Japanese came to Hawai‘i to work on the plantations between 1885 and 1924, when limits were placed on the numbers permitted entry.
“The government contract workers who arrived in Hawaii in the 1880s did not have much time or energy to worry about their children’s education.”
“Their only aim was to make enough money to return to Japan. With mothers going to work from early in the morning the children were virtually left to themselves all day long.”
“Takie Okumura, posted in Hawaii as a minister after his graduation from Doshisha University, was astonished as he made his pastoral rounds at how little communication the immigrant children had with their parents.” (Duus)
“Christian missionary Reverend Takie Okumura, who started Honolulu’s ﬁrst Japanese language school, was moved by a little girl’s peculiar Japanese: ‘Me mama hanahana yōkonai’ in response to his question ‘Are you with your mother?’[“
“He learned that ‘me mama’ was pidgin for ‘my mother’, ‘hanahana’ was the Hawaiian word for ‘work,’ and ‘yōkonai’ was a Japanese expression equivalent to ‘cannot come.’”
“Okumura credits this exchange for his strong urge to establish a school.”
“After several failed attempts to receive support from either the Japanese consul general in Honolulu or politicians in Japan, Reverend Okumura decided to establish a school independently.”
“On April 6, 1896, he opened the Nihonjin Shōgakkō (Japanese Elementary School) in a room of the Queen Emma Hall, originally used as Queen Emma’s residence, with 30 students. Okumura purchased desks and chairs from $15 in donations and was able to use the room for free.”
“The ﬁrst Japanese language program at a public school was established at McKinley High School in Honolulu on October 1, 1924.
“The first instructor of Japanese language at the public school was University of Hawaii Japanese Professor Tasuku Harada, who had a close relationship with Reverend Okumura. Harada was a former president of Dōshisha University (Congregationalist).” (Asato)
“Both Harada and Okumura were on the Japanese committee of the Hawaiian Evangelical Association and members of the Textbook Revision Joint Committee.”
“This Japanese language program was arranged by the Committee for Oriental Language Studies, chaired by University of Hawaii President Arthur L. Dean, who also was an American member of the Joint Committee for Textbook Revision.”
“The minutes of the Japanese committee of the Hawaiian Evangelical Association, dated September 10, a month before the Japanese program at McKinley High School began, reveals who was involved with this movement.”
“During the meeting, Treasurer Theodore Richards expressed his concern about female high-school students who attended the Hongwanji School for advanced Japanese language study, saying that they ‘were getting led away from Christianity.’”
“Richards was discussing the Hongwanji Girls’ High School (Hawai Kōtō Jogakkō) established in 1910, the girls’ counterpart of Hongwanji’s junior high school, Hawai Chūgakkō, established three years earlier.”
“Okumura and Imamura had a long history of confrontation over creating their own high schools. Imamura invited Ryūsaku Tsunoda, who later established Japanese Studies at Columbia University, to be principal of the ﬁrst Japanese junior high school, the Hawai Chūgakkō.”
“Okumura tried to compete by offering a junior-high-school-level class at his “secular” Honolulu Nihonjin Shōgakkō, although this advanced class was short-lived because of low enrollment.”
“Then, in 1910 the Hongwanji Girls’ High School opened, and Okumura again countered by expanding his Japanese school with both its junior high school and girls’ school, renaming it the Hawaii Chūō Gakuin or Central Institute.”
“So it was no surprise that in 1924, after discussion, the Evangelical Association appointed Harada and Okumura to ‘investigate the matter of organizing a Japanese high school.’”
“At their next meeting, on October 8, 1924, Reverend William D. Westervelt reported that Japanese instruction at McKinley High School was arranged by working with Superintendent Willard E. Givens, University of Hawaii President Dean, DPI supervisor of foreign language schools Henry B. Schwartz and McKinley High School Principal Miles E. Cary. “
“Westervelt also reported that the University of Hawaii agreed to recognize the credits students earned from the Japanese program at the high school as entrance credits for the university. Okumura stated that ‘this plan was satisfactory for the present taking care of the Japanese High School teaching’”.
“Although Japanese instruction began at public schools in 1924, it did not seem to prosper. Besides McKinley High School, only one other public school seems to have offered Japanese. Reverend Kikujiro C. Kondo of the Hawaiian Evangelical Association began teaching Japanese at Maui High School in 1925 while taking care of the Paia church on Maui.”
“Reverend Kondo later moved to Honolulu to take over the McKinley High School Japanese program from Mr. Kunimoto, Harada’s successor, in 1926.” (Asato)