Survivor Narratives: 1960
Mr. Takayoshi Kanda… “The Keeper of the clock”
A strong sense of duty and honor lie behind Takayoshi Kanda’s faithful caretaking of the Waiakea clock. He rakes the area and places fresh flowers by the clock memorial that is located in what used to be Waiakea Town.
Takayoshi grew up in Waiakea in his parent’s home on Kainehe Street, just behind the Hilo Electric Light Company on the Waiakea Peninsula. In 1960, he lived in the Waiakea House lots area with his wife. On the evening of May 22, 1960, he joined his buddies down at the Suisan Fish Market to watch for the waves. They wisely ran to higher ground when they saw the water recede.
Concerned about his parents, he sent his daughter and son-in-law to pick them up at their home on Kainehe Street. They were ready to leave in the car when his father went back to the house to get something and a wave struck. Takayoshi’s mother, daughter, and son-in-law were trapped in their car with water up to their shoulders. The house, with his father in it, was struck by the wave and pushed onto the street. His father was nowhere to be found.
Following the tsunami, the clean-up crew did not give the okay to break the house down because it was in fairly good condition. Two days later, Takayoshi told them to demolish the house, and that was when they found his father.
It is in his father’s memory and in the memory of all the 61 victims of the May 23rd tsunami that Mr. Kanda faithfully maintains the clock memorial. He buys all the flowers himself.
Just how much Mr. Kanda’s act of caring means to the people of Hilo is exemplified by two stories shared by Mr. Kanda. The first story has to do with a police officer, and the second story with a wonderful couple from Chile.
Story 1: All of us know that there is a “No Parking” sign on the highway by the clock… and yet Mr. Kanda parks there every week when he goes to take care of the memorial. One time he was weeding behind the memorial, and when he came around to the front, he found a policemen with his pen poised to write out a ticket. When the policeman saw Mr. Kanda and confirmed that that was his car, he simply folded up his pad and put away his pen and said “Thanks, you’re OK here.” In relating this story, it is Mr. Kanda who is so touched by the action of the police officer…
Story 2: This story is about Dr. and Mrs. Smith from Chile. Every May, Annamaria Smith sends a bouquet of flowers on the anniversary date of the 1960 tsunami from Chile, with a card that reads: “To the people of Hilo from Chile”. Annamaria is the wife of Dr. Malcolm Smith, who was one of the pioneers of the observatory on Mauna Kea. Mr. Kanda had always credited the beautiful large wreath to Malcolm, but in a letter to Mr. Kanda, Malcolm explained that his wife, Annamaria, should get the credit for the yearly remembrance. The people of Hilo are fortunate to have Malcolm and Annamaria as special friends, and we thank them both, as well as Mr. Kanda, for commemorating Hilo’s tsunami history.
Mr. Kanda has his own philosophy about keeping the clock memorial beautifully bedecked:
- First: Always put two bouquets there, as one would be lonesome.
- Second: Put extra flowers there on holidays.
- Third: Potted chrysanthemums are the most likely to be stolen.
- Fourth: Use anthuriums. They are the least likely to be stolen.