Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Toshio Moritsugu Interview
Narrator: Toshio Moritsugu
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: March 2, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-mtoshio-01-0015

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: So going back to that morning, so you observed this happening, you hear the radio saying that this is the real McCoy, then what happened the rest of the day? What was going on?

TM: Well, we were tuned to the radio because that was the only source of communication. There were rumors going all over and we stayed home and then an announcement came out that we were on curfew and it's going to be completely blacked out from now on. We were a territory at that time, so the territorial governor lost his power and the military governor took over. Everything was under martial law and we had to follow what the military had dictated. And it was a time of fear and uncertainty, You didn't know what was going to happen, rumors going around, so you had to keep glued to the radio. Newspapers were completely out for the time being.

TI: And so for your family, your house, what type of changes were made?

TM: For one thing, we were told to build air raid shelters. So my father and I and my brothers got busy constructing an air raid shelter just alongside the home. That was not overnight but it was a sort of drawn out process. And everything was under military power. The fishing boats were completely taken over, nets, so we couldn't get to the ocean anymore and I was strictly staying at home and following orders. The family had to readjust. For example, you had to paint the windows black, so then in case you had indoor light on, it wouldn't shine out. And then we decided to stay closer together and was, (for) everybody, it was a fearful time. Just didn't know what to do, what (was) to come, and we just took orders.

TI: So in, particularly though for a fishing village, if all of a sudden you can't fish anymore, this has a huge impact on the people in that fishing village. So what can the other families do to survive and in your family if you can't fish?

TM: The work was restricted and somehow some of the homes, many of them, had gardens and you started emphasizing garden work, chickens were raised, gardens, fruit trees so I would think that some of the families helped each other. In other words, you gave food here and there and you managed to survive not knowing what's going to be coming ahead.

TI: But then your father was leasing the land from the Bishop Estate and he was getting money from, kind of a commission from fish sales. Now if all that disappears, how did your father continue paying, you know, the lease payments?

TM: Yes, it was a drastic situation. Somehow my father realized that he may be interned, as he was, well, a pretty good businessman, he was a Buddhist and he had gone to Japan and he had taken care of the village people. So he knew that somehow eventually he would be interned and, as I mentioned earlier, he had a taxi driver who had a taxi business and this taxi not only took flowers or fish to downtown, it took passengers. And gasoline was rationed but taxi drivers got a little more gasoline so he managed to keep up with the taxi business. And then before long, the military was asking for help, which meant that there was a drastic situation where barbed wires had to be installed (along) the seashore.

TI: Before you go there, you're talking about the taxi driver, you know, Kato-san, and I think you were going to mention how because your father thought that he was going to be interned, he had a conversation with Kato-san about that, about... because up to that point, your father and Kato-san were really close, not just in friendship but kind of business-wise. So what did your father tell Kato-san when the war started?

TM: My father told Kato-san, "I want you to divorce from me and you get the taxi. You go on ahead and don't come close to me." You know, strictly in a way, "I'm a dangerous person and I may be interned and I want you to go on your own." And Kato-san had a family of his own so he proceeded on his own.

TI: So your father was trying to protect him because he felt that if he were picked up, if Kato-san was too close to him, then he might also get picked up. And so he wanted to kind of, as you say, divorce or sever the relationship so that he would be more independent, okay. So Kato-san isn't helping your father anymore, you were then going to talk about the barbed wires and things that you did so I think some of things that you did for work or job after the job had started? Why don't you talk about that.

TM: Well, when the war started, all schools were closed and people, in fact, children had nothing to do. The military were looking for volunteer workers to set up barbed wire fences around the seashore and I volunteered for it. Every morning a group of us was driven over to different sea areas and then laid barbed wire fences. Later on, they said, "You'll be compensated," and we were paid fifty cents an hour, initially it was strictly volunteer work. Every day for about eight hours, we did manual type of work. That kept us busy. Fortunately for us, we had free lunch. In the meantime, they were looking for carpenters so my father volunteered and became a carpenter. He was with a group of carpenters who were needed to make forms for the machine gun nests, and that type of work was strictly done by the carpenters.

TI: And so it sounds like, you know, your family and probably other families were also able to get like these defense related jobs, whether it's barbed wire or carpentry for machine gun nests, that there was a need for labor so that's what many of you were able to do instead of fishing or things like that. So was that common for lots of school boys, to be doing this?

TM: Yes, it was quite common because when you applied for it they just took you and they said, "We need you," and they had several trucks that went to different places and we as workers did eight hours of work per day.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.