Takashi Kitaoka
100th Infantry Battalion (Separate)

Youth

Takashi rides down to Honokalani on horseback to fish in the ocean. Fish is served almost daily at the family’s dinner table.

Takashi swims in natural pools near Nahiku. From streams that feed the pools, he nets opae [shrimp].

He also forages for fruits — mangoes, mountain apples, guavas, avocados — and vegetables — bamboo shoots and warabi [fern].

In 1926 a road is built from Hana to Wailuku. Takashi, age fourteen, visits the town for the first time.

For fun we went fishing, we went swimming, we went hiking, we played softball. That’s about all.

Ocean Fishing

We would go to a place called Honokalani, which is about a mile and half away, towards sea. We would ride the horse and go down and go [ocean] fishing that way. In fact, with the long bamboo — it would be very inconvenient to carry that every time we go fishing. So what we would do is to leave the bamboo down in the bushes. Those days, it was very safe, nobody stole anything. (Laughs)

You catch the usual. All the different kinds of fish get like moi [thread fish], ahole [flagtail], ulua [crevalle, jack, or pompano] and parrotfish, all the local fish.

[The area was] all rocky. We had some beaches but mostly rocks. We would sit on the rock to fish with the bamboo. There was no reel or anything like that. Just attach the line to the bamboo and throw it in there. That’s one way. The other way would be to just throw the line into the ocean.

Of course, the big way was this hukilau way. The Hawaiians would throw — surround with the net. We would go and help them. Pull in the net and get free fish.

[My family had fish on the table] almost every day. Fish was the most popular food at that time. Meat [i.e., beef], we could get that from the ranch people. Of course, some of the people would go pig hunting up in the mountain. But, well, I didn’t care for wild pig. There was a certain scent to it that I didn’t care for.

Swimming

[We went to] the swimming pool. Maybe about a mile away, big swimming pool. That’s, how should I say, a natural pool. Deep, cold water. Fresh water. We would go there practically every week. There were several pools like that. This is near Nahiku, where I told you there was a good number of ranches.

They were really deep. Oh, maybe ten, twenty feet. That’s how we learned to swim. Just go in there and paddle, dog paddle.

Catching Shrimp

[We played in the streams that fed into the pool.] One of our favorite sports was getting mountain shrimps. There were a good number of rivers coming down from the mountain and we would go and get shrimps. Opae.

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There’s a technique that you learn. Instead of going around the pool — you can do that, you can go around the pool with your net — but the better way, the smarter way, where you can get better shrimp — more shrimp, I should say — is by putting the net, long net, across the stones in the river, and then go a little distance away [i.e., upstream] and push the stones away so that the shrimp would flow down and get caught in the net.

You can make [the net] as long as you like. Maybe five feet or six feet. You can have the old kind of nets. The ones that you use to scoop, the regular nets. And then there was the other kind where you put the net flat across couple of stones and leave it there, let the water come down[stream].

[You leave it] just a few minutes. All you do is move the rocks a little bit and the shrimp would go down. [We would get] hundreds of ’em and they’re edible. They’re good-eating, too.

You fry them the Japanese way, with sugar and shoyu. The other way would be to dry [them]. Because you use the shrimp for bait to go fishing. They make good bait.

There’s oopu [goby]. There’s a good number of that but a lot of people didn’t care for the taste of it.

Foraging for Food

[We had] all the fruits you want. By that, I mean the local fruits. The mangoes, they grew wild. Then they had mountain apples all along the stream and they were big and sweet. [We would] pick and take home.

[There was] guava, of course. I like guava. Rose apple, pear avocado.

During the weekends, we used to go bird hunting. We used to go up in the mountains, get takenoko [bamboo shoots] — that’s a good sport, too. But that’s hard work because you have to dig into the ground to get bamboo shoots because the bark of the bamboo shoot is under the ground and so you have to dig to get at the roots.

We had lots of [Japanese warabi (fern)]. They grew all over the streams, on the side of the streams. Hana is on the windward side of the island. It’s a lot of rain. So you could get a lot of that.

Hawaiians had taro farms. Even today, if you go to Keanae, they have acres of taro and this is where we got most of our taro. Keanae is, oh, about five or six miles away from Hana, and it’s part of the Hana district. It’s going toward Wailuku.

Wailuku

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Talking about Wailuku, I had never been to Wailuku until I was fourteen years old. I’d never seen the outside world. Wailuku was a big, big town.

Well, there was no [macadamized] road between Wailuku and Hana when I was a child. There was trail. The road [for motor vehicle traffic] was built about 1926, just about the time I graduated from grammar school.

The road was open about that time so that we could go from Hana to Wailuku. But we would go on a mail truck because the mailman would go to Wailuku to get the mail every day. And so if you wanted to go to Wailuku, you would have to get in on his truck.

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

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