Family says man’s healthy lifestyle contributed to long life

A routine of physical labor in the fields, eating meals full of fruits and vegetables, a philosophy of moderation and good genes contributed to a Makawao man’s long life, his family said.

“My dad was a farmer; he had a lot of exercise. They say avocados are good; he ate avocados every day,” said Amy Arakaki, the daughter of 105-year-old Kazuma Okumura, who died Sept. 17 at his home.

The longtime Olinda Road farmer and founder of Okumura Bus Service always had some kind of vegetables with his meals, said his grandson and caregiver for seven years.

“If I made food and there was no salad, he would say, ‘Where’s the salad or the vegetables?’ ” said Colin Okumura, 39, of Oahu. “He tried to stick more to nature.”

Kazuma Okumura always had to have a minimum of five different vegetables on the table and if there weren’t enough, the children or his late wife would go out to the farm and fetch some, Colin Okumura and other family members recalled.

His healthy lifestyle led him to be one of Maui’s oldest residents.

“It is pretty old,” said Kathleen Couch, program coordinator of the Maui Adult Day Care Centers, which assists with daytime care of the elderly and adults who are physically and mentally challenged.

“The oldest (patient) we had was 107. We had a 104-year-old, and we have a 103-year-old,” she said.

The 107-year-old was Damiana Juan, who died Nov. 8.

Kazuma Okumura was a farmer for more than half a century and worked his fields into his 90s, said family members. He – and they – ate lots of vegetables, not much meat and much less junk food.

“He would never feed us (just) meat. He would drown it in vegetables,” Arakaki said, adding that they did have beef cattle and milking cows on their farm.

Unusual for that generation, her father ate brown rice instead of the more popular white rice. He never smoked or drank alcohol but did refresh himself with lots of water while working in the fields, she said.

There wasn’t much junk food around the Okumura house, Arakaki remembered. She said the only time they had soda and pie was as a reward when the children worked overtime in the pineapple fields.

His grandfather did enjoy some sweets and different types of foods but did not gorge, Colin Okumura recalled.

“For me, I always believe it was moderation,” he said. “He never restricted himself to anything.”

The younger Okumura said that at buffets his grandfather would get a bite of everything but never overeat.

Another factor that may have played a role in his 105-year-old life was his good genes, said Arakaki. Some of her father’s siblings lived into their 90s.

In addition to his farming life, Kazuma Okumura was active in the community, donating the peaches from his farm to Makawao Hongwanji Mission for its famous pickled peaches, and he was a former president and one of the founders of the Maui Japanese Society.

He also set up a scholarship for students in Hawaii interested in Japanese language and promoted gateball exchanges between Japan and Japanese cultural societies on other islands.

In 2001, Kazuma Okumura received the Imperial Decoration Award – The Order of the Rising Sun, Silver Rays – from the Japanese government for strengthening the relationship between Japan and the United States.

Services will be held on Oct. 5 at Makawao Hongwanji Mission. Visitation will be at 9:30 a.m. with services at 10 a.m.

Kazuma Okumura’s son Michael recalls a kind-hearted father.

“He was very loving. He helped a lot of people,” he said.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at