Unlike most of the 300 Japanese immigrants who walked off the Hong Kong Maru at Honolulu Harbor on Oct. 23, 1906, 17-year-old W.J. (William Junokichi) Senda (1889-1984) had no job to claim at an island sugar plantation, nor were there friends and family waiting for him.
But, he managed to land a job soon after as a delivery boy for a Japanese newspaper in Honolulu that paid $17 a month — a good job, considering that plantation laborers of the time needed to work a month’s worth of 10-hour days in the fields to earn as much.
Other low-paying jobs followed, but he still managed to save, and in his spare time he learned English by attending night school at the Nu‘uanu Congregational Church.
He also became fascinated by photography, a hobby that would become his profession for 44 years.
His first camera was a Brownie box that he bought from a Montgomery Ward catalog, and in 1913, following two years of training at the Yamamoto Photo Studio in Honolulu, he sailed off to Kaua‘i to purchase the Gokan Photo Shop located at Kapaia.
Two years later he married Kayo Yamada, and the following year, W.J. moved his photo shop to the new Tip Top Building in Lihue, which was located about where the telephone company building on Kuhio Highway now stands.
W.J.‘s photo shop was on the second floor, and he and Kayo lived in an apartment at the back of the shop.
Senda retired in 1957, leaving his business to his children.
He also left a great heritage of photography, with thousands of his historic photos in private and public collections all over the world.
Thirty-seven of these are printed in Koamalu by Ethel Damon, arguably the best Kaua‘i history book published to date.
Hundreds of W.J.‘s photos also appeared in The Garden Island newspaper over the years.
“Photos By Senda” became a well-known byline in island periodicals; W.J. photographed over two generations of Kaua‘i’s school children, and the Senda Gallery at the Kaua‘i Museum is dedicated in his honor.