SANSEI LEGACY CAN BE BASED ON SUSTAINABLE
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
My issei grandparents from Hiroshima and Ehime-ken were frugal. I remember Ojiichan saved pieces of string and wound them into a ball. Obaachan made okara with leftover soybean fiber after making töfu. Grandma fertilized orchids with water from rinsed-out milk bottles. “Spend the time to save small things; it will help you survive” was the Issei motto.
In Waimea, Kaua‘i, where I grew up, the Issei set up a community kumiai, or “ku” system, to organize marriages, funerals and community emergencies. People pitched in — many hands made light work. Nisei used the ku locality groups, like Smokey Valley and Townies, to organize community projects. Volunteerism was so ingrained it didn’t even have a special name. In 1955, all of the townspeople spent their weekends for a whole year to joyfully plan, dig, form, pour and finish a 25-yard swimming pool for the town’s children. It still serves swimmers 61 years later! Anything is possible when people set their minds to it.
That same community spirit has made a difference countless times all over Kaua‘i. In the 1990s our Kalawai little league team built a concrete clubhouse/picnic area with County-supplied materials and parent-supplied labor. After Hurricane ‘Iniki struck, people from all over Kaua‘i built the huge Kamalani Playground for kids. Don’t rely on the government to do everything. Do a small part to do it faster and better.
Back in Waimea after World War II, my uncles and my father returned from military service determined to live the American Dream. With economic progress in the 1960s and 1970s, a few of my Nisei uncles thought their parents’ frugality and simple ways out of step. “No waste time saving string. Why waste time walking when we can drive.” So went the thinking
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