Louis Wai
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

Oh yeah, no pain. About 25 years ago, I was walking past the Prince Kühiö Federal Building on Halekauwila Street in downtown Honolulu when I saw a young man barking at a tree. I remember thinking to myself, “Well, he’s feeling no pain.”

It’s déjà vu all over again . . . but, this time, here in Okinawa. The other day on Route 58, there was a man talking to a picture of a woman on a billboard. I should elaborate. This guy seemed to be not only talking to the picture, but to be having a conversation with the picture, as his body was moving like the picture was taking back to him. Once again, I thought to myself, “Well, he’s feeling no pain,” although I had no idea what the woman in the picture was saying to him.

More power to me. One of the clear advantages to living in Naha City is the electrical service we receive. My electric bill averages less than $100 a month. About the most I have paid during the hot and humid summer months is $180 a month — and that is with running my air conditioner 24 hours a day, every day. During the winter months, I have paid as little as $40 a month. I have been through about 20 hurricanes since moving here and I’ve lost electricity only once — two years ago, for about 30 seconds. I can just imagine the sick look on the faces of my friends back in Hawai‘i.

Trick or treat, Okinawa-style. Many children here dress up in Halloween costumes and go trick-or-treating on organized excursions to various commercial areas. The older crowd gathers in Mihama, at a place known as American Village in Chatan. They dress in full costumes, just like they do in Waikïkï.

Kids don’t trick or treat in local neighborhoods, except in areas where the residents are predominantly American . . . or, at my apartment for Yuta and Sota, the grandchildren of my hänai family, the Noharas.

Okinawa on the campaign trail. Just like in Hawai‘i, there were elections here in November for various offices, including for governor. Okinawa elected a new governor, former Naha City mayor Takeshi Onaga. There were also elections for some cities in the prefecture and for various assembly members, which is like Hawai‘i’s city, or county, councils. One big difference is that the Naha City Assembly — or “council” — has 40 members. Imagine trying to get all of them to agree on the same issue.

Here, they campaign in many of the same ways that they do in Hawai‘i, especially sign waving along streets and at major intersections. Unlike in Hawai‘i, however, they also drive around town in vehicles with signs and loudspeakers that promote the candidate.

One thing that is different is the presence of campaigners who stand in residential neighborhoods with loudspeakers, repeating their message for 10 to 15 minutes. At first, I thought it was a vehicle, but after hearing the same message for 10 minutes straight, I looked out my window and saw the campaigner standing next to my apartment with no visible audience, just blaring away his message . . . kind of like the “feeling no pain” guy I mentioned earlier in this column who was talking to the billboard, except this guy was talking to . . . I don’t know who? What would you do if someone stood outside your front door with a bullhorn?

More than a drive-in. Here’s a little-known story that I learned about only recently.

When the Hawaii Okinawa Center in Waipahu was still in the “If only we had the money . . .” planning stage, the one thing the planners knew they would need was money. Other than the original planners, only a handful of people know that the very first donation came from George Seiju Ifuku. According to my lawyer-buddy Ed Kuba, who chaired the fundraising for the center, many generous Okinawans, Okinawans-at-heart, businesses and organizations (including some from Okinawa) donated a total of $9 million to build the center, which will mark its 25th anniversary this year.

Most of the people in Seiju’s own family did not know that he donated the first $5,000. Said Ed: “The first $5,000 is the most difficult and means much more than the last $5,000. The first $5,000 goes a long way.” One of Seiju’s sons-in-law, Jim Gusukuma, said Seiju was a very private person. Jim himself did not know about this gift of aloha, which Seiju quietly gave in 1987, three years before the Hawaii Okinawa Center was completed.

Who was Seiju Ifuku? Most people never heard of him, but we sure love his plate lunches. Seiju and his wife Ayako (Miyasato) were the people behind the Kapahulu landmark, Rainbow Drive-In, which they founded in 1961. Seiju cooked and Ayako took the orders at the counter. He was born in Hawai‘i, but spent his teen years in Gushichan in southern Okinawa. Today the village is known as Gushikami in the area is known as Yaese. Seiju was a sergeant in the famed 100th Infantry Battalion. After the war he lived in Mänoa, including for a time in veterans housing. He and Ayako had three children. The rainbows over Mänoa Valley, the spectrum of colors we are blessed with in Hawai‘i, inspired Seiju to name his business Rainbow Drive-In. The next time you go to Rainbow’s Drive-In, I think the food will taste a little better. Thank you, Seiju and Ayako, for your gifts of aloha.

Okinawan word of the week. Gushichan, which is the village in southern Okinawa that is today called Gushikami.


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