Moriso Teraoka
100th Infantry Battalion

Wainaku Mill Camp

Life in Wainaku Mill Camp is frugal. People have few material possessions beyond the bare necessities.

Moriso and his siblings do not think of themselves as poor until they go to school in Hilo. He learns that beyond the boundaries of the plantation camp, there are those who look down on them. “Oh, he is from the plantation,” is used as a put down.

Moriso’s father tells him, “Don’t pay attention and make friends that don’t care where you come from.”

[The following text is excerpted from "My Legacy: The Inheritance of a Will" by Moriso Teraoka and Go For Broke National Education Center's oral history interview of Moriso Teraoka (Go For Broke)]

Plantation Families

Every family in our plantation camp lived a very frugal life. We were poor and without material things but the bare necessities: food and clothing. The irony of this is that we siblings did not know that we were poor because every one of us was in the same social level.

Shikazo Teraoka family on the steps of their Wainaku Mill Camp home. 1933.
Shikazo Teraoka family on the steps of their Wainaku Mill Camp home. 1933.

After finishing the sixth grade from our elementary school in Wainaku, we all went to Hilo Intermediate School. We walked about two miles one way. After our English school ended at two thirty, we walked home but stopped at our Japanese school for an hour of Japanese language study.

As we entered into the community beyond the boundaries of our plantation camp, I started to realize that we from the plantation were looked down on with distaste, as ill mannered, and without social grace.

“Oh, he is from the plantation,” was a kind of degrading remark that we often heard.

One evening during supper, I asked Father about those remarks. His immediate answer to me was, “Don’t pay attention and make friends that don’t care where you come from.” Today, I still have those friends who befriended me during those trying days.

Plantation Houses


Some of the unfortunate workers lived in a cottage which wasn’t painted. It was washed with lime and water to make it white. Unfinished one-by-twelve boards were used to build the walls. They had tin roofs without ceilings.

That’s how [it was] back in the twenties and thirties. By the time I was born the [plantation] houses were more improved at least and our house looked a little better than unfinished one-by-twelves and we had a ceiling, not in every room though. But all in all we had a bathhouse in back and an outhouse.

We had electricity but some of the houses way up there in Kaiwiki never had electricity until after the war.

Usu

My childhood experience of waking up to the sound of the mochi pounding mallet, mashing the steamed mochi rice in the stone mortar usu, signaled the soon to come New Year in Wainaku Mill Camp.

The paat tan ko, paat tan ko thud that woke my siblings and me was in the early 1930s. Seven or eight families made up of neighbors were our mochi making family.

Mochi making is a cultural practice brought from Japan when the first generation immigrants known as Issei migrated to Hawaii.

Ichisaku Kitsutani, a tombstone engraver, made our community usu in Wainaku. Kitsutani, an Issei immigrant, brought his stone carving skill from Yamaguchi-ken, Japan. Kitsutani-san carved the usu from a solid blue rock found down by the Honolii gulch as it ends at the shore, and chiseled the names of six families around the periphery of the usu. The names in kanji are Kimura, Shigeta, Teraoka, Yoshimoto, Hamasaki, and Unebasami.

This usu has been utilized in making our annual mochi as long as I can remember. My father was the custodian of the usu, which was kept underneath the house throughout the year and was brought out several days before the mochi making morning. The usu was scrubbed clean and set up on its pedestal for the festive morning.

This ritual was suspended during World War II.

"My Legacy: The Inheritance of a Will" was reprinted with the permission of Moriso Teraoka. Excerpts of Moriso Teraoka's oral history transcript are courtesy of the Go For Broke National Education Center. Photographs courtesy of Moriso Teraoka.

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