Following in the Footsteps of a Hilo Pioneer
This is the story of two young girls, born seventy years apart, in different parts of the world, to families of different races. Raised in rural surroundings, each nurtured the dream of getting an education and traveling far from home. They never met, yet their lives became permanently intertwined when the first Kay Ikeda Kaneshima Endowed Excellence Scholarship in Japanese Studies was awarded to Rachel Hazeltine in 2011-2012.
Rachel is a junior at UH Hilo who is majoring in Japanese Studies and Linguistics. She grew up on a farm in northern California, where she was an active member of 4-H, learning about agriculture and taking care of livestock. While still in high school, she had an opportunity to participate in a 4-H exchange with Japan, where she studied Japanese and did homestays with Japanese families. Her interest in Japan led her to UH Hilo after two years at Woodland Community College, and in the fall of 2011, she was one of five UH Hilo students selected for a prestigious exchange program with Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan. Rachel was part of a binational student team which researched and made a presentation on food safety issues, sustainable agriculture and local food practices.
One of Rachel's Japanese Studies professors, Dr. Yoshiko Fukushima, commented that Rachel is an extremely accomplished writer and was one of the best students in her Japanese Literature and Japanese Film classes. After graduation from UH Hilo in 2013, Rachel hopes to continue her studies in Japan and possibly teach Japanese.
The scholarship from which Rachel is benefiting was made possible by a generous gift to UH Hilo in 2011 from the estate of Kay Ikeda Kaneshima, facilitated by her brother, Dr. Hitoshi Ikeda, a retired professor of education at UH Hilo and San Diego State University. Kay Ikeda was born near Hilo at Kaumana Five Miles in 1923, the daughter of Japanese immigrants from Kumamoto who worked as independent sugar cane growers. At a time when the majority of young people left school by ninth grade, Kay defied tradition by earning a diploma from Hilo High School with the class of 1940 and completing 9 years of Japanese language school.
After graduation, Kay moved to Oʻahu to enroll in the Cannon School of Business, which led to a 25-year career as Executive Secretary to the High Commissioner of Okinawa. Kay used her overseas opportunity to undertake the study of Ikenobo Ikebana in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Naha. She traveled extensively throughout East Asia and was the recipient of the Foreign Minister of Japan Award in Tokyo in 1955 and the Okinawa Chamber of Commerce Award in Naha in 1969.
Upon her return from Asia in 1984, Kay taught ikebana throughout East Hawaiʻi, as well as at UH Hilo's College of Continuing Education and Community Service. Her home in Hilo featured framed displays of her "bunka shishu" (embroidery painting) and calligraphy, as well as a special tea ceremony room which also was a classroom and a place to display her collection of awards and ikebana vases.
Kay Ikeda Kaneshima passed away in 2010 at the age of 87. Shortly before she died, she and her brother, Dr. Hitoshi Ikeda, discussed the idea of using her estate to establish several new projects at UH Hilo.
Dr. Yoshiko Fukushima stated, "The Japanese Studies Program at UH Hilo, which now boasts 60 majors, responds to UH Hilo's mission of multiculturalism and promotion of cultural diversity while complementing a strong interest in the local ethnic community of Hilo and the Big Island. It is a privilege to perpetuate the multicultural legacy of Kay Ikeda Kaneshima."
In addition to funding a scholarship endowment for Japanese studies, the Kaneshima bequest funded another scholarship endowment for an education major, and a children's literature book fund. As a result, Kay Ikeda Kaneshima's memory will remain alive far into the future, and talented students like Rachel Hazeltine will be able to follow in her footsteps along the path she forged from Kaumana Five Miles to the rest of the world.