ala wai canal 1920 to 1928


In September of 1928, 19 year old Myles Yutaka Fukunaga abducted Gill Jamieson, the 10 year old son of Frederick Jamieson, the vice president of the Hawaiian Trust Company. About an hour later, in a dense kiawe thicket near the Ala Wai canal in Waikiki, Fukunaga struck the child dead with a steel chisel. Later that night, he got $4000 in marked ransom money from Jamieson.

The abduction of the son of a prominent haole business executive shocked everyone. Police set up roadblocks, people were deputized at the National Armory Headquarters and organized into search parties. Many others, like the Boy Scouts and ROTC cadets joined the search for Gill. Most screamed for the death penalty to be applied to the kidnapper.

After falsely arresting and forcing a confession from Henry Kaisan, the former chauffeur of the Jamieson family, Fukunaga was caught trying to spend some of the ransom money. During his ride to the police station, the siren from the Aloha Tower sounded. Crowds jammed the streets of Honolulu to catch a glimpse of him and to demand the death penalty.

In trying to understand why this ‘nice boy’ would become a killer, Professor Lockwood Myrick from the University of Hawai’i pointed to how Fukunaga was a product of the ‘Americanization’ program underway in the Hawai’i school system. The 1920 Federal Survey of Education had concluded that the primary responsibility of Hawaii’s public schools was "to make loyal intelligent Americans by imparting to children of alien and non-English speaking Oriental parents the ideals, customs, and language of America." Whiteness was glorified while many elements in the culture of the students' parents were held up to scorn. Elite social clubs such as the Outrigger Canoe Club and the Pacific Club barred membership to Asians.


At the same time, however, Asians in Hawai’i were encouraged to become happy consumers. Fukunaga absorbed what he was taught and desperately wanted to associate with haoles and white culture. At the time of the abduction, Fukunaga was working 80 hours a week at a pantry job at the Seaside Hotel but this was not enough to allow him and his parents to escape poverty. Embittered by the contradiction between the material success promised to Americans’ and the reality of his family’s poverty, Myles attempted to fulfill his ‘American dream’ by kidnapping the son of a wealthy businessman.

This particular boy was chosen because his father’s company had recently tried to evict the Fukunaga family from their small house near Chinatown. They owed $20 in back rent. Pleading with the collector sent by the Hawaiian Trust Company was humiliating for the entire family.

During a brief trial in October 1928, Fukunaga’s court-appointed attorneys called no witnesses for the defense despite the fact that Professor Myrick wrote an open letter to Governor Wallace Farrington asking for consideration of the fact that Fukunaga "was not only highly abnormal but legally insane." On November 19, 1929, Myles Yutaka Fukunaga was hanged.

Roland Kotani. 1985. The Japanese in Hawaii: A Century of Struggle. Honolulu. The Hawaii Hochi, Ltd.