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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-01-0005

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: When he left Ookala, where did he go next?

MK: He went to Kapaa.

TI: And where's --

MK: Kapaa, Kauai, 1938.

TI: 1938 -- so you're about, what, five, six years old?

MK: Me?

TI: Yeah. About that?

MK: About that, yes.

TI: So tell me about Kauai. What was Kapaa like?

MK: Kapaa was a city compared to, Kapaa was a city compared to Ookala because Ookala was just a plantation town, or plantation camp, plantation mill. But then when I came to Kapaa, Kapaa was really, like a suburban community. And to this day, Kapaa looks almost the same, except with, tourists have invaded, but the town itself has remained quite a bit...

TI: And when your father went there in 1938, how large was the Japanese community?

MK: Well Kapaa had two Japanese churches, and I guess the church must have been built in maybe eighteen, late eighteen hundreds or something there. The reason that my dad was appointed there was because the church had been so old, had become so old, dilapidated, it needed to be replaced. And his mission was to go to Kapaa, build a church, build a new church, and then he can stay there if he want or return back to Japan. That was his obligation to the Betsuin here at the Joudo mission.

TI: And when you say build a new church, so that's not really physically building it, but like raising the money...

MK: Raising the money.

TI: ...and organizing it and planning...

MK: Organizing, basically just get the money. [Laughs]

TI: So, again, your father still was, he's still in his twenties --

MK: That's right.

TI: And that's a pretty big job for him to --

MK: About twenty-eight or twenty-nine.

TI: So tell me a little bit about your father's sort of standing as the Buddhist minister in a community like Kapaa. What was his role?

MK: In Kapaa he became, he was the primary minister. He had, now he had a church, a supplement small church to a full-fledged church, so for him it was a, like a promotion. He felt like a promotion for himself. And he became the primary minister. There was a, a lady. She was a young lady, maybe about college graduate, somewhere thereabout, who lived with us. She was a Japanese schoolteacher who helped my father and my mother conduct a lesson, conduct the Japanese school. That was her [inaudible]. Also she was the housekeeper, same time. So my, my father ran the church, and my mother did the womanly things in the house for the church.

TI: But your father did not only the church, but the language school, too, so both.

MK: Right. And he was very closely associated with the Japanese embassy. He became an ambassador to any visiting dignitaries to Kauai.

TI: And so whenever a Japanese ship would come or, or... he'd take care of --

MK: He'd spend his whole day, or every day that the ship was there from the moment they landed to the day they departed, he would be with them, accompany them all along. This used to come every year. He spent a lot of his time, I remember that he used to spend much of his time with the ship that used to come in.

TI: And do you recall what kind of visitors that he would have, like dignitaries, the type of people that might come?

MK: Yeah, we used to have... any, any form of Japanese dignitary that used to come from Japan, for any purpose, to Kauai would come to my house, could come to the church. And they would talk there. The ambassador would come to Hawaii. In later years, I can't remember when, but one of -- this was after the war -- but one of the emperor's nephew or somebody did come to our house and he still remember that he told my mom that he remembers his uncle talking about coming to Kauai church, and he said, "I finally saw the church." So these are the type of people who used to come to Hawaii. So he, I guess, in the society he was quite important in that fact.

TI: 'Cause he would, he would represent Kauai in some ways.

MK: In some ways, yes. There was, there was, of course, there was somebody who was really the president of the chamber of commerce who'd represent the Japanese society, but he was right in that group of three or four people that always was there as dignitaries, always in the front line for, in greeting them.

TI: Now, did your father travel much to either the other islands or back to Japan before the war?

MK: Before the war, in 1940, we did go back to Japan.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.