A Different View
Yuki Miwa Kitaoka
Yuki Miwa Kitaoka is born in 1913.
Her parents, Haruie and Tari Miwa, are both from Miharu, Fukushima-ken. Haruie is encouraged to come to Hawaii by immigration inspector and veterinarian Tomizo Katsunuma, also a native of Miharu. After his arrival, Haruie arranges for Tari to join him in marriage and work.
The Miwas teach in Hamakua Poko, Maui, where three children are born; later, they teach in Lihue, Kauai, where Yuki and two others are born.
[I was born in] 1913 [in] Lihue, Hawaii.
My father’s name was Haruie [Miwa]. And my mother’s name was Tari [Miwa].
[My parents came from] Fukushima-ken, from a little town of Miharu.
My father’s father was a doctor for a samurai family there. I don’t know whether he was considered any samurai or what, but anyway the father was a doctor. He was the only son of a family of eight or nine, just one boy.
My mother was just a daughter of a — I don’t know what the background was, but they seemed to be wealthy. She didn’t do anything but play and be waited on. So she claims that she didn’t know anything about housekeeping when she came to Hawaii.
I only know of one brother who was an officer of the Japanese army. [My mother] used to correspond with one sister, who was a younger sister, but she never mentioned the others. She wrote quite a number of letters to the sister when she was here because I have a box full of letters that the sister wrote back to her. I’ve never read them because I don’t know Japanese.
I really don’t know [how many years of education my parents had]. As far as I know, my father went to school [in Japan] and became a schoolteacher. And my mother became a teacher under him later on. I think there was a difference of about five or six years between them.
[My mother] was, as [my husband] always says, the nicest genteel [woman]. He remembers her as one of the nicest Japanese women. I remember her never scolding, yelling. That kind of a mother. Very, very gentle.
Dr. Tomizo Katsunuma
Dr. [Tomizo] Katsunuma came here to go to college in the Mainland and succeeded in getting into one of the veterinarian schools. Then he came back to Hawaii and got to be [an inspector] at the immigration station.
He was from the same town as my father. They were friends. The parents were very friendly. And Dr. Katsunuma, when he was here and got this job, he encouraged my father to do the same. Come here, go to the school, and then do whatever he was doing. And my father got interested. I understand he was a very strong-minded person. (Chuckles) And, you know, people never came to Hawaii except to [work on] the plantations.
When [my father] decided to come, I understand he stayed with the Katsunumas for a while. Then he got an offer to open a school, Japanese[-language] school in Hamakua Poko, Maui. So he decided to call my mother [from Japan]. They were not married at that time. My mother came to Hawaii and they got married. And they went to Hamakua Poko.
Early Days in Hawaii
I really don’t know [what my father’s first reaction [to] Hawaii was] because he never talked. I’m not very good at Japanese. I can converse a little bit. So I don’t know how we communicated. I learned Japanese when I was small because I remember writing to them from the Mainland when I was there. I would write katakana letters and I have some in my possession, but I can’t even read them now. (Chuckles)
But we used to converse half-half, I guess. Not pidgin but try to converse in simple Japanese because I don’t remember talking pidgin to my folks. My mother refused to speak English because her reason was she doesn’t want to get involved in pidgin English. If she wants to converse with anybody, she wants to talk in Japanese.
[My mother] must have hated [Hawaii in the early days] because all I know her saying was that she cried for one year. She wanted to go back to Japan because the place was so primitive. You know how Hamakua Poko must have been when they went there. You know, plantation people, no luxuries, no nothing.
I had an older sister, the first one that was born. She went to Japan with the neighbors, never came back. So I don’t know her except through pictures. I asked them whether they sent her willingly or whether the neighbor just didn’t come back. (Chuckles) Well, I understand she didn’t come back. But they corresponded because I used to see pictures of her in my parents’ possession.
[My parents were teaching and living in Hamakua Poko.]
My sisters remember very little [about Hamakua Poko] because they were small kids. But I remember them saying that they lost a brother in between my two sisters. When he was only two years old, he died of something. I don’t remember him at all because he died before I was born.
[Takaichi Miyamoto] used to kid us and say — not me but the older sisters — he would say, “I used to diaper you people,” (chuckles) “you kids.” Evidently, he was from a poor family and he somehow lived with my folks and helped with the chores around the house and things like that. I don’t know the relationship at all. I only remember him when I used to go to college because he was living here at that time.
Then the family moved to Honolulu and I don’t know how long they were here. But when [my father] was in Honolulu, I understand he went to Mid-Pacific [Institute]. And he could really read English but he never attempted to speak English. So I really don’t know exactly how he behaved when he was talking to haoles.
I don’t really know [when my father went to Mid-Pacific]. But I think he went there when he was asked to teach at Manoa Japanese[-language] School. That was prior to the time I was born, you see. So it must have been in the 1910s or something. Because my older two sisters were born at Hamakua Poko.
My father was a little different. He went to Mid-Pacific to learn how to speak English and write English. He wrote beautiful script, but he couldn’t speak English.
Yuki Kitaoka's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of U.S. Army Signal Corps and Forest & Kim Starr (USGS).