Nippon Maru cadets at Kauaʻi CC luau.

On January 6, 111 Nippon Maru cadets attended a luau at Kauaʻi Community College. Lei and flowers adorned tables and a whole pig was smoked, cured and baked in the college’s loʻi by culinary arts program faculty and students. Being on Kauaʻi was extra special for 13 of these cadets—last year they attended Kauaʻi CC as students through a program that is part of an ongoing exchange of maritime knowledge between Hawaiʻi and Japan.

Nippon Maru cadets greeted at Nawiliwili Harbor.

Under Captain Tomoku Oku, Nippon Maru—known by many as the “tall ship” for its high masts and full sails—glided into Nāwiliwili Harbor and was greeted by hundreds. The ship serves as a base for a maritime program to help students become competent seamen, officers and engineers for Japan’s maritime industry.

During its 54 years of service, 12,000 cadets have trained on the ship and sailed 45 times around the globe. Training involves a one-year intensive course of study, which culminates in a sail to Hawaiʻi.

The luau was hosted by the County of Kauaʻi, Kauaʻi Japanese Cultural Society, Kauaʻi Buddhist Council and the United Japanese Society of Kauaʻi

International Polynesian voyaging partnership

The timing of the visit was perfect, as Captain Oku promised to return to Kauaʻi when the Namahoe, Kauaʻi’s Polynesian voyaging canoe, was put into water.

Oku, a former cadet who trained on the ship, was instrumental in developing a strong partnership with the Polynesian voyaging community. In 2007, he was assigned to assist the Hōkūleʻa navigate the Japanese waters and was then introduced to Polynesian seafaring techniques. Since then, he has applied these technique to his teachings.

Thanks to Oku’s unique Polynesian wayfinding exposure, Kauaʻi CC has a solid memorandum of agreement with the National Institute of Technology: Toyama College, Oshima College, Hiroshima College, Toba College and Yuge College. Annually, these colleges bring students to Kauaʻi CC for three weeks of intensive study of English, Hawaiʻi history and culture and Polynesian navigation. They also receive hands-on experience in the construction of a Polynesian canoe.

—By Camilla Matsumoto