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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, January 26, 2002

Toshiko Hokama, music store owner

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

Toshiko Hokama, founder of Hokama's Music in Wailuku and Honolulu and promoter of Japanese language and music, died Jan. 17 in Honolulu. She was 98.

Hokama: Loved old Japanese music best

Born Toshiko Tamanaha in Nishihara village, Okinawa, she moved to Kohala on the Big Island in the early 1920s determined to be successful, according to her daughter Amy Hokama Mitsuda. She married Seiko Hokama, a family friend and plantation laborer, and the couple moved to Wailuku, Maui, in 1929 and opened Hokama Store selling general merchandise.

While managing the store and raising four children, Hokama also taught kimono and sewing.

Mitsuda said her mother always loved music, and in the 1930s expanded the store's inventory to include phonographs, radios and musical instruments. The inventory was confiscated during World War II, so she began selling American records.

In the mid-1950s, Hokama's Music in Wailuku began to import Japanese recordings. In 1958 the couple moved to Honolulu and opened a second store on Beretania Street. Nine years later they moved to a new location at 1319 S. King St.

Despite the growing Western influence on Japanese popular music, Mitsuda said her mother focused on what she loved best: traditional Japanese music. She enjoyed explaining the meaning of songs to non-Japanese speakers and singers.

Mitsuda's mother also enjoyed getting to know her customers. In her 90s, when she no longer managed the store, she continued to spend many hours at the Honolulu location.

"This was her life," Mitsuda said. "It was her place for socializing and meeting her friends and the store was her hobby as well. So this was another home for her."

She is survived by her son Masatoshi; daughters, Hazel Wada, Yasuko Betty Inada and Amy Mitsuda; 10 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

Private services were held.