Category Archives: News

Two For Tuesday Deal for July 29, 2014!

TWOFORTUESDAYOn August 9, 1997, U.S. District Judge Samuel P. King and four other steadfast individuals— Gladys Brandt, Judge Walter Heen, Monsignor Charles Kekumano and Randy Roth—signed their names to the landmark “Broken Trust” essay published in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin newspaper. Nine years later, in 2006, Judge King and Roth published the award-winning book Broken Trust: Greed, Mismanagement, & Political Manipulation at America’s Largest Charitable Trust. To this day, “Broken Trust” remains one of the biggest cases of trust mismanagement and certainly the most scandalous and controversial periods in the history of the Kamehameha Schools.

Just ahead of the anniversary of the publication of the original essay, this month’s Two For Tuesday deal offers a look at the years of crisis from a unique point of view, an oral history document compiled by noted historian Gavan Daws, Wayfinding Through the Storm: Speaking Truth to Power at Kamehameha Schools 1993-1999. The other half of this month’s pairing is Broken Trust author Judge Sam King’s own memoir, Judge Sam King: A Memoir.

Two For Tuesday Deal: $22 for Wayfinding Through The Storm and Judge Sam King. Together, these books have a retail value of $47.90. That’s a 55% discount on a set of books that provide a remarkable historical record of Hawai‘i.

Bonus Offer: Want more Hawai‘i history? Former governor Ben Cayetano, whose tenure included directing the investigation of the Bishop Estate trustees, offers a riveting look at Hawai‘i yesterday and today in his book, BEN: A Memoir. Add it to your purchase for just $10 (a 50% discount).


Two for Tuesday Deal

Two For Tuesday Deal for June 24, 2014!

TWOFORTUESDAYSummer is a great time to savor the bounty of the ‘aina, and with summer break in full swing, it’s also a great time to get your kids in the kitchen to learn more about what goes into the food on their plates and how to make it themselves.

So this month’s Two For Tuesday deal features a pair of cookbooks that’ll help you—and your keiki—get into the cooking mood and make the most of fresh, local produce.

Two For Tuesday Deal: $15 for The Hawai‘i Farmers Market Cookbook—Vol. 2 and A Sweet Dash of Aloha. Normally $15.95 each, you’ll save over 50% on this cookbook deal!

Bonus Offer: Make a promise to yourself to do more cooking this summer! For just $10 more, choose between A Splash of Aloha, seafood recipes from the same team that put together A Dash of Aloha, or The Hawai‘i Book of Rice, featuring 101 recipes for Hawai‘i’s favorite starch.



Stories from the Home Front in WWII Hawaii

Seventy years ago today, on June 15, 1944, the 100th Battalion (the “One Puka Puka”), made up of soldiers from Hawai‘i, was assigned to the famed 442nd “Go For Broke” Regimental Combat Team. The stories of their experiences are widely documented.

Their friends and family left at home, back in Hawai‘i, had their own harrowing war experiences, too. Gathered for the first time in Japanese Eyes, American Heart – Vol. 2: Voices from the Home Front in World War II Hawaii are dozens of deeply personal stories that reveal the hardship, sorrow and anguish—as well as the pride, compassion and even laughter—experienced by Japanese Americans living in Hawaii following the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.


This week, Japanese Eyes, American Heart – Vol. 2 will be available for Amazon Kindle at a special price of just $1.99. (Regular e-book price: $9.99; regular hardcover price: $24.95) This offer expires June 21. Click the Kindle icon below to purchase.

Two For Tuesday Deals


This month, we are happy to announce the launch of a new promotion: On the last Tuesday of each month, we’ll offer a special “Two For Tuesday” deal on a pair of books—one low price for two great books. Get one of each title, or buy two copies of a single title—one for yourself and one to share with a friend.

Enjoy discounts of 50% off or more, but these special prices will only be offered for a limited time: One week beginning on Tuesday, ending the following Monday.

Here’s our first Two For Tuesday Deal: $30 for Gentleman Ed Francis Presents 50th State Wrestling and Honolulu Stadium: Where Hawaii Played. These two books, a perfect gift for Dad this Father’s Day, have a combined retail price of $59.90—you’ll save 50% on the set!

