HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - "I came into the world as Mitsuru Shimabukuro".
'Mitsuru' is more commonly known in Hawaii as State Senator Glenn Wakai. Affable, gregarious and outgoing Wakai doesn't seem the type to hold a deep, dark secret. However, that's exactly what he did, for decades.
"I felt ashamed that I was different from my fellow friends. I lived with that secret for 47 years. My biological mom had me when she was 16. Came from a very poor fisherman's family in Okinawa" he explains from his office at the state capitol, overlooking the grounds at Iolani Palace.
Wakai was given up for adoption when he was just 18 months old, adopted by Calvin and Ruth Wakai of Moanalua. Loving parents always, they told him he was adopted when he was around 5 years old. He says while it affected him personally, the love and support he received from his family kept his trajectory upward.
It wasn't until both of his parents passed that Wakai decided to seek out his biological mother. In a stroke of incredible fortune, his search--which began in June last year---lasted only a month.
"By July, I got a response back from my mom that said yes! I'd like to reconcile and be reunited with Mitsuru. She came here for four days, we had a wonderful opportunity to reconnect".
During one of their conversations, Glenn learned it wasn't even the first time they were together in Hawaii. Yoko Boughton went on to marry a US Marine, giving birth at Tripler to his half-brother, Michael.
"I lived in Moanalua valley which is 5 minutes away from Tripler Hospital. So it's weird how we were so close, yet so, so far".
The reunion was life altering. Wakai and his mom are now advocating on behalf of orphaned children in Japan. There have been positive repercussions here in Hawaii as well.
"It's opened up the discussion for a lot of people to tell me their stories who were in similar situations where 'I thought it was shame to be adopted, but you know Glenn, your story has compelled me to talk about it, and go look for my birth parents as well'". There are more reunions coming. The November, over the Thanksgiving holiday, he'll meet with his stepfather and half-brother in Okinawa.