Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022 |
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HANAPEPE — Akiyo Mori Honjo was born in Hanapepe in September of 1914. She has lived on and loved this island for 101 years and last month, her long life was honored by Japan’s prime minister with a certificate and a commemorative silver cup, delivered by representatives from the Honolulu Consulate.
“There were three people presented with the certificate on Kauai this year, and hers was the only one with the prime minister’s name on it because her maiden name is registered in Japan,” said Akiyo’s daughter, Amy Umakoshi. “I didn’t realize that her name was registered until I found out (about his signature).”
Umakoshi said her mother was honored to receive the certificate in a small ceremony at their home, which reads:
“I have the honor to congratulate you on achieving a wonderfully long life of one hundred years. To congratulate you on this Respect-For-The-Aged Day, I would like to present you with this commemorative gift.”
Akiyo’s grandparents, Iwagoro and Yasu Mori, made their way to Kauai from Japan on the second immigrant boat ever to cross the seas, according to Umkakoshi. Akiyo’s father, Kiyoto Mori was born near the Hanapepe lookout in September 1893 and he had 11 children, all born in that same place. Since then, three more generations of the family have blossomed on Kauai.
“We’re expecting the next generation to arrive in June,” Umakoshi said. “It’s going to be twins and we don’t know anything else, so it’s going to be a surprise. We found out on Thanksgiving day.”
Growing up, Akiyo went to Eleele Elementary School and stopped going to school when she was 13 years old in order to help support her family.
“She worked in a private house doing cleaning and some cooking,” Umakoshi said. “She always says that she didn’t continue her education because she had to support her family.”
Later, she worked at the Hanapepe Green Garden restaurant. She married Masao Honjo, a general contractor from Maui, who was also one of 11 children, in 1940 and in 1962 Akiyo opened up Ma’s Place, a restaurant that regularly served a 5 a.m. breakfast.
“She still talks about cooking for all the men and making the kalua pig and the tripe stew,” Umakoshi said. “She was really great at making bread, too, but the breakfast was such a big hit that she just limited it to breakfast and lunch.”
Akiyo was also famous for her perfect piecrusts and delectable custard pies.
Honjo helped run the restaurant too, especially after retiring from construction, and Umakoshi said she spent lots of time working as well.
In January of 2007, when Akiyo was 92 years old, she threw in the towel and closed Ma’s Place, finally retiring from the restaurant industry and now she lives with Umakoshi in the Wailua Houselots.
“She loves riding along with me when I go out and do my errands, so we go for little trips all the time,” Umakoshi said. “She says that the car rides soothe her and she sleeps really well after those trips.”
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