House in Kapa‘a Has Been Home to Four Generations of the Kurasaki Family
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
“Long periods of suffering have left their imprint on her face and posture, but her spirit and faith have remained strong and undaunted through the years.” — Isami Kurasaki writing about his mother, Hide Kurasaki
My Uncle Isami wrote this in a 1961 essay about his mother — my grandmother — Hide Kurasaki. In that one sentence, he perfectly summed up her life of hardship and resilience. Like many women of her generation, Hide-Obaachan worked tirelessly to bring her family out of extreme poverty and give them a better life.
THE EARLY YEARS
My obaachan (grandmother, lovingly) arrived in Hawai‘i in 1910, the picture bride of my ojiichan (grandfather), Aijurö Kurasaki, who had immigrated to Hawai‘i in 1905. Both were from the poor farming village of Marifu-cho, Iwakuni, in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Both had only meager educations — Ojiichan only attended school until the fourth grade; Obaachan only finished first grade. Both were forced to quit school and help out on their family farms.
Once in Hawai‘i, they both worked in the fields for Makee Sugar Co., living in a Japanese plantation camp in the Kapahi area of Kapa‘a. Their first baby, a boy, died at birth from complications. In the next two years, Obaachan and Ojiichan had another son, Masao, and a daughter, Kinuko. Obaachan strapped the babies to her back as she worked in the cane fields. When they were “older” — toddlers, actually — she would leave them on a blanket in the fields. Aunty Kinuko said she and Masao never strayed from the blanket, waiting patiently for Obaachan’s “pau hana” time.
After moving to nearby “35 Camp,” Obaachan had another daughter.
Even as a young wife, Obaachan could see that there was no future in plantation work. Unlike most of the young women she worked with, who longed to return to Japan, Obaachan knew she could never return to her homeland. Her family in Japan was extremely poor, so poor that her father had told her, “You go to Hawai‘i, get married, work and STAY there.” So, she persevered through the hardships and resolved that she would one day purchase some land and get her family off the plantation.
Obaachan saved their money meticulously. By 1918, she had accumulated enough to buy a house along the main highway in Kapa‘a. Obaachan was happy that her home was across the street from the beach because the ocean had always been a source of comfort to her.
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Carolyn Kubota Morinishi is a multitalented woman. She and her mom, Marian Kurasaki Kubota, have been Hawai‘i Herald columnists for more than a decade —
researching, writing and designing their monthly “Culture4Kids!” column, which spotlights various aspects of Japanese culture. Carolyn earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science and math (bachelor’s) from the University of Southern California. She has been teaching classical Japanese dance since 1998 and currently teaches classes on Kaua‘i and in Los Angeles. She also holds a teaching degree from the Edo Senke School of Tea Ceremony. She and her husband Ron are the parents of three grown children.