published Oct 12, 2018
An Oral History
Takejiro Higa's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History.
Photographs courtesy of Takejiro Higa.
The Hawaii Nisei Project © 2006
I was told that I was born 1923 at Waipahu, Oahu, just a short distance from Honolulu. Then, at the age of two, my mother took three of us - my older sister, who's six years older than me; and a brother, three years older than me - to Okinawa to meet with grandparents. In the meantime, Father remained in Waipahu and operated a small family store. . .just below the sugar mill.
Ushi Higa with her
children Warren and Yuriko
Then, three years later, when I was five, my father went back to Okinawa. The idea was to bring the family back to Hawaii. But when he got to Okinawa, he found my mother was sick with pleurisy and no longer able to travel. And Father has a store whose friend is managing while he's in Okinawa. So he has to come back to Hawaii. So, after a family discussion, they decided - Father would bring back my older brother and older sister with him. And I'm being only five years old and still need mother's care, they decided that I be left behind with the mother. And Mother and I lived with the grandparents in Okinawa.
Then when I was eleven, my father passed away in Hawaii, heart attack. And the next year, when I was twelve, my mother died in Okinawa because of illness. Then, unfortunately, within the same two-year period, my grandparents passed away also. So in two years, four family members passed away. So, after that, my father's younger brother, my uncle, took me in. And from his home, I was able to finish the grade school up to eighth grade. And after that, I lived with Uncle and worked for him. I did the men's size job from age fourteen.
Takejiro Higa with his mother,
Ushi Higa, and his cousins
Then, when I became sixteen, I wrote to my sister, "Call me back quick." The reason being, in those days, Japan used to send young people, healthy young people from age sixteen to nineteen, to Manchuria under Manchuria Development Youth Corps. I didn't want to get caught in there, so I wrote my sister. And luckily, she managed to scrape up enough money to send me back to Hawaii. So I came back to Hawaii, I believe was in June or July maybe, 1939.
Parents: Takeo and Ushi Higa
My father's name was Takeo Higa. Mother's name was Ushi Higa. In those days, Okinawa has a habit of naming ladies in an animal name. Hard-working animal name (chuckles). Ushi is a cow. And other common name is Kama. Kama is a cooking area. Kame is a turtle. It's very common, those names.
[My parents came from] the village known as Shimabuku. Shimabuku and Nakagusuku-son. Presently is Kita-Nakagusuku. After the war, 1946, Nakagusuku-son was divided between two, regular Nakagusuku-son, southern part and the northern part, Kita-Nakagusuku because it was so big. Today, still remains the two parts.
My mother is one of five sisters. Two of her sisters came to Hawaii. Then one of them went to the Philippines and only one lived right through in Okinawa.
My father, one of the brothers went to Peru and one went to Argentina. The youngest uncle. The other uncle remained in Okinawa.
Well, as everybody else, only the poor family ventured out to foreign country. We are from the poor farming family. So, I guess they wanted to carve out a new life for themselves. So they venture out. And I found out, after I came back to Hawaii, my father was actually called by Grandfather. Grandfather came first. One of the earlier contract labor. My grandfather and the two brothers came together to Hawaii and that's how my father was called to Hawaii.
Then afterwards, of course, my father married my mother from the same village. They knew each other, it's not the picture bride [marriage]. I don't quite remember what year they came over.
Every now and then, my father used to send few dollars [to Okinawa]. Very little, but still is big money. The letters used to come in quite often. And I used to write to him, write him back. So, not too many kanji, but at least able to respond to Daddy. I don't know my father. I don't remember my father. The last time I remember seeing him is five years old.
©2018 Contact: ClickOkinawa.com