Aunty & Uncle Okada, Part I

Mama said that when I was about 6 months old (circa Jun 1947), she and my Dad took me to Hilo.  Aunty Okada came to visit us.   Aunty brought me a lovely porcelain doll (the one I’m carrying in the picture taken when I was one).  Mama said that my Dad was home for summer vacation and to get more “allowance” for the next school session from his Dad.  They visited and when Mama wasn’t watching, Aunty walked out with me.  Mama asked my Dad where is O’Rie and he said that his Aunt was watching me.  She looked out the window to see where his Aunt could be, she saw the Aunt walking towards the car (chauffeur was holding the door open).  Mama told my Dad he was to go and retrieve me from his Aunt.  He and Mama went out to take me away from his Aunt and her lame excuse was that she wanted to take me home to Honokaa to show me to Uncle Okada.  When my Dad came to Honokaa to get his “allowance” for the next school year, he could bring me back.  Mama was furious.  Ergo, the next snippet,My Baby-sitters.

My Baby-sitters
My Grandfather Kyusaburo was schooled in the old Japanese system.  Being a samurai was a way of life for him.  The difference between life and death was to always be vigilant.  After the incident with the Aunty wanting to take me to Honokaa, he always felt that my father’s side of the family would try to take me away.  My baby sitters were guard dogs he trained himself to watch over me.

My first baby sitter was a German Short Haired Pointer named Prince.  According to my Calabash Aunties, he used to sit next to my stroller and show his teeth at anyone who spoke to me.  As I grew older, he would walk next to me like a shadow.  Even my uncle Hisayuki had a difficult time taking me for a walk because Prince did not like him.  

Mama said that Prince bit Hisayuki because he tried to keep Prince from joining me where I was playing “mama-goto” in the backyard.  Grandfather Kyusaburo told Hisayuki to let the dog go before the dog killed him.  Hisayuki thought (erroneously) that Prince would bite me too, but with Grandfather Kyusaburo’s urging he released Prince.  Mama said that Prince went over to sit next to me sort of touching me, facing Hisayuki.  There is no doubt Prince did not like Hisayuki.  Mama says that when Grandfather Kyusaburo told Hisayuki to release the dog, she thought Grandfather Kyusaburo was insane.  She thought that Grandfather Kyusaburo was choosing to keep Hisayuki from harm rather than me.  However, Grandfather Kyusaburo knew his dog very well.

Throughout my childhood, my Grandfather Kyusaburo trained German Short Haired Pointers or English Pointers to watch over me.  I remember three of them, Beauty, Frosty, and Brownie.  He used to train them and me to jog together and do the high jumps.  Both Beauty and Frosty could jump over poles set at about five feet.  So, my Grandfather Kyusaburo thought that I should be able to do the same.

軍艦マーチ Gunkan March

Grandfather Kyusaburo did not know any lullabies.  Besides, he was tone deaf.  Mama and my calabash Aunty Natchan used to tell me that Grandfather Kyusaburo would lull me to sleep singing the Japanese Navy Song, Gunkan March.  To this day, I can hear him sing the Gunkan March.







ももたろ Momotaro

Grandfather Kyusaburo did not know too many folktales.  He used to tell us legends of his ancestors.  I remember one folktale he used to tell us.  It was the story of Momotaro.  Even used to sing the Momotaro song for us while telling us the story.  Then he’d tell us that a leader was born not created.  That your ancestry determined your ability to lead.

5 cents for Ice Cream at the Fujii Service Station
My Grandfather Kyusaburo owned the Aloha Barbershop in Hanapepe right next to the movie theater up until I was about three.  I still have faint memories of visiting him to ask him for 5 cents so I could buy a shaved ice from the service station down the street.  The shaved ice of course was absolutely special.  In my memory, puts Matsumoto’s Shaved Ice in Haleiwa Town on Oahu to shame!  The Obachan (everyone was an Obachan to me when I was growing up) who ran the service station would make a very special cone for me – ice cream base covered with sweet azuki beans and strawberry shaved ice heaped on the top. 

