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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-01-0006

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TI: Okay, so we're, I'm gonna get to that later. Let's stay on Kauai, 'cause I want to get a sense of you growing up in Kauai. What was it like growing up in Kapaa?

MK: I don't think there was really anything really exceptional about having lived in Kapaa before the war. Everything, I was so small, really I felt more relaxed there, because the ocean was maybe two hundred feet from the church. I just crossed the highway and I was on the beach. I lived, if I wasn't going to school I was on the beach. That was about my life before the war started. Until, I can't remember, 1939, late 1939, I think, I was sent to Japan ahead of my mom. Because they wanted me to become a minister just like them, so I was sent to my grandfather's place.

TI: Okay, being in Kapaa, so not -- well, let me just ask you first about your regular school, English school. What was, like, I'm trying to get a sense of how large the community was in Kapaa and how that worked, so do you know, like...

MK: Kapaa, Kapaa was one of the big towns in Kauai. It was the second largest town in Kauai. Lihue was first. There was, I think, a competition between whether Hanapepe was bigger or Kapaa was bigger. I would imagine maybe about two hundred thousand people.

TI: Two hundred thousand people?

MK: No, I'm not sure on the numbers, but it was a lot of immigrants there. Because all, this was all plantation at one time. Then all plantations closed by then and became a big town, and you had all regular community living there.

TI: And, like for your father's church, do you have a sense of when he did a service, about how many people would attend?

MK: Couple hundred, at least, every service. And in those days two to three hundred, they would overflow the church. Like the Sundays -- well, Japanese, the Buddhists don't have regular Sunday services, but when they had those Higan or any special services for the season, then the church was always overflowing. Especially when you had funerals, the place would be full. Three, four thousand people would come showing up.

TI: Other than doing services and the language school, did your father do other things? Like did he meet with people, like in the city, things like that?

MK: In the community, as far as community relations, yes. When they had anything to do with, anything that affected the community, he would be always included into it, especially being the church, because the church had so much influence on the people. And we had, being that we had two Japanese churches, they represented the Japanese congregation, and then you had so many other religious churches, religions in Kapaa.

TI: Okay, so you had two Japanese Buddhist churches --

MK: Yeah, we had the Hongwanji and the Joudo Shuu.

TI: Right, and then you had several maybe Christian.

MK: We had, we had a Catholic, Catholic religion, we had Episcopal, we had all the other religions, and they were all, as I could, as I recall, some of these churches were old. When I was growing up, when, in the '30s, I used to remember these churches as being old, so these churches must've been built in the eighteenth century, seventeenth century, then, so the community was old community.

TI: How about, like, a large festival like Obon? Was that, do you recall the Obon festival in Kapaa?

MK: Yes.

TI: So describe that. What would happen on... because it's Buddhist. It's religious to start off with, but it becomes also this --

MK: The Obon festival, in our, we had a fairly big yard, big lawn for the church, like they always do have something for that. And they had accommodation for that, and we used to have the Obon dance within our church ground every year. The congregation used to come out and... I used to always sit there and see if I could sneak food out. [Laughs] And it used to be always the same ladies coming out to help. I learned, learned to associate with them and always trying to get favors from them.

TI: And that meant food and things like that?

MK: Oh, yes. And the goodies that go with the food.

TI: And would this be during the day, or the evening when they would do the dancing?

MK: Always at night, always in the evening.

TI: So would they have lanterns out?

MK: Oh, chouchin, yeah. Chouchin and they had drums and, of course we had a large Okinawa society, so then they always had the shamisen out there. And, I guess our church, my dad's church was a little bit different in the fact that, being the Joudo Shuu, we had a lot of Okinawa congregation, very heavy and just... and he was very liked by them, my dad was, because he never segregated anything, said all members are members, so we had... our church, in those days, grew bigger when he came there, after he had gotten there.

TI: So your father was really accepting of the Okinawans. Did they have, the Okinawans, have difficulties in maybe other parts of the Japanese community, to not be accepted?

MK: Yeah.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.