Both books are image-intensive chronicles of Hawai‘i’s sporting heyday. Gentleman Ed Presents… shares the behind-the-scenes stories from Gentleman Ed himself, from his beginnings as a wrestler to running an Island wrestling empire. Honolulu Stadium presents a carefully curated collection of photographs, memorabilia and recollections from the landmark’s historic years hosting everything from high school football, Hawaii Islanders baseball, the Hula bowl, stock car racing, boxing matches, sports heroes and legendary entertainers.

And this month, we’ve got a bonus book offer for you: Add The Hawaii Sports Trivia Challenge to your order for just $5.00!

Two For Tuesday - 5.27.14

Hawai‘i Book Publishers Association Names From Kau Kau to Cuisine Islands’ Best Cookbook

2014 Ka Palapala Po‘okela Award winners, with HBPA president David DeLuca and ceremony emcee Howard Dicus.

2014 Ka Palapala Po‘okela Award winners, with HBPA president David DeLuca and ceremony emcee Howard Dicus.

Watermark Publishing has received the Award of Excellence, the top honor, in the Cookbooks category of the annual Hawai‘i Book Publishers Association’s Ka Palapala Po‘okela Awards. The winning book is From Kau Kau to Cuisine: An Island Cookbook, Then and Now by food historian Arnold Hiura, featuring traditional and contemporary recipes by Derek Kurisu of KTA SuperStores and Jason Takemura of Pagoda Floating Restaurant and Hukilau Honolulu. The awards were announced at ceremonies held on Thursday, April 24, 2014 at the East-West Center.

The competition’s judges praised From Kau Kau to Cuisine for connecting Hawai‘i’s past and present through side-by-side pairings of plantation-era and modern-day dishes. Author Arnold Hiura, they said, “masterfully ties these recipes together with interesting histories on Hawai‘i’s culinary evolution and illustrates how trends in modern cuisine—sustainable, foraged, nose-to-tail eating—are actually old practices that were adopted out of necessity in plantation and war-era Hawai’i. Sharing food is joyful, and From Kau Kau to Cuisine is a joy to read and share.”

From Kau Kau to Cuisine: An Island Cookbook, Then and Now is Arnold’s fourth book with Watermark Publishing. His two previous cookbooks, Kau Kau: Cuisine and Culture in the Hawaiian Islands and The Blue Tomato: The Inspirations Behind the Cuisine of Alan Wong, co-written with Chef Alan Wong, were also recipients of the Ka Palapala Po‘okela Award of Excellence in Cookbooks.

This marks the sixth consecutive year that a Watermark Publishing title has received the Award of Excellence in Cookbooks. In addition to Arnold’s books, previous years’ recipients were A Splash of Aloha: A Healthy Guide to Fresh Island Seafood (2013) and A Sweet Dash of Aloha: Guilt Free Hawai‘i Desserts and Snacks (2012), both by Kapi‘olani Community College, and The Island Bistro Cookbook by Chef Chai Chaowasaree (2009).

In addition to Watermark Publishing’s own award, two clients from our Legacy Isle Publishing division also received honors. HONOLULU Magazine and Paradise of the Pacific: 125 Years of Covers by A. Kam Napier, Kristin Lipman, Michael Keany and Erik Ries, released under the Legacy Isle imprint, was presented with the Award of Excellence in the Illustrative/Photographic Books category. WCIT Architecture received Honorable Mentions for ‘A‘ama Nui: Guardian Warrior Chief of Lalakea, released under WCIT’s Mo‘o Studio imprint, in both the Children’s Hawaiian Culture and Children’s Literature categories. These are the first Ka Palapala Po‘okela wins for Legacy Isle clients. Legacy Isle Publishing provides publishing services to clients interested in producing non-fiction or children’s books specifically for the Hawai‘i market.

Each year, the Hawai‘i Book Publishers Association presents the Ka Palapala Po‘okela Awards to recognize and honor the best of Hawai‘i book publishing from the previous year. “Ka Palapala Po‘okela” literally translated from Hawaiian means “excellent manuscript. ”

NEW RELEASE: Judge Sam King: A Memoir

Judge Sam King: A MemoirWhen Judge Samuel P. King died in 2010 at the age of 94, Hawai‘i Gov. Neil Abercrombie called him “the heart and soul of Hawai‘i.” Now, in King’s own words, Judge Sam King: A Memoir presents the story of the man who not only witnessed Hawaiian history but helped shape the future of the islands he loved.

