Norman Kikuta
Military Intelligence Service

Youth

The Kikutas live in Japanese Camp, Honokohua (now Kapalua), with about forty Japanese families. Norman attends school and works summers in the pineapple fields with people of different ethnicities.

A mile from camp, the vast pineapple fields provide him with fresh fruit during harvest season.

He spends his free time fishing in the nearby ocean, gathering guava and mountain apples, and catching frogs, oopu (goby) and shrimp in mountain streams.

Japanese Camp

We lived in what is now called Kapalua. It was at that time called Honokohua. I guess the mailing address at that time was Honokohua, Maui.

[The camp we lived in] was called the Japanese Camp. We were segregated at that time. I don’t know whether there was any reason for the segregation by ethnic groups, but we had Japanese Camp, Filipino Camp and what we called a Hawaiian Camp, that included the Portuguese.

There was no other ethnic group in the [Japanese Camp, it was] all Japanese.

Aside from our mingling with the kids in school, we had no intercourse with other ethnicities, unless you worked out in the fields. While I was in high school (I was about age fifteen or sixteen), I did work in the fields during the summer months. That is when I associated with the Filipino laborers. And, you know, it’s surprising how you can easily meld with them.

I would say there were about forty families [in Japanese Camp] and those forty families were enough to support the Japanese[-language] school. The [Honolua Japanese School] had about one hundred students from grade one through grade twelve.

Activities

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I think it was a very carefree type of living. You went to school, then back home, then to Japanese[-language] school and so forth. Aside from school, you had access [to the thousands of acres of company-owned fields, mountains and coastal lands].

You had the ocean in front of you — the ocean was only a mile and a half away from home, so I learned to swim where the Kapalua hotel now stands. And, I went fishing regularly. Aside from that, we had the mountains, where in season, we gathered mountain apple, rose apple, guavas, and mangoes.

I think it was a very healthful type of upbringing.

[We're] talking early '30s now. We walked [to the ocean]. It was no problem. So, in retrospect, I think that type of upbringing is much more beneficial to a kid rather than city upbringing. In the city, you’re very restricted. No kid talks about going up in the mountains to gather mountain apple. Or to catch frogs [in] the mountain streams (chuckles). The ones you caught, you let them go. It was just for the fun of catching them.

[The streams had] oopu [goby] and shrimp and so forth. But, although Hawaiians considered that subsistence [gathering], we never thought of it that way. I never did catch mountain shrimps and oopu to take home to eat.

Pineapple Fields

The closest [pineapple field] would probably be a mile away. But pineapple fields are vast in area and you can go ten miles away and still have pineapple field. You’ve seen sugarcane fields, right? It’s something like that.

You can say I grew up on pineapples. But, I’m ashamed to say that with pineapples being so plentiful, and during harvest season, you really wasted the fruit. If you know pineapple, the fruit has a crown on top. Down on the bottom, where it’s connected to the mother plant, is the sweetest portion of the fruit. During harvesting season, we’d just take about that much of the sweeter portion, and discard the rest. In a day, you would go through about eight or ten fruit. We were very wasteful, but when you see fruit by the thousands every day . . .

Even now, I enjoy pineapples. My wife buys pineapple once a week.

Fishing

I told you the ocean was nearby, very accessible. So, I took a liking to fishing [at an early age]. I started off by fishing for little menpachi [squirrel fish], red with big eyes? Well, this was small little thing, what do you call that? Something like aweoweo [bigeye]. So, that’s how I started.

Later on, I’d go to rougher areas with a throw line. You heard of Nakalele Point on West Maui? There’s a lighthouse up there. It’s good virgin fishing grounds, and that’s where quite a few lost their lives. I used to go out there, whenever I had the chance to. So, that’s a big part of my growing-up years, fishing.

Norman Kikuta, 19 years old, showing off ulua catch at family home
Norman Kikuta, 19 years old, showing off ulua catch at family home

It’s not anything like going out on a boat to deeper waters to fish. But, going to the so-called favorite fishing ground, you have to walk quite a bit through brush and then scramble down a cliff.

My brother still does that at age eighty-seven (chuckles). He has to travel from Kahului, which is in Central Maui, to the tip of West Maui on the northern point. But he likes that.

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

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