Big Island Memories

KodaniRecollections of his childhood on the Big Island inspired Roy Kodani ’61 to write The Sound of Hilo Rain. It includes stories from his column in The Hawaii Herald, which he has been writing for the past 10 years.

“Because of my Japanese language fluency, I felt it was important to record stories, told by the immigrants, before they are lost forever,” says Kodani, born of second-generation Japanese immigrants. “Many of the things they told us are no longer remembered or understood by their descendants who don’t know Japanese.”

At that time, sugar plantations shaped society. Kodani tells stories of swimming holes, childhood pranks, lessons learned, ghosts, and the devastating tsunami of 1946. He writes: “At night the sound of the gentle rain falling on the leaves of trees and on the palm fronds is nahenahe (sweet and soft). … In Hilo, the sound of the rain—like the two major rivers, Wailuku and Wailoa, that flow from the deep, unpopulated interior of the island into Hilo Bay—is the unconscious soul of Hilo.”

A government and law graduate, Kodani earned a law degree at George Washington University. During that time he worked in the office of Sen. Oren E. Long of Hawaii.
Upon returning to the islands, Kodani opened a law practice in Honolulu. He was appointed a deputy attorney general assigned to the Real Estate Commission and Department of Taxation. His work, which dealt mainly with a new real estate concept—condominiums—turned out to be pivotal. Hawaii had become a state in 1959, which led to mammoth growth in tourism and real estate development.

His current practice continues to handle transactions for international corporations. He represents major companies in countries throughout the Pacific Rim.

“One day I was sitting at a table with the heads of major Japanese corporations,” he recalls, “and it struck me how far I had come due to my education. I thought ‘here I am the descendant of Japanese immigrants who worked in the sugar cane fields, and now I am advising these business leaders.’”

—Stevie O. Daniels