Before, I forget, I want to put this in writing. One of my most memorable times was hanging out with some of the 100th Battalion veterans at Hanagasu Inn the night before their 65th Anniversary luncheon on I believe June 23, 2007 where we had food and drinks, and sang karaoke. All the patrons and veterans were senior in age and they all sang Japanese songs. There is one Japanese song that I memorized, “Shimauta”, which is an Okinawan song about the love for the island. When I sang that song with my friend Stacey, the place went nuts. The veterans were so excited, they took pictures and a waitress began to dance. I felt, I had a glimpse of what it was like in the old days. I also felt sad because in the future, many in my generation may never get to experience this because the Japanese language and culture is dying in Hawaii. Stacey and I are so fortunate. This has got to be one of my best life experiences that made me feel more complete in life.
Monthly Archives: August 2007
As this is the obon season, it is a time when our ancestors visit us and and a time when we celebrate their lives as well as ours. I am reminiscing my Grandma Bessie Karamatsu's funeral at Jodo Mission Hawaii in April 2006. I remember Bishop Nakamura's statement to my grandma in front of the audience, “You don't have to rush to the pure land. Take your time. But when you do get there, Maurice Karamatsu is waiting for you in a temple he built out of Karamatsu trees.”
This weekend, I volunteered with a number of my friends at the Jodo Mission of Hawaii Bon Dance held on August 17 and 18 where I serve as Vice President of the board of directors. Saturday, August 18 was especially fun because while we were cooking the barbeque beef sticks, Mr. Robert “Bob” Shimoda came by with a small cup of sake for me. I toasted him.
Mr. Shimoda who I believe is 91 years old, was one of my Grandpa Maurice Karamatsu’s good friends. Mr. Shimoda said Maurice Karamatsu (Passed away on May 14, 1992 at 79 years old), Stephen Kotake (Passed away on March 26, 2001 at 87 years old), and himself were friends since they were kids. They used to play marbles when they were young. They all grew up to be successful businessmen and were active in Jodo Mission of Hawaii or otherwise known as Jodo Shu. They called themselves “sanbagarasu” or “three black birds”. The three of them did everything together: business, politics, church, karaoke, drink, or just hang out. During bon dance, they used to drink sake in the yagura (a covered tower where the musicians are on top and the sound system is on the bottom). This past Saturday at the bon dance, my friends Brandon, Jon, Ian, and my cousin Grant and I drank beer and sake with Mr. Shimoda and a few others in the yagura as all the dancers danced around us, most unaware of our little party. The time I spent with Mr. Shimoda that night felt very special. It was one of my best moments in my life. I could picture Mr. Kotake and my grandpa Karamatsu smiling with their dear friend. At least twice that night, Mr. Shimoda told me, “Someday I will join them…someday.”
My friend Linda will undergo brain surgery this Friday to prevent an artery from bursting. I met her four years ago and have been friends with her since. She is an amazing person. When she was nineteen years old she moved to Hawaii from Michigan, single and pregnant. She worked in the bar scene to make ends meet. She later got her real estate license and began her career in realty and real estate investment, eventually creating her own company. By the time she reached her thirties, she was very successful in real estate, which led her to teaching courses and writing a book about doing business in real estate. Now in her late thirties, it is hard to believe she is facing this health situation because she is so young. She is strong and a go-getter so I know she will pull through and be all right.
One evening in July 2007, I met my friend Brandon to eat beef pho, a Vietnamese soup at a restaurant on Waialae Avenue. We were supposed to do some political strategy. I was feeling a little down but I didn't tell him. I was surprised when he told me out of the blue, “The longer you live, the more you can do.”
