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Places on Oahu: The Pu’ukamali’i Cemetery

Basic Information

  • Name: Pu’ukamali’i Cemetery
  • Where: Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Founded: ~1904
  • More Information: FindAGrave.com

Picture from Puukamalii Cemetery

Narrative

I recently went out to find the Natsunoya Tea House in Alewa Heights above Honolulu where the Japanese spy named Takeo Yoshikawa spied on Pearl Harbor from in the months before the infamous bombing on December 7, 1941:

“A customer named Yoshikawa used to come here during the day for tea or beer,” recalls current owner Laurence Fujiwara Jr. “When he was tired, my grandmother let him sleep in an upstairs room where we had a telescope. Unbeknownst to us, he was using it to watch the ship movements in Pearl Harbor.”

However, as I drove up to the tea house I ended up parking next to an old cemetery named Pu’ukamali’i Cemetery.  According to the sign hanging on the fence this place was also called the Kalaepohaku Cemetery at some point as well.  Being someone who likes to check out historic cemeteries I decided to go ahead and see what history was hidden in the weeds of this somewhat unkempt cemetery:

Picture from Puukamalii Cemetery

According to FindAGrave.com the land the cemetery sits on was once part of the Bishop Estate:

The cemetery is on land that used to be part of Bishop Estate, it was later transferred to the Territory of Hawai’i, and after that to the State of Hawaii. There are an estimated 500 graves, but there are no formal records about burials and no master list.

I am not sure what year the cemetery was established, but the oldest burial I can find on record here dates all the way back to 1904 with the burial of Abbie K. Prestidge.  The first thing I noticed about this cemetery was that there were a number of veterans tombstones such as this one for Sergeant Nathan R. Spencer who died back in 1934:

Picture from Puukamalii Cemetery

Here is another one of Private Willie P. Josiah who died in 1929 and served in the U.S. Guards, whatever that is:

Picture from Puukamalii Cemetery

Here is another marker for Private Philip Kawelo who served in the 3rd Engineers:

Picture from Puukamalii Cemetery

To add to the military history of this cemetery there is a very large stone marker that was installed back in 2008 to honor four World War I veterans from Hawaii who were buried in Puukamalii Cemetery, but their final resting place remains unknown:

Picture from Puukamalii Cemetery

Across the street from this stone marker was the Natsunoya Tea House:

Picture from Puukamalii Cemetery

Here is roughly the view that the Japanese spy Yoshikawa would have had from the teahouse looking out across Honolulu:

Picture from Puukamalii Cemetery

With the naked eye you can’t really see what is going on at Pearl Harbor from the tea house which is why the use of the telescope was so important.  Without that telescope Yoshikawa would have had to find somewhere else to spy from.

From the stone marker I walked over to this large tree that had some graves with Japanese kanji written on them:

Picture from Puukamalii Cemetery

Here is a closer look at one of the graves:

Picture from Puukamalii Cemetery

From the tree I began to walk down the hill to checkout the lower section of the cemetery:

Picture from Puukamalii Cemetery

Along the way I stopped to look at this grave with no name on it that was quite decorative:

Picture from Puukamalii Cemetery

Here is a view as walked about half way down the hill looking back towards the Natsunoya Tea House:

Picture from Puukamalii Cemetery

Here is the view looking back towards the tea house from the bottom of the hill:

Picture from Puukamalii Cemetery

Here is the view from the bottom of the hill looking towards Pearl Harbor:

Picture from Puukamalii Cemetery

This hill may not have had a good view of Pearl Harbor, but it did look right down towards the Honolulu Harbor:

Picture from Puukamalii Cemetery

The hill also had a great view of downtown Honolulu:

Picture from Puukamalii Cemetery

Conclusion

The Pu’ukamali’i Cemetery is not very big and can be quickly toured.  In total I spent about 45 minutes walking around the cemetery and taking pictures before concluding my visit.  The cemetery is really not that interesting though the spy history of the adjacent Natsunoya Tea House is interesting.  The views from the cemetery are not that great either with so many other good locations around Honolulu to take pictures of the city from.  Unless someone is a big World War II buff there really isn’t a reason to visit this part of the city.

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