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Nagasako family honored for its important role in the community

By Staff | May 14, 2015

On Saturday, May 9, the County of Maui honored the Nagasako family under the Banyan Tree in a ceremony hosted by Na Kupuna O Maui.

LAHAINA – It was an old school, standing room only celebration under the Banyan Tree in Lahaina last weekend in honor of the Nagasako ‘ohana.

Dignitaries, celebrities, kupuna and community gathered to salute the family’s 115 years of contributions to our West Maui community.

Cultural practitioner Kimokeo Kapahulehua opened the ceremonies with a traditional blessing, chant and prayer.

Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa and his wife, Ann, attended as well, with the mayor presenting the storied Lahaina family with a Certificate of Recognition and leis.

“The Nagasako Family has been anchored in our community for a long, long time. Over 100 years, this family has provided so much for our community. Not just running a store but support to countless youth organizations and nonprofits – really making the community what it is,” he noted.

“They spent years and years dedicated to the building of the community,” the county chief executive added. “They can be really proud to be called contributors to what Lahaina has become. They are an example of the kind of family that we have that made Maui County one of the best counties in the entire world.”

Ninety-seven-year-old Tomie Nagasako, matriarch of the Nagasako ‘ohana, accepted the certificate of honor.

Tomie is the wife of Takehiko Nagasako, son of Mitsuzo and Ayako Nagasako and brother to Masao Nagasako.

Mitsuzo and Ayako opened their first retail store, a candy store, on Lahainaluna Road in the early 1900s.

Businesses have come and gone in Lahaina, but the Nagasako family has been a mainstay on the West Side, adapting to changing times from a candy store to a supermarket and now a general store and okazu-ya deli at the Old Lahaina Center.

Grammy Award-winning slack key musician George Kahumoku Jr. played under the tree on Saturday, and he described the festivities.

“Twenty-two Nagasako (family) members showed up, with some flying in from Honolulu. Even Masao Nagasako’s sister and her daughter came! Besides myself, entertainers included 2015 Na Hoku Lifetime Achievement Awardee Uncle Richard Ho’opi’i, Wilmont Kahaialii, Uncle Mathew and even members and casts from the Old Lahaina Luau,” Kahumoku said.

Kahumoku described the family’s special, down-home style comparatively; “So much of our island’s businesses are going corporate with Walmart, Safeway, Costco, Target, etc., and very impersonal. It’s nice to see at least one mom and pop local store surviving with local food and home-cooked recipes and food!

“Sharing the aloha,” Kahumoku added with import. “This is a lost part of Lahaina and island culture that is being perpetuated by the Nagasakos, who still remember your name every time you visit! They are an integral part of the past, present and future of our Lahaina community, moving our people and children from the old plantation days and camps into modern times, still serving our Lahaina community.

“The Nagasakos gave us a lot and have managed to survive as a family business, which is unique and rare in these modern times, serving us with their family favorites for over 115 years,” he concluded.

The sons and daughters of other mom and pop stores that were seated in a VIP section under the tree were recognized for adding to the community heritage, including Bob Kawaguchi (Kawaguchi Fish Market), Jean Miyahira (Seaside Bar), Carolyn Kam (Hop Wo Store), Anita Yamafuji (Liberty House Restaurant), Lynn Morikawa (Morikawa Restaurant) and Mrs. Kawamura (Yamamoto Shave Ice).

Hulu kupuna were acknowledged, including 100-year-old Adelaide Sylva of Lahaina and 86-year-old Adeline “Aunty Addie” Rodrigues.

Aunty Patty Nishiyama of Na Kupuna O Maui was the behind-the-scenes force organizing the function.

Kahumoku was impressed by her cultural connectivity and skills.

“I would like to thank Aunty Patty Nishiyama for getting up at 4 a.m. to put out the cones on Front Street to reserve parking spaces for the mayor and the Nagasakos and special guests, and always helping to call to action all of us who love our Lahaina community,” he said

Nishiyama considers it her kuleana to keep the legacy alive: “We cannot forget where we came from, the mom and pop stores of our youth, including those not in attendance like Kishi Market, Ichiki Store, Lahaina Bakery, Miyaki Store, Kondo Okazu-ya, Lynette Kondo Yamaguchi Beauty Salon, Agena Barbershop, Lahaina Fashion, Kiyonaga Service Station (Union 76) and Kidani Store.

“Nana i ke kumu (look to the source),” she said. “If it wasn’t for these mom and pop stores who owned the buildings, Front Street wouldn’t be what it is today.”