Yoshiaki Fujitani
Military Intelligence Service

Youth in Pauwela

Pauwela is a pineapple growing and processing community.

Rev. Kodo Fujitani is the minister at Pauwela Hongwanji where weddings, memorial services, Young Buddhist Association activities, Japanese-language school classes, and O-Bon, are held.

Yoshiaki grows up in the temple grounds and surrounding neighborhood.

At home and at Haiku School, he is exposed to cultures of the East and the West.


You know Maui looks like a man sort of bent over. So on the body side, Pauwela is near that hump. And there's a lighthouse there. That's Pauwela lighthouse. And it's just up country from that, just about a mile or so. That's Pauwela.

Map of Maui
Map of Maui

And a couple of miles further up country from there is Haiku, which is more well known. But that area, Haiku, Pauwela, and the other town, Kuiaha, also known as Libby's, were three pineapple growing and processing communities. And Haiku was Maui Pine[apple Company], I think that was Dole [Hawaiian Pineapple Company]. And Kuiaha was Libby's. [The Libby, McNeill & Libby cannery was once located at Pauwela.]

I guess most of us were Japanese. A lot of people from Okinawa among the Japanese. But there were a lot of Filipinos, also. In fact, our neighbor was a Filipino family.

Most of them worked on the plantation, pineapple fields. It was fieldwork or cannery work. But I guess, we didn't have enough people there because every year, during the summer, when the canneries were being operated, a lot of young girls from Hilo used to come and stay at the dormitories and work in the canneries. And they used to come down to Pauwela on Sundays. And so we got to know some people from the Big Island then.

Harvested pineapple on a pineapple plantation, Hawaii
Harvested pineapple on a pineapple plantation, Hawaii

[T]hey had built dormitories just for that purpose, to take care of the seasonal workers. [T]he dormitories were up in the Haiku area, which is uphill. And so it's a couple of miles walk down to Pauwela but they used to come down.

[V]ery, very small business, small town. Few establishments. Well, even in Pauwela, it's just one street. And on one side, the ocean side, there was a dairy. The Hiromoto family run a dairy. And on the upper side, there was a Hawaiian church. I think it was a Catholic church. And then a few stores. There was a barbershop that I used to go to. There was a garage that was opened for movies once a week or something like that. (Chuckles) Very simple town, that was Pauwela.

But in Haiku, there were a little bit more stores and so on. There was a Shinyama Restaurant I remember. There was a gulch near the cannery. And on the other side of the gulch was another row of homes and stores. There was a Nishikida Store that I remember. So anyway, these were very small towns and they're sort of spread out a little bit.

Role of Parents in the Community

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[I]t was a plantation community. And one thing I remember, both of [my parents] were very compassionate, in bringing into our family, orphans. There was a Nakagawa family, there were three kids and they were orphans. And they stayed with us for many years. And there were a couple of others. One was a fellow named Abe. He was a juvenile delinquent (chuckles) and so he was brought in. Another was a young girl but she was having some problems, too. So anyway, she stayed with us for a while.

So I remember our life always having these foster brothers, sisters. So that was part of their social work, you might say. But they were always busy helping the people in the community.

When I was about four or five I remember Dad doing sumo with the young guys. So he must have been in his forties and these kids are younger and stronger. And I thought, wow, he must have had a lot of stamina and all that at that age.

But in school, he told us that he had judo and not very high rank. Maybe shodan [lowest grade of the senior class in judo] or something like that. And in school, they used to do sumo. So, I guess it was an extension of that kind of activity with the young people in the community.

I remember there were a lot of group activities. The YBA [Young Buddhist Association] was a very important activity. And I think Dad, although he was the minister, I think he served as president of the Pauwela YBA for a while, YMBA [Young Men's Buddhist Association], for a while. But it was important so there was a building built called the YBA hall, YMBA hall.

The other buildings were the temple and there was the minister's residence next door. And then beyond that, we had a language school, maybe about five hundred yards east of that area. But I think the original buildings are all gone now. There's nothing there. But the idea of the YBA hall being there meant these youth activities were considered important.