Born to one of Hawai‘i’s most illustrious families, Samuel Pailthorpe King presided over state and federal courtrooms for more than a half-century—making landmark decisions with warmth, wisdom and an enduring humanity—but was perhaps best known for protecting people who had little or no power of their own. King presided over some of Hawai‘i’s most sensational trials, from organized crime to the Palmyra murder trials, and upheld the 1967 Hawai‘i Land Reform Act, which shifted property ownership in Hawai‘i from large trusts to ordinary citizens. King was also a co-author of the original “Broken Trust” essay in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and the subsequent book of the same title chronicling the mismanagement of the Bishop Estate by its trustees in the 1990s. He liked to observe that “people aren’t created for laws; laws are created for people” and believed that the whole purpose of government, besides keeping its people safe, is to protect the underprivileged from the privileged. In the book’s foreword, the late U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye called King “the real deal,” noting that “Hawai‘i was fortunate to have had Sam King on the bench. He served the people of Hawai‘i well and brought honor to our state and nation.”

The newly released memoir was co-authored by Jerry Burris, one-time political reporter and editorial-page editor for the Honolulu Advertiser and a former staff writer for Hawaii Business magazine, and longtime Advertiser court reporter Ken Kobayashi, now a reporter with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. In 2009 Burris and Kobayashi began a series of recorded conversations with King, meeting several times a week in the judge’s office. After King’s passing a year later, the duo continued work on the book, with support from the King family, combining the recorded conversations with an oral history conducted by King’s former law clerk, Susan Lee Waggener, and the trove of writings, news stories, speeches and other material carefully saved and organized by King’s wife, Anne, and Rebecca Berry, the judge’s secretary for much of his legal career.


Jerry Burris and Ken Kobayashi will sign books at Barnes & Noble, Ala Moana, on Friday, Nov. 22 at 6pm.

NEW RELEASE: Today’s Thought

TodaysThought_CVR_web We are pleased to announce the release of Today’s Thought—Rev. Paul Osumi: The Man & His Message, a new book from our Legacy Isle Publishing imprint.

For more than 35 years, Rev. Paul S. Osumi inspired generations of readers of The Honolulu Advertiser and other newspapers with his daily column, “Today’s Thought.” Thousands of copies of his simple aphorisms were clipped and saved, tacked to bulletin boards, stuck to refrigerator doors and carried in wallets.

After the pastor’s death in 1996, his son Norman Osumi received many inquiries about publishing a new collection of “Today’s Thoughts.” Because three small volumes had already been published by Rev. Osumi himself, Norman felt that any collection “would need something more.”


Rev. Paul Osumi

Thus began a decade-long project to research his father’s life, with the goal of including a biography to add context to a new collection of “Thoughts.” In addition to the biography and hundreds of favorite “Thoughts,” Norman included select inspirational speeches delivered by Rev. Osumi throughout his years of ministry as well as photographs and letters from the family’s personal collection in his softcover book Today’s Thought—Rev. Paul Osumi: The Man & His Message.

Researching the book was a revealing experience for Norman. “I started reading his journals, as well as letters he wrote and received from my mother, military authorities, Christian leaders, friends and church members. The more I read, the more interested I became in my father’s past, which he rarely talked about. He almost never mentioned the war years, when he was interned and encountered many disappointments and much hardship and disgrace. Many people told me it was common for the older generation, especially fathers, not to tell their children about their lives.”


The Osumi family in front of their barrack unit, Gila Relocation Camp (1945)

On December 7, 1941 Rev. Paul Osumi was arrested “on suspicion of being an alien enemy,” as were many influential and well-educated Japanese nationals. He was jailed and subsequently sent to detention camps, first on Oahu, then in New Mexico. He petitionedand was finally approved in 1943for relocation to Gila Relocation Camp in Arizona where his family (pictured, right), including a three-year-old Norman, joined him in 1944 to live for the remainder of the war.

