1399th Engineer Construction Battalion
Toshiyuki Nakasone, eighth of ten children, is born in 1920, in Lahaina, Maui.
His parents, Kokyu and Ushi Nakasone, are issei from Okinawa. Arriving in 1906, Kokyu works at sugar plantations on Oahu, Kauai, and Maui.
In 1914, Kokyu and Ushi settle in Lahaina where they raise their family. Realizing that barbering is more profitable than plantation work, Kokyu opens a barbershop. In the back of the shop is their home.
[Supplemental information excerpted from Our Nakasone “Roots” in Hawaii. Permission granted by Toshiyuki Nakasone.]
I was born in 1920 . . . in Lahaina, Maui.
Parents: Kokyu and Ushi Nakasone
My parents came from Okinawa. I think [my father] came here in . My mother came about a year later.
My father [Kokyu Nakasone] first came to Ewa [Sugar Company] plantation. He was there for about five or six months and he moved to Makaweli on Kauai.
The Japanese laborer (immigrant) movement began with the first group of kanyaku imin (government-contracted laborer immigrants) in 1885 and ceased fifteen years later with the passage by Congress of the Organic Act of 1900.
Since the Organic Act of 1900 prohibited the further importation of contract laborers, Kokyu Nakasone, who arrived in Hawaii in April 1906, was not one of the contract laborers. He, however, worked as a plantation laborer, at Ewa Plantation on Oahu, for about six months and then at Makaweli, Kauai.
My mother [Ushi Nakasone] joined him there. Then two of my older sisters were born in Makaweli, Kauai.
Ushi Nakasone joined Kokyu at the sugar plantation on Kauai (about 1 ½ years later) on November 3, 1907, leaving their almost three-year old daughter Hatsue (Florence), in Okinawa with relatives. Ochiyo (Ruth) and Yoshiko (Margaret) were born [in Kauai].
After being on Kauai for a few years, they moved to Hana [in 1911], where my father worked on the [Kaeleku Sugar Company] plantation for a few more years. One of my sisters [Toki] was born in Hana.
The family finally settled in Lahaina, Maui in 1914. Hatsue (Florence) joined them (at the age of 12, in 1916) and the rest of the Nakasone ten children were born – Toshiko, Masayuki (Richard), Sueko, Toshiyuki, Nobuyuki, and Yuriko (Lily).
There were ten children.
We had five sisters first. And I guess my dad and my mom wanted a son. So when my brother [Masayuki] finally came [in 1917], he was the sixth.
[My father] was in the barbershop attending to somebody when he got the news. So he left and he went to the hospital right away. He forgot that he had this guy sitting in the chair and didn’t have the chance to finish. After everything else was done, he realized, oh, he had to come back to the shop and finish. And that’s what he did. He was so happy to have a son and that was the first son.
After him came my other sister [Sueko], who became a beautician. I was number eight. Nobu was number nine.
It was while working as a plantation laborer that Kokyu was asked by one of his fellow laborers if he knew how to cut hair. Having observed and operated a relatively small hair trimming shop in Haneji, Okinawan prior to his coming to Hawaii, Kokyu obliged his friend and cut his hair. In time, word spread among the plantation laborers that “Kokyu Nakasone knew how to cut hair.”
Eventually, Kokyu found that he was earning more than his plantation field laborer’s pay by giving haircuts during after-work hours and non-work days and decided to go into the business of barbering. He opened a barbershop in Lahaina with with a small candy shop on the side, but with ten children in the family, the candy shop proved not to be profitable.
Kokyu worked in the barbershop, Monday – Saturday from 8 A.M. to 10 P.M.
Then, later on, one of my sisters became a beautician [Sueko], so we had a barbershop and a beauty shop [LaVerne’s Beauty Salon] in Lahaina for a number of years. My father’s barbershop was right in town on Front Street. The corner store was a drugstore and they had a Shimada [Jewelry] watchmaker next door, and there was a lane in between. And then my father’s barbershop [Nakasone Barbershop] and beauty shop [LaVerne’s Beauty Salon], and then the Ching store [i.e., Kwong Wo Tong Store], Nakamura Service Station, and so on.
We had the Queen Theatre on the same side. The Queen Theatre was something my father enjoyed in Lahaina because every Wednesday night, they had Japanese movies, so he would go to a Japanese movie and come home around 9:30, 10:00. But the night that he died, he came home and told my mother, oh, he’s kind of feeling tired. “I’m going to rest.” So he went to rest in the parlor on the couch and that was it. He just passed away. In a sense, we said, oh, that was a nice way to go. Nobody had to worry about taking care of him and administering to his ailments and so forth. He just passed away quietly [in 1949].
[Our house was] in the back [of the barbershop].
A lot of the merchants in town, the store was up front, and the back and upstairs was where we used to live. We didn’t have a second floor on the building but other families along the way used to live on the second floor and their business was on the first floor.
We had about four or five bedrooms. My mother was very, very aware of some of the needs of her cousins. So when they moved and came to Hawaii, at one time, there must have been about fifteen of us living in the house. She would take care of all her cousins and nieces and nephews.
She was so busy, that you kind of wondered how she was able to provide for everybody’s needs. But one thing I remember about her was that, when it came to eating, she provided a meal for everybody, on what you call an equal basis.
You can eat all the rice you want and all the tsukemono [pickled vegetables] you want, but when it came to the pork, you have a small portion of pork, or a small portion of beef, or fish, everybody had the same. But they can eat all the rice they want, and they had a lot of tsukemono. So she was good in providing for everybody.
The main, the beef or the pork was limited. But everybody else had all the tsukemono they wanted and all the miso [soybean paste] soup, too, yeah.
I still remember also when I was going to high school because I know my mom was so busy and Lahainaluna didn’t have a cafeteria, so we had to bring lunch, sandwiches. So my freshman, sophomore, junior and senior year, every morning I would get up early and make either tuna sandwich or egg sandwich or sometimes Spam. I did that for four years. Nobu was fortunate, because he didn’t have to do any. I made all the sandwiches and my kid sister, too. But after I left, I don’t know who did that. And the Lahainaluna boarding department only took care of the boarding students. The day students, so-called day students had to provide their own lunch.
Toshiyuki Nakasone's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Toshiyuki Nakasone. Supplemental information courtesy of Toshiyuki Nakasone.