I don't remember Dad doing many weddings but he must have had a few. But he did a lot of funerals. I remember a lot of funerals going on. One such funeral was when a bunch of us went down to the ocean and a service was held in absentia because it was reported that one of the members was eaten by a tiger shark out there in the ocean. And so we had a memorial service out there. I was a young kid then but I remember that. And so there were activities, even those days.

Language School

I guess there might have been a dual purpose in operating a language school. One is to perpetuate the language or culture through language. But I think it was a kind of a moneymaker, to sustain the temple. But of course, the community was involved, too. In that area, we had the Hongwanji school, language school but there were many who were not Buddhist and so they wanted their own language school.

And I remember there was a Rev. [T.] Kono of the Christian church in Haiku. And he had his own language school. And we call it something like independent [Japanese-language school] or dokuritsu Nihongo gakko something like that. So even very early, it was not a monolithic kind of community. You had different groups, yeah.


Obon was always very popular, just as it is now in the yard. We had a fairly large yard and rather level, maybe slightly sloping. But that was the area where the Obon dance, Bon dances were held, you know with the yagura [tower] and lighted up. And they were quite popular. See, that's when the girls from Hilo were working in the canneries. So they made the place a little bit more festive.

I don't remember [if there were different sorts of foods]. Maybe we didn't have anything. It was just dancing. And if any food was served, it would have been for the visiting dancers or something like that. Not as it is now where they have booths selling all kinds of things.

Bon Odori, Honolulu, Hawaii
Bon Odori, Honolulu, Hawaii

It seems [the booths are a relatively recent thing]. And besides, yeah, it sort of changed in significance. It's not only a Buddhist activity anymore. I mean, the entire community is involved in the Bon dance. And new things have been added. For instance, the Tendai Bishop Ara started the toro nagashi [lantern offering on the water] in Ala Wai Canal. I mean, that's a new twist.

Childhood Activities

I was trying to think is there anything positive I can mention [about my childhood activities] (chuckles). But I guess we remember only the negatives. Maybe that's not really negative. But what I remember was that I gave Mother a lot of headaches because I was getting into all kinds of fixes.

You've seen these water tanks. They're usually on stilts and maybe you see that in western movies and things like that but that's what we used to have, these water tanks. And the one in our yard was accessible, I mean there's a ladder that went up the side. And it seems I got up there, I don't know how old I was, about three or four maybe and I had climbed up there and I couldn't come down. So I still don't know how I got down but I must have.

Oh, when they were building that YBA hall, these high horses, paint horses were left. And I had climbed up one of these horses and I fell from it. And I guess I had a sprained ankle or something like that.

What else? Oh, on the language school lanai [porch, veranda], I was riding a tricycle and I rolled down the steps and then landed on my head, leaving a big scar (chuckles) on the metal grate. So it's kind of a right angle kind of scar right on my head.

Things like that, this was all before age twelve, of course. So well, I just gave Mother a lot of heartache.

But I remember also, we had that Hiramoto Dairy next door and they had a very tame mare and its name was Mary. But when she had a baby, this colt was given the name John or Johnny. And it was very frisky and unruly. But I wanted to ride that horse so I got on and Johnny wanted to get back to his mother and so he began to gallop and I hung on for dear life.

Yoshiaki Fujitani on horseback
Yoshiaki Fujitani on horseback

And so I must have been about eleven, twelve then, just before we came out [to Oahu], because otherwise I would have been too young. But I suppose in growing up we had a lot of opportunities to experiment and try whatever we wanted to get into trouble and all that.


[R]ight across the road - there's [a] belt highway that ran all the way from Kahului to Hana, that belt road ran right across, right in front of the temple. And later on, they moved it in the back but at that time, it was right in front.

And right across that street, road, was Haiku School. In other words, Haiku School was in Pauwela. It wasn't up-country.

[M]y first-grade teacher was Mrs. Wade and she was kind of nice. My second-grade teacher was Mrs. Andrade or something.

