Officer Jeremy Kubojiri Named as the East Hawaiʻi “Officer of the Month”

For the second time this year, the Aloha Exchange Club of East Hawaiʻi recognized Officer Jeremy Kubojiri as the East Hawaiʻi “Officer of the Month.”

Aloha Exchange Club Director Curtis Chong presents an 'Officer of the Month' certificate to Officer Jeremy Kubojiri.

Aloha Exchange Club Director Curtis Chong presents an ‘Officer of the Month’ certificate to Officer Jeremy Kubojiri.

Kubojiri, a South Hilo patrol officer, was honored Thursday (December 19) for apprehending a repeat offender and convicted felon wanted for crimes of violence and, four nights later, stopping multiple thefts and an attempted arson in progress.

On November 4, Officer Kubojiri spotted a speeding truck that pulled off to the side of the road. When Kubojiri approached, the driver began acting suspiciously and a glass pipe was observed in the truck. Kubojiri determined that the driver was was unlicensed, uninsured and wanted for felony assault and abuse by choking. A search of the vehicle led to the discovery of crystal methamphetamine and marijuana, among other drugs.

The driver was charged with three felony drug offenses, felony assault, felony abuse, driving with a revoked license and driving without insurance.

Four nights later, Kubojiri was patrolling downtown when he spotted a man with a moped and a bicycle who was throwing a burning object onto the roof of a garage. Police extinguished the fiery object, and determined that the moped and bicycle belong to the garage owner. Kubojiri arrested the suspect, who was later charged with five offenses, including felony theft and arson.

Kubojiri’s supervisor, Sergeant Paul Kim, wrote that he nominated Kubojiri for the honor “because his consistent, proactive policing and thorough investigation led to the capture of a repeat offender wanted for violent crimes and the capture of an apparent thief and would-be arsonist downtown, making the streets safer for the community.”

In June, Kubojiri was named “Officer of the Year” for his performance of a special assignment as South Hilo Patrol’s drunk driving enforcement officer.

As “Officer of the Month,” Kubojiri is eligible for “Officer of the Year.”

The East Hawaiʻi “Officer of the Month” award is a project of the Aloha Exchange Club of East Hawaiʻi.


Big Island Police Open Investigation Stemming from Attempted Murder Incident in Puna Last Night

Hawaiʻi Island police have opened an attempted murder investigation stemming from an incident Thursday night (December 19) in Puna.


At 4:42 p.m. Thursday, police responded to a call of a disturbance at a home off Auliʻi Street in Keaʻau.

Upon arrival, police encountered a 58-year-old man who was brandishing two edged weapons and was also wanted by police for a separate assault incident that occurred the previous day. The suspect refused to comply with several verbal commands given by police and allegedly threw one of the weapons at one of the officers, who managed to avoid being struck.

At 5:20 p.m., Joseph Feliciano was arrested on suspicion of attempted first-degree murder, resisting arrest, second-degree assault and two counts of first-degree terroristic threatening. He was taken to Hilo Medical Center, where he was treated for minor injuries and released. He is being held in the Hilo police cellblock while detectives from the Area I Criminal Investigations Section continue the investigation.

Neither officer sustained injuries during the incident. One officer, age 41, is a seven-year veteran of the department. The other, age 26, has been with the department for nearly three years.


Cherry Blossom Fest to Honor Two Women

The 21st Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival on Saturday, Feb. 1 is dedicated to Waimea residents Emiko Wakayama and Fumi Bonk.  The women, who both have Japanese heritage, will be recognized at the festival’s opening ceremony. Time is 9 a.m. on the entertainment stage at the rear of Parker Ranch Center.

“Emi” Wakayama, 81, has been involved with the Cherry Blossom Festival since it began, contributing as a member of the organizing committee and performing traditional tea ceremonies to the delight of attendees.

Emiko "Emi" Wakayama

Emiko “Emi” Wakayama

During the festival’s two decades, the 55-year Waimea resident instructed about 20 students in the little known art and will be overseeing their performance during this year’s event in the Kahilu Theatre lobby.

