Japanese profound part of Hawaii history

In response to Robert G. Roosen, Ph.D’ s letter to West Hawaii Today of March 5, regarding “passive aggression” on the part of Japanese being Hawaii’s ruling class, I will agree with “passive” but not with “aggression.” The islands of Hawaii are what I call, “the other Japan.”

At Lihue airport on Kauai you can see a genuine display of early settlers’ artifacts. Among the items, predominantly used for fishing, are a couple of glass balls (the size of a volley ball) originally from Japan. These balls, once fastened to fishing nets to keep them afloat, probably snapped during a storm and were carried away from the shores of Nippon land to distant islands. We are nowadays fully aware of a seasonal current — the Kuroshio Current — which flows North and South of the Hawaiian islands from Japan to California and back. If the detached glass balls hit the shores of Kauai, so must have whalers, either lost at sea or likely well aware of whales’ winter quarters.


Japanese people are whalers. When South Pacific people reached the islands Japanese fishermen were already there. These early Ainu-Japanese left little proof of their settlements in ways of petroglyph or legend — such as the “menehune” described by Polynesians as “little people” — but their presence is in remnants of the Hawaiian language, traditions, chants and physiognomy.

A census, taken by missionaries around 1880, showed that 62 percent answered that they were of Japanese descent. Jack London’s observation (as stated in the letter mentioned above) was certainly correct with regard to Japanese workers in Hawaiian plantation, that was in late 19th or early 20th century, not in the year 900.

It is my belief that Japanese past influence and activities on the Hawaiian Islands — never mentioned in tourists brochures and books — had been voluntarily erased after Pearl Harbor. As if the outcome of the Battle of Midway had banished their presence in Hawaii. Only the powerful make history.


In short, “the humiliation of Hawaiians” by Japanese, as mentioned in the letter by Robert G. Roosen, is, in my humble opinion, false.

Catherine J. “Canoe” Gandilhon is a resident of Kailua-Kona.