100th Infantry Battalion (Separate)
Takashi Kitaoka, the youngest of four, is born in Hana, Maui in 1912. Parents Toraki and Sada Kitaoka are emigrants from Kumamoto, Japan.
After working on Kaeleku Sugar Company plantation, Toraki and Sada open a coffee shop in Kaeleku.
Across from the coffee shop, the family lives in a rent-free plantation house. It has two bedrooms, a kitchen with wood stove and icebox, an outdoor toilet, and a separate bathhouse. Kerosene lanterns light the rooms.
My mother’s name was Sada Shimozawa and my father’s name was Toraki Kitaoka.
I know very little [about their family backgrounds. Both of them were from Kumamoto prefecture, Japan.]
In 1935, I had the privilege of going to Japan on a conference in Tokyo. That was the first Japan-America student conference [Japanese-American Students Conference]. After the conference, I went to Kumamoto and that was some experience because I went there alone. I couldn’t speak very much Japanese but I got along.
[My parents] were farmers. I don’t think they had very much education.
My father came here to work in the plantation, on the contract, like the rest of the Japanese at that time. I would imagine [he came to Hawaii] in the early 1900s or late 1890s. About that time.
My recollection [about how my parents got together] is meager. I think my father was married once before he married my mother. They were married here [in Hawaii], I think. [My parents] had to work in the fields and that was very hard. It was very hard labor, as you know. Plantation life is very, very difficult. [They came directly to Hana and were employed by Kaeleku Sugar Company plantation.]
After working in the plantation for I don’t know how many years, [my father] thought he would start a coffee shop for the plantation workers. I think the management, the plantation people, encouraged that. So it was rent-free in the plantation house.
Like any other wife of plantation workers, [my mother] did her housework in addition to working in the coffee shop. So, her time was divided.
The house was provided by the plantation. I don’t think my parents paid any rent either. It was near the coffee shop, walking distance, just across the street.
It was a two-bedroom house. Just the old-style plantation house. Of course, you must realize that we had no electricity, no refrigerator, no running toilets; there was an outhouse maybe a hundred feet away . . . And that’s the kind of life that we lived.
[We cooked] by wood. And we had lanterns; that’s the light we had for the rooms. Kerosene.
At first we didn’t have any icebox — but at a later time, when electricity was conducted, we could get ice from the icehouse in Hana. We had to go get the ice.
[The o-furo, or bath was] another thing. It worked both ways. First, there was the community bath run by a Japanese family. We used to use that. It was divided for Japanese one side and Filipinos on the other side.
Later on, we had our own furo at our house. My mother [heated up the water with wood] and we helped from time to time. The furo was sort of outside the house, not in the house. There was a shack.
Takashi Kitaoka's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Takashi Kitaoka.