“Stories of Aloha” by Jocelyn Fujii

With photography by Brett Uprichard and a foreword by Richard Chamberlain, Hawaii author Jocelyn Fujii profiles the extraordinary people and mom-and-pop businesses who have helped build Hawaii through the years in “Stories of Aloha: Homegrown Treasures of Hawaii” (2009).

Fujii’s intimate and heart-warming profiles were originally published in “Spirit of Aloha,” the in-flight magazine of Aloha Airlines between 1985 and 2008, the year the airlines closed its operations. She also includes ten recipes from Aloha Airlines employees and five recent essays.

On Kauai, I learned about Hanapepe Honey, gathered and packed by Hindu monks at the Saiva Siddhanta Church, which donates the honey to rebuild Hanapepe; and Hamura Saimin in Lihue, a family restaurant since 1951 that is famous for its saimin and lilikoi chiffon pie.

On Oahu, I learned about Helena’s Hawaiian Food in Kalihi, serving homemade Hawaiian food since 1946, when Helen Chock began selling poi for 15 cents, pipikala for 25 cents, and laulau three for $1; Hoa Aina o Makaha, a 5.5-acre demonstration farm in Waianae started in 1979 by Gigi Cocquino, who teaches children about growing fruits and vegetables, tending animals, building imus, and respecting the land and each other; and Kaala Farms and the nonprofit Opelu Project’s Walter Paulo, who has been teaching traditional Hawaiian opelu fishing by canoe in Miloii, Waianae, as well as lauhala weaving, kappa making, taro growing, using medicinal plants, and other traditional Hawaiian activities.

On Maui, I learned about the West Maui/Molokai Taro Farmers Association and Aimoku Pali, who are maintaining the traditional Hawaiian rural lifestyle and planting taro and koa trees in Honokohau.

On Molokai, I learned about the Kanemitsu Bakery, founded in 1935 by Shigeo Kanemitsu, famous for its ‘Molokai bread’ and late-night ‘hot bread run’ at the back door.

On Hawaii, the Big Island, I learned about Seaside Restaurant in Hilo, where the Nakagawa family has carefully tended a fishpond full of mullet, aholehole, catfish, golden tilapia, rainbow trout, carp, and papio since 1921; and Clay Bertelman and Na Kalala Waa Moku o Hawaii, who teach about celestial and ocean navigation, canoe making, Hawaiian values, survival skills, and Hawaiian music, chant, and dance.

“Stories of Aloha” is personal, warm, and engaging, and nostalgic, with eloquent prose that emphasize family, community, and tradition. The people and families are full of humility, generosity, passion, dedication, and talent. I was saddened to read about some businesses closing and founders passing away, but delighted that so many businesses and traditions continue.

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