NAWILIWILI — If Japanese exchange student Erika Ishiguro had her way, the Nippon Maru would still be here.
“You can always jump in the water and beg them to stay,” said Robert Kawamura Monday as he joined Ishiguro in watching the four masts slowly disappear below the Nawiliwili Harbor seawall. “I will see them Wednesday (on Oahu) where I’m taking four cadets out to dinner.”
Hundreds of people jammed the Nawiliwili Harbor jetty wall area for a glimpse of the Japanese training ship and to wish their new friends aloha after the Nippon Maru spent the weekend on Kauai.
“This visit brings back memories for a lot of people,” said Cheryl Stiglmeier of the Kauai Community College Office of Continuing Education and Training. “We were notified on short notice, but thanks to the outpouring of support from the community, we were able to treat these guests very well.”
An example was the welcoming luau Saturday at KCC.
“There were no leftovers,” Stiglmeier said. “The sow which was donated by Kaneshiro Farms came in at more than 500 pounds. Chef Steve Nakata supervised the imu and we served up more than 600 meals.”
People were surprised as the cadets — all 111 of them — scrambled up the rope ladders on the four masts and, at command, dispersed along the yardarms, drawing exclamations of “They’re dangling!” as the sound of pu from Namahoe cheered the effort.
As the ship moved slowly past the crowd, cadets chanted “Gokigenyo!” in unison.
“‘Gokigenyo’ is the formal term for goodbye,” Ishiguro said. “It’s not used very often — it might be a term limited to use by seafarers — and it is a way to thank the community for hosting them. They do that at every port.”
Kyoko Ikeda, Kauai Community College international education director, said they are looking forward to the return of Nippon Maru.
The Nippon Maru next makes port on Oahu, where it will remain for five days before returning to Japan.