The Japanese Cultural Society of Maui, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit, has determined to raise funds to help restore the Japanese tea house, and help repair other dilapidated parts of the garden located at the Kepaniwai Park in Iao Valley.
The Japanese Garden at the Kepaniwai Park is one of the many ethnic cultural gardens at the park that is symbolic of Maui County’s diverse population and rich history. The project is located on County of Maui property in Iao Valley.
As many unsung volunteer groups and individuals have occasionally done clean-up projects and minor restoration work at the park, this tells us about the importance of representation of the Japanese culture to the community. It is JCSM’s intent to make sure future generations on Maui enjoy the park and feel proud of its beauty.
According to sources online, the Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens was established in 1952 as a place to honor the different cultures that have shaped Maui’s history. Included in these are the Hawaiian, Portuguese, Japanese, Caucasian, and Filipino cultures, which are showcased throughout the gardens in cultural art and structures. The gardens fell into disrepair for a time, but in 1994 the park was restored to its former glory.
The plaque at the entrance of the Japanese Garden included text noting late 1960’s as the time the park was established.
Cultural significance of site: In 1790, King Kamehameha the Great from the Island of Hawaii waged a successful and bloody battle against Kahekili, the son of Maui's chief. An earlier battle at the site had pitted Kahekili himself against an older Hawaii Island chief, Kalaniopuu. Kahekili prevailed, but the carnage was so great that the nearby stream became known as Wailuku (Water of Destruction), and the place where fallen warriors choked the stream's flow was called Kepaniwai (Damming of the Waters).
County of Maui Resolution 65-008 notes Richard Tongg, as the proposed landscape architect of the park. This means the resolution was considered in the year 1968. We are working with the County to locate official records to confirm. Below is a copy of the resolution:
Below is a map of the park. The red designation is where the Japanese garden is located. If we are to approximate the area of the Japanese garden based on the 200-ft guide on this drawing, it will approximately 17,320 square foot or 1,609 square meters.
The exact location is: 20.883095, -156.536108. Below is an aerial view of Central Maui
Different monuments at the Japanese Garden
The following are the different monuments found at the Japanese garden signifying milestones in the Japanese community. Each signifying a milestone in the Japanese immigration to Hawaii. The restoration of the tea house shall be our marker for the Gannenmono year - 150th anniversary of the Japanese immigration to Hawaii.
This was erected for the 75th anniversary of the Japanese immigration to Hawaii.
This structure was erected for the 50th anniversary, then 72nd anniversary of the Japanese immigration to Hawaii. The ball at the top of this monument is slightly off its position and is a cause of concern.
Erected for the centennial anniversary of the Japanese immigration.
Current condition and visual guides
After having endured hurricanes, flash flooding and other natural disasters, the repairs with the garden have grown. A water meter has been installed recently (2019), but we assume leak damages may have occurred. According to County of Maui Parks staff, water can be restored as soon as repairs from broken pipes are completed.
We have determined phases for this project, which relies on funding sources:
- Phase 1: Tea house exterior repair, Bridge repair, Fence restoration
- Phase 2: Tea House interior
- Phase 3: Possible pond repairs, populating pond with fish
The pond is currently completely dry. (October 16, 2019)
Some photos online indicate different conditions for the pond. This one had greens as coverage.
This one clearly had some fish visible:
Many photographs online show the uneven colors of the shoji doors of the tea house. We failed to find photos of the inside of the tea house during its glory days.
The bridge currently needs repair:
During an inspection, the inside looks like this:
The entrance to the Japanese garden also needs repairs. The roof had plants already.
Some parts of the fence were dilapidated also:
- October 12, 2019 - Meeting with County of Maui Parks and Recreation: Kaeo Ahsau, Tara Sabado and Chris Kinzle.
- October 13, 2019 - State House of Representatives Finance Committee inspection
- Nov. 11, 2020 - JCSM received a $10,000 grant from the County of Maui