Cover Story – Meeting Mitsuru Shimabukuro, Hawai‘i Senator’s Past Launches New Mission...

Cover Story – Meeting Mitsuru Shimabukuro, Hawai‘i Senator’s Past Launches New Mission in Japan

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Glenn Wakai
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

entered this world as Mitsuru Shimabukuro. My mom, originally from Okinawa, gave birth to me in Tökyö when she was 16 years old. As a child herself, she was in no position to care for me. Reluctantly, she left me in the care of an orphanage, hoping to reclaim me later. That never happened, and I was sent to Hawai‘i, where I was adopted by Calvin and Ruth Wakai, who allowed me to rewrite my destiny and live the American Dream.

My life’s journey has been filled with anguish, mystery, hope and happiness. I was 5 years old when my parents told me that I was adopted, so I grew up knowing I was adopted. Still, it was my deepest secret. During my hanabata days, I viewed it as a “disability” and thought I would be bullied. But it was easy to hide because I looked like my adoptive parents. They treated me like their own child and I viewed them as my God-given parents.

They were both Nisei. My father, Calvin, from Kapa’a, spent 35 years with Bank of Hawai‘i. My mother, Ruth, from Hilo, was a flight attendant for Pan American World Airways. One of her roles was to care for unaccompanied orphans from Japan and Korea on their way to America. Once they landed in Honolulu, her job was done. However, instead of leaving them at the airport for their connecting flight to the Mainland, my mom would take them home — bathe them, feed them and tuck them into bed. The next morning, she would take them back to the airport and send them off to begin their new lives in America. Today, that would be considered kidnapping. Back then, however, it was the right thing to do.

My parents could not have their own biological children, so it’s not surprising that they would adopt. They had planned on having just one child and adopted my older sister Sachi. But Sachi begged to have a little brother, and that’s how I ended up in Hawai‘i.

I was always curious about my past, but felt it was disrespectful to bring up the subject at home. I just went on with my life. I had a wonderful childhood growing up in Moanalua Valley. My mom and dad were strict, but always supportive of my unorthodox aspirations.

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Yoko Boughton and son Glenn at the Makapuu lookout in October 2014 during their first reunion since his birth 46 years earlier.

Yoko Boughton and son Glenn at the Makapuu lookout in October 2014 during their first reunion since his birth 46 years earlier.

Enjoying a beer in Okinawa last November. From left: David and Michael (Glenn’s half-brother) Boughton, Glenn and Miki Wakai and Yoko Boughton.

Enjoying a beer in Okinawa last November. From left: David and Michael (Glenn’s half-brother) Boughton, Glenn and Miki Wakai and Yoko Boughton.

In October 2015, Glenn Wakai and his mother had the opportunity to meet with Japan’s Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare, Yasuhisa Shiozaki, in Tökyö.

In October 2015, Glenn Wakai and his mother had the opportunity to meet with Japan’s Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare, Yasuhisa Shiozaki, in Tökyö.

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