Minoru Inaba, the third of nine children, was born on February 20, 1904, in Holualoa, Kana. His parents, Hatsuyo and Zentaro Inaba, were immigrants.
“I think they came here during the latter part of the 1890s. Mother came to Kona with my father – that is, Kitao – and my stepfather came from Papaikou to Kana. He was one of the contract laborers in Papaikou.”
“My father was Zentaro Inaba. That’s my stepfather. My mother was Hatsuyo Inaba. Her maiden name was Hatsuyo Miyamoto. Now, my real father, when I was very young, left for the Mainland. And subsequent to that, my [step]father came to Kona and married my mother. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t know my real father. Ever since my childhood, my father was Zentaro Inaba.”
There were nine of us. Seven boys and two girls. The oldest in my family is my sister. She’s Mrs. Ikeda. Then came Albert. By the way, he was the first principal of Japanese extraction in the state. At that time, of course, it was a territory. He became principal of the Honaunau School. Then he moved to Molokai. During his latter years, he became principal of the Molokai High and Elementary School.”
“Then, I’m the third in the family. Below me there are six. Now, right below me is my sister Fukumi. She was teaching at Pahala. … Then comes Yoshio, who’s an engineer. He served, at one time, for the county as a county engineer under Jimmy Kealoha, who was at that time the executive officer of the County of Hawaii. Now, the office is called the mayor’s office.”
“Then comes Norman Inaba. He’s in business in Honolulu. He has a industrial loan company and also a realty business. Then, next comes Goro, who is now at Holualoa. He has a service station and runs the hotel that mother and father built back in 1926. Then comes Futoshi. He’s in contracting in Hilo. Then, next comes Jimmy Inaba, who’s an auditor.”
Minoru’s parents “built that hotel – Kona Hotel – in 1926. So, they were running the hotel. … Father used to cook, and mother used to clean the rooms and so on. And they had a girl there that did the rooms. Mother did the laundry and things like that. And father did the cooking.”
“Who were the people who used to stay at the hotel? … Oh, most of them were salesmen … Travelling salesmen. Then, we’d have tourists come in once in a while. Because, at that time, the only hotels were the Kona Inn and Manago Hotel in Kona. And, of course, my folks’ hotel.”
“I guess his cooking ability was the reason they opened the hotel. The hotel food was western and Father was quite a cook. He always served soup which was well liked by the customers … beef soup.” (Minoru Inaba, Social History)
Minoru attended English and Japanese-language school in Holualoa. In 1925, he was one of five students in Konawaena High School’s first graduating class. During his youth, he was active in kenbu (Japanese interpretive dances performed with the aid of a sword), baseball and football.
He worked on the family coffee farm, “there was no other industry in Kona except coffee farming, and the sugar plantation, for a while. And of course, ranching, they had from way back. There was no tourism. No other businesses except coffee farming in Kona.”
“We picked coffee during the day, and then in the late afternoon, grind the coffee so that it could be dried the following morning. In those days, we used to have a coffee platform. We’d spread the coffee out on the platform, and if it looked like rain, we had to push the coffee up to the edge of the platform and cover it with galvanized iron.”
“Then, later on, somebody thought of an idea where the platform would be covered by a moving contraption, where you could move the whole roof on a track. When it rained, you just push it back. When it was sunny, you’d push it out so that the coffee would dry.”
“You know, when you in the seventh grade like that, to carry one bag of coffee was quite a chore. And load three bags on a donkey and come up the trail. When it rain, the donkey would slip on the trail, fall. Had to unload the coffee, get the donkey up, load it again. I know, many times, I used to cry.” (Minoru Inaba)
Until 1925, Minoru took on many jobs – helping on the family coffee farm, doing canefield work, driving a taxi and school bus, working at a sisal mill, working at the telephone exchange, and doing postal work at Holualoa.
Later, Minoru attended the University of Hawaii, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in education in 1929. In subsequent years, he served as teacher, counselor, coach and vice-principal. He retired in 1968.
“As time went on, I think there’s been a change. It’s vastly different from what it is today than what it was before. As I said, I think, back when I was counselor, they respected law and order more than they do now. They had little more respect for teachers and the elders.”
“But I wouldn’t say that of every youngster today, but I’m speaking in general terms, now. You don’t have that kind of respect that the early youngsters had for their teachers and their elders today.” (Inaba)
Inaba’s 38 years as a teacher, coach, and vice principal at Konawaena High School from the 1920s made him a respected figure. “He had the respect of two generations. He taught fathers and children,” said Kona rancher and former County Councilman Sherwood Greenwell. (Thompson)
“(A)fter having been with the Department of Education for 38 years, I thought maybe I was due for a good rest and do the things that I wanted to do like fishing, things like this. But it didn’t turn out that way.”
“After I retired, in fact, the year that I retired, people approached me, the community people, and asked me if I would not run for elected office.”
“Not having had any experience, I said definitely no, I’m not interested in running for office but upon so many people coming to my home and insisting I run, I finally decided to run and in 1968 I ran for the office of representative from our district (and served for 10-years).” (Inaba, Social History of Kona)
“What Inaba had done as an educator to build individuals, he did for Kona’s physical facilities as a legislator. Inaba obtained money for a new Kona Hospital, to expand Honokohau Harbor, to drill a new water well, making a community water system possible.”
“I can remember the days (before the well) when we all had water tanks in Kona,” said Marnie Herkes of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce. Inaba brought money to his district “unfailingly,” Greenwell said. (Thompson) Inaba died June 6, 2002.
Here’s a link to a Kona Historical Society video that includes Minoru Inaba: