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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, March 10, 2002

Rubbing visitors the right way

By Bob Krauss
Advertiser Columnist

Years ago, a presidential motorcade pulled up, sirens screaming, at an out-of-the-way address on Young St. about a block from Thomas Square.

A muscular man of Japanese descent and his petite wife were hustled into the car. The motorcade roared through red lights toward Diamond Head, stopping traffic at every intersection.

Was this man an atomic scientist on his way to advise the president? Was he a captured spy? No. He was Hatchiro Okazaki, proprietor of Nikko Restoration Massage, on his way to give Lyndon Johnson a rubdown at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel. His wife was to massage Lady Bird.

Mrs. Okazaki finished first and came out of the bedroom. The president was on the floor with a towel draped over his bottom. "Wait a minute, Honey," he said in alarm. "I'll get my britches on in a minute."

Thirty years before, Hatchi's father, Professor Henry Seishiro Okazaki, had given President Franklin D. Roosevelt a daily massage during his stay in Hawai'i. On his return to Washington, FDR had sent back three photos: one to the Democratic Party; one to his host, millionaire Chris Holmes, at Queen's Surf; and the third to Professor Okazaki.

Third-generation masseur Keith Okazaki now works on most of the sore backs and stiff necks at Nikko Restoration Massage. Hatchi, at 80, still sees eight or nine clients a day, loosening tight muscles by pressing with his elbows, a system invented by the professor.

Nikko was the name of a popular tea house when Professor Okazaki bought a Japanese-style residence facing King St. in 1930 and converted one room into a massage parlor. The grounds included a Japanese garden and carp pool with a torii gate.

The elbow technique is somewhat unorthodox. Some of the professor's clients asked Hatchi why his father treated them so rough.

"It's because he likes you," Hatchi would explain. "If he doesn't like you, he won't work hard."

Clients who wear moustaches receive especially rough treatment, because the moustache is a Japanese indication of virility. Hatchi said at least four clients shaved theirs off to avoid getting the full force of his elbow.

It may hurt, but it works just as it did when the professor learned from his judo teacher how to use his elbows to work the kinks out of sore muscles. One of his most devoted clients was the late governor of Hawai'i, Jack Burns. Here's why.

After Mrs. Burns was paralyzed from the waist down with polio, she became pregnant. Doctors strongly advised her to have an abortion. A devout Catholic, she refused.

"Jack consulted my father," said Hatchi. "My father told him that there was no reason Mrs. Burns couldn't have the baby. He massaged her regularly all through her pregnancy and she gave birth without any problem."

And that's the reason her son, appeals court judge James Burns, has the same middle name as Professor Okazaki, Seishiro.