Posts Tagged ‘Kapoho’

A Kapoho Christmas


It was Christmas without lights.

It was Christmas without indoor plumbing.

It was Christmas without carolers at the window

Muffed and warm under falling snow.


But there was Christmas.


A Christmas program at school

Where the Holy Night reenacted:

White tissue paper glued on spines of coconut  fronds

Shaped as angel wings and halos.

Long white robes, over bare feet.


Santa Claus with bagfuls of hard mixed candies

Ho ho hoed by the plantation manager,

His yearly holiday role in the village where he reigned.

Fathers  in Sunday best

After a hard day’s work in sugar cane fields.

Children in home-sewn dresses and shirts.


A fir tree from the hills,

Needles not lasting 24 hours.

Chains from construction paper,

Origami balls and strands of tin-foiled tinsel.

Kerosene  and gas lamps

Moving shadows on the walls.


It was not the Christmas of my dreams.

No carolers at the window,

Singing Silent Night, Holy Night.

No large presents under a real Christmas tree

No fireplaces and rooftop chimneys.

No blue-eyed  boy handing me hot chocolate.


For 18 years, the true Christmas

Lived in my head until Madame Pele*

Came to my rescue

And buried our kerosene lamps.


Finally, I said, running out fast

On unpaved roads

To the Christmas of my dreams.

* Fire of Goddess of Kilauea Volcanic Crater










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I met with members of a book club who selected my book Kapoho: Memoir of a Modern Pompeii, as one of their selections. The hostess, Jill Thornburg, was incredible. She had Sears ads in the bathroom as toilet paper and she served Vienna Sausage, Kapoho style. They really knew the book. One woman who was stationed in Hawaii with her military husband in the 60’s said she got to know my soul while reading the book; that it was more than a group of stories. Each discussed their favorite story.  I was asked to discuss writing and other aspects of the book. They expressed gratitude for the discount my publisher had given to their Kapoho purchase.

What a lovely visit back to Kapoho. And in Denver, too.

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It was an honor to give the commencement address at my Alma Mater:  Pahoa High School graduation in Hilo, Hawaii last week. Class of 2017, thank you for bringing me home again. I once again wish the graduates a fun and meaningful life. The Hawai’i Herald will carry my entire address in their next issue.

I also took a field trip to my home village Kapoho with Prof Allan Anderson of Hawai’i Community and  a few of his students. Prof Anderson, thank you for adding my Kapoho: Memoir of a Modern Pompeii book to your college curriculum. The site of our old house is buried under foliage.


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kapoho line

book signing kapoho

This is a quote from a statement made yesterday by someone:

“The Japanese do not talk about earthquakes, volcanoes, etc….”

So here I am at the Volcano National Park, signing my book: Kapoho:

Memoir of a Modern Pompeii. I begin my stories with Pearl Harbor and end with the lava

destroying my home village, Kapoho.

Below, I’m holding Charles Pellegrino’s book: To Hell and Back: The Last Train from Hiroshima at Barnes and Noble. The voices of  the survivors of Hiroshima echo out of the pages. And yes, we are all Japanese, btw.

b&n 1





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My Hilo Presentation

Thank you, Chris Ridley of Alzheimer’s Association, for hosting my lecture “The Gift of Caregiving.” It was a rainy afternoon, but there is something about Hilo’s rain that brings special people and stories to share.


A woman from the audience came to introduce herself but I finished her introduction.

She said, ‘You were my teacher, my name is Laurie…” and I interrupted, ‘Laurie Kiyota, you were in my first grade class at Waiakea Elementary.” It was so heartwarming to hug her again after more than 50 years. She still had that first grade look on her face, how could I not know her?

I would be fibbing if I said a couple from Sacramento followed me to Hawaii specifically to attend my lecture. Harold and Linda Murai, on vacation from Sacramento, giving up their afternoon to be in the audience.

Kapoho came to me again. A young couple from Japan came to meet the author of Kapoho: Memoir of a Modern Pompeii. They live in Kapoho, still without electricity and indoor plumbing. When he said, “I wished I could have lived in Kapoho…the Kapoho from your book,” I knew I had met a very special person.

So thank you, all of you who came out on a rainy late afternoon, and to my niece Tammy for capturing moments on her camera.

With Chris Ridley of the Alzheimer's Association Hilo office.

With Chris Ridley of the Alzheimer’s Association Hilo office.

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HI H Pahoa storyTo people of Kapoho and Pahoa, the Hawai’i Herald generously used my story on Madame Pele’s visit to both these towns as their cover story. My open letter to Pahoa, and an excerpt from my Kapoho book may be of interest to you. Thank you. Yes, that’s me on the porch in Pahoa village during my last visit in September.

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My grandmother’s house was the first to be destroyed by Pele’s lava flow in Kapoho. Today, another family’s house was the first to be covered in Pahoa. So many of us relocated to Pahoa. On my last visit to Hawaii, I visited all our neighbors from Kapoho  who now reside in Pahoa. How are we? What can we be except philosophers when it comes to the power of Fire Goddess Pele whom we respect and fear.  My heart goes out to everyone. The sun is shining out here but I feel the dark clouds and smell  sulphur in the air from memory.

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