Karleen C. Chinen
The recent passing of my uncle — my dad’s last surviving brother — at age 90 in Los Angeles brought his family and Dad’s youngest sister, Cindy, also a SoCal resident, home to the Islands. Uncle’s family decided to bring his remains home for inurnment in the family grave in Nu‘uanu.
It had been a few years since Aunty Cindy and her eldest son Allan were back, so they decided to take a two-day trip to Maui, where all eight of Chinen kids were born — all in East Maui. Back from their quickie trip, I asked her about their visit. “I couldn’t recognize anything,” she said. Aunty, now 81, was the youngest of the brood. She said she was 11 years old when the family moved to Honolulu, so, understandably, she doesn’t have many memories of life on Maui.
But for the older kids, like Dad and the brother right below him, Masa, Maui was special. Dad, and I think Uncle Masa, too, loved going back to Maui. Whenever I traveled to Maui with Dad, we would visit his old friends and old stomping grounds. He felt at home on the island, like he still belonged.
When I was a student at UH decades ago, I took the ethnic studies course on the Japanese in Hawai‘i. One of our assignments was to develop a historical timeline — milestone dates, like the arrival of the gannen mono in 1868 and the kanyaku imin in 1885, Hawai‘i’s annexation to the U.S. in 1898, arrival of picture brides in 1908, in the left column, and my family’s history in the right column. By doing this, we could see how our families had been impacted by history.
I’ve kept this timeline for 40 years. I treasure it, for it contains answers to questions I would never have thought to ask Dad until it was too late and he was gone. Questions like where his siblings were born? Maui, yes, but where on Maui? And when? The timeline said the first three kids were born at Paia Sugar Plantation, the next three in Ha‘ikü, and the last two in Huelo. I think Jiji and Grandma followed the jobs, working initially in sugar and then in pineapple. The lush, forested areas of East Maui were Dad’s playground in many respects. He rarely talked about going to the beach, but he did remember climbing trees. I remember him telling me with pride that he was the first Nisei from Libby Camp in Ha‘ikü to be drafted into the 299th Infantry Regiment of the National Guard, which was merged with the 299th and eventually became the 100th Infantry Battalion, the first combat unit to fight in Europe in World War II.
Uncle Masa, too, loved returning to his East Maui roots. When he was still healthy, my sister Joyce and I accompanied him to Maui for a Ha‘ikü School reunion. He showed us where they lived at the corner of Kuiaha Road and the old Häna Highway in Ha‘ikü. He showed us Halehaku School, which Dad attended, and the old Hämäkuapoko campus of Maui High School, from which Uncle graduated. How lucky he was to have been able to attend school in such a beautiful setting, I thought to myself.
Although he never returned there to live, Maui was always in Dad’s heart. And even as it has changed over the decades, I still feel a special connection to it through Dad, and Mom, too — she was born in Pä‘ia, but lived there for less than a year.
Working on this Maui Issue brings it home for me in many ways. Through the stories — and even the ads in this issue — I feel connected to Maui once again. I know that if Dad were still alive, he wouldn’t be able to put this issue down because it would have been about his home island. And despite his having lived nearly 60 years on O‘ahu, he would still say, “Maui no ka oi — Maui is the best.”
To our advertisers — new and returning — thank you so much for supporting this issue. All of this is possible because of you. And to our subscribers on Maui, please support the advertisers in this edition, and thank them for supporting the Herald. We would like to make the Herald available at a retail site on Maui. If you know of someone who might be interested in selling the Herald in their retail store, please ask them to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Again, mahalo Maui . . . and Pine Isle Market on Läna‘i!
Aloha Poi Factory, Inc.
Arisumi Brothers, Inc.
Maui Okinawa Kenjin Kai/Maui Okinawa Cultural Center
Maui’s Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans
Kawahara + Co., Certified Public Accountants, LLC
Nagamine Photo Studio
Pine Isle Market, Ltd.
Pukalani Terrace Center
Sam Sato’s Inc.
Seki’s Machine Works, Inc.
Shore to Shore Realty, Inc.
Takushi’s A&K Auto Repair
Tasaka Guri Guri
Tiffany’s Bar & Grill
Tokyo Tei Restaurant
Toma & Toma, Attorneys at Law
West Maui Community Federal Credit Union