With a laid-back, local style charm, Hari Kojima taught several generations of island television viewers how to fish, cut fish and cook fish.
Kojima, the longtime host of "Let’s Go Fishing" and later "Hari’s Kitchen," died early Wednesday at his home in Kaneohe after a short bout with cancer. He was 66.
Kojima began working as a fish cutter in a market in his Palama neighborhood when he was still in high school.
When that market became a major sponsor in the early 1970s of KHON’s Sunday afternoon television series, "Let’s Go Fishing," host Bruce Carter suggested that one of the market’s employees come on the show from time to time to teach people how to cut and cook fish.
Soon thereafter, Kojima became a fixture on the show, and his name became synonymous with both "Let’s Go Fishing" and Tamashiro Market. KHON’s website said Kojima co-hosted the show from 1981 to 1998. He also hosted his own cooking show, "Hari’s Kitchen," from 1996 to 1998. Recipes from the show, which ranged from osso bucco to misoyaki fish, can still be found online.
Kenneth Kojima, Hari’s oldest brother, said the family spent about six years on Molokai when they were kids. It was there that Hari developed a love for the outdoors.
"We got a real good taste for fishing and camping," Kenneth Kojima said.
After the Kojimas returned to Honolulu, they became neighbors and close friends of the Tamashiros. Thomas Kojima, the Kojimas’ father, worked as a salesman at City Mill and helped advise the Tamashiros when they decided to renovate their North King Street market in the 1970s, Kenneth Kojima said.
Guy Tamashiro, Tamashiro Market vice president, said he was 16 when he began working in the market’s seafood section. It was there that Kojima, in his 20s and already head of the seafood section, taught him how to cut fish.
"He was pretty good, he had some skills," Tamashiro said. The master fish cutter "can do it with the least amount of strokes, make it look easy, and not leave very much meat on the bone," he said. Kojima "had some pretty neat tricks."
Hari Kojima was one of, if not the, first market employee who wasn’t a member of the Tamashiro family, Guy Tamashiro said.
Fisherman Stan Wright, who co-hosted "Let’s Go Fishing" from 1977 to 1988, said Kojima was the best fish cutter he’s ever seen.
"If there’s better, I’ve never seen him," Wright said. "My God, he was a wizard with the knife. It was just amazing to watch him work."
Kojima’s blade skills landed him on television. His folksy manner and the easy way he would suddenly break into pidgin English made him a Hawaii TV icon.
With a mischievous smile, wavy hair and a penchant for wearing shorts on the set, kamaaina could relate to Kojima’s "OK, gang" charm.
"He was such a fantastic speaker," Wright said. "You get him in front of a crowd, he could hold their attention with the palm of his hand. Hari would say he came on TV because he talked ‘the goodest.’"
"What made him unique was Hari was Hari," Guy Tamashiro said. "He didn’t put on any airs for anybody and he told you what he thought."
The Kojima family, in a statement, said: "Hari will be missed as a man who delivered fishing and cooking adventures to Hawaii’s audiences for a generation and more, but most of all, he will be missed as a man who loved his family and friends with passion, warmth and humor. Hari was courageous, creative, generous and truly unique."
Kojima is survived by his wife, Janet; four daughters, Terri Ridge, Shari Kojima, Cari-Ann Nollner and Jodi Masur; three brothers, Kenneth, Paul and Roy; two sisters, Evelyn Buddenhagen and Carol Farrow; seven grandchildren; uncles and aunts, nieces and nephews.
Funeral arrangements are pending.