By Carl Wright
Published in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin
Wednesday, June 5, 1974.
Hiroshima, labeled in the world's memory as the 1945 target of the first atomic bomb, has another and much older significance for Hawaii.
The city of Hiroshima, and the surrounding prefecture of the same name, was the most prolific single source of Japanese emigration to Hawaii.
The main period of emigration got under way in 1885, and over the next four decades tens of thousands of Japanese left their homeland for Hawaii.
HIROSHIMA WAS NOT THE ONLY prefecture to export people, and many set out from Yamaguchi, Kanagawa, Okayama, Kumamoto, Shizuoka and Fukuoka prefectures, and elsewhere.
But basic reference books at Hiroshima Municipal Library, particularly "Hiroshima Prefectural Peoples History in America" and "Hiroshima Prefectural Emigrants History Tables," show Hiroshima clearly dominant as a source.
Historians suggest the depression of 1884-1885 was the force behind the original emigration.
It is also recorded that the farm and fisherman folk of Hiroshima Prefecture had the reputation of seeking work far from home, especially in poor times.
Asked by this writer to pinpoint a section of Hiroshima historically identified with emigration, both Kazuharu Hamasaki, director of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, and Shinobu Sueno, librarian at the Municipal Library, pointed to Nihomachi.
SOUTH OF THE CITY PROPER and then separated from it by open fields and rice paddies, the Nihomachi of a century ago consisted of six small villages clustered around some low hills at the edge of the Inland Sea.
The six villages of Nihomachi - Ooka, Tanna, Hiuna, Fuchisaki, Hon-ura, and Mukainada - have contributed many well-known names to the Honolulu community, names like:
Hideo Kawano, chairman of H. Kawano and Co.; Yoichiro Uyeda of Uyeda Shoe Store, and dentist Ken Kuwata.
Or names like Shurei Hirozawa, former business editor fo the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and now a First Hawaiian Bank vice president; Kats Miho, the attorney, and the Sumidas of Honolulu Sake Brewery & Ice Co.
LOOKING BACKWARD, stockbroker Kawano acknowledges that poor times contributed to the Nihomachi emigration.
"But many came to Hawaii just to make a buck and return home. And, when T. Sumida did so well in Hawaii that he could hire some Tanna folks to join him here, others figured they could do well, too."
Kawano said the location of a big labor-recruiting office close to Nihomachi also made it easy to sign up for a job in Hawaii.
THE HONOLULU STOCKBROKER estimates that 600 to 700 people emigrated to Hawaii from Nihomachi between 1885 and the 1920s.
"That number has now multiplied several times over as the Issei (first generation) has been followed by the Nisei, Sansei, and Yonsei."
"We like to say there are more people in Hawaii today from Tanna that ever lived in Tanna itself."
Dentist Kuwata has memories of a family pulled in two directions.
"MY FATHER CAME HERE in 1904 from Hon-ura, but he became discouraged and we all went back to Nihomachi in 1921 to live off the land."
"We grew renkon (lotus root), long beans, eggplant, daikon, white melon, and cabbage; and I can remember gathering nori (black seaweed)."
"But my mother, after a year, had had enough. She decided we should return to Hawaii and we did."
As the years of emigration passed, considerable traffic developed between Hawaii and Japan, and money sent home by sons who were doing relatively well in Hawaii became an important economic factor in the small village of Nihomachi.
WHAT NOSTALGIA BRINGS TO MIND among those who revisited the land of their forebears 40 or more years ago are small farms, tiny bays with little fishing boats, and the remembered savor of oysters and clams.
But time was catching up with this once rural area as Hiroshima city, filled with land hunger, ate its way into the surrounding villages.
Heavy industry and housing developments moved into Nihomachi; and those who had remained behind, sticking it out while others emigrated overseas in search of a better life, finally sold out, often at fancy prices.
Finally, the major disruption that came in the wake of the atom bomb tore further at the old pattern of living.
THE INDUSTRIAL INFLUENCE with the strongest impact came from the area of Mukainada, the only one of Nihomachi's six villages physically separated from the rest by the Enko River.
There, Toyo Kogyo opened in 1920 as a small manufacturing plant which first made a name for itself in 1931 as a builder of three-wheel trucks. Today, Toyo Kogyo dominates all of Nihomachi.
Where waves once lapped at the foot of Nihomachi's hills and where tiny bays once sheltered village fishing fleets, all in now dry land-fill, extending a half mile out into what used to be the Inland Sea.
TOYO KOGYO'S 30,000 employees man what is billed as the largest auto manufacturing complex in a single location in all Japan. And at least part of the famous oyster beds of Nihomachi are now buried deeply beneath the mile-long assembly line that makes the rotary-engine Mazda car.
THEN AND NOW - Tanna was still a bayside fishing village when the photo above was taken in 1931. An arrow in the photo below locates the Nihomachi hills and pinpoints the site of Tanna village, now blocked off from the sea by the massive Toyo Kogyo automobile assembly line. The 1931 photo is the property of Yoichiro Uyeda. The aerial photograph was taken for Toyo Kogyo.
(sorry, photo not available)