In the Hyphen online magazine about Asian American culture, we came across a candid blog article that Pat Morita’s daughter Aly wrote about her famous father. She talks about her father’s disappointment at being typecast and then overlooked after his days of glory as the sensei in the Karate Kid movies. (The recently released film by that name, oddly, is set in China. Critics point out it should be called The Kung Fu Kid.)
We learned that the beloved actor spent his childhood in a hospital ward, having contracted spinal tuberculosis. Lying in a body cast, Morita learned to love comedy and drama while listening to the ward’s radio. He was escorted directly from the hospital by an FBI agent to join his parents at the Gila River incarceration camp in Arizona. In a video interview conducted by the Archive of American Television, Morita talks about his Issei parents and the impact of incarceration on them and his older brother. The family moved to Tule Lake to reunite with Morita’s maternal grandfather and uncle. Upon leaving the camp in 1945, Morita remembers saying, “thank god I never have to come back to this place.” Decades later, he found himself gazing up at Castle Rock again, filming Farewell to Manzanar.