Norman Kikuta
Military Intelligence Service

Norman Kikuta

Norman Kikuta, the second of six children, is born in Puunene, Maui in 1921. Parents Harugoro and Tori are immigrants from Fukushima, Japan. The Kikutas move to West Maui when Norman is a year old.

His father works in the pineapple fields for Baldwin Packers; his mother teaches sewing.

Until renovated, the family’s four-bedroom house is bath-less with a detached kitchen and wood-burning stove. Baths are taken at a community furo (bathhouse).

I was born in Puunene, Maui in 1921. [I was the second of six children.]

Father: Harugoro Kikuta

My father’s name was Harugoro Kikuta and he was born and raised in Fukushima, Shinobu-gun [Shinobu county].

He was the third son in his family, so, in the usual Japanese tradition of inheritance, the eldest son got the property. [My father] being the third didn’t see any prospects. So, I guess his older sister, who was already in Hawaii, must have talked him into moving to Hawaii.

[My father] came here in 1912. At that time, he worked for the Baldwins, who had quite an estate in Haiku, Maui. They were one of the big financiers and entrepreneurs at that time.

He was in Haiku, than moved to Puunene for a very short time. That’s where I was born. He worked for the [Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company] plantation.

He didn’t remain in Puunene too long because when I was a year old, my father moved his family to West Maui to a pineapple plantation [Baldwin Packers]. Now, the reason why he moved there was that his older sister was already there and he wanted to be with her.

That plantation area is now called Kapalua.

Mother: Tori Kikuta

My mother [Tori Kikuta] was also born in Fukushima, Japan in the adjoining county from my father. It was called Date-gun or Date county. In Japanese history, Date Masamune [1567-1636], [nicknamed] the One-eyed [Dragon] was one of the contenders for unifying the nation.

Harugoro and Tori Kikuta. 25th wedding anniversary.
Harugoro and Tori Kikuta. 25th wedding anniversary.

My father, after being in Hawaii for about seven years, returned to Japan to marry my mother and brought her back [to Hawaii] in 1919.

Parents

My mother took sewing] lessons from an instructor in Lahaina. She sewed on an old treadle-type machine, where you powered with your feet, until she got an electrical sewing machine. She was rather proficient in that, sewing all of our trousers and shirts. Probably, my sister’s dresses, too. Now that I look back, I have to give my thanks to her. She was very capable.

I do remember that she taught sewing to young women in the camp. They would come on Sunday afternoons and she would teach them for about four hours.

We kept a flock of chickens, so I needed to feed them every day. I recall that my father would occasionally sell chickens to the Filipinos. I guess every payday, the Filipinos would splurge and they’d buy chickens and have a party.

My father was quiet in his ways in dealing with the children. So, I guess my mother would be the one trying to correct us. But, I have to admit that when my father got a little excited, he would be rather rough (chuckles). You heard of the term, samurai upbringing. Very stern and where the male would be the overlord? I guess in a way, my father was something like that.

Luna

Being an immigrant, [my father] was employed as a laborer in the pineapple industry [with Baldwin Packers]. He went through the various phases of plantation work, like planting and harvesting — the usual field work on a pineapple plantation.

Harvested pineapple on a pineapple plantation, Hawaii
Harvested pineapple on a pineapple plantation, Hawaii

Later on, because of his smattering of English knowledge, he was used as what you call a luna in the field. He supervised the work of about fifteen or twenty people, and of course, those working under him spoke only Japanese.

He retired at age sixty-six. Fortunately, he was covered under Social Security. Prior to that, I guess agricultural workers were excluded from the program. But, when he retired, he was covered, so that gave him the retirement income that he needed.

[Baldwin Packers also owned the cannery.] The cannery was located in Lahaina town. That’s probably because cannery work is seasonal and you need quite a few hundred employees to do the canning operation. The field work in Kapalua was year-round but the cannery work was seasonal, although the cannery work paid a little better.

House

[Our house wasn’t bigger because my father was a luna.] You see, that responsibility of luna-ship came later in his life, maybe four or five years before he retired.

So, we lived in the same house because relocation would entail moving out all the furniture and the clothing items, et cetera. It was a hassle. We remained in the same house for 55 years.

The house? Well, it was the usual. If you think about a plantation home, you have a living room, four bedrooms a kitchen, and a small porch in the back.

The kitchen was detached. In the very early days, especially back in Puunene, the kitchen had a dirt floor. It wasn’t until maybe 1930, ’35, that the company attached the kitchen to the main house. That made it much more convenient for the occupant, having the kitchen as part of the house.

Most families at that time, had about five kids. So, you needed four bedrooms.

[There were six of us children]. My brother and I would occupy one bedroom. Two of my sisters would occupy [one, and two sisters would occupy] another and my parents would have the fourth bedroom. So, you didn’t have much extra space for my mother’s sewing machine or anything like that. It was crowded.

[The nearest neighbor was] maybe about a hundred feet away. The area around the house was sizable. You’re probably talking about fifteen thousand square feet or more.

Wood-Burning Stove

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During that time, you didn’t have electric stoves or gas stoves. You had kerosene stoves, and if you didn’t have a kerosene stove, then you had a wood-burning stove.

My parents didn’t have a kerosene stove, so the [pineapple] company would provide firewood and you would have to saw them into proper lengths before chopping. I did that kind of work as a teenager.

Furo

Up until the time the company joined our kitchen to the main house, there was no individual bathhouse. We used what was called a community bath, furo. One family would be held responsible for getting the bathwater heated and the bathhouse cleaned and so forth. We used the community bathhouse until about the late [19]30s, or else you took either cold showers or heated up water for your bath.

[The community furo was for] all those who wanted to use the furo. Either that or you had to go through the trouble of heating up your own bathwater or taking a cold shower at home.

The company provided diesel fuel to heat up the community bath. I think it was a very workable arrangement. Families didn’t have to worry about heating up bathwater.

After Japanese school ended, about four-thirty or five o'clock in the afternoon, you would play basketball or whatever, then you’d go home, and then go and take a bath.

Norman Kikuta's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Norman Kikuta.

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