Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
“Okinawa is such a beautiful place, not just the ocean and scenery and culture, but the people. I’ve been treated well and taken care of by many people here in what has become ‘My Hawai‘i.’” — Colin Sewake
LOCATION: Urasoe, January 2017
Keiko’s older sister Yasuko is married to a rice farmer and they live in Hokkaidö, the northernmost prefecture of Japan. She flies home to Okinawa, the southernmost prefecture of Japan, every January to visit the family.
During Yasuko’s visit earlier this year, we picked her up from Naha Airport and stopped at Takayesu Soba in Urasoe for a bite to eat on the way to their oldest brother’s house in Awase. I was finally able to introduce Keiko to owner Fukue Takayesu, who came out from the back to talk with us once things had settled down.
I met Fukue-san last year when Okinawa-Hawaii Kyoukai (association) president Choko Takayama asked me to help her find the graves and Hawai‘i relatives of her late husband’s family. In September of last year, she and her two younger sisters made arrangements to come to Hawai‘i. They planned a day trip to Hilo to hakamairi (grave visitation), even if they didn’t know the location of the ohaka (grave) or whether any relatives were still alive.
A black-and-white photograph of two family members’ ohaka, with Hilo Bay in the background, seemed to suggest that the location was ‘Alae Cemetery, just north of Hilo. With their departure less than a week away, I quickly emailed everyone on my blast list, as well as my Hilo relatives, to see if anyone could assist with any information.
Less than four hours later, my Sewake cousin drove out to ‘Alae Cemetery and confirmed that the ohaka were indeed located there. A short time later, my UH dorm friend and Hilo resident, Robert Kaneshiro, confirmed that the Takayesu ohaka were located right next to his Kaneshiro family’s gravesite — he had just come back from ohakamairi. Imagine that!
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Colin Sewake is a keiki o ka ‘äina from Wahiawä, O‘ahu, who was assigned to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa in December 1994 to fulfill his U.S. Air Force ROTC commitment. He met his future wife, Keiko, within a month and decided to make Okinawa his permanent home. Colin retired from the Air Force and, recently from the Air Force Reserves. He now works as a customer service representative for Hotel Sun Palace Kyuyokan in Naha. Colin and Keiko have two teenaged children and make their home in Yomitan.