May 24, 1913 - August 5, 2007


By David W. Fukumoto  (Kurtistown, Hawaii)


           The bonsai world knows Haruo "Papa" Kaneshiro, but anyone familiar with the sociology of Okinawan families knows the husband represents the family and the wife creates family values.  The Kaneshiros ran a family restaurant, made good investments, and became owners of an apartment complex which allowed Papa to "semi-retire" at an early age to devote his life to bonsai, his friends, and his family.


          Papa took me under his wing in 1964 when I exhibited in the "beginner's section" after participating in a Honolulu Bonsai Kenkyu Club introductory workshop.  He kept bringing show visitors to my display and it was a bit embarrassing as mine were the smallest, youngest bonsai. At that time the Hawaii bonsai community was a small secretive group of older Japanese men. He encouraged us, translated Japanese, and hosted infrequent sessions at the Kaneshiro home. Our group included Mike Uyeno, Ted Tsukiyama, Ernest Olival and Dr. Horace Clay. So when we "young Turks" co-founded the non-profit Hawaii Bonsai Association (HBA) to revolutionize bonsai in Hawaii, we incorporated the Kaneshiro standards.  


          Mama Kaneshiro's participation made bonsai more meaningful and it's appropriate for the bonsai world to know of her contributions. Friendships and family values were equally important. Bonsai would be open to everyone interested. There would be exhibits but no competitions.  While everyone should offer assistance and advice, each owner should style and train his or her tree.  Bonsai should be attractive when viewed from any side and the owner chooses the "front" for formal exhibits. Ted and Horace provided leadership, Mike coordinated exhibits, I focused on education, Ernie picked up loose ends, and the rest is history.


          The Kaneshiros were our bridge to Japan bonsai and Mr. and Mrs. Saburo Kato became frequent visitors. This culminated with Hawaii participating in the 1979 World Bonsai Congress in Osaka, Japan and HBA and Bonsai Clubs International co-sponsoring the 1980 International Bonsai Congress in Hawaii with first international participation by the Nippon Bonsai Association.  The world came to know Saburo Kato, John Naka, and Haruo Kaneshiro from that landmark convention but few know of the roles played by the spouses of these three great international bonsai masters. The theme of IBC '80 Hawaii:  "Bonsai, Bridge to International Friendship!" largely reflects the contribution of Masako "Mama" Kaneshiro.


          It was wonderful to be at the Kaneshiro home for a bonsai session when even beginners got to work on Papa's more durable trees. The real honor was to move into the Kaneshiro dining room to enjoy Mama's great cooking and hospitality surrounded by her mame (miniature) houseplant bonsai that she never exhibited. At a time when it was a macho challenge to have a large heavy-trunked impressive bonsai, Mama gently introduced us to indoor bonsai. 


          The Kaneshiros were role models for friends and family and had several circles of friends interested in different activities.  The Kaneshiro siblings Jane, Muriel, Shirley, Deanna, Carol, and David were always around and involved in major bonsai activities. Their standards were always higher then anyone else's and we still talk about how they wore out a bunch of bonsai tweezers pulling out every single weed from the rocks in the bonsai garden in the weeks and months before IBC '80 Hawaii!


          They loved to travel and were a key part of a Hawaii bonsai teaching tour through Australia.  International bonsai became their passion; and besides their participation in World Bonsai Friendship Federation, BCI conventions and other activities, Papa agreed to be honored by allowing the Tropical Conservatory at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum in Washington D.C. to be named after him because it would encourage the creation of bonsai as an international activity.  


          The Kaneshiros played strong, quiet roles in the lives of their friends and we grieved when Papa passed away in 1992.  In recent years Mama had difficulty recognizing people and remembering events, but with a bit of time, her smile brightened and that twinkle in her eye showed that the haze was clearing. She passed away on August 6, 2007 at the age of 94. 


          On behalf of the Kaneshiro family and the Hawaii bonsai community, I thank those associated with World Bonsai Friendship Federation, National Bonsai Foundation, Bonsai Clubs International and the Hawaii, national and international bonsai communities for the many courtesies extended to the Kaneshiros during their lifetimes and during their bereavement.  The Kaneshiro family is very appreciative and continues to support and encourage friendships through bonsai. 




                                    David W. Fukumoto

                                    PO Box 6000, Kurtistown, Hawaii 96760

                                    Phone (808) 982-9880 


Note:  The photo was copied off the program for "A Service of Remembrance and Celebration" for Masako Uehara Kaneshiro held at Nuuanu Memorial Park, Honolulu, Hawaii on August 18, 2007.


Posted on the Fuku-Bonsai website August 21, 2007


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