On the morning of August 11, 2007, I dreamt I was hanging out with business and community leaders at my grandpa Maurice Karamatsu's house. He seemed happy and proud of me. He asked them if they wanted ice cream in the refrigerator, which he said he usually had for the kids. When he was alive, we used to stop by at Baskin Robins to get ice cream after a dinner at a restaurant. He loved French Vanilla ice cream. In the dream, I wanted to talk to him because I didn't talk to him much when he was alive (He passed away on May 14, 1992 when I was only seventeen years old). I wasn't able to because I was awakened by a phone call before I could talk to him.
After my grandpa Tadao Sakai passed away in 1999, I had a dream where I was climbing a mountain with him. He climbed to the top of the mountain with super human speed while I was struggling like a normal human. When he reached the top of the mountain, he spoke to me but no sound came out of his mouth. I think he was finally free because in 1995 he suffered a stroke that left him mentally and physically challenged. Grandpa Sakai and I was very close since I was a baby. He is the kindest man I have ever known.
Grandma Ellen Sakai died from cancer in 2001, weeks before I graduated from Gonzaga University School of Law. She wanted to attend my graduation but her cancer was rapid and it took her quickly. The day she was dying, I had a sick feeling in my stomach while I was at a lunch pizza party at the law school. I wanted to go back to my apartment and get some papers that I really did not need, but I was persistent in going back. When I got back to my apartment, my phone was ringing. It was my dad and I knew something was wrong because he rarely called me. He placed the phone by my grandma's ear and told me to say my last words to her as she slipped away. I told her I loved her. Strangely, my entire family in Hawaii and all five cousins living on the mainland because of college were able to say goodbye. I would not have a dream of her until about four years after her death.
Grandma Bessie Karamatsu died on April 1, 2006. In the year preceding her death, I showed more interest in my culture and Jodo Shu. Although she didn't say anything, I could tell she was happy. The following is an entry in my journal on the early morning of the day she died. She died later that day in the afternoon.
“I have been told that it has been raining in Hawaii for forty-three days straight. I thought this only happens in movies or books. It's been raining since the beginning of my grandma's medical challenges. I like to believe this beautiful place we call Hawaii where my grandma lived a full life is crying with us. I will not forget this time period. Yesterday, before my grandma was taken off life support, the head minister for Jodo Shu and another minister came to her bedside to pray for her with the family. The head minister is a friend of my late Grandpa Karamatsu and my grandma because of their strong involvement with the temple. My grandfather was president of the council for Jodo Shu Hawaii and my grandma helps the ministry with everything like fundraising and Obon Festival. She, by the way, is a great Obon dancer. My sisters and I had fun dancing with her. Everyone was very emotional during the service. My dad, mom, aunty, and uncle were the few that stayed in the room when my grandma was taken off life support. As they were taking the tubes off her, I put my hands in gakushyo and prayed for her. I noticed my dad was doing the same. As I closed my eyes and prayed, I couldn't stop the tears. After she was detached from the system, the sun came up. Last night, the time between her breaths were getting longer, a sign of her getting tired. I overslept, but slept well, so I better get back and check on my grandma. Take care.”
After her death, months later, I dreamt of her.
All of these dreams of my grandparents felt so good. I miss them dearly.
In May, I attended a National Conference for State Legislatures in Washington D.C. for leadership across the country (i.e. Speaker, Vice Speaker, Majority Leader, Senate President, Senate Vice President).
In June, my dad, mom, sister Mia, sister Lara, and I vacationed in California. We went to Yosemite National Park where Mia, Lara, and I climbed to the top of the Half Dome, a mountain. The hike was about 17.2 miles. Later we went to see the huge Sequoia trees at Sequoia National Park. Finally we went to Disneyland and celebrated Mia's graduation from her residency program in pediatrics. She is now in a three-year fellowship for child trauma care in Loma Linda.
In July, I went to Las Vegas with my friends. The highlight was watching Celine Dion perform and winning $300 in $25 minimum bet black jack at the Playboy Club at the Palms Hotel.
From August 4 to 10, I attended the 2007 Annual National Conference for State Legislatures in Boston. I attended seminars regarding dispute resolution, ethics, and international trade.