Guy Kawasaki’s family left Japan for America in search of a better future. 2

from book Wise Guy: Lessons from a Life

Guy Kawasaki comes from a long line of dreamers – go-getters who moved halfway across the world in search of a better life for themselves and their children. Take his father’s side of the family. His great grandparents emigrated to Hawaii from Hiroshima, Japan, between 1890 and 1900.

This was a good time to get out of their native country. The Meiji period – an age of rapid industrialization and empire-building – was drawing to a close, and Japan was embroiled in wars with China and Russia. Since all men were expected to serve in the army, the chances of being sent to the front were high. Harvesting sugar for $1 a day for the Hakalau Plantation Company in Hawaii wasn’t exactly a dream job, but it sure beat military service!

Guy’s great-grandparents eventually settled in Honolulu, the capital of Hawaii recently annexed to the United States. They had three children – the first generation of American Kawasakis. When Guy’s grandmother Alma died during childbirth, his great aunt Katherine took over maternal duties. Katherine was a deeply moral woman who taught Guy to cherish and respect all life. To this day, Guy remembers his shame when she discovered that he’d killed a rare mejiro bird with a BB gun. Like the Kawasakis, the birds had come to Hawaii from Japan!

After Alma’s death, Guy’s father Duke became the family’s breadwinner at just 14. Duke’s education was brief, but it included a stint at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he learned to play the saxophone, piano, flute and clarinet. He led a band called Duke Kawa’s and struck up a friendship with the famous Canadian bandleader Guy Lombardo – the man after whom the author was named.

Guy’s grandparents on his mother’s side also came to Hawaii from Japan. One of their children was Lucy, Guy’s mom. This side of the family was wealthier, and Lucy was sent to Yokohama, Japan, for schooling in 1939. Almost three years later, she returned to Hawaii. Luckily enough, she was on one of the last ships to leave the country before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1942.

Lucy and Duke raised Guy and his sister Jean in their house in the Kalihi Valley, a multicultural working-class neighborhood in Honolulu. His early years were happy. His parents worked hard and invested in their kids’ futures. Most importantly, they taught him that anything was possible if he made the most of the opportunities he was given. As we’ll see in the following blinks, that’s a lesson he’s taken to heart.