Question: In Waipouli, Kauai, there is a beach that residents refer to as Baby Beach or Fuji Beach. In newscasts in the past, incidents there referred to the location as Fuji Beach. How did Fuji Beach get its name, and which name do most people identify with?
Answer: The beach popularly known as Fuji Beach should more properly be called Fujii Beach, named after the late physician Kenneth K. Fujii of Kapaa.
Fuji is “an abbreviated pronunciation” of his last name, so the correct spelling of the name is Fujii Beach, said John R.K. Clark, author of “Hawai‘i Place Names” and several books on the beaches of Hawaii, including “Beaches of Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau.”
There is no official government name given to the coastal area in question, said Deborah Ward, spokeswoman for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Ward, with the help of DLNR’s land abstractor, researched old tax map keys for Kapaa Town Lots to try to track down the origin of the beach’s name.
“The beach along that subdivision is the one locally known as Fuji/Fujii or Baby Beach by Kauai locals,” she said. “It’s in the ahupuaa of Kapaa” and not in Waipouli, as many believe, she said.
Ward found a 1947 executive order conveying a “park along the waterfront at Kapaa, connecting Waipouli Park … with Kapaa Park … to be under the control and management” of the Kauai Board of Supervisors.
The executive order did not state a name for this beach area, and neither did the tax map and shoreline certification document, she said.
“It’s possible that another document might have a name, but our basic search of the most typical documents didn’t reveal one,” Ward said.
Author and writer Jocelyn Fujii, a former Star-Bulletin reporter and founder of Hula Moon Press, remembers her father having his medical practice about “two very short blocks” away from the beach that now bears the family name.
It is “perfect for kids and for catching oama,” she recalls. “We used to go there every day after school.”
Her parents moved to Kauai in 1946, and her father “converted an old plantation house into his office and practiced there his whole time as a general practitioner.”
He was the first doctor to administer the Salk vaccine in the Territory of Hawaii, in 1957, and he delivered more than 2,000 babies, Fujii said.
“People just loved him because he was kind, and he made house calls all over the island for $5 in the old days.”
He retired in 1980 and died in 1998 at age 89.
Fujii said she never knew the beach was called Fujii Beach until the late 1980s, when she pulled up to a hotel on the Big Island and the valet asked where she was from.
“He said, ‘Oh, by Fuji Beach?’ And I asked him where, and he described it … and that’s the first time I heard of its nickname,” she recalled.
“I asked him why it was called that, and he said it was named after a doctor in Kapaa and was that my father? After that I noticed that everyone was calling it that. …
“It seems more people call it that now than Baby Beach.”
Clark said the name Fuji Beach became more widespread when windsurfers and kite surfers began to frequent the area.
More families also came with their young children, resulting in the other name, Baby Beach, he said. “A low limestone shelf along the beach creates a shallow wading pool where mothers can sit safely with their babies and little kids.”
To the guy in the Blue Subaru WRX that I cut off on Friday night, June 24, near the Pearl City offramp. I apologize for being partly to blame. Still, I promise to be careful when changing lanes while driving at any time of the day.