Kapoho; Now Pahoa



Kapoho’s history of being covered by lava flows is now Pahoa’s. And once again, our respect for fire goddess Pele is heard over and over again as seen in the excerpts below. I hope all the communities will be there for the residents of Pahoa just as they were for us, when we evacuated from Kapoho and relocated in Pahoa. Our hearts are broken once again.


An Excerpt from Kapoho: Memoir of a Modern Pompeii by Frances H. Kakugawa

“Did you hear? Someone saw Pele facing Pāhoa. I think Pāhoa is going to be next.”

Kapoho cover
I was away in college, buried under my studies to get pidgin out of my mouth on my way to becoming a famous writer. I had no way of learning firsthand what was happening to my family and friends in or out of Kapoho. That panic later turned into anger as I shot bombastic arrows into my speech class. Instead of giving my prepared speech that day, I tossed it aside and gave vent to some improvised rage.

“Kapoho, my hometown, is being destroyed by lava as I stand here. In the snack bar downstairs, in the media and in conversations among many of you who have taken helicopter rides to view the eruption, I hear you saying things like ‘spectacular,’ ‘awesome’ and even ‘inspiring.’ The camera lenses and the firsthand sightings from low-flying helicopter rides only show Pele’s fire. That can be awesome. Spectacular, even, if Kapoho were just a piece of dirt, a nowhere place that nobody cares about. But Kapoho is where I grew up.

“My family has evacuated to my aunt’s house. I was there last weekend when my father’s name shrieked from the radio to identify the next house that was destroyed. My father’s response made me feel afraid for him as I watched his disbelief. I was afraid that his mind could crack like the land beneath our house, cracked wide open by earthquakes.

“My father looked at us and said, ‘That can’t be me. That must be another Sadame Kakugawa.’ It was spooky to hear him say that.

“My father is a simple plantation worker. He earns minimum wage to support our family of seven and send me to school. We depend on our thirteen acres of cane land to pay off our debts. Losing our home would just kill him.

“When my mother told him, ‘It is your house. There is no other Sadame Kakugawa,’ my father just sat there. I could see him looking for some way out. The hardest thing I had to watch that sad day was his resignation. He said, ‘If Pele wants my house, she can have it.’

“And that’s just one story, mine. There’s a village full of stories like this, and the saddest part is that there isn’t even a village anymore. You want spectacle? There’s a spectacle for you.”

I sat abruptly down. At least one person had heard me that day, because for the rest of the year, my lunches were paid for at the snack bar. All I knew about my benefactor was that he was a veteran.


Yes, please make a line twice around the block.

from: a shameless dreamer

Dear Shiori, thank you for posting this. This is why I teach…


shiori and me 2014

Reunited, after 20+ years, with a wonderful teacher and mentor–

Ms. Frances H. Kakugawa was my third grade teacher, and my last teacher in Hawaii before I left for Japan (where I spent the next six years). A writer, She was the one who nurtured my love for reading and creative writing, and introduced me to my all-time favorite author (Roald Dahl). She taught us how to create illustrated books and even write dedication pages and “About the Author” pages. We exchanged letters for a while after I moved to Japan, but eventually lost touch. I couldn’t find her address even though I came back to Hawaii for high school.

And last month, in preparation for the U.S.-Japan Council Annual Conference in Honolulu, I was doing media outreach from DC and came across the Japanese American newspaper in Hawaii. I recognized Ms. Kakugawa instantly–she was a columnist there! She’d become a full-time writer who had published several books, and had a blog. From there, I found her email address. I wrote to her, hoping she’d remember me, trying to find the words to express how influential she has been in my life. I’d found from her blog that she now lived in California–but perhaps there was a chance that she’d be in Hawaii the same time as me?

To my surprise, she wrote back within minutes. Her first line was, “Do you know I still have a photo of both of us on my bookshelf?”. She said she’d been hoping to hear from me. This is the photo. She’d kept it all these years, the photo of the two of us, even after she’d moved to California. She must’ve had so many students…in a childish way, it never occurred to me that she’d remember me so fondly, too. I’m sure I’ll never forget the moment I read that line in the DC metro on my phone, when I was so happy I actually cried. I’ve wavered so much about my future in the past 20 years, moving around a lot, always thinking about writing but never having the courage to truly face it–and here, she’d remembered me all this time.

