewee), Johnny Masuda (interviewee), Warren Higa (interviewee), Seiko Higa (interviewee), Haruo Chibana (interviewee), Chocho Kiyuna (interviewee), Seiho Higa (interviewee), Frank Higashi (interviewee), Norman Mineta (interviewee), Victor Matsui (interviewee), Stanley Falk (interviewee), George Ariyoshi (interviewee), Frances Kaji (interviewee), Raymond Murakami (interviewee), Wayne Kiyosaki (interviewee), Janet Yokoyama (interviewee), Tadayoshi Hara (interviewee), Elaine Yagawa (interviewee), Marvin Uratsu (interviewee), Kan Tagami (interviewee), Mazie Hirono (interviewee), Don Oka (interviewee), Daniel Akaka (interviewee), Akemi Kikumura-Yano (interviewee), Terry Shima (interviewee), Ichiro Fujisaki (interviewee), Masahide Ota (interviewee), Franklin Odo (interviewee), Colleen Hanabusa (interviewee), Janelle Kuroda (interviewee), Stephen Haller (interviewee), Craig Middleton (interviewee), Rosalyn Tonai (interviewee), Joseph Muratsuchi (interviewee)
Music Kitaro
Cinematography Masashi Kobuchi
Editing Toru Mihara
Studio UTB + Film Voice Inc.


Anderson, John. Variety , Apr. 8, 2012.

Film Journal International , Apr. 6, 2012.

Genzlinger, Neil. " Hidden Mission of Japanese-Americans in World War II ." New York Times , Apr. 5, 2012.

Goldstein, Gary. Los Angeles Times , Apr. 6, 2012.

Johnston, George Toshio. " Into the Next Stage: 'MIS: Human Secret Weapon' Delivers Humanity ." Rafu Shimpo , Apr. 12, 2012.

Marsh, Calum. Slant Magazine , Apr. 5, 2012.

Monjii, Jana. " 'MIS Human Secret Weapon' Looks at Little-Known War Efforts .", March 31, 2012.

Schenker, Andrew. Village Voice , Apr. 4, 2012.

Schilling, Mark. The Japan Times , Dec. 7, 2012.