Norman’s biography of his father provides details of the internment experience and the correspondence between Rev. Osumi and numerous officials as he attempted to clear his name and obtain his release. It was not until 1988 that the United States government issued an official apology to internees, along with monetary redress. Among the documents Norman found in his father’s files was a letter from The White House, signed by George Bush, which must have accompanied the restitution received by Rev. Osumi.


Rev. Paul Osumi and Mrs. Janet Osumi in front of Nu‘uanu Congregational Church.

After the war, the Osumi family returned to Hawaii where Rev. Osumi ministered at churches in Waialua, ‘Ewa and Nu‘uanu. His “Today’s Thought” column began appearing in The Honolulu Advertiser six mornings a week in 1957. They also ran in the Hawaii Hochi starting in 1960, and the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Nome, Alaska from 1980 to 1984. In 1965, Rev. Osumi started the now-common practice of offering Hawai‘i weddings for couples from Japan.

Couples married by Rev. Osumi often cite his Ten Commandments for a Happy Marriage:

1. Remember marriage is a 100-100 proposition. It is not a 50-50.
2. Neglect the whole world rather than each other.
3. Never meet or part without an affectionate hug or kiss.
4. Each day say at least one nice thing to each other.
5. Never go to bed angry. Settle all differences before the sun goes down.
6. Do not argue. Always talk things over.
7. Do not nag or indulge in fault-finding.
8. Never bring up mistakes of the past.
9. When you have made a mistake, say, “I am sorry,” and ask for forgiveness.
10. Never raise your voice or shout at each other unless the house is on fire.

It is advice like this that stuck with readers of Rev. Osumi’s column for decades. “My father’s words had a great impact on my life,” Norman says, “and on so many others’ too. People needed guidance in their lives and he tried to provide that. Father’s daily sayings gave people in Hawai‘i a set of values for living happy and meaningful lives. If by reading this book, they can gain some insight to live a better life, I will be happy.”

Today’s Thought—Rev. Paul Osumi: The Man & His Message is available for pre-order now on our website and will be available in local bookstores after September 15. For more information about the Legacy Isle Publishing imprint, please visit the website.

Wordsworth’s Poe-TREE Contest Winners

Happy Earth Day, everyone! We are celebrating by announcing the winners of the Wordsworth the Poet “Poe-TREE Contest!”

In the Wordsworth Poe-TREE Contest, students were asked to write a poem celebrating their favorite tree, following the model of Wordsworth the Mouse and his friends in the book Wordsworth! Stop the Bulldozer! The young mice in the story campaign to save the trees in their community by writing poems reminding all the neighbors about the special qualities of the trees around them.

Poems were judged based on creativity, poetic merit and how well they conveyed what makes the trees special to the students. The six contest winners will receive a copies of each of the three books in the Wordsworth series, a gardening tool kit and a Koa Legacy Tree from the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative, donated by Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods.

MakaylaRoseMolden (current)

Makayla Rose Molden

K-5 Division Winners:

Makayla Rose Molden (age 6, Kapolei, Mauka Lani Elementary), untitled

The Mountain Apple tree is yummy to me.
The fruit is up so high to knock it down is a game I try.
I collect the fruit and make apple pie.



Eli Wolfe

Eli Wolfe

Eli Wolfe (age 5, Honolulu, University Laboratory School), “Banyan Tree”

I like to climb the
Banyan tree
at Barwick.
I can climb to
the sky.
You should try it too
It is so fun.


Grade 6-8 Division:

Cindy Tsou

Cindy Tsou

Min-Hua (Cindy) Tsou (age 11, Kapolei, Kapolei Middle School), “Red Maple Tree (Acer rubrum)”

A bright, scarlet leaf blew by.
A red lobed leaf fall and fly.
It can be red, yellow and even green.
Red maple trees makes a beautiful scene.
It grows in the north, with it’s flower blooming back and forth.
A red maple tree brings red, bright shines.
A red maple is of course, very fine.


