Hawai‘i Island Leaders

Hawai‘i Island Leaders

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Karleen C. Chinen

Commentary

It’s been a while since I’ve traveled, mainly because of my arthritic knees. But when I did travel a lot, the Big Island of Hawai‘i was one of my favorite places to spend time, even if I was working. It almost didn’t feel like work. At least in Hilo and up the Hämäkua Coast, it was so easy to make friends and to maintain those friendships. People trust each other; they support each other, and they have supported our efforts to share their stories with the rest of our state and with our subscribers on the continental U.S. It’s one of the reasons why our Hawai‘i Island issue continues to grow each year. Okagesama de . . . it is because of you, our Hawai‘i Island advertisers that this fourth Big Island issue was possible. I’d like to encourage our subscribers and readers to support the businesses that have chosen to support this issue and thank them for advertising in the Herald. Mahalo nui loa to these advertisers for their support.

Alumside Products, Inc.

Amano Fishcake, Inc.

Big Island Candies

Big Island Delights

Café 100

Country Samurai Coffee Company

Dodo Mortuary, Inc. & Crematory

Don’s Grill

Dragon Mama

Green Point Nurseries

Hawai‘i Printing Corporation

Hilo Lunch Shop

Hilo Termite & Pest Control, Ltd.

Japanese Community Association of Hawaii

Kadota Liquor/K’s Drive In

Kama‘aina Motors

Kawamoto Store

Kimura Lauhala Shop

KTA Super Stores

Lehua Physical Therapy & Rehab

Roy Kodani/”The Sound of Hilo Rain”

S. Tokunaga Store

Suisan

Tanimoto Dharma Designs

Two Ladies Kitchen

Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home

One thing that amazes me is the quality of leadership that Hawai‘i Island continues to produce. This issue features stories about several bright and thoughtful leaders. Two of them are especially worthy of spotlighting — yonsei Ka‘iu Kimura and sansei businessman Barry Taniguchi.

I’ve never met Ka‘iu, but I hope to someday. She sounds like a grounded woman — someone who knows, respects and cherishes what came before her and who will build on that past in charting paths for the future.

And then there is Barry Taniguchi. A while ago, the Rev. Yoshiaki Fujitani, former bishop of the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii, told me about a thought articulated by a Bishop Ohara, one of his predecessors. He said that Bishop Ohara said that even when he is not looking at the mountain, the mountain is always looking at him. I’m sure there is some spiritual significance in those words. My interpretation is not as spiritual, because the words crossed my mind as I thought about Barry Taniguchi.

Many, many years ago, when I first started doing interviews on Hawai‘i Island, I interviewed Lillian O’Connor, who did a Japanese language radio program for a station in Hilo. I had met with Mrs. O’Connor in the morning. That evening, I had been invited to a Japanese Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Hawai‘i Island event, probably an installation of officers. Mrs. O’Connor and I were seated at the same table. Suddenly, she leaned over to me and said, “Here come the Taniguchi boys.” I had no idea who she was talking about, but I look up in time to see a group of young men taking their seats at several tables in the banquet hall. Oh, so those are the Taniguchi boys. Back then, I didn’t even know that “the Taniguchi boys” hailed from KTA Super Stores.

Fast forward many years . . . My Uncle Chuck Yogi, who had managed several Times Super Markets on O‘ahu, had retired and resettled on his beloved Hawai‘i Island, where he was born and raised in Mountain View. While visiting with Uncle and Aunty Jean, he mentioned Taniguchi Store, which, I learned, is how all of the old-timers refer to KTA. Having been a super market manager himself, Uncle knew the difference between good service and bad. He knew the difference between treating shoppers as “just a customer” and “a valued friend” — and Uncle said KTA’s workers knew their customers like neighbors and friends. Other than that, I knew nothing about the Taniguchis.

But in the late 1990s, while doing some work for the Japanese American National Museum’s “From Bento to Mixed Plate,” which was curated by former Herald editor Arnold Hiura, I had the chance to work with and observe Barry — one of “the Taniguchi boys” — when he co-chaired the committee for the exhibit’s showing at the Lyman Museum in Hilo. Barry offered the committee the use of KTA’s mezzanine meeting room. I was impressed. He was involved and hands-on, but not overbearing. He offered good suggestions and asked pertinent questions. His mind and heart were present at every meeting. It was wonderful to see and work with a good leader.

I see Barry from time to time at events and am happy to call him a friend. Just a few days ago, while getting ready for work in the morning, I had the radio on to Hawaii Public Radio, which is part of my morning routine. HPR general manager Michael Titterton was talking about HPR-2, which is just a few weeks away from going live on Hawai‘i Island, thanks in large part, he said, to the support of Barry Taniguchi, whom he described as “a prince of a man.” That reminded me of Rev. Fujitani’s favorite thought from Bishop Ohara: “Even when I am not looking at the mountain, the mountain is always looking at me.”

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