Yuki Kitaoka
A Different View

Chicago, Illinois

Yuki decides to go to Chicago. At first she feels she is the lone AJA in the city; later, this feeling dissipates as AJAs from relocation camps come to the area.

She works as a legal secretary and lives in a hotel-like complex.

Yuki writes Takashi daily. In his letters to her, personal matters, nothing military, are discussed.

The couple enjoys activities in Chicago when Takashi is given a month-long furlough. At furlough's end, he goes back to Europe.

Moving to Chicago

I don’t remember being scared [when Takashi went overseas]. I don’t remember having any negative thoughts. He told me to go home. No, I’d rather stay there because it’s closer to Europe. Staying in Chicago or going home, it didn’t make any difference to me.

Luckily, I had these two friends, teachers, that lived in a neighborhood which was about ten miles away from Chicago. They took really good care of me. I stayed with them almost every weekend.

When [Takashi] went up, this professor wrote this book and went to [Camp] McCoy to interview and he met my husband there. So he interviewed him. At that time, we saw the article with his name mentioned in it.

Well, it came out in the Reader’s Digest and these two schoolteachers, teaching in Maywood, happened to read it. They got in contact with [Takashi] in May, at McCoy and he told them that I was coming up, so meet us in Chicago, on our way to New York. So they did. And I met them and those two got to be real nice to us and took care of us whenever we were there. They came over to Hawaii to see us a number of times after the war.

[They were previously teachers at] Mid-Pacific [Institute]. Nancy was the younger one. Erma was the English/music teacher.

Employment

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I stayed [in Chicago] and got myself a job. And can you imagine, me, the only Japanese — looked like the only Japanese in Chicago.

I worked right in The Loop, you know, Chicago Loop. I remember going to the office to be interviewed because I saw the ad in the paper, they wanted a secretary. So the boss wasn’t in so he told me he’ll talk to the boss about it and they’ll call me. So they called me and said, “Is Mrs. Oaks there?” [I said,] “Sorry, nobody by that name.” They said, “Well, that’s strange, she came this morning, left her name and wants this job.”

It clicked in my mind, “Oh, you mean Kitaoka.” Oaks, Mrs. Oaks. They thought my name was Mrs. Kitty Oaks. (Laughs)

Can you imagine? So I laughed and I said, “No, you got the name wrong. I’m Mrs. Kitaoka.” He started laughing and he says, “Oh, I got it as Mrs. Kitty Oaks.” So I was known as Mrs. Kitty Oaks.

But I did tell him that I was of Japanese ancestry and I didn’t want them to think I was a haole and go over there to interview. They said, “No, doesn’t matter, we want to see you.” So I went to the office and they gave me a job.

I was a secretary in a law office. The boss was an Irishman, the assistant was a German and the third one was just a clerk over there. He was a haole, I don’t know what nationality. But they treated me very, very nicely. I was lucky to have them because they really treated me nice. [I was the only] secretary. They were poor. Poor firm. (Laughs)

I don’t think they even cared [that I was married to an American soldier]. In fact, I remember the owner of the hotel telling me when [Takashi] came back on furlough, he was staying with me and the boss was telling me, “We don’t do things like that, you know, live together without getting married.”
“That’s my husband.”
“Oh.”
They wouldn’t say that now. (Laughs)

Lots of the women from relocation camps were dribbling into Chicago at that point. They were releasing them. So lots of them came to Chicago because at that time, Chicago was known as a very friendly city for Japanese. So when I went there at the beginning, there were only about five thousand Japanese. Then while I was there for two years, they kept dribbling in. When I left, twenty thousand.

We were living in this hotel complex, sort of. A room with cooking facilities and all that. These people would keep coming and ooh, “New face over here, I wonder where she’s from.” They all start congregating in Chicago.

Correspondence with Takashi

I wrote [Takashi] every day. I wrote a letter to him every day and I don’t know how I mailed it, whether weekly or every day, but we corresponded fairly well. Once in a while, he’d say, “Hey, I didn’t get a letter from you, what happened?” I’d say, “Oh, I wrote but maybe it got mixed up in the mail.” He used to write nice letters. I kept a few.

[Takashi wrote] mostly about things in the past and very little about what’s happening to him there. Their letters are all censored anyway. You’re not supposed to tell anybody where they are and all that.

[His letters were] mostly personal. “I miss you,” and all that kind of stuff, not military strategy or anything like that.

News from Overseas

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I recall my boss telling me. Every time he sees me, he can tell what was happening overseas because I’m either happy or I’m, you know.

He says, when I first got notice that [Takashi] got a Purple Heart, I’m jumping up and down and saying, “Oh, that means that he’s off of the front.” Purple Heart means that he got sick or he got hit or something. And his remark to that was, “That’s the first time I ever heard of anybody jumping up and down because her husband got hurt.” (Chuckles) Well, you wish that he gets hurt because that will take him off the front, you see.

So the boss is laughing and saying, “Yeah, that’s the first time I heard anybody jumping up and down because her husband was hurt.”

But, [Takashi] came home all right.

Friendships

[I did not have contact with other wives.] Most of the friendships I made [in Chicago] were girls about my same age and we would all get together. The relationship between you and these friends that you make friends with all have a common background and that war has affected them fairly badly. So I used to go out with these girls all the time, but we never came across any anti-things.

Most of them [came out of] internment camps. Most of them were about my age. I correspond with some of them but I’ve lost a few. And a lot of them got involved with Hawaii boys. Hawaii boys would come through Chicago on their way home from the army, so I used to go with them to dances and things, and they took good care of me. It was always nice to see them. They always came through Chicago because Chicago was a big city at that time. That’s where we saw Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, all those big guns. We used to go to Chicago Theater all the time to see them.

Chicago has a nice set of memories for me.

Furlough

[My husband came to Chicago on furlough.] I think I got a leave from my job and we did a lot of things in Chicago. He still remembers the restaurants and things that we used to go to. I had a real nice time. That’s all I remember, just having a good time.

Yuki and Takashi Kitaoka

And my boss calls me up and says, “When are you coming back to work for us?” At one time, he said, “We hired a girl and she doesn’t know one legal language. We want you to come back.” That kind of bosses I had, real nice.

[Takashi] told me that he was coming back on a furlough, “I may be able to get to Hawaii, so go home, wait for me at home.” Then the next letter comes and says, “Don’t go home, stay there. We cannot go home.” They were told that the boys cannot go home to Hawaii, so stay put. So I cancelled everything, I stayed put.

The boys that came back with him all headed for California, hoping to get reassigned. I understand the delegate from Hawaii worked on that and tried his best to get the boys home. During that process, we don’t know whether we can go home or we can stay there.

Finally, [Takashi] came anyway and then we find out that the boys all got home [to Hawaii]. They all went home and he’s stuck. He and Fukuda got stuck. So it was a matter of, are we going home or are we going to stay. So finally, they were told that they can’t go, those two boys couldn’t go.

They stayed [in Chicago] for about one month, on a furlough. [Then they were sent back to the front.] Was a sad day to have them go but the war ended soon after that.

Yuki Kitaoka's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Takashi and Yuki Kitaoka.

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