Emerson Goo

Emerson Goo

Emerson Goo (age 12, Honolulu, Niu Valley Middle School), “Forest Guardians”

Sentinels at watch
Forest guardians holding
Treasured memories




Grade 9-12 Division:

Sophie Corless

Sophie Corless

Sophie Corless (age 15, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, Northern Highlands Regional High School), “The Lemon Tree”

The cool sticky air clings to me;
my bare feet squelch in the grass
just after the rain shower.
The lemon tree stands in the back corner
towering over the garden, and has a prevailing presence.
Under the tree lies my step ladder,
with my initials carved in the leg.
The wicker basket dangles
on a tiny branch at my height.
I have my technique down,
twist and snap over and over again.
Even the bees and ants are fixated on my movements,
their fragile wings and tiny legs
seem to stop to observe.
Little droplets collect in the pores of the rind,
making my hand cool,
droplets of lemon juice ooze through the pores
and run down my hand to my wrist and to my elbow,
stopping and then dripping off.
By the end I am covered in a mixture of rain and lemon,
dried and sticky.
With every lemon I snap off,
the branch snaps back and sprinkles me with rain.
I swear I hear my sweltering forehead
sizzle against the cool droplets.
In the kitchen I squeeze every last lemon,
popping the juice into the pitcher with the yellow flowers,
along with a fistful of sugar and a splash of water.
I crack the ice tray in half, scooping out the cubes.
The first sip makes my face contort
into an uncomfortable position,
one you can’t avoid,
but the last is always the sweetest.


Zoe Edelman Brier

Zoe Edelman Brier (age 18, Allendale, New Jersey, Northern Highlands Regional High School), “Veins of Color”

I remember maple Leaf picking
with my father before the bus
came to ship me off
to a grey school building
with a grey blacktop
and grey windows.
The colors of the Leaves
were brighter than anything
I’d ever seen, standing out
against the blah of morning.
even through fog,
the Leaves shown like bright beacons
of change and hope for the future.
the Leaves would vein and crinkle
in red and orange and yellow,
mixing in a thin canvas.
My father would sit me on his shoulders
and have me reach the highest branch
possible to get the best Leaf
to press in a book that I still have
12 years later, the colors frozen in time,
unbrowned and delicate, red stains
clashing with the dark green of Leaf.

Congratulations to all our winners! Go give your favorite tree a hug!

“Hey, Sailor…” Eddie Sherman Introduces His Book

Eddie Sherman and Marlon Brando on the set of Brando's movie, "One-Eyed Jacks."

Eddie Sherman and Marlon Brando on the set of Brando’s movie, “One-Eyed Jacks.”

We are saddened by the loss of one of our most charismatic authors, Eddie Sherman. At age 88, Eddie passed away on Tuesday. He is survived by his wife, Patty, to whom he dedicated his memoir, calling her “my inspiration and the love of my life.”

Eddie always had the best stories, and it was great fun to hear him tell them. We can still hear his raspy voice reading aloud from his memoir, Frank, Sammy, Marlon & Me: Adventures in Paradise with the Celebrity Set. Here’s a taste, the introduction to his memoir relating his own introduction to the celebrity scene he spent decades chronicling. And wouldn’t you know it, it involves him holding a beautiful movie star.

“Hey, Sailor…”

Do you remember the first time you met an honest-to-goodness, larger-than-life celebrity? Some people may have a story like that to tell. Maybe it involved bumping into an inebriated Hollywood star at a Los Angeles nightclub or getting a basketball legend’s autograph at a book signing.

I’ll have to wager, though, that my first encounter with a celebrity was more intimate than most. After all, it’s not every day that you get to hold the derrière of a ravishing major Hollywood actress.

I guess I’d better explain.

The year was 1942 and I had just been given an honorable medical discharge from the U.S Coast Guard. I dislocated my left shoulder during basic training in Algiers, Louisiana. The Coast Guard refused to operate because I had a history of previous shoulder dislocations and, in fact, I had surgery on my shoulder before entering the service. I argued that since they examined and accepted me, why shouldn’t they be responsible for fixing my shoulder? But my efforts fell on deaf ears.

Here I was, just seventeen years old, and my dream of serving in the military was already dashed to pieces. I hopped on a bus back to Boston, my hometown, with no job prospects and only a few dollars in my pocket. At least I had permission to wear the Coast Guard uniform for a couple months.

