Karleen C. Chinen
It’s hard to believe that this is The Hawai‘i Herald’s sixth Maui Issue. Time has flown by so quickly since last year’s issue.
If you are a regular reader of the Herald, two stories in this issue may seem slightly familiar. But take the time to read them and you’ll see that there are fresh angles to these stories.
Last year, contributing writer Melissa Tanji introduced you to Maui artist Kirk Kurokawa and his beautiful lifelike paintings. You may recall that former Gov. Neil Abercrombie selected Kurokawa to paint his official portrait, which now hangs in the Governor’s office in the State Capitol, along with the official portraits of Hawai‘i’s previous governors. Shortly after we published Melissa’s story, we learned that Kurokawa would be undertaking a new project: He would be bringing the bland driveway walls of the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center in Kahului to life by developing a mural highlighting the World War II AJA veterans’ experiences. We decided to follow up on that lead this year and are pleased to see that the beautiful mural is nearly complete. Aesthetics aside, we are losing that generation of soldiers almost daily, so the mural will stand as a reminder of and a tribute to the men who stepped up to serve and who sacrificed when their loyalty was questioned nearly eight decades ago.
Another story with a fresh angle this year focuses on a film Japanese photographer Ai Iwane worked on titled “Bon-Uta.” Several years ago, Rick Shimomura of the Nagamine Photo Studio, loaned Iwane a now-rare box camera that his grandfather used for his photography business. She took that camera to Fukushima and photographed the people and the landscape. Many of those residents were forced to flee their homes following the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami that also turned into a nuclear disaster for the residents after three reactors at the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant leaked radioactive material. More than eight years later, the residents still cannot return to their homes except for a few hours at a time due to the dangerous radiation levels in the air and ground.
The residents left behind more than their homes and personal belongings. They left behind a lifestyle and traditions, including an obon tradition, that they learned is being kept alive by the Maui descendants of immigrants from Fukushima. “Bon-Uta” is the story of the priceless gift these two groups of people — from Fukushima and from Maui — have given each other.
Also in this issue, contributing writer Kevin Kawamoto talked with Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino about his trip to Japan earlier this year. We’ll learn about some of the new alliances Maui County is forging in Japan and Korea. We also profile a longtime Maui business, Seki’s Machine Works, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.
Finally, Herald contributing photographer Wayne Shinbara was on the Valley Isle last month for the Maui Okinawa Kenjin Kai’s Okinawan Festival at the Ka‘ahumanu Center. As I communicated by email with Wendy Tamashiro from MOKK, Bob Yonahara from Afuso Ryu’s Choichi Kai Maui and Norman Kaneshiro-Sensei from Honolulu (who teaches Nomura Ryu sanshin on Maui), to identify the people in Wayne’s photos for captions, I realized how ethnically diverse Maui’s “Okinawan community” had become. It includes people, young and küpuna, with names like Chong-Kee, Quipotla, De Mattos, Mesina, Meya and Molina — people who are interested in the Okinawan performing arts and who turn out to help MOKK at big events like the festival. Wendy Tamashiro said many of them are among the kenjin kai’s most active members.
Which leads me to the last story featured in this issue — a review of Evelyn Yoki Shirota Tan’s 1978 autobiography, “The Blending.” It is her story of growing up on Maui as an eldest daughter with deeply proud Okinawan immigrant parents who are determined to strike it rich as pineapple farmers and return to their homeland with their well-behaved Okinawan/Japanese children. What happens instead is “The Blending.”
We thank you for supporting this issue, which was made possible with the advertising support of the people and businesses listed below. Please support them.
Mahalo nui loa, Maui — and Läna‘i’s Pine Isle Market!
Lahaina Jodo Mission
Maui’s Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans
Nagamine Photo Studio
Nisei Veterans Memorial Center
Pine Isle Market
Pukalani Terrace Center
Seki Machine Works
Shore to Shore Realty
Komoda Store and Bakery
Tasaka Guri Guri
Tiffany’s Bar & Grill
Maui Okinawa Kenjin Kai