Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Jane Kurahara
Narrator: Jane Kurahara
Interviewer: Brian Niiya
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: August 31, 2022
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-514-1

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BN: So we are here on August 31, 2022, and interviewing Jane Kurahara, who just told me her middle name and I forgot it.

JK: No problem.

BN: I am Brian Niiya, conducting the interview, and our videographer is George Russell. I'm here in the gallery of the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai'i, again, more about JCCH in a moment. So thank you so much, Jane, for doing this interview. And as we do with, I think, most interviews, we'd like to start maybe with your, the date of your birth and then a little bit about your parents.

JK: Right, yes. I was born on February 16, 1931, and my parents are Nisei. My father was born in 1901, and my mom was born in 1900 on Kauai. My father was born here in Honolulu, they're both Nisei.

BN: Seems like it would have been unusual at that time that your mother was a little bit older.

JK: I guess so. Maybe that's why I never knew that until I was quite old myself. [Laughs] They didn't say too much about that.

BN: Can you tell me a little about them, your parents? Maybe starting with your father. Do you know much about his parents and where they came from in Japan and so forth?

JK: Yes. My father's parents came from Yamaguchi-ken in 1894, the two of them came together. And I believe my grandpa was... when I knew him, he was a toolmaker. I don't know what he did exactly when he first came. And they lived in the Pawa'a district. And my dad was the oldest son, and after him were three daughters and another son. My mom's parents came from Hiroshima-ken about the same time that my other grandparents came. And they settled in Kauai, and working on some kind of rice plantation or something like that, at least that's what I remember. And my real grandma passed away in childbirth, and so the grandma that I know was a step-grandma. She came as a second marriage.

BN: And where was your mother in, kind of, the birth order?

JK: My mom was, I believe maybe second from the top, second or third, somewhere in there, kind of in the middle.

BN: Okay. And then your father, you mentioned his name was Masaichi. Did he go by a nickname or English name?

JK: I wouldn't venture to know.

BN: I guess your father, the first name isn't really, doesn't come up that much.

JK: I guess, yeah, by the time we were born.

BN: And then what was his educational background?

JK: My father graduated from McKinley High School, and then being the eldest, usually the eldest person, eldest child goes to work then, so the other children can go to school. But his case was unusual. He went to my grandpa and asked if he could keep going and go to the University of Hawaii, and Grandpa said, "Yes, you can, only you're going to have to do it on your own. Because we're very poor, we can't afford to send you." And so he did go to the University of Hawaii, and he graduated in 1924. I often wondered about that, especially after I came to the Japanese Cultural Center, because I kept reading that the eldest child had to go to work. And in his case, it didn't happen that way. And I said, well, somebody in the family had to go to work, and because there were quite a few children coming after them. One of our volunteers, many, many years later, was doing research in the state library and gave me the research he found about my family. And I think... I mean, I'm not sure, but there was the second in the line, eldest daughter, and she only went to the third grade. And then the two daughters that came after her went to school long enough to become nurses, and the youngest son worked for the post office. So I said I think he was the one that... and eventually, though, she became a forelady in the cannery, and she was the big boss there. So it seemed to work out.

BN: Right. But in any case, he did get to go to college.

JK: Uh-huh.

BN: And then what did he end up doing?

JK: That was interesting. That was the only story my dad ever shared with me about his former life. He graduated, and apparently he was an accountant of some sort, and he went to work for the cannery in the office. And one day he was called in to his boss's office and introduced to a young, tall haole boy, and very young yet. And his boss told him... I think Yani was, anyway, said, "Yani, I want you to train this boy. And train him well, because he's going to be your boss." And it was then that my father realized that that was as far as he was going to go. And so I think my father is a bit feisty. At that point, he decided he had to get out and try to find something to do where he was his own boss, and so he became an insurance agent. And ultimately he worked for the Prudential Life Insurance company. And because he was a pretty smart guy, he eventually became the first district manager for Prudential of Japanese ancestry. And so that was my dad, and he was smart.

BN: And then what about your mom?

JK: My mom was living in Kauai. And of course, up 'til grade eight, she went to Hanalei school. She walked from Wainiha to Hanalei, five miles. She said they'd come over the last hill and they'd look down. And if the flag was up, they were going to be late, and if it wasn't, then they were on time. But that was all she told us about her early schooling. After the K-8 schooling, her parents sent her to Oahu to go to normal school to become a teacher. And so that is what she did, and eventually when she graduated her normal school, she became a teacher and was a teacher all her life until she retired.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.