On my way home, I decided to stop in New York for a day or two. I had never been there in my life. All alone in the Big Apple! I felt like just a tiny grain of sand on the huge beach of mammoth Manhattan.

Most people in New York have this in common: they walk. A lot. Everybody does it, and so did I. It was exhilarating! The sights, sounds, smells and feel of New York—everything was just throbbing with excitement.

While I was strolling along in the Times Square area, a car suddenly pulled up to the curb. A man leaned out the window and yelled, “Hey, sailor. Would you come over here for a minute?”

So I did. “What’s up?” I asked.

Eddie Sherman and his mother, Bessie, who infamously had Marlon Brando change her kitchen garbage bag!

Eddie Sherman and his mother, Bessie, who infamously had Marlon Brando change her kitchen garbage bag!

The gentleman told me he was a publicity man for a motion picture company. A major film star was arriving at Grand Central Station, he said, and he was trying to round up as many military folks as possible for a photo session with her. He gave me a few dollars for a taxi and told me exactly what track the train was coming in on. Then the car sped off.

I had nothing better to do, so off I went to meet a movie star. The greeting party was easy to find—it was quite a crowd—and all branches of the services were represented.

There were about thirty of us in all.

And suddenly there she was: Merle Oberon, stepping off the train—beautifully dressed, oozing glamour and sophistication.

She was one of the major screen stars of that era. I had seen some of her films and was a big fan. I especially enjoyed her in Wuthering Heights. She was so sultry and exotic looking. I had never before seen a famous film star in person. This was exciting!

Before Oberon got off the train, the man who asked me to come to the station came over and selected a soldier and myself to be the ones to make a “seat” for Oberon. I’d like to think it was my chiseled good looks that landed me this opportunity, but more likely it was because I was one of the smaller guys in the group.

The soldier and I locked wrists. As Miss Oberon was brought to us, we lowered our hands and she sat on our little “seat.” She put her arms on our shoulders and smiled broadly as we lifted her up.

She smelled like flowers. So delicate and dainty! Camera flashbulbs went off like fireflies.

“It’s a real pleasure to be holding you, Miss Oberon,” I said.

“I have enjoyed your movies.”

“Thank you,” she replied, smiling sweetly.

And then, just like that, it was over. Oberon was quickly escorted out of the station to a waiting limo.

I never got to meet Merle Oberon again. As fate would have it, however, this chance encounter was just a preview of things to come. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d someday cross paths with the likes of Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and Rocky Marciano. I never imagined that I would someday go sailing with Albert Finney, and become buddies with guys like Sammy Davis, Jr., and Marlon Brando.

But it all happened. These stories, and many more, are all here in this book.


Eddie Sherman

Eddie, it’s been a real pleasure knowing you. We have enjoyed your stories.

Now available in e-reader format:
Amazon Kindle
Frank, Sammy, Marlon & Me – Eddie Sherman

Japanese Eyes, American Heart: Voices from the Home Front in World War II Hawaii

JEAH Vol. II“We were awakened by a ‘boom-boom’ sound like that of distant thunder on that Sunday morning.”

So begin many of the stories in a newly released book by Japanese Americans living in Hawaii on December 7, 1941, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Japanese Eyes, American Heart: Voices from the Home Front in World War II Hawaii gathers dozens of deeply personal stories, many of them never before published, that reveal the hardship, sorrow and anguish—as well as the pride, compassion and even joy—experienced by islanders of Japanese ancestry. This second volume of Japanese Eyes, American Heart, chronicling the experiences of those left at home, complements the memoirs of nisei soldiers—men who served with gallantry and distinction on the war front—presented in Japanese Eyes, American Heart: Personal Reflections of Hawaii’s World War II Nisei Soldiers, first published fourteen years ago.

Everything changed for all residents of the then-Territory of Hawaii as the devastating attack sparked the entry of the United States into World War II. But for Hawaii’s Japanese, who made up some 40 percent of the population, the ensuing war with an enemy who looked like them cast suspicion on aliens and American citizens alike. These stories of quiet strength and enduring resiliency, collected by the Hawaii Nikkei History Editorial Board, give rare insight into the seeds of change that transformed postwar Hawaii and define the legacy of this wartime generation.