Wheeler Dealer
Grandfather Kyusaburo’s favorite story about giving me 5 cents for ice cream was about the time I walked in to ask him for 5 cents to buy a “Karin-karin”.  He assumed that I meant ice cream (the crunchy sound of the cone) so graciously provided me with 5 cents.  He says that according to the bicycle shop owner across the street, I showed up with the 5 cents to negotiate the purchase of a little red tricycle I had apparently had my eyes on.  When my Grandfather Kyusaburo came home after work, he saw me playing on the pretty red tricycle and asked me where I had gotten it.  He says I told him that I had purchased it with the 5 cents that he gave me to buy “Karin-karin”.  He took me and the tricycle to the bicycle shop to apologize for my taking the tricycle only to find out that the shop owners had indeed sold me the tricycle for 5 cents down with the understanding that my Grandfather Kyusaburo would pay for it at a later date.  When he asked the owners why would they let me take the tricycle for 5 cents down…they answered that we know that you’re good for it and besides we wanted to give her a tricycle at cost but didn’t know how to approach you to buy it for her.

Cooking Rice
I don’t remember how old I was when I started cooking rice, but I always did it to help my Grandfather Kyusaburo (Mama was always sick in those days).  I’d get a chair so I could get up on the sink to wash the rice.  Then I’d take the chair to the stove and place the pot on the stove.  It was a gas stove so I could see the fire under the pot.  When the rice started boiling, I’d get back up on the chair so I could remove the lid and let it boil for a while.  I’d replace the lid and lower the heat.  The rice would be done in about 20 minutes.   Grandfather Kyusaburo wasn’t much of a cook, but as long as we had rice, he’d come home and we’d get maybe an omelet or sometimes if we had a chicken, he would make chicken hekka for my brother and I.

Cardinals in the Garden

Grandfather Kyusaburo planted sweet peas for me to feed the cardinals.  He used to tell me that if I closed my eyes and held out my hands, he’d shell the peas and the cardinals would come.  And they did.  I was very faithful in keeping my eyes closed so I never saw them but I felt them land lightly on my outstretched hands and pickup a pea and fly off to eat it.  I was delighted that they chose to be my friend.

Summer Time
Remember how your Mom always said “Don’t play in the mud”?  On really hot summer days my Grandfather Kyusaburo would gather all the neighborhood children and tell us to go home and change into our bathing suits and meet him back at our house.  By the time we came back, he had created an artificial mud hole for us to play in.  He would run the sprinkler slow enough to keep the mud hole going all afternoon.  At about 3:30 or 4:00 he’d come back and hose us down so we’d at least get the worse of the mud off.  We’d all go home to take our baths and reassemble at our house where my mother had musubi and fried teriyaki chicken wings ready for our afternoon snack/dinner.  Grandfather Kyusaburo and mother kept track of all of us by creating these wonderful diversions so we’d not get ourselves into trouble on those hot summer days.

Growing Up

Growing up with my Grandfather Kyusaburo and my mother was fun in many ways.  Before my brother and I came along, neither of them had ever done much serious housekeeping or done anything much for themselves.  We were their first encounter with hands on child rearing.  I have fond memories of burnt rice, scorched dresses, wearing clothes backwards, and flat pancakes.  Seems to have been tough for my brother, but looking back and hearing stories of growing up from my peers, I can only say that I certainly am glad they decided to experiment with raising us despite their shortcomings.  After all, what more can anyone ask for if their mother thought that ice cream was dairy product so eating it on cereal was okay.

Musubi and Fried Teriyaki Chicken Wings

Mama didn’t know much about cooking.  She never learned to make musubi.  Her musubi was made in the chawan.  She’d put rice in the chawan and bounce it around until it became a child sized rice ball.  Then she’d put enough nori around it so it wouldn’t fall apart.

I remember after school, we’d all go home, change our clothes and reassemble in our backyard.  At about 3:30, Mama would open the back door and ask if we’d like to have some snack.  We’d all say we did and she’d produce her musubi and fried teriyaki chicken wings.  We’d chow down and go back to play.

Cinnamon Toast and Milk

Another snack Mama would make us was cinnamon toast and milk.  She’d spend a whole day making cinnamon toasts and when all the neighborhood kids were assembled in our backyard, she’d offer cinnamon toast and milk.  No wonder our house was the most popular house in the neighborhood.  Grandfather Kyusaburo never complained about having to pay for all the snacks.