As it turned out, she was on a lecture tour to Honolulu the same time I was there. Now that my parents have once again moved to Japan, I hadn’t been back to Hawaii in eight years–so this was really a wonderful coincidence. I met her last week. She was as warm and positive as ever, and in her presence, even some of the negative experiences I had moving around turned into ideas for stories. She gave me several of the books she wrote, brought me sweets, and even treated me to lunch. I wanted to see her to thank her, but she continued to give me everything… I am so glad I could find her contact information, so glad I reached out–and so happy that she is back in my life.
— at Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.
As a third grader with my teacher, Ms. Frances H. Kakugawa. This was my last day in elementary school before I moved to Japan.
Reunited after 20+ years!

11-2014-Art-of-Caregiving-MMy marketing manager at my publisher’s office says she wants to apologize for working on my event calendar before having coffee. The wrong date for my Modesto workshop was posted on my web calendar for a few days. (Thank you to Alison H. for calling this to our attention!)

The correct date is Wednesday, November 12. The session will be held at the Alzheimer/Dementia Support Center in Modesto, California (700 McHenry Avenue, Suite B). I will be sharing tips on caregiving and how writing can help you on your caregiving journey (even if you’ve never written anything longer than a grocery list). Check-in and refreshments start at 10am. Lecture begins at 10:30, followed by resources and book signing at noon. To register, please call 209.577.0018. Respite will be available.

This event is presented by the Alzheimer’s Association and co-sponsored by the Alzheimer/Dementia Support Center. Refreshments provided by The Stratford at Beyer Park.

Next week Friday (October 17) you’ll have a chance to call in and talk to…ME!

I will be giving a talk called Rx for Caregivers Blues: A Pen via a phone conference hosted by Leeza’s Care Connection. You’ll learn how the art of writing can help you process emotions as you travel the caregiver journey. At the end of my talk, you’ll have a chance to ask questions.


RSVP today to 818-847-3686 or ncantuna@leezascareconnection.org and then call in at 10AM (Pacific Time) to 1-866-554-6142 and use Conference Code 2128372545#.

I hope to hear you on the line next week!

Here are some photos, courtesy of my niece, Tammy, from the Writing the Hawaii Memoir panel discussion I was in a couple weeks ago.

Nice to see how well the store supports local authors! Here is the section with all my books:

FHK at Basically Books

And this is our esteemed panel of authors, all contributors to Writing the Hawaii Memoir by Darien Gee, with Basically Books shop owner, Christine Reed (center).

WHM contribs

From left to right: Mark Panek, Darien Gee (author of Writing the Hawaii Memoir), Christine Reed (Basically Books), me and Leslie Lang.

Hawaii Calls



To my islands I return for a visit…the islands where:


Drivers toot their horns, show the shaka sign, or wave at you when you give them right of way or allow them to change lanes in front of you. We say “You’re Welcome” by tooting or waving back.


On the Hamakua Coast and the road to Volcano, drivers of large rigs will slow toward the side, toot their horns, and wave you on…telling you it’s safe to overtake.


Speed limit is 50 mph on highways


Local strangers at airports will give you their luggage carts and welcome you home as one man did at Honolulu Airport. He got another cart for himself.


McDonalds serves Portuguese sausage, eggs and rice.


Sales persons are accommodating with their Aloha and Mahalo and more conversations are based on who they are rather than on corporate guidelines.


There is that spirit of grace in the knowing silence that exists in this place where there are more listeners than talkers, more da kine connections and that relaxed atmosphere: ocean waves coming in to shore, palm trees moving in the breeze, people driving and walking a little bit slower. And that sense of humanity, Hawaiian style, that is still being preserved in the middle of the Pacific.


They somehow make me forget the vog, the humidity, the high prices and Hawaiian Air who won’t let me change my reservation.


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