Sunday, October 7, 2012

Paia Japanese cemetery along the Road to Hana

The "Road to Hana" is one of those famous activities every tourist does in Maui. This fifty-mile stretch of scenic highway runs from Kahului to the town of Hana, promising ocean views and lush rain forests along the way. Well, I had a different plan. Less than ten miles past Kahului I notice a tiny cemetery outside of a small town by the name of Paia.

The cemetery rests on the edge of a cliff just one block down the road from a small collection of tourist shops and cafes. The cemetery looked as though it had been long abandoned to the Hawaiian sun, which scorched the dry grass surrounding the tombs.

This was the first image that greeted me from the road.


This was  obviously a Japanese cemetery.  Some of the names on the tombs were Romanized, but others retained the Japanese kanji. The dates on the graves spanned over one hundred years.

I must admit that I was initially disappointed with the appearance  of the cemetery. From where I stood under the blazing sun, it was about as colorful as an Iowa wheat field. The dry, yellow grass was ubiquitous in every photo. But when I got home and reviewed the images, I noticed tiny, beautiful bits of color peaking out from unexpected places: dead flowers beside a grave, the blue of the ocean, the green leaves of a tropical plant, the gray of a stone. 

This roadside cemetery is beautiful in its own way.  Tropical, coastal, rural. I will remember it as an unusual place in an unusual part of America.

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