Grandma Nonaka’s Legacy Still Lives

Carolyn Morinishi
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

“Kyö wa Odaisan yo. Pau kaukau, we go.”

Takano Nonaka of Hanapëpë, Kaua’i, or Baban as her grandchildren affectionately called her, was as committed to spirituality as she was to her family. Every month during the 1960s, she would call to her grandchildren in pidgin English to pray at Odaisan, the 88 Buddhist shrines in Läwa‘i, Kaua’i, known today as the Läwa’i International Center. Little did she know that she would be an inspiration for future generations.

Takano joined the family after tragedy struck, becoming the second wife of Kekaha Sugar Co. worker Jinkuro Nonaka. Jinkuro’s first wife, Akino, had given birth to three boys — Kazuo, Takao and baby Hideo — in Mänä Camp. But when Hideo was just a baby, Akino passed away, leaving the three boys motherless. Takano later married Jinkuro, and together they had seven more children. These 10 children formed the blended, yet strong, Nonaka family.

In 1927, Jinkuro purchased a 4-acre farm in Hanapëpë and moved his growing family there. They found farm work hard, but rewarding. The Nonaka children grew, got married and had their own children. The four Nonaka sons — Takao, Hideo, Masatoshi and Iwao — took residence in separate houses on the family farm. The four families and grandparents lived and worked together on the property with a large mango tree in the middle. The cousins did chores together, helping with the family crops of bell peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers, or doing seasonal chores such as cleaning mango and lilikoi.

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