Karleen C. Chinen
Welcome to The Hawai‘i Herald’s fifth Maui Issue!
As the stories for this issue began to take shape, they seemed to take on a somewhat artsy focus that overlapped with Maui’s historical past as well as life today on the Valley Isle. In this issue you will meet Rick Shimomura, the third-generation descendant of the founder of Nagamine Photo Studio, which has been a Maui institution for almost nine decades and continues to grow and thrive with the times.
We’ll also introduce you to retired Maui County Fire Department battalion chief Colin Yamamoto, who has been collecting Maui’s past one piece at a time for some 40 years and the stories connected to his treasures.
O‘ahu-based contributing writer Kristen Nemoto Jay introduces you to Japanese photographer Ai Iwane, whose photography exhibits at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center connects the Valley Isle with the disaster-stricken prefecture of Fukushima in Japan through a summertime cultural tradition enjoyed in both Hawai‘i and Japan.
The last story unfolded by sheer chance when I was introduced to the paintings of Kirk Kurokawa by Janet Hazama Sato, an inspirational Baldwin High School visual arts teacher. I met Janet last year when she and Maui floral designer Asa Ige came to Honolulu to participate in a “Sansei Legacy” reception that Herald contributing writer Gail Honda organized with people who had contributed essays to our “Legacy of the Sansei” series, which Gail initiated in 2016. As omiyage from Maui, Janet gave me two sets of Kirk Kurokawa’s artwork, which I really liked. So I stored Kirk’s name away in my head for this year’s Maui Issue.
I hope you enjoy all of these stories. Three of the four feature pieces were written by Herald contributing writer Melissa Tanji, who is a staff writer for The Maui News. We are truly fortunate that Melissa was willing to give up so much of her own free time to pursue these stories for us so that we could bring you this Maui issue. Thank you also to Maui News managing editor Lee Imada for his longtime support of the Herald.
The Maui Issue is always a “homecoming” issue of sorts for me, even if I never physically leave Honolulu. It is a homecoming because it takes me back in memory to the home island of my parents. My mom was just an infant when her mother took her to Okinawa, so she didn’t have the same connection to Maui that Dad had throughout his life. He left Maui in 1940 because he was drafted into the 299th Infantry Regiment of the Hawai‘i National Guard, which, along with the 298th Infantry Regiment, eventually became the 100th Infantry Battalion, Separate.
All of Dad’s siblings were born and raised in East Maui, but they all eventually moved to Honolulu and beyond for job opportunities.
Dad’s heart was always on Maui, though. In the last years of his life, we would oftentimes meet up with “the other Maui boy” — the Rev. Yoshiaki Fujitani, former bishop of the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii. “Pauwela boy,” Dad would call out as their outstretched hands touched. Rev. Fujitani still reminds me of that special kinship he shared with Dad, even though the two East Maui boys only met each other later in their lives.
I loved hearing Dad’s stories of growing up on Maui. Because Dad was the eldest child of immigrant parents from Okinawa who could not speak English, I know that he carried a heavier burden of responsibility on his young shoulders. He and his sister, the second-born child, left school in their early teens. Still a boy, Dad got a grown man’s job, slinging away, breaking rocks in the upper elevations of Upcountry Maui to build the road to Haleakalä, and hauling pineapple across the narrow Kahakuloa road to Wailuku. But he was never bitter; he loved his Maui.
I am to this day drawn to the small, lush green communities of East Maui — they were Dad’s playgrounds. My sister Joyce and I once asked him how, as a youngster, he found his way home if got lost. He said he would climb a tall tree, get his bearings and find his house.
On another occasion, I asked him how they had found their housing. After all, the family moved about quite a bit. Between 1915, when Dad was born, and 1934, when the last child was born, they lived in four different towns: Old Kailua, where Dad was born, Paia Sugar Plantation, Haiku Fruit Company and, finally, Hu‘elo. They may have been only a few miles apart, but they still needed to find a home for two adults and eight kids: Plantation housing may have been provided at Pä‘ia and Ha‘ikü. When housing was not provided, Dad said friends and old neighbors came over with their tools and whatever supplies they had to help them build their humble home.
I think that sense of community lives on today, and this issue is a classic example of Maui people generously sharing their stories, passions and talents with you for this issue. We also thank the following businesses and organizations for their tremendous advertising support for making this issue possible. Please support them.
Mahalo nui loa, Maui — and Pine Isle Market on Läna‘i!
Lahaina Jodo Mission
Maui Okinawa Kenjin Kai
Maui’s Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans
Nagamine Photo Studio
Nisei Veterans Memorial Center
Pä‘ia Rinzai Zen Mission
Pine Isle Market
Pukalani Terrace Center
Seki Machine Works
Shore to Shore Realty
Komoda Store and Bakery
Tasaka Guri Guri
Tiffany’s Bar & Grill