Friday and Saturday nights our house was full of the neighborhood kids.  We’d all sit on the floor and play Monopoly or 7-Up.  Mama and Grandfather Kyusaburo wanted to make sure that all the kids from us to the high school aged boys were accounted for.  The party usually broke up about 1 in the morning.  The high school aged boys would get into their cars especially on Saturday nights and go to Tip Top Bakery to buy freshly made bread that usually got done at about 2.  They’s bang on the neighbors doors and deliver fresh, warm bread.  Really interesting how one good turn turned into other good things happening.

Grandfather Kyusaburo was the greatest believer in freedom and the American Way.  I believe he retained his Japanese citizenship because of his inheritance.  He didn’t know what to do with it without offending his father.  He always said that he wanted his children to grow up American because it was the greatest nation in the world.  He would be so sad to see what has happened since he died in 1961.

When he came to Hawaii in 1915, he found an entirely different world.  You were what you made for yourself.  No more, no less.  Grandfather Kyusaburo was happy.  He was finally free of his ancestors’ prestige, away from his mother who wanted him to be a priest to redeem her soul, etc, etc, etc.  So sad things did not turn out quite how he thought they should.

Shoulda, Coulda and Spilt Milk

There’s a lot of things that coulda been done different.  

     Grandfather Kyusaburo shoulda married a haole girl.

     He coulda gone on to college.

     He shoulda said no to his parents taking his daughter to Japan.

All spilt milk because after his parents took his daughter to Japan things went to hell in a hand basket.

Visits from Heaven

After my Grandfather Kyusaburo died in 1961, he came home to live with us for the next 4 years.  He told me that God gave him the time off from Heaven to watch over us.  When I was leaving for college, he said that he was leaving too, but would be allowed to come back in emergencies.

For 4 years, whenever my mother visited the neighbors and someone phoned or visited our house, my Grandfather Kyusaburo would appear at the neighbor’s front door.  Sort of put a damper on the neighbors being too neighborly sometimes.  Whenever my brother or I were out he was watching over us to make sure that nothing happened to us.  One day my brother walked through the front door and said that his left shoulder felt really tired.  My mother says that she saw my Grandfather Kyusaburo peering over my brother’s left shoulder.  My step dad was pursuing my mother in 1965.  I remember one time that he fell asleep on the couch so we left him and went to bed.  Some days later, we sat around with our family album and he pointed at Grandfather Kyusaburo’s picture and asked who he was.  My mother said that he was her father.  He said that evening that he had fallen asleep on the couch, this man had awakened him and told him to go home.

In 1967 when my brother went to Viet Nam, Grandfather Kyusaburo went with him.  My brother swears that he is alive because he felt Grandfather Kyusaburo push him out of harm’s way.  Whenever I am driving alone at night, I feel my Grandfather Kyusaburo sitting in the back seat reassuring me that I am not alone.

King of Lanai

Couple of years after Grandfather Kyusaburo died, a Filipino man came to visit.  He said that he had worked for Grandfather Kyusaburo a long time ago on Maui and Lanai in the 1920’s and 1930’s.  He had moved to Kauai to be with his daughter in Hanapepe and learned that Mr. Makiyama had died.  So he came to pay his respects.  He told us a story about Grandfather Kyusaburo on Lanai.  He was called the King of Lanai.  He said that Mr. Makiyama could call the Lurline back into port if he wanted to.  It must have been a great deal in those days to be able to call a ship leaving a port back into port.  He also said that Mr. Makiyama was a very kind man who helped people when he could.  He was one of those who had been helped by Grandfather Kyusaburo.  The Filipino man stayed a while and then left.  Later on I found out from mama that this man was Teruo Sakai’s father-in-law.  Small world.  Uncle Sakai, Teruo’s dad was like an older brother to mama.

Uncle & Aunty Okada, Part II

Uncle and Aunty Okada lived in Honokaa where Uncle had a medical practice.  Mama said that his mistress, a Nurse at his clinic lived with them.  Later on, Aunty Natchan verified that when Uncle died, the mistress and my Aunt lived together until my Aunty died.  As an aside, when my Aunty died in 1999, we found out that Aunty Natchan was related to Aunty.  So, Aunty Natchan was a calabash relative after all.

After the incident when I was 6 months old, Uncle and Aunty Okada adopted a daughter, Esther.  In 1966 when I visited the Kunimura’s and met the Okada’s I remember a daughter.  Esther died in 2012 without heirs so the line died with her.

©December 2020 by hisiamone