|Born||February 22 1889|
|Died||November 4 1977|
|Birth Location||Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan|
Kumaji Suikei Furuya was an Issei businessman and poet in Hawai'i. He launched the first Japanese-language radio program in the islands, and as a leader in several business associations, became a prominent member of the prewar Japanese community. An accomplished haiku poet, he saw a number of his compositions published in Japan by one of the most progressive literary haiku journals of his day. Furuya was arrested on December 7, 1941, and transferred from one internment camp to another over the course of the next four years. After the war, he published his recollections of his experience under the title Haisho tenten [An Internment Odyssey].
Before the War
Kumaji Furuya (1889-1977) was born in Yamanashi Prefecture, the second son of a farmer from Kawaguchi, a lakeside hamlet at the foot of Mt. Fuji. When a flood devastated his hometown, the eighteen-year-old Furuya set his sights on the United States. However, the 1907 Gentlemen's Agreement altered his plans, and Furuya went to Hawai'i Island, where he worked for five months as a field laborer at the Wainaku sugar plantation near Hilo. He then went to the island of Maui, where he labored for nearly three years at the Ka‘elekū Plantation in the Hāna district. In 1910, Furuya moved to O'ahu and four years later opened the Fuji Furniture Store in the Honolulu area of 'A'ala, then a bustling Japanese businesses district.
In 1921, he married Jun Kitagawa, whose cousin Sei Soga was the wife of Yasutaro Soga, the publisher of the Nippu Jiji newspaper. They settled in the multi-ethnic neighborhood of Kalihi, where they raised four sons and a daughter.
In 1929, as part of an effort to boost radio sales at his store, Furuya produced the first Japanese-language radio broadcast in the islands. A weekly Sunday program followed on KGU, then the sole, and heretofore exclusively English-language, radio station in the territory. Furuya led a consortium of 'A'ala-area business owners in sponsoring and producing the broadcast's live musical and dramatic performances, which were frequently staged by the businessmen themselves. Programming soon expanded to include informational as well as news broadcasts, and by 1941, forty hours a week of commercially sponsored shows were being broadcast on several radio stations throughout the islands.
While his furniture store enjoyed moderate success, Furuya himself was becoming a recognized leader within the immigrant Japanese business community. He organized a consortium of 'A'ala-area businesses known as Chuo Rengo and headed the Japanese Merchants' Association, which in 1939, through a merger that he helped negotiate, became part of a reorganized and more powerful Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce. On the eve of the Pearl Harbor attack, Furuya was a vice president of the HJCC as well as of the United Japanese Society, together the two most influential business and cultural organizations in Hawai'i's Japanese community.
Furuya once noted that while he had done all right for himself as an immigrant in business, his true passions remained outside of the commercial sphere. Growing up in the shadow of the iconic Mt. Fuji, Furuya began composing haiku in his adolescence. He arrived in Honolulu during what has been called the "golden age of haiku in Hawaii," when poetry societies were flourishing and poets were publishing their haiku in magazines like Kasei (Mars) and Ukikusa (Floating Weeds). In Japan, the free-style haiku movement was causing a sensation, advocating a release from the traditional seventeen-syllable format and its use of established seasonal references. By scrapping a fixed vocabulary centered on four distinct seasons and imagery based on the Japanese landscape, the movement freed Hawai'i's Issei poets to write of their new home in language that was more appropriate to their realities in the islands. In Japan Seisensui Ogiwara led the movement through his literary journal, Sōun (Layered Clouds), whose second volume Furuya read in 1912. From that point on, Furuya said, he became a student of the progressive Sōun style. With several other poets, he founded the club South, but like many at the time, it lasted just a few years. Furuya and others from South, however, including the Nippu Jiji journalist Bunshiro Furukawa, continued to see their poems published in Sōun under the imprimatur, "selected by Ogiwara Seisensui."
In 1926, poets Chūmu Mita, Tōka Ida, Bunshiro Furukawa, and Furuya, by then using the pen name Suikei (Green Valley), established the Hawaii Haiku Club. It listed twenty members, published poetry regularly in Sōun, and when Seisensui himself came for a visit in 1937, Furuya took him on a tour of the Big Island. The club would survive well into the postwar era.
