Fort Minors’ front man Mike Shinoda brings us into the life of his own family during the closing moments of World War Two and the ultimate price they had to pay.
World War II was entering full climax in the early 1940's. Dramatic changes happening both here in the United States and nationally over seas in both Allied and Enemy country's provided an insecure and weary feeling. Everyone, from the school children in the playgrounds, to the military leaders in the front lines had felt an impact in one form or another due to the worlds most alarming war. However, many would believe that the ones who felt a tremendous impact from the most devastating war in history were the Japanese-American people living right here in the United States. Japanese-Americans not only dealt with their home land being one of the front leaders in war, they also had to deal with the social changes that came with living here in the States. This tragedy can be listen to from Fort Minors intense and deep song titled “Kenji”. The song was written and rapped by Fort Minors front man Mike Shinoda, who is also part Japanese and is many generations down from his own family being effected dramatically from the War. The song was shown to me by my own brother, who is a war veteran. The Song has opened my eyes as well as many others to the first hand effects from World War II, showing a side that hasn't had much focus on. Japanese-American citizens living right here in the United Sates were mistreated and wrongly bullied during the time of World War II.
The song “Kenji” is from Fort minors first album “The Rising Tied”. Mike Shinoda is the lead artist in the group, originally making music with his former band Linkin Park, who mixes elements of the hip-hop genre along with the rock genre to create a diverse and unique sound that turns heads. Fort minor takes many aspects from Linkin Park’s hybrid style of music to create an uncommon, yet appealing sound. Fort Minor adds a variety of other artists to work with Mike Shinoda to focus more on the harder hip-hop beats to add an intense background for Shinoda to rap his lyrics. Most of Fort Minor’s Lyrics are expressing an important factor or issue, that Shinoda describes in detail to paint a picture to the listeners. The Band focuses their attention on raising awareness in their music; their song Kenji is just that.
The Song Kenji has a dramatic sound, clashing a deep baseline to a hard drum beat, making the tone of the song seem like organized chaos. Added in are string elements to give it a war feeling, which Shinoda speaks over in a calm but panicked voice to make the perfect combination of instruments to lyrics. During breaks in the song, quotes of past Japanese-Americans living at that time share quick stories, which brings the whole song to life. Kenji, which is also Shinoda’s middle name, represents a Japanese-American man who was an ancestor to Shinoda Himself. Shinoda speaks in third person about the man to paint the image of Kenji’s life.
The story starts in the middle of World War II, after Pearl Harbor was bomb. Kenji and his family were Japanese immigrants, lived and owned a family shop in Los Angeles. Kenji lived like an everyday American mam, chasing freedom and happiness for his family. Due to the conflict of the United States and Japan following the Pearl Harbor bombing, Kenji and his family were put into an Interment camp and forced out of their home. Not a justified reason was given to Kenji and his family as they were force to leave; only thing given were two trash bags to gather their possessions. Kenji felt like a prisoner in the country he lived in for no reason at all. Kenji and his family didn't want to make any problems knowing they were the minority and they understood the Americans were just doing “their jobs” . Forced from their home and their possessions, Kenji knew there were only a limited amount of options. That being the case, Kenji decided to join the Army himself. Shortly after, the war was ended by the American bombing in Japan, Kenji’s former home. So finally, years later, Kenji and his family would get to go home and start a fresh life. This wasn't the case. As Kenji and his family returned, they noticed the act of racism and hatred done to their home. Windows smashed, doors bashed in, and painted all over the walls were the words “Japs not welcome anymore”.
The story that came from the song represented not only Kenji and his family, it represented an entire era of Japanese-Americans who had the misfortune of simply being themselves. The conflict of America and Japan during that time lead to both physical and mental bullying of the Japanese-American people. Forced to leave their own home due to a feeling of paranoia and hatred from the American leaders set the connection and commutation between both races back many years. This drawback is still felt by many, which is a main reason why Shinoda wrote the song. Not only did Shinoda want to share the story to enlighten those who were not educated about the situation, he wanted to share that this hatred is still happening in many forms today. Many of those who are strongly educated about World War II do not know the situation of the Japanese-Americans at that time. Why is that? Why hasn’t this issue been brought up more in depth when the history of World War II is shared? Shinoda would believe it was a dark time in American History, something the educators and the leaders would want to leave out of discussion. However, if raising awerness and teaching the discussion of this act of hatred upon the Japanese-Americans would help end the conflict, which is the main purpose of Shinoda’s song, why isn’t it happening more often?
