He is the youngest child of immigrants Takeo and Ushi Higa. His father runs a small store, just below the Oahu Sugar Company Mill.
In 1925, the family visits relatives in Okinawa. Takejiro and his mother who is diagnosed with pleurisy remain while his father and siblings return to Hawaii.
His parents and grandparents pass away by the time he turns 12. An uncle raises him.
Takejiro talks of not being allowed to speak the Okinawan dialect in school:
"I was just like a regular Japanese student. [A]t home, I spoke Okinawa lingo, and in school, standard Japanese. In those days, we had a policy of trying to encourage everybody to speak standard Japanese. And if you speak Okinawa lingo in school, we used to have demerit tags, hogen fuda.
And it's a shame to have a hanging thing [hogen fuda] all the time until you find somebody who speak the Okinawa lingo, and then pass on. If I ever get one, I used to go behind my friend, kick him from behind. And then he'd yell back in Okinawa hogen [dialect]. I'd say, "Ah, ah, ah." So I report to the sensei [teacher], and sensei passed the tag to him. I guess I was kind of naughty.
So anyway, because of it - this was way prior to the war, of course - the Okinawans spoke so much their own language, when you go to Mainland Japan, they'll look down, like a lower-class of people. So the school policy was, if you want to succeed in your life, you got to master standard Japanese. To encourage that, they had the demerit system of högen fuda if you speak hogen at school."
Read the rest of Takejiro's story at: http://nisei.hawaii.edu/page/takejiro.html