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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, February 5, 2002

Noboru Furuya kept cultural link to Japan

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

Noboru Furuya, a veteran of the 100th Infantry Battalion and a businessman who promoted and perpetuated Japanese language and culture in Hawai'i, died Jan. 30. He was 82.

Furuya was the retired owner of the old Nippon Theater, KZOO Japanese language radio station, and Shiseido of Hawai'i.

Furuya was born on Aug. 16, 1919, in Honolulu, and at age 3 was sent to Japan to live with his grandparents. At age 19 he returned to Hawai'i and worked as a delivery driver for the family's Asahi Furniture Co.

In 1940, he enlisted in the Army and was assigned to the unit that would become the 100th Infantry Battalion.

He took part in campaigns in the Pacific and Europe and received several citations and medals.

After being discharged from the Army in 1945, Furuya returned home and drove a bus for the old Honolulu Rapid Transit Co. Robyn Furuya said her father-in-law saved most of his earnings as a bus driver to bring his four sisters and two brothers back to Hawai'i from Japan, where they were sent during the war.

Furuya entered the business world in 1947 when he took over the family business, A'ala Theater.

He later moved the theater to the site of the old Palace Theater at Ke'eaumoku and Beretania Street and renamed it Nippon Theater.

Furuya brought in the latest movies from Japan so first-generation Japanese Americans could enjoy movies in their native language.

Furuya also brought many famous Japanese movie stars, such as Toshiro Mifune, to the Islands.

In 1964, Furuya mortgaged his home so he could bring the Grand Kabuki production from Japan for the opening of the Honolulu International Center Concert Hall, now known as the Blaisdell Concert Hall.

In addition to the theater business, Furuya opened the first international branch of Shiseido cosmetics. He retired as president in 1989.

To further serve the Japanese community, Furuya purchased KZOO radio station in 1967.

"At a time right after the war, when people were moving away from their cultural heritage, he strongly felt that through his Japan connections with the movie and cosmetic company, that he could help to promote the culture through the radio ownership," Robyn Furuya said.

On Nov. 3, 1997, he received the Kunsho Japanese Imperial Decoration, Order of the Rising Sun for his contributions to preserving the Japanese culture in Hawai'i.

Furuya is survived by his wife, Mitsuru; son, David; daughter, Aileen Nagaoka; brother, Koji Mizota; and seven grandchildren.

Service will be at 6 p.m. Thursday at Diamond Head Mortuary. Burial will be at 1 p.m. Friday at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.