We were looking for a letterbox near Glass Beach in Port Allen on Kauai. We started walking up the hill looking for our clue, a Buddha. We began to notice rocks in the dead weeds. Some of the rocks looked like headstones. As we looked closer we could see Japanese characters carved into the rocks. It seemed that a few people had chosen to be buried here overlooking the beautiful blue ocean. We would approach a stone to examine it only too see more just a little way off and then more and then more. Suddenly we realized we were in the middle of a forgotten cemetery. The dead weeds were taller than the headstones carved from volcanic rock. They were obscured so that you would think that you had seen them all only to discover more on the next rise of land.
Nearly everything was dead. There were a very few tall conifers and one or two green weeds and one lovely Heliconia plant that someone had planted on a grave. The weeds that were all about were dead, grayish brown. It was so dry one would never guess that you were on a rainy island just 10 yards from the crashing pacific ocean. It felt more like Nevada or Arizona.
There seemed to be 2 sections the Japanese section and the Christian section. The Christian section looked more like a cemetery with rocks outlining the shape of the grave and crude rudimentary crosses for markers. Broken bits of jars for flowers and other bits of remembrances littered the graves and everything was covered in the rusty red dirt of Kauai. There were a few of those strange pictures of the deceased set into the stone, It looked like a oxidized post apocalyptic scene.
One grave had a very crudely carved stone and then a nicer much newer granite replacement stone placed on the tomb in front of the other. The date was 1944. I seemed to have been tended to more recently than the others but it too was now forgotten. Who took the time to commission the replacement stone a parent a wife a sister or brother a child a lover the person responsible for his accidental death?
The Christian section seemed to be less over grown and more recent. I saw a headstone from 1982. This section looked and felt like a cemetery but the Japanese side was so haunting. Black volcanic mounds rising in the red dirt and gray weeds with strange markings on them. The voices of the Japanese plantation workers far from their home saying we were here but have been forgotten.
As we returned to the Japanese section we could see characters carved into the rocks. Some had lotus flowers carved at the base and we found two with a Buddha carved on them. One had the red dust of Kauai in the carved characters and it reminded me of the story I had heard that is was Japanese custom of painting over the name of your spouse in red paint as a promise to join them. Did the person for whom this stone was carved had someone to pledge to them?
Part of me wanted to move to Kauai and tend to these forgotten graves. The other part of me wanted it to stay like this forever. It was surreal this barren world of death, every thing reminding one of death and decay, completely void of life on one side and the beautiful vivid blue pacific ocean crashing up again black rocks white ocean spraying 20 feet into the air pulsing reminding of the rhythm of life with in the waves and scattered amongst it all the remains of a dump. Cast off tokens once useful, now waste, forgotten.