Janet Matsumoto
A Different View

Janet Matsumoto

Janet Matsumoto is born in 1923 in Honolulu, Hawaii. She is the eldest of eight children born to nisei couple, Kazuo and Kikue Segawa.

When Janet is six years old, Kazuo moves the family to Molokai where he is employed as a launch operator by Young Brothers, Ltd. Using a small tugboat, he maneuvers barges through the shallow waters near Kolo Wharf.

[I was born in] 1923. . .in Honolulu.

Altogether, we have eight children [in the family]. I’m the oldest.

Janet Segawa Matsumoto, McKinley High School

Mother: Kikue Imada

My mother’s name [is] Kikue Imada. [M]y mother had two sisters and one brother, and they all lived [in Hawaii]. I don’t know if the oldest sister was born here or not but the rest were all born here. I think it was someplace Wahiawa [Oahu] area.

I can’t remember my grandfather well because I was little when he died. But my grandmother, I don’t know whether they used to work for the plantation or what.

My mother, when she was little — she was sent to Japan. She grew up over there until her late teens and then she came back. I’m pretty sure [she] was in Kumamoto because my grandparents were from Kumamoto.

When she came back, she hardly knew any English. After she came back, she says she used to work [for] those haole [Caucasian] families. And she said she didn’t understand any English, so the lady used to come and say, “This is broom, broom.” (Chuckles) You know, teach her “dustpan” and all that. But I guess later on, she kind of picked up. All broken English, but.

Father: Kazuo Segawa

[My father’s name is] Kazuo Segawa. He was born in Kauai. And I’m pretty sure he went to Japan when he was little but I don’t know how long he stayed there. He never did speak to us in Japanese. So I guess, he just stayed a little while in Japan.

He had only one brother and he had four sisters. He had one sister living here and three sisters living in Japan. But his younger sister came to — I remember in 1930s, she came to Hawaii — she was still single, yet. And we used to live in Molokai, so she came to stay with us for a little while and then she came back to Honolulu because she has another sister living here. And she was working at those haole family homes.

So that’s the only aunty that we know well besides the ones that live here. The other two in Japan, we’ve never met them. And then the brother that my father had, we’ve never met — we were little when he died. He went to Mainland and then he got into an accident and he died.

Launch Operator for Young Brothers Ltd.

I don’t know what kind of work [my father] was doing. But all I can remember is, he used to work for Young Brothers [Ltd.].

[H]e’s a — they call that launch operator. He used to drive the small tugboat. And then, like Kolo Pier, the depth over there was kind of too shallow for the big boat to come in. From Honolulu, when the big tugboat drags the two barges — one for the Libby plantation and one for CPC [California Packing Corporation] — when the boat comes in, then my father has to go out and then get one of the barges and pull it in.

Then all day it stays in the pier until the pineapple is loaded. And then the other big tugboat, they go on to Kaunakakai and they stay over there. Then late afternoon, the big tugboat will come back again and then my father has to pull the barge out and then go back to Honolulu. So his job was just driving the boat.

[The barges came in] once a day because it takes all day for the pineapple to be loaded. Because during the summer especially, they have a lot of trucks that go back and forth to the plantation, and bringing back, and then they load it [i.e., barge].

Janet Matsumoto's interview reprinted courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Janet Matsumoto.

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