Island History

A few weeks ago, we ran a piece about a failed invasion of Kaua‘i that was successfully put down by Hawaiian warriors loyal to Kukona, a Kaua‘i king in the 1200s. After rival King Kalaunui’s Kaua‘i invasion failed, he was captured, and held for ransom. The ransom paid ended up being a fine Japanese sword with a story of its own, according to Hank Soboleski’s book, “History Makers of Kauai.” The story goes that, in 1258 A.D., two years before Kalaunui’s campaign of conquest, a vessel with five Japanese people aboard appeared at sea off Wailuku, Maui. Their boat had been severely damaged and swept off course in a typhoon, and had later been blown to Maui by trade winds. Before it was wrecked on the Maui coast, a few Hawaiians went out and rescued its crew, two women and three men.

They were starving, dying of thirst, and nearly naked, but the Japanese captain carried an iron sword in his belt, which the Hawaiians, without metal weapons of their own, admired.

The hospitable Hawaiians gave these strangers food, clothing, and shelter.

And, before long, each married Hawaiian ali‘i, and the children of these unions begot descendants on Maui and O‘ahu.

During Kalaunui’s conquest of Maui, Kualu, the same chief who later fought on Kaua‘i against Kukona’s warriors, engaged the Japanese captain in combat, and captured his sword.

Kualu, in turn, passed the sword on to Wa‘ahia, a noted priestess of Hawai‘i, and she gave the sword to Kukona, thus freeing Kalaunui.

The sword remained in the possession of the descendants of Kukona for several generations. What became of it afterwards remains a mystery.

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