Kauai Stories 1

Kauai Stories 1: Keeping Hula Alive (excerpt)

Kauai Stories 1 on AmazonLeinaala Pavao Jardin began dancing hula when she was three years old, continuing through high school and college, earning titles along the way including Miss Keiki (Child) Hula of Kauai, and winning the coveted Hawaiian Language Award at the Merrie Monarch Festival, the world’s most prestigious hula celebration. Leinaala became a kumu (teacher) and started her own hula halau (school) on Kauai in 1997 named Halau Ka Lei Mokihana o Leinaala. Her students continue to win numerous titles.

Leinaala’s dark eyes shine brightly as she speaks enthusiastically and joyfully about hula, laughing heartily and often, hands intuitively forming hula movements as she illustrates stories. She shares her journey to becoming a kumu, hula history on Kauai and the responsibility of keeping Hawaii’s traditional dance alive.



Hula is my passion. When I dance, I feel humbled but filled with pride. We are fortunate to be able to dance the hula because it was lost for so long.

I studied hula growing up on Kauai and that was my foundation, but when I went to the Big Island for college at the University of Hawaii at Hilo and joined Kumu Rae Fonseca’s halau (school), that’s when I really learned about hula. When he gave you your mele (song), he didn’t give you the English to it. It was in Hawaiian and you translated it together as a group, everybody dictionary in hand.

We learned how mele were composed. Normally if you’re writing a song about a loved one, you don’t even make mention of that loved one. You compare that person to a special flower or a special bird. Composers use the blossom as a metaphor for a loved one or a relationship. If a song is about surfing, the surfboard going in and out of the waves could be a metaphor for making love. That’s why when teaching hula, I’ve got to research the mele. You can’t just pick a song and teach it. If it’s a surfing song, you have no idea what’s behind it, and here I’m going to send out 12 little boys dancing this song!

When I studied with Kumu Rae, we made all our implements; we made all our leis. When I had been with his halau for only about three or four months, there were probably about 100 ladies trying out for the Merrie Monarch Festival and I got selected! Rae said, “Everybody has to sew their dresses.” So I called my mom and said, “You have to find me a seamstress.” Little did I know that he meant that we were going to sew our own dresses. That is when hula became real to me. It wasn’t store-bought.   

Read more of Leina'ala's story in Kauai Stories 1


Kauai Stories 1: Growing Up on Kauai (excerpt)

Kauai Stories 1 on AmazonHarry Yamanaka grew up in the 1930s and 1940s in Rice Camp, a settlement of small, wooden single-wall construction homes on dirt roads provided for employees by Kipu Sugar Plantation just southwest of Lihue. The privately-owned land of Kipu Kai is surrounded by the Hoary Head mountain range rising more than 2,000 feet, a pristine bay, and in those years, acres of sugar cane growing so tall it camouflaged the houses from outsiders. Harry was born the 10th of 13 children. His memories of growing up in Kipu bring the plantation camp alive again. 


I can still see the old plantation house in Rice Camp where our family of 15 lived. It was a typical wooden, single-walled house that was made available to all plantation field workers with four bedrooms and one living room. The kitchen was separate, adjoined by a walkway. We all fit in the house somehow. We doubled up, slept on the floor. As a child I didn’t think about it much because I didn’t know any better.

Our neighbors on one side were Filipino bachelors who worked long hours and tended to their roosters tethered in the yard. Our neighbors on the other side were the Kagawas. I remember clearly Jimmy, one of the Kagawa sons, and his irritating whistle to signal the kids in our household to keep quiet.

The area around the camp was full of peacocks, roosters and hens. No one was allowed to catch them, and Kauai was free of mongoose, a natural predator, so the birds were everywhere. They slept in trees and woke up early to announce their delight at the new day. The crowing and cawing were incessantly present in the early morning hours. Did you ever hear the loud scream from a peacock or guinea hen in the darkness of early morning? It did not bother me but I am sure it would not be the same for someone who has never experienced this.  

Read more about growing up on Kauai from Harry and other people in Kauai Stories 1



Kauai Stories 1: We Had to Prove Our Loyalty (excerpt)

Kauai Stories 1 on AmazonKazuma Monty Nishiie is an original member of the 100th Battalion that fought in World War II for the U.S. Army. At 100 years old, Kazuma is still trim and alert, his small frame barely a wisp over 5 feet tall, posture as straight as when he was a soldier. His alert eyes take in everything around him. He speaks seriously and thoughtfully, occasionally inserting wry humor into his responses with little change in facial expression. The secret to his health and longevity? He points skyward and says, “The man above,” then pausing for effect, and with a slight hint of a mischievous grin, says, “and young wife.” Celia, his “young wife” sitting next to him, laughs heartily.

