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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, December 31, 2001

Native of Japan reaches 112th birthday

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

KANE'OHE — Arms that have held two husbands, hands that have raised five children, eyes that have seen three centuries.

Ito Kinase, 112 years old today, perks up when great-grandson Timothy Leong, 1, is nearby. "That's what keeps her going," her daughter says.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Ito Kinase doesn't know how she has managed to live for 112 years.

But today at the Ali'i Bluffs home she shares with three other generations of family, she will celebrate that milestone.

The state keeps no record of ages beyond 100, but the 2000 Census showed that Hawai'i has 275 people who are over that age.

Kinase is undoubtedly one of the oldest among them.

Iwamuro said her mother is a strong-willed woman and a survivor who adopted the American lifestyle but never learned to speak English. She endured a World War II internment camp, outlived two husbands and beat cancer twice.

"It must be in her genes," said Joyce Iwamuro, Kinase's youngest child at 74. "She still takes care of herself and she gets up and walks around the house."

An inner strength belies the bent body as Kinase maneuvers slowly across her family room using two canes. Curiosity and a warm smile spreads across her face, weathered by soft wrinkles the color of good health.

Dressed in the traditional indigo print of the Japanese peasant, Kinase sits poised in a recliner, trying to understand questions she can barely hear.

She remembers bits and pieces of her past, and her daughter helps fill in the blanks, but Kinase is obviously frustrated at the loss.

When her year-old great-grandson Timothy Leong walks into the room, Kinase reaches out to touch him.

Ito Kinase was born in Japan in 1889 and still walks around using two canes. She stopped gardening only at age 110.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Another smile and a few Japanese words — but he's not talking yet.

"That's what keeps her going," said Iwamuro. "She has a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old to entertain her."

Born in Japan in 1889, Kinase arrived in San Francisco when she was 27.

The new bride of a railroad worker, she had refused to be a picture bride and told her family she wanted to see the man she would marry in person.

They lived in Redmond, Ore., where she operated a truck farm, learned to bake from a neighbor and began raising her five children. She valued education and encouraged her children to become professionals. Two daughters became nurses, her only son an engineer and two other daughters are homemakers. Kinase has 16 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

She arrived in Hawai'i in 1961 with her second husband to help care for Iwamuro's son, born two years before. Iwamuro was an Army nurse at the time. Kinase settled into a family routine that serves as the center of her world to this day.

At 100, she climbed Diamond Head on a family outing using a single cane. She participated at the Kane'ohe Aloha Club for senior citizens and worked regularly in her garden for another 10 years.

"When she got to 100, she said she would live to 105," Iwamuro said. "She says she can't imagine why she keeps on going."

Shizue Kariya, 97, and a friend through the Aloha Club, also said she doesn't know what keeps her friend going.

At the senior's club, the women sit in the corner and chat in Japanese rather than participate in the dancing and singing, said Kariya, also from Japan and a long-time Waiahole farmer.

Kariya said she would not like to live as long as her friend, which she put down to a matter of "your destiny, or faith."

Since she stopped gardening two years ago, Kinase can't do much. But there is one thing she's ready for, she says in Japanese.

Her daughter, tears in her eyes, translates: "She says she wants to hurry up and die."

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com or 234-5266.