Norman Kikuta
Military Intelligence Service


The families eat and trade homegrown vegetables and fruits. The Kikutas sell their surplus avocados to an outside merchant.

They get rice and shoyu at the company store and buy beef and fish when available.

A showman screens Japanese movies in camp. The family also sees movies in Lahaina, where their relatives live.

Harugoro becomes a Methodist and the family is baptized in the early 1930s. Traveling ministers conduct services for about twelve families.


Every family had a plot around the house where the family raised vegetables. It was unthought of at that time for any family to buy vegetables; it was all homegrown. If a family raised a good crop of lettuce, he would take it over to the neighboring families, what you call kokan, or trade. So that’s the type of livelihood.

You had all kinds, you wouldn’t believe it. We had green onions, carrots, leafy green vegetables, beans. Those were the vegetables mainly used by the Japanese at that time.

Sometimes we raised peanuts, they’re easily grown. Around the house, every family had papaya trees, bananas and we had a huge avocado tree. In season, it gave you about three- or four-hundred fruit. And they’re all good-sized ones, too. At that time we sold them for about three cents each. You'd have to pay a dollar thirty-five cents a pound now.

The company had a store where most of the purchases were made. But, the company allowed an outside merchant to come around, maybe once a week. He would visit the families and he’d notice the abundance of avocados we had, so he offered to buy them. That was a source of income. Although it’s only about three or four cents apiece, but we had so many, we didn’t know what to do with them.

[Rice and shoyu we] bought from the company store. They were more or less staples. And occasionally, you’d buy fish from the outside merchant because Lahaina was a fishing town and he had access to fish.

We didn’t have the steaks and so forth that we enjoy now, but I think you had the basic requirements. Baldwin Packers, in the early days, raised cattle. In the very early days [prior to 1924], it was called Honolua Ranch. They slaughtered a cow once a week and then distributed the beef to families. Of course you had to buy them, it wasn’t given away. That was our source of protein, [besides fish].

Now and then, huge schools of akule [scad fish] would be netted and we were able to buy akule, at ten cents a pound. What is it now? About four dollars a pound? So, in a quiet, backwater community, you had a lot of activity.

Movie House

It wasn’t until the middle [19]30s that the company built a movie house. But prior to that, the company used a big warehouse area. We called it the box house. The same movie showman came around maybe once a week or every other week and mainly showed Japanese movies. So we’d go, and it cost us about ten cents.

They showed movies like, well, I don’t know whether Chushingura was [shown] at that time, but then, they showed an English version of The Mystery of Thirteen. But after the company built a big theater, they showed movies once a week, on weekends.

Whenever a good movie was shown, we’d go to Lahaina, which is about nine miles away and we took in the movie at the Pioneer Theater. And that theater took care of most of West Maui. Of course, the admission price was a little more, it was twenty-five cents (chuckles).


I’d say we’d go [to Lahaina] about every other week. My father owned a Model-T Ford, so we had wheels. And since he had an elder sister living in Lahaina at that time, and many nieces and nephews, [we visited Lahaina frequently].


The Sato family (Tadashi Sato, the artist, is my cousin), lived right in front of Kam[ehameha] III School and the large banyan tree.

Of course, going to Lahaina town was quite an experience. Moving out of the country, you know, pineapple plantation, going to town. Although, Lahaina town itself didn’t offer that much.


[My father was a Buddhist, before he converted to Methodism in the early early 1930s.] I don’t recall attending any Buddhist sessions. When he was working in Haiku or Puunene, he was a member of [Paia] Mantokuji [temple].

Mantokuji Soto Zen Mission, Maui
Mantokuji Soto Zen Mission, Maui, Hawaii

After moving to West Maui, his close friends were converted Methodists, so he just joined the group. The whole family was baptized in 1932.

All through high school, I attended rather informal gatherings of church members. Of course, Honolua didn’t have a Methodist church per se, so the meetings were held in private homes on a rotation basis.

I think there must’ve been about twelve families. Twelve families, so that’s husband and wife, twenty-four, and with their children, maybe another twenty. So, about forty people gathered.

The minister was a traveling minister. He serviced people in Puukolii and as I remember, the minister at the Lahaina Methodist Church did come. In 1939, when I came down to attend the university, I stayed at Okumura dormitory. You heard of [the] Reverend Takie Okumura? His church was Makiki Christian Church. So, we had to attend services there, twice every Sunday. Of course, Makiki Christian is not a Methodist church, it’s a Congregational church. So, from a religious standpoint, I haven’t been a devout Christian (laughs).

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

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