The Hilo-based Japanese Community Association of Hawaii recently recognized two 100-plus-year Hawai‘i island businesses as its 2017 Nikkei Kigyo Award honorees — Dodo Mortuary Inc., established in 1898; and The Seaside Restaurant, established in 1915. The sold-out recognition banquet was held May 17 at Nani Mau Gardens. Translated into English, “Nikkei Kigyo” means “enterprise of Japanese ancestry.”
“We are indeed privileged to recognize both companies,” said JCAH president Ivan Nakano, noting that Dodo Mortuary is now led by Mitchell Dodo, representing the fourth generation in the Dodo family. The Seaside Restaurant is led by Colin Nakagawa, representing the third generation in the Nakagawa family.
Dodo Mortuary is one of the oldest and most respected mortuaries on Hawai‘i island and in Hawai‘i. It was established in 1898 by Mitsugoro Dodo, an immigrant from Hiroshima.
He was succeeded in the business by his son Richard, and then Richard’s eldest son, Clifford. Clifford started Dodo Mortuary Life Plan, Inc., and was instrumental in constructing the new chapel facility, enlarging the parking area and adding an on-site crematory in 1997. His brother Larry assumed the role of president after Clifford’s passing and held the position until he retired in 2007.
Clifford’s yonsei son, Mitchell, then assumed the position of vice president and operations manager. Mitchell’s mother, Beverly Dodo, serves as secretary/treasurer of the corporation.
Dodo Mortuary, Inc. & Crematory also opened an office in the Kona area in the 1980s. In January 2012, Dodo Mortuary acquired Cremation Services of West Hawai‘i.
The Seaside Restaurant & Aqua Farm was started by Issei (Harry) Seiichi Nakagawa and his wife Matsuno in the 1920s. The restaurant closed temporarily after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It reopened for business in August 1942. Damage from the tsunami forced the Nakagawas to relocate to the restaurant’s present location in Keaukaha, where they reopened in July 1947. They became famous for raising the fish served in their restaurant, mainly mullet and äholehole. Over the years, they also cultivated catfish, golden tilapia and rainbow trout. A system of gates allows small fish to enter the ponds from the sea while preventing larger fish from escaping.
The Seaside Restaurant has always been a family operation, with family members working as cooks, kitchen helpers, wait help, and more.
Seiichi’s and Matsuno’s son, Susumu, never planned on running the business, despite having done a variety of tasks related the operation of the aqua farm. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team veteran worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture as an entomologist, retiring in 1982. He then took over the business with help from his 442nd buddies.
After attending college and working for a time in the Seattle area, Susumu’s son, Colin, returned home to take over the business with a new direction that has earned it multiple culinary awards.
A portion of the proceeds from the Nikkei Kigyo awards banquet are earmarked for JCAH scholarships for East Hawai‘i students whose major or minor is Japanese studies; and to continue the organization’s mission of perpetuating Japanese culture. The 2017 scholarships were presented to Robert Tanoue Jr. of Honoka‘a High School; Mayuko Yoshida, currently attending Keio University in Tökyö; and Caitlyn Tsuchiya of Waiäkea High School.
The Japanese Community Association of Hawaii is a nonprofit organization. It was formed in the early 1970s is to promote and preserve the Japanese culture.