Return of Nippon Maru

NAWILIWILI — Norman Hashisaka, a Military Intelligence Service veteran, was pleased to see the four masts protruding from beyond the Nawiliwili seawall Friday.

“It’s actually coming,” Hashisaka said. “It’s coming in.”

Hashisaka was one of several hundred people who flocked to the Nawiliwili Harbor jetty wall area to see the Nippon Maru make landfall after leaving Yokohama port, Japan on Dec. 10. The arrival also marks the return of the Japanese training ships following an absence of almost 35 years.

H.S. Kawakami, an issei or first generation Japanese immigrant who arrived in Hawaii in 1912, said in his book, “From Japan to Hawaii, My Journey,” he “maintained active ties with the Japanese training ships which so often had come to Port Allen. They were from Japan and they refreshed my memory. They gave me a sentimental feeling and a sense of pride.”

Hashisaka worked at the Big Save store in Eleele and interfaced with the chief supply officer to determine what goods and provisions were needed to replenish the ship. The ship’s cooks were brought to the store to buy fresh produce, rice, and meat, with Hashisaka coordinating the order and delivery.

The last time the Nippon Maru visited Kauai was in July 1983, said Gerald Hirata who chatted with Carol Yotsuda and her group of artists.

“They’re from Japan,” Yotsuda said. “They are working so hard, coming in early every day and leaving late at night. I figure I gotta feed them.”

Lunch was on the back of Yotsuda’s pickup with the Japanese artists Mizu, Miyoko, and Bon having an opportunity to view the arriving ship while pouring through Internet printouts on the ship that was edged into Nawiliwili Harbor with the assistance of two tugboats.

The Nippon Maru training route did not include a stop on Kauai until it was discovered that Tomoki Oku is the captain of this ship.

Oku was assigned to help the Hokule‘a navigate the Japanese waters in 2007, being introduced to Polynesian seafaring techniques during this time. As a professor of Toyama College, he initiated a partnership and exchange program with the Kauai Community College. During the past seven years, all of the maritime colleges in Japan sent faculty and students to Kauai, including a dozen students who are cadets on the visiting ship.

Nippon Maru will be docked at Pier 2, Nawiliwili Harbor until Monday evening when she departs for Oahu.

“We appreciate the support we have received to host Nippon Maru as well as the interest people have in visiting the ship as well as hosting cadets. We hope to speak with the captain and see if we can have more people accommodated during the ship’s next visit,” said Kyoko Ikeda, the Kauai Community College international education director.


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