Wednesday, December 15, 1999

Harry Yoshioka
His music emporium
answered all the needs.

Sour note on
shoes became sweet
music for Harry’s

The Kaimuki proprietor
played an active role at his
store into his 80s


By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin


What Harry Yoshioka really wanted to do was sell shoes.

But when the owners of a local music store offered him a share in their business and then reneged on the deal, he decided the shoe store could wait. Yoshioka opened Harry's Music in Kaimuki in 1946, and moved it across the street to its present location at 3457 Waialae Avenue in the early '50s.

He took pride in building the store into a full-service music emporium where you could buy a musical instrument or get one repaired, take music lessons or buy do-it-yourself books for home study.

Yoshioka, 90, died Monday. He had been in failing health for the past year.

"He loved music, and he really set some nice values for me," his son, Emmett, said yesterday. "Those were the only two things he liked to do -- play music and the music store."

Yoshioka was a trumpet player and, after the war, conductor and musical director of the Hawaii Shochiku Orchestra, his son said. When Japanese entertainer Misora Hibari came to Hawaii, that was the band that accompanied her. "He didn't golf, he didn't go to bars, but he loved music and he was very much a family man."

Yoshioka remained actively involved in the store's operation until he was well past 80. He eventually turned management duties over to his son and three nephews, but still came in each day to keep an eye on things.

He was honored recently as one of the living treasures of Honolulu.

"He'd see the need for something and add it," Emmett said of his father's vision of the store. Harry's Music was the place to go for everything from current hits to collectible old records; from reeds and guitar strings and drum sticks to books on music technique and theory, and from music magazines to concert tickets.

The store has felt the bite of the stagnant island economy and adjusted its inventory in response to competition from record store chains and mall outlets, but continues to be the emporium Yoshioka envisioned 53 years ago.

Yoshioka was born on Oct. 9, 1909, in Makawele, Kauai. He was a ninth grader at McKinley High School when his father died. He quit school to support the family. He put his sister and five brothers through school and enabled the youngest to complete college.

He never pressured his son to become a musician, but Emmett -- now musical director of Diamond Head Theatre -- recalls being one of those rare kids who loved playing the piano. At age 4, he would visit the store and entertain himself playing one of the pianos.

"He really did want to open his own shoe store," Emmett said. "I'm kinda glad he didn't."

Yoshioka also is survived by wife Marian; brothers Clifford Takeo, Masao, Haruo and Nobuo; sister Kimie Nogawa, and three grandchildren.

Buddhist funeral services are scheduled for 4 p.m. Dec. 22 at Hosoi Mortuary. Aloha attire. Buddhist interment of the ashes rites will begin at 2 p.m. Dec. 23 at the Moiliili Hongwanji Mission.

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