Following H.S. (Harvey Saburo) Kawakami’s arrival on Kaua‘i from Japan in Oct. 1912 to join his older brother, Fukutaro, and his father, Fukujiro, at Port Allen, Fukutaro enrolled him at ‘Ele‘ele School to learn English, and in Sept. 1913, Fukutaro sent H.S. to study at Mid-Pacific Institute on O‘ahu.
After graduating in 1922, H. S. joined Makaweli (later Olokele) Plantation as a store clerk and settled down to married life in a plantation house at Camp One with his wife, Tomo Kawakami, with whom he would have seven children.
But, he gradually became dissatisfied with a plantation hierarchy that placed Asians, with rare exception, in the lowest echelon.
Makaweli’s Japanese, Okinawan, Chinese and Filipino laborers, along with their families, lived in camps containing hundreds of small, packed-together houses constructed of rough 1×12-foot boards, one family to a house, with single men sharing a house.
While opposite Camp One there stood several dozen roomier houses with yards for supervisors, who were predominantly Portuguese.
And, above the plantation store, along a paved, tree-lined street, stood about 20, white-framed houses reserved for managers — all of whom were Caucasians.
H.S. set his sights on independence, learned the store trade and saved, and in 1926 he quit the plantation to open his own store in a rented building by the old Waimea Landing.
Later, in 1937, his friend, rancher and politician Charles Rice, sold him property in Lihu‘e to build a dry-goods and furniture store, and H.S. Kawakami Store, like the old Kress Store next door, became a Lihu‘e landmark for decades.
H.S. served in the Army during World War II while in his forties, and while stationed on the mainland, he became a United States citizen.
After the war, H.S. moved his Waimea store from Waimea Landing to downtown Waimea.
A few years after Tomo died in 1955, H.S. married Elsie Kawakami.
The business that H.S. founded at Waimea in 1926 eventually grew to include several Big Save Markets, gift shops, service stations and convenience stores, with a payroll of about 400 employees.