Jessie Varble and Marion Akamine

Enhancing Okinawan Studies

Two Sisters

Kama and Kamato Akamine worked hard all their lives and served as an inspiration to their children. In their honor, their daughters Marion Akamine and Jessie Varble established the Kama and Kamato Akamine Endowed Fund for Okinawan Studies. This fund will be used to acquire, develop, translate and/or publish books, journals and other digital resources on the history, linguistics, culture, environment, and communities of the Okinawan/Ryukyuan peoples, including the diaspora, to enhance the field of Okinawan Studies at UH Mānoa’s Center for Okinawan Studies

Working Hard, Together

Kama and Kamato immigrated to Hawai‘i from Oroku (now a part of Naha City), Okinawa, he at age 18 in 1906 and she at age 16 in 1912. A mutual friend served as matchmaker and they were married in Hawai‘i. His first assignment was at Puako Sugar Plantation, near Kamuela on the island of Hawai‘i.

After working at several plantations, they settled in Waiakea-Uka, outside of Hilo, where they raised their five sons and two daughters. When Waiakea Mill Company went out of business, they relocated to Honolulu to be closer to their older children who had moved for higher education or work opportunities.

Kama worked as a field laborer throughout his plantation career. Kamato, helped by older sons, raised and sold chickens, eggs, pigs, fruits, and vegetables to supplement the family income.

Giving Back, a Family Tradition

Kama and Kamato kept close pre-war and post-war contact with their families in Okinawa and contributed to post-war relief efforts. They took pride in the fact that all five of their sons served in the United States military during World War II (three in Europe, one with the occupation forces in Japan, and one in Hawai‘i). The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, Honolulu, Hawai‘i, is the final resting place for their four sons and a grandson. They felt that their military service was a payback for the benefits they received from the United States of America.

Full Circle

Kama and Kamato made several trips to their homeland after the war and lived long enough to see the recovery of Okinawa from the ravages and devastation of war.

Kamato died April 1, 1976 at age 80. Kama died October 17, 1989, just shy of his 101st birthday. Both are interred in the Honolulu Memorial Park.

 

For Our University, Our Hawai‘i, Our Future