Friday, February 23, 2024

Yoshimatsu Nakata's Hawaiian Home

In the deep shade of an 80-foot-tall monkeypod tree in the O'ahu Cemetery in Honolulu, Hawaii, I paid my respects to Yoshimatsu Nakata, Jack London's longtime valet and surrogate son.

Nakata was central to London's life, and is featured in my book in progress about London's formative and lifelong relationship with the San Francisco Bay.

Nakata started as a cabin boy on the Snark, the boat that London built to sail around the world. When the trip was cut short, Nakata returned to California as the author's valet. Nakata was also London's first mate and surrogate son.

After eight years, Nakata married his sweetheart, Momoyo, and left London to study dentistry. In Honolulu he opened a successful practice, raised his children, Gertrude and Edward, and was elected president of the Hawaii Dental Association. He died in 1967 at age seventy-eight.

I visited the Nakata family gravesite with Yoshimatsu's grandson James Nakata, Edward's son, and his lovely wife, Lisa.

In the Japanese tradition, Jim washed the marble stone with water and a sponge in homage to his ancestors.

Nakata purchased the stone and site for his family, and I couldn't help but feel proud of him, an Issei who had migrated to Hawaii as a teenager.

Jim's office includes photos of his "grandpa." The cabinet at right was in the dental office that Yoshimatsu shared with his son, Edward, who became a dentist and a partner in the practice. 

The historic photos are courtesy of The Huntington Libary. All others by Aleta George.

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