Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
On the last Saturday in May, I stood in the middle of a cemetery of hardened red soil surrounded by dry haole koa trees just a few miles makai of what was once a thriving camp called Kawailoa above Hale‘iwa, wondering how I could best describe my emotions.
As the rain softly drizzles in the early morning, like tears of sadness
and remembrance of a time long ago of hardship and
sacrifices made by the Issei,
Where the sounds of the North Shore breeze and the tall Guinea grass
cross the abandoned cane fields,
Graves of Issei, like weather-beaten stones in an ancient Japanese garden
in the high hills of Arashiyama,
lonely, but not forgotten, are
tenderly cared for weekly by two descendants,
with filial piety etched in their hearts.
After they are gone, who then will carry on this benevolent act of
expressing eternal gratitude to their ancestors?
In Japan, it is customary and the social practice for an adult in the family to be designated the hakamori, the person responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the family grave. The hakamori duties usually fall to the chönan, the first-born son, and if there are no sons, the chöjo, the eldest daughter. It’s sad if there is no surviving child or relative in the family. In such situations, it is said that the spirit is a muenbotoke, a deceased person who has no one to pray for him or her. It is a grave without a hakamori.
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