Ailing banyan being removed was monument to Moiliili’s first Japanese settlers
A piece of history was lost Tuesday as city contractors began cutting down an ailing, century-old Chinese banyan tree at Moiliili Triangle Park.
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A piece of history was lost Tuesday as city contractors began cutting down an ailing, century-old Chinese banyan tree at
Moiliili Triangle Park.
City officials on Tuesday morning began the weeklong process of removing the tree at the confluence
of South King and South Beretania streets and University Avenue, saying it was necessary to ensure public safety. The tree is suffering from a twig borer infestation.
The “Kashiwabara banyan tree” was dedicated
to Kihachi and Shika Kashiwabara, the first Japanese
immigrants to settle in
the area, by the city parks board and Moiliili Community Center. According to the center’s publication, “Mo‘ili‘ili — The Life of a Community,” the Kashiwabara home was at the site
of the current Longs Drugs.
“It’s sad to see it go,” said great-grandson Ben Kashiwabara of Honolulu. “It
was a nice, mature tree. We’re hoping they (the city) will replace it with something nice.”
Kashiwabara said the family always looks for the banyan by the torii gate while driving by, and visits it when stopping at the Longs Drugs in Moiliili.
Kihachi Kashiwabara, who initially arrived in
Hawaii to work on a plantation in Kohala, was a pioneer, having founded the first sumo dojo in Hawaii on the parcel of land where Longs Drugs (formerly Star Market) now sits. Kihachi’s sumo name in Japan was Sendagawa.
The family built a home at the site, along with several cottages, and called the complex the Kashiwabara Camp, according to an article in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Kihachi’s sons also practiced sumo, and one of them, Hans Hankuro Kashiwabara, became the first nisei captain in the Honolulu Police Department.
He also held the first Japanese language classes at his home, which were the beginnings of the Japanese Language School. Today, classes continue at Moiliili Community Center.
Ben Kashiwabara said
he always points out the tree to his son, who took years of Japanese classes at the center.
Lori Hiramatsu, a great-granddaughter of
Kihachi, said all her children have learned of the significance of the banyan tree and its ties to the
“Whenever we passed
by, we said, ‘There’s great-grandpa’s tree,’” said Hiramatsu, who also stops by from time to time.
The tree represents
his contributions to the community, she said, and serves as a reminder of their efforts to give back to the Moiliili community as well.
Ben Kashiwabara said it was understandable that the city had to take down the ailing tree if it posed a safety hazard. He hopes
a new tree will grow and mature in its place.
Since the beginning
of this year, city officials said three large branches have fallen from the tree, two of them within a
one-week period over the summer. Other branches
on the tree are displaying deficiencies similar to
what was observed in the failed limbs.
A second banyan tree closer to University Avenue was dedicated in 1994 to Harry G. Yoshimura in honor of his Moiliili roots and support for the community. That tree, according to the city, has not displayed signs of decay, and will remain.
The city will keep the plaques intact, and has preliminary plans to replace the removed banyan with a monkeypod tree. No lanes of traffic are scheduled for closure, but the city advises pedestrians to avoid the area if possible.