Hawaii Karate Seinenkai
On December 5, 1899, Chinzen Kinjo left Okinawa, venturing to a new land that promised untold riches and opportunity. He had originally intended to go to Formosa (Taiwan), where he would be a policeman. Although he had passed the police examinations, he was a quarter of an inch too short and thus disqualified. Just 16 days after he left Okinawa, Kinjo's wife gave birth to a son, Chinyei Kinjo.
Kinjo arrived in Honolulu on January 8, 1900, aboard the S.S. China Maru. He was one of the original 26 Okinawan immigrants to Hawaii (the 27th member of the group failed the physical examination in Honolulu and was sent back to Japan). Kinjo immediately went to work at the Ewa Plantation (a sugar cane plantation). As a contract laborer, he was obligated to work for 3 years. Kinjo and the others quickly found that they had to work long days of backbreaking labor under the scorching Ewa sun. To make it worse, there were lunas (overseers) standing over them all day long, swinging ropes and whips to make them work harder. Some men died in the fields. Instead of finding a paradise in Hawaii, many felt that they had come to a living hell.
In Uchinanchu: A History of Okinawans in Hawaii (page 55), Kinjo's experience with an oppressive luna is described:
There was no one who wasn't whipped. Once when the luna whipped me by taking me for someone else, I was really mad and all the anger which had hitherto been suppressed in me exploded and I challenged him with Karate (Okinawan art of self defense). Since the luna was a big man, a six-footer, it wasn't easy for me. But finally, I threw him to the ground. I could have kicked him to unconsciousness. There was a crowd surrounding us. Some cheered me, waving cane knives, shouting, 'Kinjo, go ahead, go ahead!' The others shouted, 'Beat him up; finish him!' I was at the point of jumping at him, risking my whole life in that one blow. Right at that moment, a Big Luna (superior overser) came and calmed me down, saying, 'Wait, wait; I will fix everything all right.' Thus the incident ended short of serious consequences. We wanted revenge even to the point of committing murder. You can understand how brutally the laborors of early years were treated.
The conditions in Hawaii were so severe that by 1935, of the original 26 Okinawan immigrants, only two remained in Hawaii -- Kinjo and another man. Kinjo eventually started his own farm in Kailua. He remained in Hawaii until his death in 1962 at the age of 89.
Kinjo's son, Chinyei, came to Hawaii to join his father after his graduation from Naha High School. Chinyei intially worked at a sugar cane plantation, but in April 1926 became the editor of the Yoen Jiho Sha, a Japanese language newspaper oriented toward the Okinawan community. In this capacity, he sponsored the 1934 visit of Naha-Te expert and Goju-Ryu founder, Chojun Miyagi, to Hawaii. See Chojun Miyagi's 1934 Visit to Hawaii, by Charles C. Goodin. Dragon Times, Volume 17, 2000. See Dragon Times Online.
The Hawaii Karate Seinenkai respectfully salutes Chinzen Kinjo, a man who endured the hardships of the plantation and lived a long and productive life in Hawaii.
The spirit of Karate is the Aloha spirit
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