Candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Hawai‘i
Question: Kim Coco, your father, Robert Noboru Iwamoto Jr., is President of Robert’s Hawaii Tours and a well-known businessman. Can you tell us more about your mother?
Kim Coco: My mother, Toshiko Asamen, was born in California to parents who immigrated to California from Japan. They were farmers — they grew cantaloupe in the Central Valley. My mother was 3 years old when she and most of her family were forced into “camps” in Poston, Arizona. My mother was separated from her father because he was kept at a different internment site. She often shared a particular story of that time. One day she was playing outside with some other kids from her “block.” It was late in the afternoon and the sun was setting. She saw the figure of a tall, skinny man walking towards her. His body was eclipsing the sun and she could not make out his face, but she convinced herself it was her father. She started crying, then running toward the man, screaming, “Papa, Papa.” After he picked her up and swung her around, she saw the man’s face and realized that he was not her father. She cried even more.
Question: How did you get the name “Kim Coco?”
Kim Coco: My mother named me after the Coco Palms Hotel on Kaua‘i because she went into labor with me while attending a reception there. It was actually a grand affair hosted by hotelier Grace Guslander: She had two planeloads of travel industry leaders flown over from Honolulu to experience the new expansion of her resort. I was an unexpected guest. The next morning, Ms. Guslander visited me and my mother at Wilcox Hospital and asked my mother to name me after the Coco Palms, to honor my auspicious arrival. My mother had already planned on naming me Kim, so that is how I became Kim Coco.
Question: How do you perpetuate Japanese culture in Hawai‘i?
Kim Coco: Every year, my siblings and cousins honor our Grandma Florence Iwamoto with a grant to the Lihue Hongwanji, where my grandmother’s ashes are interred. This temple has been the site of so many wonderful memories: Some of us attended preschool there, got married there and we all said goodbye to our grandma there. It is important to honor this structure and the community that cares for it. The temple has become the loom of Japanese culture in Hawai‘i. So many of our families have danced across its warp, over and over, across family events and across generations. Today, we are part of this amazing, living tapestry. We must care for the loom; there is more to weave.