100th Infantry Battalion (Separate)
Takashi’s parents are Buddhist. While the children do not attend services, they do study Japanese language at the Hana Hongwanji Gakuen.
Toraki, a leader in the Japanese community, represents the Japanese consulate and sits on the Japanese-language school board. Sada is active in the fujinkai [women's society].
The Japanese Immigration Act of 1924 and other discrimination cause Takashi to temporarily lose interest in things Japanese.
My parents were Buddhists.
The children didn’t have any religion. We would observe Christmas and we would observe some Buddhist holidays, but we didn’t take part in others, as I recall.
I didn’t attend any religious school. I didn’t go to a Buddhist temple, I didn’t go to Christian church. As far as religion was concerned, we didn’t take it too seriously. At least I didn’t.
There was a Buddhist church in Hana [the Hana Hongwanji Mission].
The minister was the schoolteacher there [Hana Hongwanji Gakuen], Japanese[-language] school. We would go to the English school in the morning, till two o’clock, and after that go to Japanese[-language] school.
[My parents] were very strongly in favor of [Japanese-language school] and this is the reason I went to Japanese[-language] school. They wanted me to learn Japanese. I went through the eighth grade.
Japanese Exclusion Act
To be honest, I enjoyed going to the Japanese[-language] school.
So during my later years attending Japanese[-language] school, I became lax and disinterested in Japanese language and things Japanese because we were so discriminated at that time. And, as a child, I felt it.
I used to make As in Japanese up to maybe about the fifth or sixth grade. But after that, I lost interest and so I barely went through the eighth grade. I had to catch up with it at the University [of Hawaii] where I took Japanese.
I’m very sorry about that because it shouldn’t have been that way. But there was really very strong sentiment against the Japanese. Even at that time, during that period, and that was the result of this Japanese exclusion act.
[I don’t remember anything] specific. [I was not teased]. But on the whole, in the community, I felt that way because of this tension, so to speak. Everybody outside of the Japanese community seemed like they didn’t like things Japanese. That’s the feeling I got and that influenced my thinking, my whole thinking. Although I think I overcame that after I came to high school over here [Honolulu].
I don’t know how [my parents reacted] — nothing special that came up that made them notice that I lacked interest in things Japanese and even in the Japanese language. But that’s the way it was.
Role in Community
My father was very active in the community. He was a member of a group that sort of advised the community in Japanese things. He was somewhat involved with the Japanese consulate as a representative. In Kaeleku, there was a Japanese[-language] school, too. He was on the board — I don’t know what they called it, board of directors I would imagine — of that school. I still remember the name of the principal was Mr. Ito.
So to some extent, I was surprised that, at World War II, that he was not incarcerated. As far as I know, nobody came [to question my father] because by that time, he had been retired for some years.
He spoke very little English, was mostly pidgin. Sometimes we would get by with pidgin but most of the time we had to communicate by speaking Japanese.
There were very few, maybe not more than a dozen haoles [Caucasians] in that town, at that time. He got along very well with the Hawaiians. As a matter of fact, he was pretty good in speaking Hawaiian.
My mother was active in what they call fujinkai, I think that’s the word for women’s [society].
Takashi Kitaoka's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Takashi Kitaoka.