Below is an excerpt from Japanese Eyes, American Heart—Vol. II, a portion of Jane Okamoto Komeiji’s recollection of the day of the Pearl Harbor bombing and its aftermath. The book is available for purchase at our website,, and will be arriving in local bookstores by Christmas.

Jane Okamoto Komeiji


December 7, Morning

Walking on Nuuanu Avenue to Sunday school at Honpa Hongwanji Temple on upper Fort Street, I saw the look of fear and shock on the face of a 12- or 13-year-old boy, as he blurted out the news of war to my friend and me:

“Eh! War! Honest, for real!”

My response was, “No try fool me!”

“Try turn ’round. See da smoke. Get fire ovah deah. Da enemy wen trow bomb.”

Turning around, we did see smoke in the direction of Liliha Street. But my reaction to the possibility of war was one of disbelief. “Can’t be—but that smoke? Maybe it’s a house on fire.”

When we got to Sunday school, the usual crowd wasn’t there. Most of the students had been sent home by the priests. “Maybe there really is a war,” I thought. I borrowed the office phone to call Mother, just in case she hadn’t heard. I told her not to leave our living quarters above the store and that I would come home right away.

That being done, I joined the small group of fellow choir members who were hanging around. Somebody said that there was a fire at nearby Leilehua Lane; another, that he thought he had seen the hinomaru (“red circle,” the rising sun symbol of Japan) on an airplane wing; and still another, that he had heard that Pearl Harbor had been bombed.

One of the boys asked whether anybody wanted to go to see the fire at Pearl Harbor. He had just gotten his driver’s license the week before and was anxious to show off. It was a rare treat to go for a ride, so we all jumped into his car. He drove us to a peninsula in Kalihi from which “battleship row” at Pearl Harbor was clearly visible.

Across the water in the harbor, we saw a long, wide curtain of black smoke, interspersed along the waterline with flecks of reds and yellows. Frankly, I was disappointed. I had expected to see roaring flames, brightly colored flames, like those I had seen during a River Street fire. (I found out later that oil burns black.) The black smoke curtain did look ominous. That couldn’t possibly be maneuvers. I guess it is a real war and Japan is the enemy, I thought. But, at the same time, I recalled that the representatives of the Japanese and U.S. governments were still talking. I was puzzled. No, I didn’t want to believe that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor and that we were at war with her.

On the way home, we drove on King Street through Kalihi, Palama and on to Aala, where they were to drop me off. The streets and sidewalks were quiet and empty, except for speeding cars, all going in the Pearl Harbor direction. There were no Sunday strollers and no stores open. Aala Park, too, was deserted: no Sunday evangelists at the corner, no games of sipa sipa (a Filipino wicker ball kicking game), no baseball games and no crowd at the bus stop. The Aala Market parking lot was empty.

Of course, I caught hell when I got home. “Where have you been? You called to tell me not to go out and that you’d come home right away! That was over two hours ago!” Mother yelled. I had never seen her so angry.

After a quick and silent lunch, we sat around the tabletop radio and listened to the repeated reminders: “This is the real McCoy and not a maneuver.” Intermittent announcements called for all military personnel, police, fire, medical and first aid workers to report for duty. Trucks and drivers were needed at Pearl Harbor.

The rest of the population were told to remain indoors, not to use the telephone unnecessarily, to fill containers with water, to have evacuation bags ready, and, most importantly, to stay tuned to the radio for further directives. There were to be a curfew and a complete blackout all night from dusk to dawn. The urgency in the announcer’s voice and the constant repetition of the messages increased my anxiety.

We had an early dinner, wiped ourselves and got ready for the night; we couldn’t take our usual tub baths because the tub was filled with water for emergency use. We lay our futon (bedding), one for each person, on the tatami (straw mat) floor. Our shoes were left at the entrance, ready to quickly slip our feet into. We went to bed, not in our pajamas, but in our street clothes. Our flashlights, one for each person, and our jackets were placed above our heads.

As nightfall came, my anxieties increased. Mother and I could take care of ourselves, but could my brother, age 11, and sister, 13, do so if we became separated? Would the enemy return tonight? By air? By sea? We lived in the block next to the train depot and only a block away from Piers 15 and 16. We were sitting ducks!

