Nathan Green Portrait of Jesus with a bunch of random people

The following was taken and abreviated from "The Anatomy of a Church" which was written in 1985.

The first Seventh-Day Adventist of Japanese ancestry to live in Hawaii was Miss Mary Kimi Mitsutome. Records show that in 1914 there were only 243 believers in Japan. Before her arrival in Hilo in 1920, she was the secretary for Albert Cole, the treasurer for the Seventh-Day Adventist Mission Headquarters in Tokyo. She is also known to have been a secretary for Andrew Nelson in the mission.

J.A. Simonsen, principal of Hawaiian Mission Academy for nearly a decade in the 20’s and 30’s, states that the first locally baptized Japanese was Loren Miyagi, a tenth grade student at the academy in 1925. Mr. Miyagi died sometime before 1985 in Denver where he continued to serve as a church elder in the Japanese congregation.

Until 1929, Hawaii was a detached mission administered by the Foreign Mission Board of the General Conference. At that time the Hawaiian Mission became a part of the Pacific Union Conference. Adventism’s center in Hawaii was what is known today as the Honolulu Central Seventh-Day Adventist Church. It is located on Nuuanu Avenue next to the Royal Mausoleum. Prior to that it was housed in a sanctuary on Piikoi Street near Wilder Avenue.

It was in 1934 that the pioneers among Japanese Adventists took steps to unite as a congregation. The first church was located at 1312 Keeaumoku Street from 1934-1940. The second church was located at 1415 Makiki Street from 1940-1967 and our third church where we are located now is at 2655 Manoa Road from 1967 to the present.

This is the story of how we got there. The Hawaiian Mission marked its "Golden Jubilee" in Hawaii by building the main hall of Hawaiian Mission Academy in 1935. Therefore, a large assembly room became available on weekends. The Japanese Church rented the buildings on the Makiki Street campus from 1940 until 1950 when the elementary division of Hawaiian Mission Academy moved into the vacated classrooms. The Japanese Church became the twelfth to be organized in the state of Hawaii on January 6, 1940 with 30 charter members. The elementary division of the academy gave way to the present Hawaiian Mission Elementary School around 1965 so the Japanese Church rented from HME until 1967 when the congregation moved to Manoa Valley.

Mr. & Mrs. William Diem were longtime residents of Manoa Valley. Their little cottage had a common boundary with the property where the Japanese Church stands today.

They professed no religious preference and at first were apprehensive about the growth of the Adventists across the boundary line. Mr. Diem, an electrical engineer, soon delighted in sharing his tools and expertise during the remodeling of the original buildings. Mrs. Diem was a friend and student of the great Italian educator Maria Montessori, and she soon loved to talk with the church ladies who helped build the sanctuary.

The Diems became the self-appointed guardians of the Adventist grounds on Manoa Road. At the time of Mr. Diem’s death, Japanese Church became a beneficiary of the trust he had written to care for his wife until the time of her death. At the close of probate, the Diem property was added to that owned by the Japanese Church.

The more favorable property in Manoa Valley was located by Japanese Church member Walter Zane, and through his help the Kalihi property was sold so the Jackson College property could be purchased. Jackson College is a bluestone structure with a central patio and was erected in 1890 by Judge Cooper of Honolulu. It was a Baptist college that ran into financial difficulty. Mr. Diem, recalled the way the Australian granite was brought to Manoa from Honolulu harbor on carts drawn over dirt roads by mule teams. The rock had been ballast on ships that came to pick up sandalwood during the age of sailing vessels. Previous to 1965, it had served as a classroom building for Jackson College. The first service was held in the reconstructed mansion on August 26, 1967.

On January 12, 1968, a service dedicating the old Cooper mansion as a special church building was conducted. Following the traditional Japanese church potluck, the significant step was made toward the real objective. Harold Kono, Pastor; Teruo Funai, first elder; Dr. James Kuninobu, elder statesman; Mun On Chang, Hawaiian Mission Treasurer; A.G. Streifling, Hawaiian Mission President; and Walter Zane, Real estate agent-member of Japanese church, stood in the area that is now the middle of the sanctuary seating area and turned the first shovels of dirt to carry out the main sanctuary building plan. Church membership at that time was 225.

The services of George Halsted, a gentle, faithful Baptist construction engineer with several contractors' credentials, were secured by verbal agreement.  Throughout the construction, Halsted performed his leadership with a generous spirit.  Actual construction began on July 8, 1968 and in 19 months the members of the church completed the steep-roofed sanctuary. Head deacon John Tamanaha and Pastor Kono worked relentlessly to keep the building moving daily.  John did not miss a single day during construction.  Each construction bill was paid upon presentation.  

During construction, one of the heavy supporting beams shattered while it was being lifted by the crane into position. Luckily no one was injured as it came crashing down in what is now the parking lot. Today, if one looks up at the middle beam on the left side in the sanctuary a splice can be seen on the upper portion. The only real injury was to John Obata, who cut off the first segment of his finger while cutting a piece of lumber.

The first service in the main sanctuary was held December 20, 1969. Over $100,000 was saved on the A-frame building because the members gave their time to build the sanctuary that could hold up to 400 people. A sacred service of dedication was held on February 7, 1970.

As of 2004, there have been 13 Pastors and Laymen who have helped to lead the Japanese Church to where it is today. As we look back, we can see God leading and directing us in the property that was chosen, both the Pastors and leaders that He has sent as well as the sacrifices by its members. We look forward to that glorious day when we shall all meet together -


And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. Rev. 21:4 KJV


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