Known as chanoyu, the Japanese tea ceremony involves the proper preparation, pouring and mannerisms involved in offering tea. Wakayama learned the process, which takes about 10 minutes, while in Japan.

A native of Kurtistown, Wakayama graduated from Hilo High School and studied fashion design at both the University of Hawaii and the Pratt Institute in New York City. Employed by an upscale sportswear line, she worked in the Big Apple for five years before traveling to Japan with her mother.

“I decided to stay in Japan for awhile to learn my Japanese culture,” explains the octogenarian. “I was there for about a year and during that time learned chanoyu.”

Wakayama also met her husband, the late Kinya, in Tokyo. A native of Waimea, they returned to their homeland, married and Emi worked as a seamstress, making Hawaiian muumuus. She also sold her appliquéd, Hawaiian-style quilts at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel where the designer’s expertly crafted quilts were popular with both visitors and residents. You can still see Wakayama’s orange-on-white hibiscus quilt hanging on display at the hotel and her kukui nut pattern quilt is exhibited at North Hawaii Community Hospital (NHCH) in memory of her husband.

No stranger to NHCH, Wakayama volunteered many years in the gift shop, where she sold her yukata, a casual Japanese kimono worn as a robe. Fabric was donated for the garments and Wakayama volunteered her time. She also painstakingly sewed prayer blankets for hospital patients.

“You have to love what you are doing,” Wakayama noted.

The seamstress and quilter is a member of the Kamuela Hongwanji Mission, the Hongwanji Buddhist Women’s Association and its Aloha Committee. In 2008, Wakayama was named the Outstanding Older American for Waimea.

The second honoree, Fumi Bonk, is a native of Oahu who grew up on her family’s dairy in Waialae.

Fumi Bonk

Fumi Bonk

She first participated in the festival during its early years as a member of the local chapter of AARP, serving coffee at Church Row Park. Later, she was involved as a ceramist, where she displayed her functional artistic wares that reflected the beauty and diversity of Hawaii’s unique natural environment. The 90-year-old is recognized as an artist, educator and advocate for peace and social justice.

Bonk moves to Hawaiʻi Island in the late 1940s where she spent most of her life with her late husband, Bill, and their three children. Her husband was an archeologist and the couple traveled extensively. Bonk served as co-director of Hilo High School’s alternative “School Within a School,” before moving to Waimea in the early 1980s. She taught art and science at Waimea Intermediate School.

Discussing how Hawaii and the Big Island influenced her art, Bonk once wrote, “Nowhere does the refined and rugged aspects of nature more regularly and dramatically stand next to each other.  The rugged texture of lava, overlaid with the smooth texture and color of the sky and water, and the details of foliage and forest have influenced my construction, glazing and firing of ceramic sculpture over the 40 years I have worked with clay.”

In the 1960ʻs the Waimea resident founded the Big Island Art Guild and was involved in the startup of the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Art with artist/architect Alfred Preis. She was an active member of the Hawaii Craftsmen and participated in over 30 select exhibitions throughout the state.

Bonk feels “art is a spiritual reflection of our humanity.” She views compassion and reason as the “spirit of the arts” and believes that an artist’s life must also reflect this spirit. “Artists have the responsibility to speak up for those whose voices are not loud or powerful enough to be heard alone,” she adds.

While an octogenarian, Bonk travelled to Washington D.C. to join in the One Nation Rally of educators and other social justice advocates “to stand up for better education, housing and healthcare for all American people.”

The free Waimea Cherry Blossom Festival showcases the 60-year-old cherry trees planted at Church Row Park and the Japanese tradition of viewing them—hanami. The event, held annually the first Saturday of February, includes a variety of activities 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at venues throughout Waimea—look for pink banners identifying site locations from Parker School on Lindsey Road to the Hawaiian Homestead Farmer’s Market on Hwy. 19.

Spend the day to experience an all-day lineup of Japanese and multi-cultural performing arts, plus hands-on demonstrations of bonsai, origami, traditional tea ceremony, fun mochi pounding and a host of colorful craft fairs. Enjoy free shuttle transportation among most venues. For info, 808-961-8706.