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Celebrating a centenarian in Waimea

Nancy Toyama nodded her head and waved her clasped hands together in time to the Okinawan music being provided by the Kaua‘i Sanshin Group at Kaua‘i Care Center.

“At one point, she was the group’s instructor,” said Alan Hiranaka of the Kaua‘i Sanshin Group. “She even played with the group.”

The group performed during the celebration and festivities of Toyama’s 100th birthday that was celebrated with the population of Kaua‘i Care Center and Toyama’s family, who arrived with three birthday cakes, including a small, specially created version that the birthday girl could blow out the candle on.

According to information provided by Toyama’s family, she was born in Kapa‘a on July 18, 1923. She was one of 10 children to Masu and Matsu Yamashiro.

The two great passions in her life were golf and Okinawan music, according to her family.

She received golf lessons from Toyo Shirai, who was later
inducted into the Kaua‘i Golf Hall of Fame. With a handicap of 10, she played golf every week until her failing eyesight made it too difficult to continue, her family said.

She learned to play the shamisen, a plucked instrument similar to a guitar or banjo, from Nakaganeku Sensei in Honolulu. She received a certificate in shamisen proficiency from the Hozonkai School of Ryukyu Classical Music.

“She would often practice with her father in the afternoon, after work,” the family said. “They were active members of Hui Alu, playing music in the clubhouse, or at the Okinawan dance festivals that were held in the Kapa‘a Park. Later, Nancy became a member of a Paranku group and performed at bon dances.”

The family attributes her longevity to music, sports, and a strong, can-do attitude.

“Surrounded by brothers growing up, Nancy was a bit of a tomboy, climbing trees and competing with the neighborhood children in getting the fruit,” the family biographical information states. “She would tell of having to be an early riser in order to get the freshly laid eggs in the morning for breakfast.”

Eventually, she moved to Honolulu and lived with her sister Ruth, where she met her future husband, Toki Toyama, at McKinley High School. They were married after Toki Toyama returned from World War II, and she opened her first beauty salon in Moili‘ili.

In the early 1950s, she moved back to Kaua‘i and opened Nancy’s Beauty Shop on the second floor of the Roxy Theater building in Kapa‘a. In 1992, Hurricane ‘Iniki closed the salon for good, but she continued to see faithful customers well into her 80s, the family said.
Source: The Garden Island

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