James Toshiichi Kunichika

Posted On November 11th, 2012 -

The family of James Toshiichi Kunichika is deeply saddened to announce his passing on October 30, 2012 at the age of 97. James was born on January 1, 1915 in Ko’olau, Kaua’i. In 1937, he moved to Honolulu and held a variety of jobs before starting the James T. Kunichika Painting Company where he worked tirelessly for over 50 years. In 1943, he married Katherine Hayami Fujita, his wife of 61 years. Through his dedication and hers, his company and their family thrived. James and Katherine were lifetime members of the Hawai’i Kotohira Jinsha-Dazaifu Tenmangu. They were also active members of the Honpa Hongwanji Hawai’i Betsuin, the Izumo Taishakyo Mission, the Daijingu Temple of Hawai’i, the Hiroshima Kenjin Kai and the Kaua’i Hana Club. Along with his wife, he was a charter member of the Iwakuni Odori Aiko Kai Bon Dance Club. One of his overriding passions for nearly 80 years was singing Obon songs in the Iwakuni style. James became the lead singer and performed almost every summer at Obon festivals in Hawai’i. He also performed in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. In Iwakuni, Japan, his mother’s hometown, James was honored by government officials for his contribution to the perpetuation of the Iwakuni cultural heritage. In 2006, the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai’i honored James with their Living Treasure Award which acknowledged his significant contributions and standing as a cultural treasure of Hawai’i. He received numerous additional awards and recognition for his contribution in preserving the Japanese culture, one of which was the 2003 Pan-Pacific Festival Silversword Award for cultural excellence. Recordings of his singing are housed in the Bishop Museum, the University of Hawai’i, the State of Hawai’i Culture and Arts Foundation, the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian. Recognized as a Master Artist by the Hawai’i Folk Arts Apprenticeship Awards program, he received a grant from the State of Hawai’i Culture and Arts Foundation to train an apprentice in the Iwakuni tradition of Japanese song. He mentored many students, some of whom continue to carry on his legacy by performing at Obon festivals. He is survived by sons Kenneth (Janice) and Miles (the late Priscilla); daughters Caroline (Ronald) Miyata and Evie (Alan) Kobayashi; grandchildren John, Michael, Scott, Kimberlee and Jamee Kunichika; Kristi (Greg) Chung, Kelli (Erik) Yamamoto and Matthew Miyata; Brent, Kathi and Kelli Kobayashi; great-grandchildren Kristen, Kelsey and Justin Yoshikane; Christopher Chung and Leif Yamamoto; great-great-grandchild Zeke Yoshikane; and brother Robert Kunichika. THE SERVICE WILL BE HELD AT HOSOI GARDEN MORTUARY ON FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 2012 AT 6:00 PM, WITH VISITATION BEGINNING FROM 5:00 PM.

- Denotes U.S. Military Veteran