Architect Extraordinaire Frank Futoshi Arakawa

Architect Extraordinaire Frank Futoshi Arakawa

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Marion M. Arakawa

Reprinted with Permission

Editor’s note: The following story on a little-known figure in Hawai‘i’s history, gifted architect and engineer Frank Futoshi Arakawa, is reprinted from “Aloha ‘Äina, Volume II: More Big Island Memories.” Special thanks to the book’s editor Gloria Kobayashi, a Hilo resident and a retired librarian, for allowing us to share this story with our readers.

“He left a legacy through the service he provided to Hawai‘i County as architect and engineer and in the many educational and municipal structures he designed that still stand today.”

— Paula Thomas, “This Beautiful House” in Ke Ola “The Life” Hawai‘i Island Edition, January-February 2014

Frank Futoshi Arakawa, the second child and only son of Kohei Arakawa and Chiyo Masaki Ota, was born on April 9, 1891, in Kula, Maui. He had an older sister, Masayo, and two younger sisters, Machiyo and Tokiyo. When their infant daughter, Tokiyo, died of measles, Chiyo and Kohei made a decision to quit the isolated existence of Kula and seek a living in Hilo. The year was 1896. The impressions of the journey remained in the 5-year-old boy’s memory throughout his life — he nostalgically recalled the descent on muleback from Kula to the seaport, the excitement of his first view of the ocean and the marvel of an electric light bulb on the boat.

Kohei and Chiyo Arakawa opened a small dry goods store, first on Kamehameha Avenue, next on Furneaux Lane and the third location on Keawe Street. The couple peddled their wares of Japanese goods to fellow immigrants living in outlying rural areas. They made their rounds on horse-drawn wagons, their merchandise packed in kori (wicker trunks).

In the earlier years, the parents must have felt disappointment and chagrin when their son was expelled from the Hongwanji Japanese language school. The boy was a sixth-grader, an intelligent-enough student, but did not apply himself to studies, instead becoming a leader of a mischievous gang of truants, disrupting the strict routine of classes. For a short period, he was enrolled at the Sokabe School in Honomü. Years later, when he returned to Hilo as a college graduate, the former principal of the school expressed disbelief that this could be the same unruly youngster he had expelled.

Futoshi’s studies in the English schools progressed without incident. He started at Hilo Union School and completed his courses to become one of the seven graduates of the first graduating class of Hilo High School in 1909. In a message in the Commemorative Yearbook on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Hilo High School in 1956, he wrote the following, which is excerpted: “This was something new, especially for the Japanese parents who came to Hawai‘i as immigrants. They believed that graduation from grammar school was sufficient for their children, and after that, they should go out and work and earn their own living. Luckily, my parents were broadminded enough to let me continue.”

During his high school years, he worked as an office boy in the law firm of Carl S. Carlsmith, where his sister Masayo was employed as a stenographer. Mr. Carlsmith became his mentor and through his encouragement and referral, he entered Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.

Before matriculating at Stanford, he enrolled at Watsonville High School in California for a semester, where he acquired the necessary credits that he lacked. That summer’s experience was picking strawberries in the Pajaro Valley and another summer was spent as a houseboy at a wealthy gentleman’s estate in Hillsborough. Several summers later, he returned to Hilo, his passage paid with wages he earned painting backdrops of stage scenery for local shibai (Japanese theatre) performances. He also learned to become a talented stage makeup artist.

Futoshi was awarded a degree in civil engineering from Stanford University, Class of 1914. For a while, he pondered on the furtherance of his education at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), but in late November 1914, he returned to Hilo to establish a practice in his hometown.

The Army career of Futoshi Arakawa commenced when he entered the Hawai‘i National Guard in Hilo. He was inducted into active service during World War I as a sergeant and was commissioned a second lieutenant after completion of Officers Candidate School at Schofield Barracks. He was stationed at Fort Shafter, Hawai‘i. After his honorable discharge from active duty, he continued serving in the U.S. Army Reserve until 1924. He was a member of the American Legion Hilo Post and the Chicago-Nisei Post 1183.

Frank Arakawa designed the Hilo District Courthouse and Police Station, now the home of the East Hawai‘i Cultural Center/Hawai‘i Museum of Contemporary Art on Kaläkaua Avenue. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places. (From Historic Hawai‘i Foundation)

Frank Arakawa designed the Hilo District Courthouse and Police Station, now the home of the East Hawai‘i Cultural Center/Hawai‘i Museum of Contemporary Art on Kaläkaua Avenue. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places. (From Historic Hawai‘i Foundation)

Futoshi met Haru Tachibana in Honolulu when he was an Army officer and she was a young Japanese language school teacher. They were married in Honolulu on Jan. 12, 1920. Futoshi brought his bride to live in the house that extended to the back of his parents’ store facing Kïlauea Avenue. Futoshi joined the staff of the Hawai‘i County Engineer’s office and Haru resumed teaching at Dokuritsu School.

