Many races, one spirit

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Norman and Mabel Hashisaka, representing the extended Kawakami ohana, tour the rededicated Isenberg Japanese Garden Monday during the celebration marking the 150th anniversary of the first arrival of Japanese immigrants to Hawaii.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Ken Shimonishi gets a photo of the new plaque at the Isenberg Japanese Garden that was originally built through the efforts of J.K. Shimonishi, Ken’s great-uncle.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. celebrates as former mayors Maryanne Kusaka and JoAnn Yukimura place a maile lei at the new plaque for the Isenberg Japanese Garden Monday during the rededication ceremony that was done in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the first Jaanese immigrants to Hawaii.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    The Rev. Tomo Hojo the the West Kauai Hongwanji Mission sprinkles flowers during the rededication of the Isenberg Japanese Garden in the Lihue Civic Center Monday. The ceremony was done in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Gannenmono, the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii.

LIHUE — A light sprinkle did not dampen the enthusiasm of more than two dozen people attending the rededication of the Isenberg Japanese Garden on Monday at the Lihue Civic Center, adjacent to the Finance Department and the American Job Center.

“This garden symbolizes the warm spirit of aloha that has melted the many races into one,” said the Rev. Tomo Hojo of the West Kauai Hongwanji Mission, the blessing’s officiant. “We also express a grateful thought for the extraordinary relationship that started 150 years ago with the arrival of the Gannenmono between Japan and Hawaii that can serve as a wonderful example for the world.”

The stone torii gate and lantern where brought to Lihue around 1906 by Pastor Hans Isenberg and his wife Dora. Hans was at the time the president of Lihue Plantation Company, and a brother to one of its founders.

The lantern was placed in the Isenberg’s garden at Molokoa, and later stood in front of the Lihue Store for many years.

Dora Jane Rice Cole Isenberg, a descendant of the Lihue Plantation founders, later donated the torii and lantern to the garden that also got the stone chozubachi, or cleansing bowl, by J.K. Shimonishi when the garden was built for the opening of the Lihue Shopping Center in the mid-1960s, said Art Umezu, the Kauai liaison for Hawaii Gannenmono.

“Many people remember this garden when it once had koi, or carp, swimming in the pond with flowing waterfall,” Umezu said. “And, torches were lit at night.”

In July, a small group of volunteers started the garden’s beautification that led to Monday’s blessing and rededication.

Through the efforts of many hands, the garden sprouted a new plaque, had its torii straightened and repaired, and the overall Isenberg Japanese Garden got a nice makeover.

“This garden is perhaps one of the first connections Kauai had with Japan, even before Kanyaku Imin, or the contract laborers from Japan in 1885,” Umezu said. “Today, we honor and respect the past, and ask for help to malama this garden for our future generations so they won’t forget the history and ancestors of Gannenmono.”

A news article in TGI revealed that Dora Rice Isenberg was quoted in 1935 saying she remembers vividly the arrival of the first Japanese at Lihue Plantation in 1868 when a group of 153 people immigrated to Hawaii from Japan.

Dora’s father hired two immigrants to work at Lihue Plantation, their names being Bunkichi Murata and Yonkichi Sakuma. Both men eventually got married to Hawaiian women and had children.

“We are truly grateful for the many leaders, members and predecessors of the Kauai local community who have built a bridge of love and esteem spanning the Pacific Ocean,” Hojo said. “We are truly grateful Hawaii and Japanese cultures joined together in this garden. We wish this beautiful garden to sustain another 150 years in this place and symbolize our goodwill and friendship between Kauai and Japan.”


Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or


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