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Lost Treasures Found!

In 1984 we were documenting Holehole Bushi, the folk songs sung by Japanese immigrant workers on Hawai`i Plantations. We were working with Dr. Franklin Odo, singing teacher Harry Urata, and historian Barbara Kawakami.

Barbara introduced us to Kaku Kumasaka, her husband Sashichi, and Haruno Tazawa. Mr. Kumasaka came to Hawai`i at age 16 in 1912. Mrs. Kumasaka came as a picture bride in 1922 and worked at the Oahu Sugar Company plantation in Waipahu. Mrs. Tazawa, came as a picture bride in 1917 and worked on the Ewa Plantation. They were delighted to don the clothing they wore for work in the fields and to share their stories about coming to Hawai`i as picture brides and about plantation life! Mr. Kumasaka sang a classic Holehole Bushi about the dilemma facing immigrant workers.

Excerpts from these treasures were used in productions at the time, but the tapes containing the interviews were “lost” during one of our moves from PBS (Hawai`i Public Television) to offices at Leeward Community College and finally to our permanent home at UH West O`ahu! We spent hours looking for the tapes and had all but given up! Enter Frank Moy and his wife, Marcia Mau! Their generous donation allowed for a complete inventory (a prelude to preservation and digitization) of the more than 2,500 video tapes in the Rice & Roses collection. As a result, these interviews were found and eventually will be accessible in their entirety. Now we are posting excerpts on the AQ Labor History website as history and culture stories. We have presented excerpts from the original interviews in Japanese dialect (roughly translated by Barbara Kawakami) so you might appreciate the original language. Please share the link to these rediscovered treasures with your friends!

Mahalo, Chris Conybeare Executive Producer

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