Our Heritage

Missionary Shiro Sokabe arrived from Japan on March 26,1894 to serve as a Congregationalist missionary to the Japanese immigrant laborers living in the remote plantation town of Honomu on the east side of Hawaii island.

With only local charity and some support from the sugar company, Sokabe opened an orphanage and school, providing  meals, housing, and an education to all children from the community. His wife Shika
was trained as a nurse at Doshisha University and served as co-manager of the school and dormitory.

Sokabe eventually accepted the title of Reverend, and conducted services each week at what was then known as the "Honomu Christian Church." He also preached at chapels in the neighboring communities of Hakalau and Pepeekeo where many Japanese and Filipino Christians lived.

The ministry of Honomu Christian Church developed under Reverend Sokabe and subsequent pastors expanded to serve many diverse ethnic groups living on the Hamakua Coast. Over the years, Hakalau Chapel, Papaikou Filipino Church, Pepeekeo Chapel, Pilgrim Church, and the Honomu Christian Church merged to become the Hilo Coast United Church of Christ.

Group photo taken in 1940 in front of the old meeting hall.

Reverend Sokabe (center, in robe) with some of his students

The school had sports teams, martial arts classes, and a band. Music programs and student plays were supported by the community.

In the early years of his mission work, Reverend Sokabe would walk the entire island in his Waraji (straw sandals) to visit neighboring churches. His sandals are now on display in Honolulu at the Bishop Museum. Sokabe eventually drove an automobile.