The decades of the ’20s and ’30s were the formative growing years of their six children: a son David, and five daughters: Marion, Eva, June, Kay and Sylvia. In the early ’30s, they moved to their new home on Kino‘ole Street, across the street from the Foreign Church.

Frank, the name he chose to be known as, was appointed deputy engineer and architect for the County of Hawai‘i. In addition to his duties with the County, he engaged in private practice, designing residences, business establishments, religious edifices, etc. throughout the island of Hawai‘i. At times, he was called upon for surveying jobs. (Futoshi Arakawa was a registered professional architect and engineer, qualified in the civil and structural branches, holding certificate No. 48 of the Territorial Board of Registration for Professional Engineers, Architects, and Surveyors, Territory of Hawai‘i. He kept his registration active throughout his professional career.)

During his prewar period, Frank joined the many activities sponsored by the local Japanese community. Among the events were arrivals of Japanese merchant marine training ships, Hilo being included in their ports of call. He became a greeter, extending all the warmth of Hawai‘i and hospitality to the officers and cadets who trained on those ships.

Dec. 7, 1941, was the day of the Dokuritsu Bazaar. The shattering news of the Pearl Harbor attack brought the bazaar to a close. It was the day that crushed his very existence. His hopes and dreams of a continuous good life for his family perished.

They came for him, two local law enforcement officers, and asked him to step outside. It was 8 p.m. on that day, Dec. 7, 1941. Mama packed his few belongings. The officers said he’d need change of clothes for just three days. He was led away in the dark, and that darkness was to remain with him and the ones he left behind for 385 days.

The days and weeks passed and not a word from him. Rumors ran rampant . . . someone had seen them (the interned ones) in Waimea; others said they were at Volcano. When January was more than half over, it was confirmed that they were at KMC (Kïlauea Military Camp at Volcano).

The very first word from Papa came in his letter dated Jan. 17, 1942. He asked Mama to look for a newspaper clipping of a speech he had made many years ago in which he declared that when there is war between the United States and Japan, he would readily take up arms against Japan. Mama located the material in Papa’s desk drawer and sent it to the Provost Marshal as he had requested.

On the final day of Papa’s hearing, an acquaintance who worked for the court system rushed to our house. Papa had been granted permission to see his children and if we hurried, there might be a chance for a meeting. It was for a brief and heartfelt moment, the meeting with Papa on the portico of the Federal Building outside the second floor courtroom. Papa’s hearing had ended and the guards were ready to take him back to Volcano. Sadly, he watched as his barefooted children were being led away, down the side stairwell.

On a cool Sunday afternoon a month after Papa’s hearing, the seven of us packed into Nobuo-san’s aqua sedan for the long ride to Volcano. Nesan chauffeured us to Kïlauea Military Camp for our final visit with Papa. Papa and the first contingent of internees were being shipped away to an undisclosed internment camp away from the Big Island. Possibly, this new camp could be on the Mainland. Papa had requested that we send him warm clothing. He had already executed his power of attorney to Obachan.

We said our good-byes on a Sunday in February in the barracks at KMC. He was being shipped away to places unknown. Frank Arakawa was 50 years old.

He later settled in Chicago and never returned to live in Hawai‘i. He died in August 1977 at the age of 86. His remains are interred at ‘Alae Cemetery in Wainaku on Hawai‘i Island.

“Aloha ‘Äina, Volume II: More Big Island Memories” is a valuable collection of Big Island stories. Volume II was published last year by the East Hawai‘i Cultural Center/Hawai‘i Museum of Contemporary Art, where the book is available for purchase. Call (808) 961-5711, or email admin@ehcc.org to order.

Buildings designed by Frank Futoshi Arakawa, Deputy County Engineer, County of Hawai‘i

• Pacific Building (Hilo, 1922)

• P.L.A. Building (Hilo, 1922)

• Tanimoto Building (Hilo, 1922)

• Lyman Residence (Hilo, 1922)

• Hilo High School (Hilo, 1926)

• Honoka‘a School (Honoka‘a, 1927)

• St. Joseph’s Parish Hall (Hilo, 1927)

• Honokaa Union Church (Honoka‘a, 1927)

• Hawaii Transportation Co. (Hilo, 1927)

• Hilo Intermediate School (Hilo, 1928)

• Manago Hotel (Captain Cook, Kona, 1929)

• English Standard School (Hilo, 1929)

•YMCA Administration Building (Hilo, 1929)

• District Courthouse and Police Station (on the National Register of Historic Places) (Hilo, 1932)

• Honpa Hongwanji Hilo Betsuin (Hilo)

• Oto Hospital (Hilo)

• Dr. T. Oto Residence (Kaümana)

• B.P.O.E. Building (Hilo)

• Hilo Fire Station (Hilo)

As referenced in Ke Ola Magazine:

• Saiki Residence (now Maureen’s Bed and Breakfast) (Keaukaha)

• Ka‘u High and Pähala Elementary School (Pähala)

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