Before responding to questions, Kazuma pauses, seeming to review images in his mind, recalling events that took place almost seven decades ago. He speaks in short, compact sentences, using the bare minimum of words required to get his point across.


My father was born in Japan. He came to Kauai as contract labor for Kilauea Sugar Plantation. Transportation in those days was very bad. Many months on the ocean. Took long time. Terrible conditions.

My father worked hard, long hours. My mother was picture bride. She came from Japan, met my father when she got off the ship. She was a teenager. I am oldest of 10 children, five girls, five boys. My mother, with 10 children, lot of work. Large family. Very hard living. (Shakes his head at the memory.)

When I was a boy, I fished at Kilauea Beach, caught papio, ulua, moi. We used tree branches or twigs for fishing poles. More fish then than nowadays. Hunted pig, too.

I went to work for the plantation when I was 15. All my small earnings went to support the family.


Kazuma was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1940. Soon after he became a member of the original 100th Battalion, a unit comprised entirely of Nisei, the first generation of American-born children of Japanese parents. One of Kazuma’s younger brothers also joined the military. When Pearl Harbor was bombed by Japan, emotions ran high throughout Hawaii. 


It was terrible, you know. Parents’ country bombing Pearl Harbor. Because our parents were living in America, they knew the children must be American, must be faithful. They used to tell us, “Do your best in the service.” We had to prove our loyalty.   

Read more about Kazuma Monty Nishiie, and three more of Kauai's WWII veterans in Kauai Stories 1



Kauai Stories 1: It's Magic (excerpt)

Kauai Stories 1 on AmazonIn 1975, modern voyagers began sailing aboard Hokulea, a handsome 62-foot long double-hulled, twin-masted canoe built as a working replica of ancient Polynesian sailing vessels. Hokulea is navigated using only the same tools available to early Polynesians: stars and planets, sun, moon, wind, ocean swells, cloud formations, patterns of migratory birds and other forms of natural guidance, collectively called “wayfinding.” 

Keala Kai, a strong and gentle Hawaiian man, speaks poetically of his experiences sailing Polynesian-style and the connection he made with his ancestors while aboard Hokulea. A former professional lifeguard who was born and raised on Kauai, Keala was invited on his first Hokulea voyage in 2005 when he was 47 years old. Since then, he has sailed on Hokulea from Fukuoka, Japan to Oshima and then onto Uwajima; and from Hawaii to Palmyra Atoll in the central Pacific. After returning from his voyages, Keala was inspired to launch a new career as an artist, drawing intricate pencil sketches of sailing canoes of all shapes and sizes on canvasses and for his own line of clothing.


Sailing Among the Stars

The first thing that kind of grabs you is the sound a voyaging canoe makes when it’s just sitting. All the tension of the cords and the sails, it’s almost like the canoe is alive and it wants to go somewhere.

Before I ever sailed on Hokulea, I was sitting on a box on the canoe one day when she was moored at Nawiliwili Harbor on Kauai. Dennis Chun and other people that I read about in school, were discussing a sailing plan to Oahu. If I had just had that one moment, that would have been enough for me, just to be on the canoe with these people. Then out of the blue, Dennis and John Kruse (the first Kauai resident to sail on Hokulea), turned around at the same time and said, “Hey, Keala, what you doing tomorrow? You want to go sailing with us?” I had a lump in my throat and couldn’t answer. I just nodded.

My great-grandmother could speak Hawaiian but I can’t. But the next morning before we left, when we formed a circle on the canoe and the prayer was said in Hawaiian, it’s almost like some kind of ancestral knowledge came over me and I understood exactly what they were saying, even though I didn’t know the words. I could feel it. It was electric.

Then we went sailing.

Someone told me, “When you’re out there, the stars come down so low, it’s like Hokulea is lifting you up into the heavens, and you’re sailing among the stars.” Whenever you go aboard the Hokulea, it’s magic.   

Read more about sailing aboard Hokulea from Keala and two others in Kauai Stories 1


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