Yuki Kitaoka
A Different View

Life After the War

Returning to Honolulu in 1946, Yuki and Takashi raise a family of four boys: Chris, Lloyd, Rod, and Don.

Yuki is a stay-at-home mother by choice until her youngest son enters kindergarten. With Don at school, she re-enters the University of Hawaii to earn a teaching degree.

In 1962, when Takashi is appointed to a judgeship on Maui, the family moves there and Yuki leaves her UH studies.

After about four years on Maui, the Kitaokas return to Oahu.

[Takashi and Yuki eventually came back to Hawaii and raised a family. Chris was born in 1946, Lloyd in 1949, Rod was born two-and-a-half years later, and Don was three years later.]

Kitaoka Family, Director of Labor ceremony

[I am happy] that none of the boys are in jail (laughs). That’s what my husband always says, “At least the boys aren’t in jail.” And he always talks about the family that had seven boys in jail and one of the brothers serving the other brother in jail.

Education

I vowed to myself even when I was a kid that if I have children, I will never leave the children to fend for themselves when they were young. I’ll wait until they go to school, kindergarten. But I’m not going to hire a babysitter. I had a college degree, I had a business opportunity, I had all kinds of opportunity to do things. But career-wise, I wasn’t interested because I had children.

And until the last one, Don, went to kindergarten, I stayed home. And the funny thing is, my daughter-in-law was telling me, “I didn’t know all this.” And she’s telling Don, “Don, your mother stayed home just because of you.”

But you know the minute Don went to kindergarten, I decided to go back to school.

I went to the University [of Hawaii] and tried to get my teacher’s degree. Because I always felt that teaching is the best thing for women now because when the kids stay home from holidays, you stay home.

So I went to school, University [of Hawaii Teachers College. Beginning in 1959, it was known as the University of Hawaii College of Education].

I took up principles of secondary education. I wanted to teach math. My teacher was Shiro Amioka. And I didn’t get my degree because I got through with that course and I [needed] a few more credits, like practice teaching and everything, to get my degree.

But in the meantime, we were asked to go to Maui [in 1962]. So I inquired in Maui whether they have courses for me to go through. They said no.

In a way, I’m glad, because I was thinking, when I was taking that secondary education, I was still taking care of four kids. (Chuckles) Homework and housework and all that. I used to get so tired at night, I’m reading text and falling asleep.

Moving to Maui [1962 – 1968]

Big change [moving from Oahu to Maui]. Now, thinking about it, we didn’t think too much about the boys, what they went through when we moved. Because you’re so busy with yourself, trying to justify all the trouble we went through and all that. But when I look at them, I say to myself, “Oh gee, wish I’d done this, wish I’d done that” kind of thing.

I think the move is more traumatic for children than the parents. I think, children, taking them out of one school and putting them into another, that’s a big adjustment for the kids. They lose all their friends and they got to make new friends again. And I don’t know, it’s kind of sad.

I look back and say, “Gee, the third and fourth [child], you don’t have too much time for them,” because the first and the second are taking so much time. So they grow up by themselves kind of feeling. That’s how I felt when I was a kid, having to go home to an empty house. All these kids that do that now, I feel bad.

And we don’t know what’s happening with the kids. You talk about old times and the boys would say, “Hey Mom, you don’t know that we used to do this and we used to do that.” (Laughs)

I still remember my childhood, having my playmates with me, always telling me, when I swear or something, “You’re a teacher’s child, you’re not supposed to do that.” You know, that kind of stuff used to come out from them all the time.

I used to hate that because I’d say, “Why can’t I be like you folks and do whatever I want to do?”

In Maui, I understand a lot of times, the boys would come home and [report that others would] say, “You, your father’s a judge, you don’t do those things.” So the same thing’s happening.

I guess [my husband] felt that [accepting the judgeship] was the natural thing to do, that we’d go to Maui with him. I don’t know, that’s one more question you have to ask him.

I said to myself, “Well, that’s something you have to do.” I never thought of living [on Oahu] and having him go over and come back, like some people do. I never thought of that. I thought it was a natural thing to do, go with him. But it’s only lately, that I’ve been thinking, “Well, we should have thought about the kids a little more.”

Activities

I certified myself and got to be a bridge teacher. My husband and I played bridge all along in the university. That was our outlet. When I came back to Honolulu, I got interested in a contract, the big one. So I used to go to Waikiki to play. [Takashi, who became a judge] said, “I make enough decisions in court. I don’t want to make decisions over the bridge table.” (Laughs)

So he wouldn’t go but I got myself a certification and then got to run a school in Maui. Then I came back [to Oahu].

Looking Back

My experiences at home, when I was a child, there are few incidences that I remember.

I remember one incident that could have turned my life around. We had a railroad track right by our place, the sugar mill is down there — we used to go through that pine grove, on the railroad tracks, to play with the kids on the other side. We used to have a lot of fun because that village had a lot of friends that we used to play with.

We go alone in the pine grove. This one day, I was coming home on the railroad track. I see two men coming from in the back. They started running toward me, so I started running to go home.

I went running home, I tried to get away from them. The railroad track is right by a ravine, it goes way down, there’s a stream running and we don’t dare go down there because it’s a steep thing. I remember diving into that ravine, rolling down to the river, must have been about fifty feet or something, real bad. But I found no way of escape so I did that.

The grass is tall, so I just ran, rolled into the grass and I looked up and these guys are standing on the track, looking down. They wouldn’t dare come down because it’s too steep. I remember staying there half a day, so scared. I had to come out. I came out and went home, it was just a few hundred yards away.

So I went home, but you know, I didn’t tell my parents. But at that time, I said to myself, “You know, if anything had happened, my life would have been changed.” I don’t know what would have happened. So that changed my life, that made me think, “Hey, anything can happen in this world, anything.”

Little incidents that happen. And there it is, one incident that made you feel, the inner part of you tells you, funny. Fate. It stays with you when you’re young and makes an impression. Lots of things don’t make an impression. But these incidences change you. And the older you get, the more you sit and think about those things that happen. While you’re growing up, you don’t even think about those things but nowadays, I notice I sit and think about what happened in the old days. But that only comes with old age.

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

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