If they came by air, we should run downstairs into the store and hide under the counters. If they came by sea and landed, they would certainly enter the building through the store on the first floor. Hiding under the counters was not an option then. Perhaps we should hide in the storage areas on the mezzanine and second floors. But what if the building were bombed and collapsed? Thoughts like these repeated themselves in my mind like a broken record, as I lay wide awake, unable to sleep.

Adding to the eeriness and attendant fear was the quiet outside. The weekly Sunday Filipino program from the Aala Park bandstand featuring the familiar voice of Sally Dacoscos was not heard, even when the windows were opened. All we heard was the sound of high-speed cars or an occasional “Halt! Who goes there?”

Day 2: December 8

After breakfast on December 8, Mother went to Aala Market to buy some canned foods for emergency meals. It was there that she learned that two of our neighbor merchants had been taken into custody a few hours after the Pearl Harbor attack. The men had not returned home last night. Both their families and neighbors were asking, “Why were they taken away? Where were they taken? Are they still alive?”

The two men were successful businessmen and much-respected community leaders. When Mother told us about them, I immediately thought of her. Mother was a successful businesswoman. She had also served as president of her Buddhist temple’s women’s group. Now another fear arose in my mind, a fear that Mother would be taken away and perhaps even killed. What was going to happen to my siblings and me? We had friends, but no relatives on Oahu. Would I have to go to work to support myself and my siblings? Who would hire me, a 16-year- old student? Could I work in the store and get paid? I had been helping in the store when it was busy. I could wait on customers: Show them what they were looking for; measure, cut or wrap the purchases; figure out the cost; punch the cash register and make change. But I couldn’t possibly manage the store as Mother did. If I worked with fewer responsibilities for less pay, would I be able to support myself and my siblings?

Day 3, Day 4, Day 5: December 9 – 11

With each passing day the initial shock lessened and we gradually adapted to wartime conditions. We also reluctantly recognized but tried to dispel the suspicion cast over all Japanese, citizens and aliens alike. There was no differentiation made between the Japanese in Hawaii and the Japanese in Japan. “Once a Jap, always a Jap” was heard often. The message was clear. Anything Japanese was frowned upon and looked upon as “un-American.”

Mother, whose language was Japanese, increasingly interspersed her speech with English words. She, who had always worn a kimono, began wearing dresses hastily made for her. Finding shoes to fit her narrow feet and high arches was another matter. She had to endure wearing ill-fitting shoes.

Japanese knick-knacks, books, photos taken in Japan were burned, torn or put away. The Shinto shrine and picture of the Emperor and Empress of Japan were taken down from their high perches. Also removed from the walls were Japanese artwork and calligraphy scrolls. However, the Butsudan (Buddhist altar) and the portraits of Father in his grey suit and another of Uncle Eikichi in his kimono and haori (Japanese coat) were kept in place.

Needless to say, I didn’t speak Japanese outside of our living quarters. However, once we were at home, Japanese was my language when communicating with Mother. It was a necessity.

Material things could be discarded, but doing away with the Japanese language and customs meant that the issei had to abandon their ancestors and heritage. Nevertheless, they tried. In contrast, the nisei, having been born and educated in America, did not face these acculturation problems to the same degree.

* * *

Jane Okamoto Komeiji went on to graduate from the University of Hawaii in 1947 with a degree in psychology. In 1958, she received a professional teaching certificate and in 1971, a M.Ed. from UH-Manoa. She taught in the state’s public school system for 20 years. In 1983, she became the first retired classroom teacher to be appointed as college coordinator for student teachers. An avid researcher and historian of the Japanese in Hawaii, she is the co-author of Okage Sama De: The Japanese in Hawaii, 1885–1985 (1986, updated 2008). She chairs the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii’s Historical Gallery Committee and helped to develop its permanent exhibit, Okage Sama De, a chronicle of the first 100 years of the Japanese in Hawaii, which is currently being updated to include third, fourth and fifth generations of Japanese Americans. She serves on the UH College of Arts and Sciences Committee on Nisei Veterans Endowed Forum Series, and the Hawaii Hiroshima Heritage Study Group, which presents statewide genealogy workshops.


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