Furuya was arrested in Honolulu on December 7, 1941, and taken to the Immigration and Naturalization Service building. At the same time, his eldest son, Hanzo, a member of the University of Hawaii's Reserve Officer Training Corps, spent the nights of December 7 and 8 guarding sites in Honolulu against attack by the Japanese. A few days later, Furuya was transferred to the Sand Island internment camp in Honolulu Harbor. In late February 1942, he was transported along with other Honolulu Issei to the U.S. mainland. He spent the remainder of the war shuttled from camp to camp, imprisoned in the Justice Department or the U.S. Army internment sites of Camp McCoy, Wisconsin; Camp Forrest, Tennessee; Camp Livingston, Louisiana; Fort Missoula, Montana; and Santa Fe, New Mexico.
With Furuya imprisoned, the family turned to associates and employees to keep Fuji Furniture in business. Initially, owned as it was by an "enemy alien," the store came under the control of the federal government's Alien Property Custodian Office. Eventually, son Hanzo Furuya took over its management.
Furuya returned to Honolulu on November 13, 1945.
After the war, Furuya returned to furniture retail sales. He also resumed his leadership of a number of business and community organizations. In 1951, he was elected president of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce, and it was in that capacity that he greeted U.S. Envoy John Foster Dulles and, a few months later, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru, on stopovers during the San Francisco Peace Treaty negotiations.
Furuya also continued his literary pursuits. In 1958, a retrospective of his haiku, Rūten (Vicissitudes), was published by his mentor, Seisensui Ogiwara. Reflecting a lifetime of haiku, it was published on the occasion of Furuya's first trip to Japan in thirty years. In 1964, he published Haisho tenten (An internment odyssey), a collection of articles about the internment, which he had first written after the war for a column in the Hawaii Times (the renamed Nippu Jiji). Arrested within hours of the Pearl Harbor bombing, Furuya provides a description of the confusion and fear that characterized the first days of the internment in Honolulu. And as a member of the earliest group of internees to be sent to the Mainland, he paints a picture of the seemingly disorganized and often incomprehensible nature of their repeated transfers. Furuya would later consider the internment to have been the most productive period of his haiku writing, and dozens of his poems appear throughout the book. An English-language translation of Haisho tenten is slated for publication this year by the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai'i. Furuya's last work, Imin no rakugaki (The scribblings of an immigrant), came out in 1968 and is a collection of articles on a variety of topics, many of which had been previously published in Honolulu's Japanese newspapers and magazines.
Furuya died in Honolulu on November 4, 1977. He was eighty-eight years old.
For More Information
Furuya, Suikei. Haisho tenten [An Internment Odyssey]. Honolulu: Hawaii Times, 1964.
__________. Imin no rakugaki [The scribblings of an immigrant]. Honolulu: Hawaii Times, 1968.
__________. "Nihongo hōsōkai" in Hawai Nihonjin iminshi [A history of Japanese immigrants in Hawaii], 2nd ed. Honolulu: United Japanese Society of Hawaii, 1977.
__________. Rūten [Vicissitudes]. Kamakura: Sōunsha, 1958.
Kawazoe, Kempu. "Bungei" [The literary arts] in Hawai Nihonjin iminshi [A history of Japanese immigrants in Hawaii], 2nd ed. Honolulu: United Japanese Society of Hawaii, 1964.
Shimada, Noriko. "Haiku to haiku kessha ni miru Hawai Nihonjin imin no shakai bunkashi" [The social and literary history of Hawaii Japanese immigrants as seen in their haiku and haiku societies]. In Noriko Shimada. Haiku, tanka, senryū ni miru Hawai Nihonjin iminshi [History of Japanese Immigrants in Hawaii Seen through their Haiku, Tanka, and Senryu]. Tokyo: privately printed, 2009.
Suzuki, Kei. "Media: Kumaji Furuya." The Hawaii Herald, Oct. 17, 2008.
- Kei Suzuki, "Media: Kumaji Furuya," The Hawaii Herald, Oct. 17, 2008.
- Suikei Furuya, Imin no rakugaki [The scribblings of an immigrant] (Honolulu: Hawaii Times, 1968), 51-54.
- Noriko Shimada, "Haiku to haiku kessha ni miru Hawai Nihonjin imin no shakai bunkashi" [The social and literary history of Hawaii Japanese immigrants as seen in their haiku and haiku societies] in Noriko Shimada, Haiku, tanka, senryū ni miru Hawai Nihonjin iminshi (Tokyo: privately printed, 2009), 14-21.
- Shimada, "Haiku to haiku kessha," 17-18.
- Furuya, Rakugaki, 207.
- Suikei Furuya, Ruten [Vicissitudes] (Kamakura: Sōunsha, 1958), 160.
- Shimada, "Haiku to haiku kessha," 19.
- Shimada, "Haiku to haiku kessha," 20.