And my third-grade teacher was Miss Watanabe. She became later Mrs. Miyamoto. But it was that teacher that I fell in love with and I used to dream about her. I got up one morning crying because I just missed my teacher. And so those (chuckles) were some of my early recollections.

The husband of Mrs. Wade was Mr. [Herbert] Wade. He was the principal and he was an Englishman, very interesting person. Every summer, he took a vacation to visit different places in the world and he'd bring back souvenirs, which he shared with the students.

One was from Portugal, he brought back some paint, which he - I guess that's what they did there, but paint would be floated on water and pencil would be stuck in, and then as you bring up the pencil, you manipulate it so that you can put designs on it as it comes up.

And another thing, he wanted to be close to the students and so he'd play with us, play basketball and things like that. But he had a wig on and so, one day, playing basketball, that wig sort of slipped. And since then, his nickname became "Hage [Baldy]." I still remember that. Yeah, he was nice man but, I guess, students are cruel aren't they?

The Wades lived right next door to the temple in the principal's home. So we got know their kids, there were three of them. One was Sylvia, the older one, and then Marjorie, and then the boy's name was, well, we just called him "Sonny." But anyway, they were our neighbors.

Marjorie and I were about classmates. So very early, I mean, they're more or less haole [Caucasian]. Although some said, "Well, they're not pure haoles because Mrs. Wade is Portuguese. (Chuckles) Do you remember that here in Hawaii, the Portuguese never was given that status of an English Caucasian? But anyway, they were Caucasian. And so very early on, we had this kind of relationship with them. Not only with the Filipinos but with the haoles as well.

Pauwela Point, where we have the lighthouse, that area was a golf course. And of course, the golfers were all plantation bosses, none of the managed group. They were the managers. And so I guess we were conscious of that kind of division within our culture.

Pauwela Point Light Station, Hawaii
Pauwela Point Light Station, Hawaii

Then, we had, in the fourth grade or fifth grade around there, Miss Lee was our teacher. But there was a Mr. Tom, whom I didn't have as my teacher but one day Miss Lee became Mrs. Tom. (Chuckles) They got married. So there was romance going on in school. We didn't, of course, care but we noticed.

But around the sixth grade or so there was a haole, a blonde haole teacher who had come from the Mainland and she was pretty, so we had a lot of comments about that. But she was nice. About that time, there were many teachers coming from the Mainland, especially from the East Coast.

And as a kind of a proof of that, we have the sound of one word, we learned to pronounce the word "ont" instead of "ant," you know, auntie, aunt, which is Bostonian or East American, Eastern Coast American sound or New York sound. Whereas in the Midwest, it becomes "anty," you know, the "ah" sound. In the East it's "au", that broad sound. Anyway, they brought that kind of influence to us.

Of course, we learned Christmas carols and we had to recite the Lord's Prayer, for instance, in school. Of course, we had to be good Americans so we learned, we all recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Yeah, those things I remember.

[W]e didn't have any questions about that. That's part of our education. And even today, I'm happy that we've been exposed to many, many different elements of our culture. It's a multi-culture.

I don't have any idea how [my parents] felt. They just rolled with whatever came. Mother played the piano, maybe not concert style but you know got us singing and stuff. And so we had music in our house. And that was kind of nice. Yeah, what I'm really grateful for is the kind of exposure that we had very early. All kinds of East and West, Western culture.

The Minister's Son

The only indication of well, our strangeness [being the minister's son], you might say, was the people used to call me "Botchan [young master]" which is a kind of word of endearment, I guess. But it's a term usually reserved for, well, somebody that should be treated differently. Otera no botchan [young master of the temple].

So, I guess I might have internalized that as I was growing up, that we're special, different. But that didn't keep me from getting into all kinds of trouble.

Occasionally, I've heard [you're the minister's son]. Occasionally. Yeah, but that wasn't important. And that's limited to our real young period, which is life in Pauwela because when we come out to Honolulu it's a different world. Yeah, it contrasts quite a bit.

Yoshiaki Fujitani's interview reprinted courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Yoshiaki Fujitani, Christine Galiza, and Library of Congress.

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