The first Japanese immigrants to the Islands, like the Chinese, appeared not long after Western contact, but the greatest numbers arrived in the mid-1800s to fill the labor needs of the sugar plantations.
The growth of the sugar industry as the base for the Hawaiian economy in the 1850s gave impetus to an increased demand for imported labor.
Japan was not open to Western recruitment until 1868; that year, the first group of 148 Japanese immigrants included 140 men, six women and two children.
In 1872, Politician Walter Murray Gibson declared to the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaiʻi: “You have considered the races that are desirable, not only to supply your needs of labor but to furnish an increase of population that will assimilate with the Hawaiian. …”
“We must look to races, who whilst being good workers, will not much affect the identity of the Hawaiian, and whose gradual influx will harmonize with, and strengthen, by the infusion of new blood, the native stock.”
“A moderate portion of the Japanese, of the agricultural class, will not conflict with the view that I present, and if they bring their women with them, and settle permanently in the country, they may be counted upon as likely to become desirable Hawaiian subjects.”
King Kalākaua visited Japan for ten days in 1881 while making a global tour. His meeting with Emperor Meiji improved the relationship of the Kingdom with the Japanese government, and an economic depression in Japan served as an impetus for agricultural workers to leave their homeland.
The US Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 stopped the flow of Chinese workers to the Islands; sugar planters turned to Japan. Farmers and peasants from southern Japan (mostly from the areas of Hiroshima, Yamaguchi and Kumamoto,) having suffered a series of crop failures at home, filled the Hawaiʻi jobs promising comparatively high wages.
The trickle of workers arriving in 1868 turned to a flood by 1886.
Earlier contracts which provided a wage of $4 a month plus food, housing and medical care were replaced with new arrangements for free steerage passage, wages per month of $9 for men and $6 for women, food allowance, lodging, medical care, fuel, no taxes and a required savings account. (Nordyke/Matsumoto)
While only 116-Japanese were reported as residents in the 1884 census of the Hawaiian Kingdom, the Territory of Hawaiʻi recorded 47,508-men and 13,603-women of the Japanese race in 1900. (Nordyke/Matsumoto)
The Russo-Japanese War (1904 –1905) was “the first great war of the 20th century.” It grew out of rival imperial ambitions of the Russian Empire and the Empire of Japan over Manchuria and Korea. With Vladivostok only operational during the summer season, Russians sought a warm water port on the Pacific Ocean for their navy, as well as for maritime trade.
Japanese residents on Kauaʻi raised funds to support Japan’s war effort. After the Japanese victory, in appreciation of the community’s support, Japan sent money to be used to build monuments honoring the Japanese soldiers who had lost their lives in the war.
In 1915, two such monuments were erected, one in Kapaʻa, the other in Līhuʻe. They were also intended to honor Emperor Taishō’s ascension to the throne that year.
Emperor Taishō was the 123rd Emperor of Japan, reigning from 1912, until his death in 1926. (The Emperor’s personal name was Yoshihito. He was followed by his son Hirohito.)
(A tasty side note: Emperor Taishō was initially exposed to new foods by the Western diplomatic corps. Through this exposure he created beef fried Taishō Tonkatsu. After World War I, his personal chef released this menu publicly. Today, Taishō Tonkatsu is a very popular dish.)
The Kapaʻa monument was a 15-foot Ishidōrō (stone lantern) placed across the dirt highway from Miura Store.
Over the centuries the Ishidōrō evolved and were adapted for the practical purpose of lighting the grounds of religious sites, and have since become popular by placing them (in varying sizes) in the gardens of tea houses and private residences.
The Kapaʻa project work was accomplished by JS Teraoka, Masanobu Nitta and Mr. Fujiwara; the Ishidōrō was made of concrete, designs etched in redwood were pressed into the wet concrete. Many plantation workers would stop by after their long work hours to help out. (Inspiration Journal)
For many, the monument represented the Japanese immigrants’ respect for their culture and homeland, and for others, their intention to return to their families and communities in Japan, after saving up money from plantation work on Kauaʻi.
However, as World War II heated up, anti-Japanese sentiments grew, and community pressure built to remove the monument. In April 1943, county work crews toppled and buried the massive structure.
According to The Garden Island newspaper, “The monuments were pulled down by the county in response to numerous protests from civilians who felt that they were inappropriate at this time when Russia is considered an ally of the United States.” A headline from The Garden Island stated, “Reminders of Japanese Victory Removed.” (Inspiration Journal)
Over the decades, the Ishidōrō was long forgotten.
Then, in 1972, some children playing at Kapaʻa Beach Park noticed a metal rod sticking out of the ground and feared people could get injured. The County crews working to remove it soon realized that it was part of the old Ishidōrō monument; Kauaʻi Historical Society stepped in and urged it be removed.
It was later re-erected through a community effort led by Mayor Tony Kunimura, the Kaua’i Historical Society and others. For the next 20 years, the damaged and aged lantern stood supported by steel braces.
In 2008, with funding from the Kauaʻi County/HUD Community Development Block Grant Program, the Ishidōrō was fully restored, through the efforts of the Kapaʻa Business Association and others.
Congratulations to the community and coordinators Larry Dill, Pat Pannell and Rayne Regush of the Kapa‘a Business Association, and Leadership Kaua‘i on earning a ‘2009 Leadership in History Award’ from the ‘American Association for State and Local History’ for the Japanese Stone Lantern Restoration, Kapaʻa, Kaua‘i.