Honolulu's first baby of 2003 is Eika Keyamura, born 2:03 a.m. yesterday at Kapiolani Medical Center and held by mother Reiko Keyamura. Eika was born on the same day as Keyamura's mother, who died five years ago.

Like grandma, like granddaughter

Honolulu's first baby of 2003 is born
on the same day as her grandmother

By Susan Essoyan

When Reiko Keyamura felt the first pangs of childbirth at 3 p.m. on New Year's Eve, she hoped her labor wouldn't be too quick.

Her dutiful daughter, Eika, all of 6 pounds, 2 ounces, managed to hold off through the fireworks show and arrive at 2:03 a.m. on New Year's Day at Kapiolani Medical Center, the first baby born in Honolulu in 2003.

"We saw many fireworks from this window," Keyamura said, cradling her cherubic newborn yesterday afternoon in her hospital room, while 2-year-old son Leo clambered over her husband, Eiji. "We have never seen such a custom in Japan. They were beautiful."

The last day of the year is not an auspicious time in Japan, but New Year's Day is the nation's biggest holiday and it holds special meaning for the Keyamuras.

"It was my mother's birthday," said Keyamura, who lives in Kyoto. "She died five years ago. It almost felt like my mother brought me the baby."

Baby Eika was held yesterday by mother Reiko Keyamura, with father Eiji Keyamura and 2-year-old brother Leo close by. The family from Japan is in Hawaii while Eiji Keyamura is on a fellowship at the University of Hawaii.

Keyamura, a cardiologist, is in Honolulu with her husband, an architecture professor, for six months while he is on a fellowship at the University of Hawaii's School of Architecture, sponsored by Japan's Ministry of Education.

When Eiji Keyamura phoned his father-in-law in Japan to tell him about his new granddaughter, the widower noted the date and choked up in tears.

Keyamura's e-mails to friends were more lighthearted: "I got a Yankee daughter in Hawaii," he wrote.

Eika's name is made up of two Japanese characters that both mean "flower," the first one shared with her father's first name. It also seemed just right, given their Hawaiian-style New Year's Eve: In Japanese, the word for fireworks is "hanabi," literally "flower from fire."

Eika was due Dec. 27, so some people thought she would be a Christmas baby. But Christmas came and went, and so did her due date.

As the countdown to midnight ticked off on New Year's Eve, the Keyamuras were baffled by the buzz among the nurses at Kapiolani, who told them five other mothers were going through labor at the hospital at the same time, and it was something of a competition. When Eika arrived, they were declared the winners of the New Year's Day baby race, and the hospital presented them with a basket of goodies.

"We were surprised," she said. "I didn't know the custom."

Leo Keyamura, 2, looked at his new sister, Eika, yesterday as she was held by their mother, Reiko Keyamura. Eika's name is made up of two Japanese characters that both mean "flower."

Yesterday afternoon, as his mother and father gave interview after interview to the media, son Leo didn't seem fazed, munching on Fruit Loops and dropping as many on the floor as he got in his mouth.

His mother recalled that she couldn't wait for her 36-hour labor to end when Leo was born, because she suffered so much and her husband "didn't understand my pain." This time around, with the help of an epidural and the fireworks display, it was almost pleasant.

"We were even laughing," her husband said.

The new mother showed no signs of fatigue and didn't seem to mind the media fuss.

"He's a first baby, so we have a lot of pictures of him," Keyamura said, patting Leo. "This is a good chance for us to have so many pictures of Eika."

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