WAIMEA — After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Janet Reis was worried she wasn’t going to see some of her friends again.
“I thought, ‘Now I cannot play with my Japanese friends,’” she said.
On Dec. 7, 1941, Reis was 8 years old and living in Mana.
“My uncle came home, saying Oahu had been attacked,” she said.
Soon after the attack, about 100 miles away, Kauai residents started preparing for an invasion, said Reis, who now lives in Waimea.
“My father went to Polihale with a shotgun to protect Kauai,” she said.
But if Japan had invaded the Garden Isle, they would’ve taken it, she added.
It’s a sentiment Naoko Ho echoed.
“We were not prepared,” she said.
Ho, born and raised in Waimea, was 11 years old when Pearl Harbor was bombed.
“I was at my friend’s house. Her dad came in, and told me I should probably go home,” she said. “I had no idea what was happening.”
On Tuesday, The Garden Island met up with Ho, Reis, Marge Magoay and Kay Hill, friends from the Waimea Senior Center, to talk about what they remembered on that fateful day.
Magaoay was living on Oahu, on a Dole pineapple farm, when the island was invaded.
“That was the day my younger brother was going to be baptized,” she said. “My mom was cooking, and a plane came over the camp. The plane then turned around and went back to Pearl Harbor. She said the planes were too low and was going to report them.”
Magaoay, only 2 years old then, now lives in Waimea.
While life after the Pearl Harbor attack changed, Ho said it took her a few years to fully understand what had happened.
“When I got older, I realized we were in a war, and some people left, never to come back,” she said.
Barbed-wire fences along Kauai’s shoreline, required bomb shelters, food rations and blackouts became a way of life.
Because she was so young, Ho said living under the new rules wasn’t difficult.
“I’m sure it was for my parents, but for me it was no problem,” she said.
During the war, women and children were expected to work to keep the economy going.
“We didn’t have enough laborers,” Ho said. “So school was cut to four days a week and we worked in the plantations on Friday.”
Ho, who worked on a plantation in Kokee, said she didn’t think twice about the extra responsibilities.
“It was fun,” she said.
In the years that followed, Ho remembers people of Japanese descent being watched, and at times, taken away.
“Buddhist monks had to report themselves, and entire families had to move to the Mainland,” she said.
But because her father wasn’t educated, her family wasn’t forced to move, Ho said.
“He couldn’t even read or write Japanese,” she said. “Only the educated ones were bothered.”
The government also put an end to Japanese language schools.
“Because my education in Japanese was interrupted, I’m not that good at it. I used to be able to sing in Japanese,” she said. “After the war, I picked it back up.”
Kay Hill, who lives in Hanapepe, was 3 years old when America entered World War II.
As a young girl, she remembers people coming to her house and taking Japanese decorations, books and any other paraphernalia.
“They took what was visible and burned it,” she said. “But my grandma hid some of my dolls in the closet.”
Despite some of the tension, Ho said her generation was “patriotic” and helped the war effort. In addition to becoming laborers, the girls also learned how to knit mufflers, which were sent off island.
“I’m glad I learned how to knit. I still do it,” she said.
During that time, children of Japanese parents had two names — their given name and an English one.
After the war broke out, Ho realized she didn’t have an English name .
“I asked my mom what my English name was and she said she didn’t give me one,” she said. “So I tried to give one to myself. I chose Nancy, but it didn’t stick.”