Military Intelligence Service
Reflections and Observations
The war expands Norman’s horizons and changes his perspective. On the Mainland he learns that Caucasians are no different from other people in Hawaii.
He believes in self-reliance and setting realistic goals. And once those goals are achieved? He advises, "Be happy."
Reflections on the War
I guess somehow you feel immune to all [the danger and the possibility of getting killed]. Maybe you feel that you’re the protected one. Because I never felt that my time had come or what I would do. Maybe you’d become a fatalist. If you get it, you know, you get hit.
I didn’t know whether our makeup is any different from anybody else's, but I don’t think a nisei has any special — how shall I say this? — that he would have a veneer of protection, security, or anything like that. I don’t think so.
I think there’s no question that the war expanded my horizons and changed my perspective.
When I [grew up] in the plantation [community,] I thought the haoles were managers or on that level. But then when you hit the Mainland and you see that oh, the custodian in the building is a haole, you immediately get the feel that the haoles are no different from us in Hawaii, no different.
I would say [to my grandchildren] to develop on their own and not depend on others. A successful man has to earn his so-called merits by himself. You cannot lean on anybody else, even your parents, and hope to achieve any degree of success. You have to be a self-mover.
But another thing, don’t reach out for something that you cannot grasp. Otherwise you’ll just experience frustration and you get sour, in a way.
Don’t set your limits or aspirations so high up that you’ll never be able to attain that. Be satisfied with a certain level.
So if you want to be successful you have to be better than the other guy. Well, we look around and we say, “Hey, you know that guy is in the money, in the dough, and he’s reached certain professional ranks,” but I would advise my grandchildren to set a limit and work towards that and once you attain that level, be happy.
So what if you earn five million dollars or so? Be happy with one million because with the one million you have enough to live comfortably, a roof over your head. You don’t have to drive a Lexus or Mercedes.
Norman Kikuta's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Norman Kikuta.