An Oasis of Plants and Trees in Kapahulu

Gregg K. Kakesako
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

Nestled among the high-rise apartment buildings and older homes along Date Street in Kapahulu sits a quarter-acre oasis of flowering plants and small fruit trees that Helen and Masayoshi Nakamura have been tending to for more than half a century. Once a banana patch, K. Nakamura Nursery has thrived for decades as an off the beaten path place to find plants and fruit trees to add to your home garden.

Although the business has neither a website nor an email address, it is the subject of dozens of postings on social media. One Yelp contributor called it “a jewel in the city.”

A 2016 posting from Arizona said: “Mrs. Nakamura was amazing, from greeting us with delicious mandarins to helping us pick out the right plants for our space. She even encouraged us to consider less expensive options. This place is a gem.”

Another Yelp endorsement from 2012 said: “This is the place everyone has been hoping for; small business, family owned and operated — I think it is only mama and papa — he waters, she assists the clients. Total down to earth Japanese style nursery. Mama-san will give you recommendations of “good” or “no good” with your choices if you give her the details of your plan. Eclectic selection and awesome variety. If you accept her suggestions, she always throws in a few potted plants for free.”

The “K.” in the name of the business comes from Kanichiro Nakamura, who immigrated to Hawai‘i from Hiroshima, said his granddaughter, Charleen Nakamura-Leong. Her father, Masayoshi — Kanichiro’s second son — operates the nursery with his wife Helen, Charleen’s mother.

In the 1930s, prior to starting the nursery, Kanichiro owned and operated Waialae Store, which was located mauka (mountainside) of today’s Kahala Mall, said Nakamura-Leong. He later obtained his broker’s license and helped others lease land in the Kapahulu area. Kanichiro himself leased and cleared a 17,000-square foot banana patch on Date Street, which he later purchased from the I‘aukea Estate.

Rice paddies and taro and banana patches once dotted the area where Kaimukï High School now stands, and golfers now tee up at the Ala Wai Golf Course, once the site of rice paddies and the Territorial Fair Grounds. Several small streams and a freshwater well kept the area irrigated before emptying into the Ala Wai Canal, where Lukepane Street is today. At certain spots along Waikiki Beach, water can be seen bubbling to the surface.

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Gregg K. Kakesako worked for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Gannett News Service and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser for more than four decades as a government, political and military affairs reporter and assistant city editor.

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