Episodes from Noboru Miyake’s Early Years

Born and raised on a 20-acre rice farm on land his parents leased deep within Waimea Valley, far beyond the present swinging bridge, Noboru Miyake (1896-1988) would become the first person of Japanese ancestry to hold public office in Hawaii, when voters elected him to the Kauai Board of Supervisors in 1930.

He also served as a territorial representative and territorial and state senator, and was a prominent Kauai businessman and World War I Army veteran.

Noboru’s parents, Yasusaburo and Tama Miyake, also owned a rice mill, where they milled their rice and the rice of their neighbors — the Tanakas, Honkes, Yamashiros, Yokotakes, Haradas, Okuyamas and Yamachikas — who would pay the Miyakes two bags of milled rice for each 12 bags of rice they received.

And, once a month, Yasusaburo would strap a couple bags of rice to a horse and take them to Waimea, where he would barter the rice for kerosene, shoyu, salt, matches and other essentials at Yokotake Store, Sano Store, Hayashida Store, Matsumoto Store, Ako Store or Hofgaard Store.

In order for their son, Noboru, to attend classes at Waimea School, he needed to hike five miles each way from home to school and back, crossing the Waimea River three times in the early morning and in the evening.

After regular school classes, he would also attend the Japanese language school located by the Waimea Plantation sugar mill before starting for home around 5 p.m.

On these lonely evening hikes, little Noboru would be on the lookout for menehune, for in those days children were convinced that menehune were to be found everywhere in the valley after dark — in caves, forests, under bushes and rocks and in ponds and rivers.

When sumo wrestling matches were held, he performed well in his age group, since his legs had grown powerfully strong from his daily school hikes, and he was rewarded with a nice supply of school materials as prizes.

Then in 1911, at the age of 15, his childhood came to a close when he left school to work for Kekaha Plantation.

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Hank Soboleski has been a resident of Kauai since the 1960s. Hank’s love of the island and its history has inspired him, in conjunction with The Garden Island Newspaper, to share the island’s history weekly. The collection of these articles can be found here: https://bit.ly/2IfbxL9 and here https://bit.ly/2STw9gi Hank can be reached at hssgms@gmail.com

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