Many Hawaii residents have heard that a spy from the Japanese Consulate in Honolulu watched ship movements in Pearl Harbor and sent coded messages to Tokyo in the months before World War II. What is largely unknown is that he did it from Natsunoya Tea House in Alewa Heights.

“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.”

Natsunoya, which means “Summer House,” is the last remaining full-time tea house in the islands. “My grandfather, Shuuji Fujiwara, had a small tea house in Alewa Heights in 1921, named Shinchoro. He had to build his own road and put in his own telephone poles.”

Shuuji Fujiwara went to Japan to visit his dying father before World War II and was stuck there during the war. As an American citizen, he was treated poorly. Natsunoya was used by the Red Cross during the war. In 1958, his son Laurence Fujiwara Sr., took over and changed the name to Natsunoya. Natsunoya Tea House can host five events at a time. Our large banquet room can hold 300; two cottages can hold 20-30, and there are two tatami rooms that can hold 12-60.

Dignitaries of all sorts have visited Natsunoya. “John Wayne shot a scene from one of his movies here. Actors and singers from Japan regularly come. Konishiki and many of his sumotori ate us out of tea house and home. The Pittsburgh Steelers came when they had won the Superbowl. Local politicians, military leaders, and many others have all been here.”

Laurence Fujiwara Jr. has run Natsunoya since 1996 when his dad passed away. “It’s a tough job,” says the father of four. “I have to work until the job is done.”

Source: The Companies We Keep
By: Bob Sigall and his students at Hawaii Pacific University

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