Hawaiian Eye – Pt. 3 (The Reunion)

Joy and Hiroshi kicked off the reunion with a taiko performance. Joy is the cousin who came up to me at a book signing in San Jose, and dropped the bombshell that I have an entire branch of relatives that I never knew about.

Sunday, Sept. 16

The Hanzawa-Sakuma family reunion was a Sunday brunch, held at a restaurant on Shafter Army Base in Honolulu. Because she was one of the organizing committee members, Laura had to get there early and help set up. We waited a little longer, but had to make a stop on the way to pick up John’s older daughter Kelsey on the way. Kelsey was staying at the watercress farm owned by her mother’s family (John’s ex-wife). John still helps out at the farm, because his father-in-law was an early mentor.

When we arrived at the base, the extended family was still just starting to assemble. There were over a hundred people in the banquet hall when the emcee, my cousin Aileen’s son Isaac, welcomed everyone.

From here, names and faces and relations to the family get fuzzy. I know the immediate families of the cousins who organized the reunion. Isaac, a handsome guy who’s an environmental attorney and president of the board of the local Sierra Club chapter, is Joy’s brother. Joy is the woman who came up to me after a book reading in San Jose, introduced herself to me as a relative and invited me to the reunion. The two have a younger sister, Megumi.

Joy and her husband Hiroshi, who were members of a taiko group in Honolulu before moving to San Jose, played a song to kick off the reunion properly. Continue reading

Hawaiian Eye – Pt. 2 (The Pre-Party)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Yesterday was a long day, and a preview of today’s reunion.

We started with the relaxed morning of papaya and conversation with Laura, but eventually moved on to the day’s work: shopping at Costco and then the Star Market for the ingredients to make our “kakimochi” chips for the party. The chips are a favorite of our friends in Colorado – they’re Mexican corn tortillas coated with a JA combination of sugar, butter and soy sauce – and although we figured Hawaiians surely must have this kind of cross-cultural snack all the time, it’s relatively easy to make and tasty and we decided to offer to make it for the party anyway.

Costco was a revelation. I’d been there, several years ago when I attended the JACL National Convention in Honolulu. But it seemed like they’d expanded their aisle of local goods, and throughout the store was an amazing array of Asian foods and products, from imported Japanese canned tea to spices. The local aisle had a dizzying selection of all things macadamia, as well as shelf after shelf of snack items like picked plums, li hing-flavored mangoes, dried shredded ika (cuttlefish) and dried octopus and squid, both in large jars or individually wrapped. Yummy… these are Asian equivalents of beer nuts at the bar. We wished we could get some of these more “exotic” items in Colorado Costcos, and also marveled that the Hawaiian population, which isn’t all Asian by any means (although certainly “haoles,” or Caucasians, are in the minority between all the Asian as well as Polynesian ethnicities), all buys this variety of products. Multiculturalism is simply in the air in Hawaii, like the humidity… and the wind. Continue reading

Hawaiian Eye – Pt. 1

It’s great to feel so welcomed.

Erin and I arrived late yesterday afternoon at Honolulu Airport and called up Regine Shimomura, a cousin I’d never met. She’s the twin sister of Laura McHugh, who was stuck at a hair appointment. We’re staying at Laura’s home, so one we got the rental car, we called Regina to get directions from the airport to the suburban town of Mililani, to the northwest of Honolulu.

What I remember from my childhood visit to Hawaii is the sun, the clouds and the wind. The clouds are always on the move, with the wind pushing them along. It seems like Hawaii is just always breezy. Continue reading

Food for thought: Spam and Shoyu

Two news items worth noting, although one is kinda old already:

First Burger King has announced that in Hawaii, they’re selling a new item, a Spam Platter — two slices of Spam nestled between white rice and scrambled eggs. BK, which is based in Miami, also serves its Croissanwich or Biscuit Sandwich with Spam for the Hawaiian market. Continue reading