Chito Isonaga
A Different View

School and Church

Chito enjoys Koloa School. In the summer, her father has his children study math.

Few girls go on to high school. Chito pays to ride to Kauai High School with a neighbor. She likes typing class and considers secretarial school.

For eight years, she goes to Japanese-language school to learn to read and write from Buddhist priests and a lay teacher.

She and her siblings attend Koloa Union Church. After church, she visits with the Alfred Waterhouse family.

Koloa School

I attended the Koloa School. We walked to school, not ride like today. I enjoyed going to school. There was an older girl going to school and they would take me.

Chito Isonaga. Grade school class photo. Chito is in the 1st row, 2nd from the right
Chito Isonaga. Grade school class photo. Chito is in the 1st row, 2nd from the right.

[Margaret Miller Blake and her daughter, Eleanor Blake Anderson, were longtime Koloa School teachers.] I remember when we had spelling and if we made one mistake or something like that, I remember that we had to pull weeds when our spelling wasn’t too good.

You know, my parents didn’t teach us how to read. I don’t know how we learned, but we didn’t have any trouble. But we used to have to sit and study during the summer vacation. My father used to make us sit and he used to write [math] problems, you know, six minus something. We used to work on that for an hour or so. Mom would be sewing over here, and in the back there used to be a little desk and we used to sit there and work our problems.

One summer, I remember, we went to somebody’s beach house. There were two families, our neighbor’s family and our family. We had to stay in and study for a while, but the other family didn’t have to do it. Even at that time, I remember, we had to stay in and study for a while before going to the beach.

[I went to Koloa School through] eighth grade.

Chito Isonaga. Graduation from grade school.
Chito Isonaga. Graduation from grade school.

Kauai High School

[After Koloa School, I went to] Kauai High School for four years.

Kauai High School was located in Lihue near Nawiliwili. We used to go [from Koloa to Lihue] on a private car. In fact, I went on the Chung’s car. Richard Chung, the son [of the next-door tailor, Ho Young Chung], used to drive us. There were couple of us, including Dr. [Alfred H.] Waterhouse’s daughter, Marjorie, used to come with us and couple of others.

I think it was something like seven dollars [to get a ride]. We used to pay monthly.

Lot of the plantation children never [attended high school]. Some of them did, but. In fact, one of my classmates [after] eighth grade came to Honolulu. But, few of the girls went to high school. They used to work [instead] as maids at different homes.

I don’t think I thought much about going [to high school], but I remember going.

Oh, I liked my typing class. I don’t know why, but I really wanted to go to secretarial school. But, my mother waited for me to graduate so [we] can go back to Japan to see her mother.

Japanese-language School

I went to the Japanese[-language] school throughout my grammar school days, the Koloa [Japanese-language School]. I don’t know whether [the school] was connected with the Buddhist temple, but most of the Buddhist [priests] in Koloa town, the Jodo-shu [Jodo sect] and the Shin-shu [Jodo Shin sect] Buddhists, were teachers at the school. Mr. [Koremitsu] Muraoka was the only other [teacher] outside the Buddhist [temple].

I don’t know [about how the teaching was], we went because we had to (laughs). I don’t remember studying much. I didn’t care to learn that language, the reading and writing.

I don’t remember [learning shushin (morals, ethics) or talks on oya-koko (filial piety)]. Just reading and writing.

When we went to high school you couldn’t go to the Japanese[-language] school because of the time difference [i.e., scheduling conflicts]. But, I think I went through eighth grade.


My father was a member of the Jodo-shu [i.e., Koloa Jodo Mission]. I think Mom sort of favored going to the Christian [church].

[Herbert and I] went to the — today it’s Koloa Union Church, the congregational church in Koloa town. I think we all went from kindergarten, on. I never remember going to the Jodo-shu [i.e., Koloa Jodo Mission] church.

Koloa Union Church
Koloa Union Church

We all went to Sunday school. I was there even in high school. We had our club and I was a member of the choir. We were closely connected with the church. [We had a] high school club and we used to have dances once in a while. After choir practice, we used to go down to Lawai Beach. That was a treat.

The Waterhouse family had lot of [land]. Dr. [Alfred H.] Waterhouse was our doctor and Mrs. [Mabel] Waterhouse used to teach Sunday school. Mrs. Waterhouse used to collect rent from our store every month. So, we had that connection, too.

Every Sunday after church, we used to go to the Waterhouse residence, and they had two older girls, Florence and Marjorie. We used to go there and we stayed there all afternoon and we waited for the doctor to go to the Eleele dispensary. He used to go every Sunday. We all used to look forward to going with him. We all looked forward to his buying us ice cream cone every Sunday. That was our treat. I remember he used to take a bunch of us, Sunday school students.

We were [close to the Waterhouses]. [Richard] “Ike” Okamura’s father [Tasaburo Okamura] used to work there [as a yardman]. In fact, at one time Mom got seriously ill and was in the hospital. Ike’s mother was there, too. I think she had tuberculosis. There was a little cottage and she was there. I used to go and visit her. Through that connection, we were close with the Waterhouse family.

Chito Isonaga's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Chito Isonaga.

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