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Fishpond restoration unearths surprising find: A child’s hidden grave from a century ago

Published: Nov. 22, 2021 at 4:59 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 22, 2021 at 5:05 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The non-profit Hui O Ho’ohonua’s restoration of the fishponds at Honouliuli stream in Ewa Beach recently took an unexpected turn.

On Veterans Day, group founder Anthony Chance, stumbled upon a grave stone hidden in the tall grass. “All I could see was the top of it. When I pulled away the pickleweed, I noticed writing and what I know to be Japanese writing,” he said.

Chance cleared the ground around the headstone, took photographs of it and sent them to a friend who translated the inscription on the stone tablet.

“They were able to translate it into the name Akira Matsuyama and that it was his gravesite in 1927,” he said.

The writing said the child was about 1 year old when he passed away in June of that year. Chance took to social media, posting pictures of the headstone in hopes he’d find relatives of the Matsuyama family that lived on the land in the 1900s.

With Stolen Stuff Hawaii’s help, he found one of Akira’s kin.

“This is my grandfather and this is my grandmother who built the fishpond,” said Aileen Matsuyama Feldman, holding up an aged photograph of her family.

She remembers her grandparent’s home that once stood near the fishpond but can’t recall ever seeing the gravestone of the child who died 20 years before she was born.

“And several of members of my family didn’t know either,” she said. “This was quite a revelation.”

Feldman found one cousin who knows of Akira’s existence. Now the news of the discovery of his grave is spreading through the Matsuyama ohana.

“They’re excited to find out about this. We haven’t been to the fishpond for years,” Feldman said.

On Sunday, Chance will host some of the Matsuyama’s at the gravesite. It will be the first time they see Akira’s memorial marker.

“For a little one-year-old boy that nobody knew about, to bring so many people together, it’s awesome,” Chance said.

As his non-profit’s fishpond restoration continues, Chance promises to preserve the area around Akira’s grave that was hidden from view for decades just waiting to be found.

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