Larry Kimura, UH Hilo Hawaiian language preservationist, named Living Treasure of Hawai‘i

Associate Professor Larry Lindsey Kimura received the honor of Living Treasure of Hawai‘i from the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai‘i for his extraordinary commitment to the preservation and use of the Hawaiian language.

By Susan Enright

Larry Kimura, Eric Matsumoto and Pieper Toyama pose for photo.
Larry Kimura (center) at the 45th Annual Living Treasures of Hawai’i Recognition, Feb. 8, 2020, Hilton Hawaiian Village, Waikiki. With him is Bishop Eric Matsumoto (left) and President Pieper Toyama (right) of the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai‘i. Photo Credit: Alan Kubota.

Larry Kimura, internationally renowned “grandfather” of Hawaiian language revitalization, has been named a “Living Treasure of Hawai‘i” by the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai‘i. Kimura, an associate professor of Hawaiian language and Hawaiian studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, is one of four recipients of this year’s annual awards, joining Hawaiian music and dance legend Robert Cazimero, Japanese brush painter Sachie Saigusa, and YMCA volunteer teacher of Hawaiian studies and hula Carolee Nishi.

An award ceremony was held Feb. 8 at the 2020 Legislative Assembly Aloha Luncheon and 45th Annual Living Treasures of Hawai’i Recognition at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki.

Kimura received the honor for his extraordinary commitment to the preservation and use of the Hawaiian language. He is known worldwide for his tremendous contributions in the revitalization of Hawai‘i’s indigenous language.

In a media release announcing the award, the Honpa Hongwanji Mission recognizes Kimura as a teacher of Hawaiian language for nearly 50 years at both UH Mānoa and UH Hilo. He is a leader in curriculum development for the statewide Hawaiian immersion schools; his influence has touched multiple generations of Hawaiian language speakers from keiki to kupuna.

Kimura continues to contribute to the revitalization of the Hawaiian language as the chairperson of the Hawaiian Lexicon Committee based at the Hale Kuamo‘o Hawaiian Language Center at UH Hilo, and by focusing on Hawaiian curriculum development and teacher licensing for Hawai‘i’s immersion programs. He also is the first president and co-founder of Hawai‘i’s first ‘Aha Pūnana Leo Hawaiian language immersion preschools.

Kimura is co-principal investigator for a National Science Foundation and a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to digitize and archive spoken native Hawaiian speech. He has collected some 525 hours of first language Hawaiian speakers recorded during the Ka Leo Hawai‘i radio program starting in the 1970s, which stands as the largest collection of the spoken Native Hawaiian word. He is currently working on a digital repository to make these recordings accessible to future generations.

UH Hilo digitizing 40-year-old ʻōlelo radio show; public can “listen to another time”

As a prolific composer, Kimura is credited across 47 albums, tapes, and CDs for his songs and chants. He also was one of the consultants in creating a Hawaiian language certification program for Hawaiian Airlines employees to encourage Hawaiian to be spoken and shared with passengers on board their flights.

Through Larry Kimura’s love and passion for the Hawaiian language, he is helping keep alive the history, beauty and essence of Hawai‘i.

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Story by Susan Enright, a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.