My Brother Steven is eight years older than me. We are only half brothers and we were never really close as kids. However, when I was in Middle school my brother decided to join the US Army and are relationship changed from that moment on. Steven was part of the infantry, and about a year after joining was on his way to do a tour in Iraq. This was the year 2006, only five years after the terrorist attack on American soil on 9/11. Troops were being sent out left and right to Iraq and my brother was part of the mix. Nine long months over seas in Bagdad, and two years stationed in Germany. Steven has seen and expierenced more than his fare share of war, being part of one of the hardest hit groups in Iraq, Charlie Company 26. When I was in high school steven came home and had a totally new view and outlook on the war. Due to his experiences over seas, Steven developed a stronger relationship with me and the rest of the family. He showed me many ideas and possessions he brought home and shared a lot of the knowledge he gained. He focused his attention on sharing the real side to war, and shared with me ideas to raise awareness, such as the song Kenji. Fort Minor’s style of music was more for listeners of Stevens age, so I wasn’t a huge fan at the time. After I was shown the song from my own brother, who did real service time in the midst of the War on Terror, I knew the song was a creditable interruption of war time. Making the connection between someone who was majorly involved in War, and the song that was supposed to raise awareness about a sub portion of war, changed my outlook on the topic itself.
Due to the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941, the American leaders felt panicked and empty. Many Americans felt vulnerable, and needed to focus their anger and frustrations. In the essay “The Dark Night of the Soul”, the author Richard Miller explains the chaos that follows a major attack situation. “Any major social cataclysm produces in its wake two responses; First, there is the search for the causes: Why did this happen? Who is to blame? And second, there is an appeal to some greater authority to assist in preventing such upheavals in the future.” Richard Miller in his piece goes on to talk in depth about the tragic Columbine Shooting and the results that followed.
Using Millers writing to guide the situation, why did the attack on pearl harbor happen? That question can be answered broadly; Japan needed to gain an advantage during the War, attacking American Soil to do so. So who exactly was to blame? The Blame was appointed onto the Japanese culture. Anybody who was associated with Japanese heritage took the fall, took the role of the accuser. “Following Columbine, fingers were pointed at everyone and everything: inattentive parents, indifferent guidance counselors, insensitive jocks, the entertainment industry, powerful gun lobbyists, the media, the internet, the military -industrial complex, a president who couldn't keep his pants on.” Same kind of method was used during World War II. No clear reason as to who was to blame the attention had to be brought down to earth. The American people were worried, and felt the need to focus the problem to a certain direction. That Direction being the Japeenese-American People.
Living in America, Japanese-Americans weren't seen as the normal. They didn't have a solid foundation to build their background on living in the States. Transportation over seas was beginning to become easier due to upgrades in technology during that period of time. However, it still was not advanced long enough for an immigrant to start a life and build a complete history in a completely new lifestyle. “Most other people take their identity for granted. Not the Palestinian, who is required to show proofs of identity more or less constantly.” This was a quote from a section of the book “After the last Sky” written by Edward Said. Said goes on to write about the Palestine's who have similar problems to the Japenese-Americans in terms of not having a solid background to protect themselves with. “We have no known Einstenins, no Chagall, no Freud or Rubinstein to protect us with a legacy of glorious achievements”. With nothing to support the history and future of the Japanese-American people aswell as the Palestines, that section of human life is bound to crumble. Not having a clear identity can lead to problems with those who have an identity with a strong, supportive backbone.
World War II took its toll. The effects from the war will carry on not only with this nation, but the entire world for years to come. Bringing awnesses to situations that are misunderstood can help make progess when its needed. The Japanese-Americans were mistreated in their own country during War time, and not having a true identity living in America was the downfall of he minority.