Toshiyuki Nakasone
1399th Engineer Construction Battalion

Community

Nakasone Barbershop is on Front Street. Nearby businesses include: a tailor, a photo studio, a poi factory, a bakery, and a drugstore.

Despite Japanese prejudice against Okinawans, Kokyu, active in the Methodist church and language school, is a leader in the Japanese community. He heads efforts to eliminate dual citizenship among AJAs.

His son, Toshiyuki, and others relinquish their Japanese citizenship, retaining only American citizenship.

[Supplemental information from Our Nakasone “Roots” in Hawaii. Permission granted by Toshiyuki Nakasone.]

Front Street

[The barbershop was on Front Street] mauka [in the direction of the mountains] side.

Kokyu and Ushi Nakasone, in front of barbershop.
Kokyu and Ushi Nakasone, in front of barbershop.

Across the street, there was a tailor shop, a Nagamine Photo Studio. There was a poi [cooked taro corms, pounded and thinned with water] factory, where we used to go frequently to buy poi. We used to eat cooked taro. We used to eat the hot, cooked taro, we used to enjoy that.

Further down there was the bakery. We used to go to the bakery at night, when they finished baking, and there’s hot bread. In those days, bread was five, ten cents a loaf, so we used to buy bread and bring ’em home, and we threw butter, little bit of sugar, and used to eat that as our dessert. There’s no such thing as a five-cents bread anymore.

And the drugstore at the corner of Front Street and Lahainaluna [Road] was Masuda Drugstore, and they used to have ice cream for five cents, ten cents. And you can have pie a la mode for twenty-five cents.

Those days, I remember we used to buy opihi [abalone] that came uncut and we used to mix spices. That was from next door, the Ching store, Chinese store. Abalone. Opihi. Dried, they came in dried, without being cut. So we used to slice that and chew on it.

Town and Plantation

No, I don’t think [there was a rivalry between the town and plantation folks].

In fact, the only difference in the kind of living conditions that I know of was that the plantation camp people had community baths. They used to call that furo, the community bath. They used to have ethnic Japanese Camp, Filipino Camp, stuff like that.

The difference was those that went to the Hongwanji, the Buddhist [Japanese-]language school versus the Methodist [Japanese-]language school. Other than that, I don’t know.

Okinawans in Lahaina

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When you think about it, there was still this prejudice [held by Japanese from the main islands of Japan] against Okinawans. I kind of sensed that.

But because my father was so active in the church and in the language school, I think he overcame a lot of this ethnic differences because of his leadership in the so-called Japanese community.

In fact, because he was so much involved in the community activities, when the war broke out, and all of the so-called Japanese Americans were kind of looked upon as enemies and the federal government had to investigate to see whether they did any spying for Japan, they came to see my dad regularly.

And after I went into the service [U.S. military], two or three months later, that’s when they stopped because they realized that, here, my father under suspicion because of his connection with the Japanese-language school and the church, and then, now his son is in the service, so he was no longer suspected

Religion

Both Kokyu and Ushi were strong in their Christian beliefs and it showed in everything they did. Kokyu was a certified lay preacher in the Lahaina Methodist Church. Ushi was instrumental in founding the Taira Methodist Church on her first trip back to Okinawa in 1936.

Dual Citizenship

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From what I understand, earlier too in the early thirties, a lot of us had what you call dual citizenship because we were Japanese, but born in the U.S., we had dual citizenship.

But [my father] was appointed by the Japan Counsul[-General] or whatever, to eliminate dual Japanese citizenship part, and only keep the American side. He was honored by Emperor Hirohito with some kind of citation of doing a good job in clarifying the dual citizenship problem that we had in West Maui.

[I gave up my Japanese citizenship.] Well, in fact, that was when I was still in elementary school.

Toshiyuki Nakasone's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Toshiyuki Nakasone. Supplemental information courtesy of Toshiyuki Nakasone.

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