Vandals take advantage of small cemetery
Can something be done about the vandals who are vandalizing the Moiliili Japanese Cemetery? These drunks are damaging the grave sites at night.
Answer: Clifford Hosoi, president of Hosoi Garden Mortuary and an officer of the Japanese Cemetery Association, is well aware of the problem.
Numerous reports have been made to police because of problems with theft, drinking and vandalism at the cemetery, he said, but no arrests have been made.
He pointed to copper thieves pulling out copper pipes, the homeless, and people partying at the cemetery leaving behind broken beer bottles and knocking headstones off their bases.
"We always ask the neighbors" to report illegal activity to police, Hosoi said. He said some nearby residents on Waiaka Road have family plots in the cemetery, located at 2642 Kapiolani Blvd.
These days, the cemetery is more like a "community cemetery," Hosoi said.
There are only enough funds from the Japanese Cemetery Association to pay for a part-time caretaker, so the plots are mostly maintained by family members.
"There still are quite a number of people who come by," Hosoi said. "It's still an active cemetery because of the generational nature of it."
Most of the plots feature "haka" houses, in which cremated remains are placed, "so the capacity is very large" in the deceptively small cemetery, he said.
The Japanese Cemetery Association was founded "a long, long time ago" to oversee the Moiliili cemetery (as well as the Japanese portion of Makiki Cemetery), but most of its founding members are gone, he said.
Over the years, various staff members at Hosoi Garden Mortuary have served in the association and Hosoi was the most recent to be recruited as an officer.
"I'm trying to upkeep the cemetery as best I can," including seeing to repairs to the water line, he said. "But "basically, there's no assessments, there's (not much) money" left in the association's funds.
While new interments continue to take place, no income is generated "because families take care of things on their own," Hosoi explained. "So it's like a community cemetery where there are no rules per se. ..."
For now, the part-time caretaker prunes trees, removes weeds and "tries to put back things and restore some order" whenever outsiders cause damage or leave behind trash.
"The cemetery is getting old and we probably will have to make some adjustments for the changing times -- maybe build fences and walls," Hosoi said. "But that costs money and we don't really want to make it (like) a prison."
He's hoping to organize family members "to really work together for their own benefit," including compiling a data base of names and putting up a message board for communication.
"We need to depend upon the neighbors and community to respect the cemetery," he said.
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