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Title: Masamizu Kitajima Interview
Narrator: Masamizu Kitajima
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: June 12, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-kmasamizu-01-0022

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TI: Talk about the family structure. I've interviewed other people about places like Jerome, and because of the mess hall, sometimes the families would get --

MK: Break apart.

TI: Yeah, a little separated, that the kids would eat with their friends.

MK: That's right.

TI: So there wasn't the closeness of the family. How did it work for your family?

MK: My family, no. Because I became the tyrant. I became the father. And when my sister wanted -- my sister was most troublesome to me. My brothers listened to me. Whenever I said we're gonna do this, then they were agreeable. My sister was very defiant. She was so much like my father. She would do her things the way she wanted. First thing she wanted to do was, her girlfriends are eating with their girlfriends, so she wants to go. She's gonna go eat. I said, "No you're not. We're a family. We're gonna eat as a family, because I want you to live and eat with the family." And one time she did break off. She went. I grabbed, I went over there and grabbed her. She didn't want to come back; I just dragged her home, dragged her to... "You will eat here." She said, "Who are you?" I say, "I'm Otousan." I took my job, I took my responsibility very serious. Maybe too serious, but I felt I had no other choice. If I let things go the way the others were doing, then there'd be the same problem in our family, because I knew families was always saying the family's falling apart. And my dad said, "Take care of the family," and I felt that that was my primary job. I had to do that.

TI: And was this prompted by your mother? You said Okaasan wanted people to be together, so your mother said, you know, "We need to eat together as a family," and then it was left to you to, to...

MK: To hold it, right, yeah. The thing was that we always felt... well, number one, we come from a church, and a church has to be together. So Mom said, "We are not like other families. We are from the church. We have to be together, and we have to support each other. It's the only way we can live. And if you make families, friends over here, you break your family up and you make friends over here, tomorrow you leave who you're gonna go with. You're gonna stay with them or you're gonna come with the family. You're gonna have to come with the family. You have no choice." So that she emphasized especially to us. We are still family, no matter what. We will eat together.

TI: And it was left to you to make sure that it happened, with the other, with your siblings, your younger brothers and sisters.

MK: And it was easy to explain it to my brothers, but not my sister.

TI: Were there other examples of you taking that responsibility with the family that you can recall, that you had to do because you were the, the older brother, that you had to do this?

MK: Not physically, but in other, other ways of thinking or doing things, yes. It wasn't to their liking. I think it did create a barrier between myself and my brothers and sisters. Not the younger ones, like Noritaka and Fumiko. They both, they're only one year apart and they're close together, but they would gang up, two of 'em would gang up against me, so it created a barrier between them two and myself. But the other two didn't care, they were so young. They hardly remembered anything.

TI: And this kind of goes back to that moment you described earlier when your father was leaving in Kauai for the last time, and you just feeling this change that happened over you that you had to take responsibility. And by doing so, in some ways, that caused this separation from your other brothers and sisters. That all of a sudden you had to think differently.

MK: I had authority that they didn't like me having the authority of, and... which to this day still exists to some extent. As old as we are, still that feeling still comes about. Sometimes when they're in trouble they call niisan, they call me up and I say, "What now?" Just like I'm the father. And that comes up, sporadically. And yet when they talk, they want to say something nasty about me. "Oh, he was always like that, that way." [Laughs]

TI: So it's a very unique experience for you, unique relationship you have with your siblings.

MK: It is.

TI: All caused by what happened during the war, when they took your father.

MK: Yeah, the separation, separation of my dad and the responsibility I had to take as my dad.

TI: And yet you were a boy. You were, what, nine, ten years old?

MK: Nine.

TI: So as a boy, were you able to make friends your age and play and do different things?

MK: Yeah. In camp, yes.

TI: What are some memories of that? Do you have any, any...

MK: Well, I'm not very good at sports, especially baseball, and that's... basketball, I never knew what, what basketball was about. Primarily because I never associated outside when in my young time because I was a church kid and I couldn't associate with the other people in a sense because our family background, so I never played baseball. So when I went to camp I learned how to play baseball. I enjoyed baseball, but I was never good at it because I didn't have enough practice. I never learned the fundamentals, but I learned how the game was played and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I enjoyed it to the point I wanted to play. And yet, even though as bad as I was, they still allowed me to play. And that was, I think, the late, last time I ever played was in camp, because there was, they had to have teams to play. Even though we were always the losing team I was happy if I could play baseball.

TI: So that's a fond memory, playing baseball for you.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.