Hawaiian Noir

Murder Calls

Diamond Head by moonlight 8/20/21
Diamond Head Sunrise 8/21/21

We had a full moon last night and it was gorgeous. In the top photo, the moon is behind clouds, but you can see the moon glow on the ocean just beyond Diamond Head, which is bathed in moonlight. The area below our condo is bright with lights from homes, apartments, and traffic. Dillinghham Fountain is brightly lit. The next photo shows the same scene at daybreak.

Today is our last Saturday in Waikiki. We leave for Maui early next Saturday morning. I’m going to miss Waikiki. It’s been fun and exciting.

Last night we had dinner at Da Ono Hawaiian Food on Kapahulu. Da Ono is a long-time tradition in Honolulu. We ate there when we lived here in the 1980s and revisited it again during our trip in 2017. At that time, the restaurant was going out of business. In fact, we ate there on one of it’s last days. However, we discovered on this trip that, after being closed for awhile, it reopened in the same, somewhat shabby, location. The walls are decorated with vinyl record albums we remember from the 70s and 80s—Frank DeLima live at The Noodle Shop, Andy Bumatai, Rap Reiplinger’s Poi Dog, the Beamers, Peter Moon, Danny Kalekini. They’ve probably hung on the walls for more than 40 years. The tables and chairs are relatively new, however, and unscarred. We had pipikalau, chicken long rice, laulau, lomilomi salmon, poi, rice, and haupia. The laulau was gigantic. We split it, of course. I don’t know how anyone could eat a whole one. Overall, the food was good, but I think Helena’s is better. On the plus side,there was no waiting to be seated at Da Ono and it’s only a short bus ride from our condo.

Tonight, we’re exploring music again. Ben Kahele of Kanakapila, whom we heard in Hilo last month, will be performing at the Sheraton. The mai tais there are $20, but they are good. Tomorrow afternoon, Taimane Gardner is performing at the Blue Note. We have tickets for her show.

While we are here, I’m gathering sights and information for current stories I’m working on and for upcoming stories.

In the Ava Rome stories, Ava has an office above a small market on McCully Street. That particular building is where Nomos Institute, where I worked as a graduate student, was located. In my work in progress, that building has been torn down and Ava had to move. I walked by the site today, and, lo and behold, the building has been torn down. All of the other surrounding buildings are intact as far as I can recall. Instead there is a wooden wall with a mural surrounding the site.

Mural at MCCully and Algaroba Streets, former site of Nomos Institute, 8/21/21

One of the first people I met as a grad student at UH, was another grad student, Rosalie Tatsuguchi. Rosie was a few years older than me. Her father had been a Buddhist priest at a Jodo Shinshu mission on Beretania. She told me a haunting story about the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Her father was arrested, as were many Japanese community leaders. They did not see him until after the war. Her story inspired two of the books I’m currently working on. We used to visit her father’s temple for Bon Dances in July or August. The temple stands today.

Shinshu Kyokai Misson, Beretania Street, 8/21/21

Rosalie’s brother, Roland, took over the mission from their father. He is still head of it, though he would be 90 years old.

Shinshu Kyokai Temple Directory, 8/21/21

I had no idea what the inside of a Jodo Shinshu temple looks like. In the story, I made my best guess, and I was not far off. The only thing that surprised me were the pews. I expected parishioners to sit on the floor or on mats.

Interior, Shishu Kyokai Temple, 8/21/21

Jodo Shinhu Buddhism, or Shin Buddhism, also known as Pure Land Buddhism, was founded by the monk, Shinran Shonin.

Shinran thought humanity’s ability to listen to and practice the Buddhist teachings deteriorates over time and loses effectiveness in bringing individual practitioners closer to Buddhahood. Shinran saw the age he was living in as being a degenerate one where beings cannot hope to be able to extricate themselves from the cycle of birth and death through their own power. He believed all conscious efforts towards achieving enlightenment and realizing the Bodhisattva ideal were contrived and rooted in selfish ignorance; for humans of this age are so deeply rooted in karmic evil as to be incapable of developing the truly altruistic compassion that is requisite to becoming a Bodhisattva.

Due to his awareness of human limitations, Shinran advocates reliance on tariki, or other power—the power of Amida in order to attain liberation. Shin Buddhism can therefore be understood as a “practiceless practice”, for there are no specific acts to be performed such as there are in the “Path of Sages”. In Shinran’s own words, Shin Buddhism is considered the “Easy Path” because one is not compelled to perform many difficult, and often esoteric, practices in order to attain higher and higher mental states.

Jōdo Shinshū drew much of its support from lower social classes in Japan who could not devote the time or education to other esoteric Buddhist practices or merit-making activities. Today, it is probably the most widely practiced form of Buddhism in Japan..

Shinran Shonin statue at Shinshu Kyokai Temple, 8/21/21

Another setting used in my current work is Mo’ili’ili Japanese Cemetery on Kapiolani Blvd. The cemetery was founded in 1908 and sits atop a basalt lava flow, which makes if unsuitable for agriculture, but good for grave sites, as remains are interred in small mausoleums. The cemetery contains some 13,000 family markers, each with a small crypt for ashes of the deceased. It’s size represents the influx of Japanese in the late 1800, early 1900s. The cemetery is surrounded by highrise buildings and two-story apartments that crowd against the walls. You might not know it was there if you did not look for it. The first picture below was taken from a pedestrian overpass crossing Kapiolani. You can read more about the cemetery here.

Mo’ili’ili Japanese Cemetery, 8/11/21
Entrance to Mo’ili’ili Japanese Cemetery, 8/11/21
Nomura Family Monument, 8/11/21

There is a character in my story, a young girl named Yuki Nomura, who’s death on the eve of Pearl Harbor, is the subject of Ava’s investigation. I created the character long before I knew about the cemetery’s existence. It was only after many drafts that I wrote a scene depicting her family’s grave in the cemetery. I scrolled through an online list of families, but did not see the Nomura name. I didn’t look carefully enough. One tradition is that, if the grave contains the remains of a child or young woman, a certain type of statue or icon, called a Jizo is placed in front to protect the child in the afterlife. In my story, there is a Jizo in front of the Nomura family monument. The link to the cemetery restoration above, mentions finding Jizo at some of the graves. When I visited the cemetery, I looked for Jizo, but didn’t find any. Since I had not seen the Nomura name in the cemetery catalog, I was unprepared when I found the monument. I have to admit, the feeling on seeing the monument was unsettling. Once I got past that feeling, I wondered if I might find a Jizo. I didn’t, but look at the base of the monument. A teddy bear. I think a Jizo could not have been more unnerving.

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