Story by Shannon Wianecki
Photos by Linny Morris
At the dawn of the twentieth century, Shinichi Hashimoto set
sail for Hawai‘i. He was among the first of the thousands of Japanese laborers
who came to the Islands hoping to find work, and his ship arrived in Honolulu at
a dramatic moment in the city’s history: Honolulu was under quarantine due to
an outbreak of bubonic plague. A fire intended to destroy plague-ridden houses
had gotten out of hand, and Chinatown had just been burned to the ground.
The ship skirted this crisis and continued on to Hana, Maui.
There, Shinichi disembarked and found a job on a rubber plantation in nearby Nahiku.
It was hard work: ten-hour days of settling rubber trees into rocky, volcanic
terrain for just $.50 a day. Most of the Japanese field hands were bachelors
intent on making money and returning home. But not Shinichi; he had brought his
family along with him. He planned to stay.
By 1915, when the plantation folded, Shinichi had squirreled
away enough money to buy a farm of his own. He purchased a ten-acre plot in
Kula, sight unseen. A third of the way up Haleakala, the island’s massive,
dormant volcano, it boasted panoramic views of the summit, the central valley
and two glittering shorelines.
The property had its downsides, too: The access road
amounted to little more than a mule path. The ground was steep and rocky, and
the air bitter cold during winter. Water was in short supply. Unlike the coastal
rainforest of Nahiku, this dry region of the island averaged around thirty
inches of rain per year with nighttime temperatures that sometimes dipped below
forty degrees. But while the climate could be challenging for people, there was
one fruit, Shinichi discovered, for which it was perfect: persimmons.