A mistake in paint color in February 2014 and a passing remark by a visiting Japanese garden designer from Kyoto lead to a five year effort by Friends of Lili`uokalani Gardens to find the right paint color for the wooden bridge.
Historic photos inform present-day decisions: some carpentry details in the railings were missing in recent years. 2019 repairs restored some details
The wooden bridge is an iconic feature in the century-old tropical Japanese public garden in Hilo Hawaii. It may have been the garden’s first successful fundraising effort.
Charles C. and Laura Kennedy in their yard, Pueo, Hilo, HI circa 1908
(McKay family album, Hawaii State Archives)
Garden booster Laura Kennedy went to her husband C.C. Kennedy in 1917 when he was retired as manager of Waiakea Sugar Mill, and received $1,000.
One source credits a Hilo contractor and landscape designer Mr. Yamamoto with the design and construction of the wooden bridge using that first $1,000. Other stories have the bridge built in Kyoto and shipped over to Hilo to be assembled by Mr. Yamamoto, who came to Hawai`i from Kyoto at the behest of the Kennedys following their tour of Japan in 1914. Yamamoto did the landscaping at Bide-A-Wee, the Kennedy “mountain home” in Volcano village.
unidentified gardener during construction of Lili`uokalani Gardens, possibly Mr. Yamamoto, square roof pavilion at left is to one side of the wooden bridge
(courtesy Lyman Museum archives)
In any event, a wooden bridge has been at that location since Lili`uokalani Gardens was first built.
The railing details still existed during WWII (photo taken 17 December 1944, collection of Hawaii Historic Society)
The tsunami of 1946 brought destruction to the gardens. Restoration went on for several years, mainly in and after 1949 when some funding was obtained from the Territorial Legislature.
Obana family collection courtesy Hawai`i Japanese Center in Hilo
late 1940s postcard, collection of the author
George Mattos in the mid-1970s (courtesy of Eric Mattos)
Up to this point, the bridge had been through several colors including tan, green, brown, and red. When the bridge was painted red, it was a tone of red more toward the orange end of the scale. The stairs were not painted, but the landing was a dark green with a dark red mon inscribed in the center.
Then in 2014, this happened.
February 2014 a very glossy, very bright red was applied to the bridge and pale green to the stairs — note the missing boards in the railing
That fall, a fifth generation Japanese garden designer visited from Kyoto. During a walk through Lili`uokalani Gardens, Takuhiro Yamada of Hanatoyo Landscape crossed this bridge, looked from side to side, shook his head and muttered “Chinese colors.” The hunt was on to find a tone of paint that would be “Shuiro” more suitable for this structure.
Board member Kenji Kuroshima solicited a color sample from one of his guests. They brought calligraphy ink. It couldn’t be matched by any local paint store. A Honolulu Buddhist minister while traveling in Kyoto asked friends to provide a paint sample or formula and Takuhiro Yamada of Hanatoyo Landscape sent a paint formula. No one here could make heads or tails out of the Munsell color system or the formula. Photographs were provided. No paint store can make paint from a photograph. A paint chip was needed.
Shurio paint color formula, courtesy Takuhiro Yamada
Last year Yamada-san provided a paint sample book. Sherwin-Williams in Hilo had a new scanner, which we were tipped to by County painter Alton Nosaka. Everything fell together and the five year search for shuiro was at an end.
A small arrow points to Shuiro, the color of Kenji’s dreams and Takuhiro’s experience
Carpentry repairs were made to include the missing pieces in the railings and primer was applied thanks to Riki Nakano-Domen and Moses Alani Hauanio.
Top image circa 1920, bottom image 16 August 2019 with carpentry complete and primer applied
The barge arrived Friday late afternoon with the paint, which will be mixed and applied Monday — all in time for the 20th annual He Hali`a Aloha No Lili`uokalani, the Queen’s Birthday Festival.
Please come to Lili`uokalani Gardens Saturday, September 7, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. to celebrate the Queen’s birthday. Live entertainment, mass hula, orchid drop, children’s games and activities, cultural demonstrators, tea ceremony, taiko and more are planned for this free family fun day.
Overflow parking is at Afook-Chinen Civic Center with a shuttle bus running all day.
UPDATE: The finished bridge with dark green steps:
photo courtesy of Kenji Kuroshima
Moon Gate floral design by Alison Higgins of Grace Flowers Hawai`i in Honoka`a for a wedding vow renewal event 8 September 2019; photo by K.T. Cannon-Eger
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