Our Journey – Ueunten Family
The history of the Ueunten family on Kauai began with the arrival of Senshou Ueunten on Kauai in 1908 from Sashiki, Okinawa. He was soon followed by his brother Senjun who subsequently sent for his two sons, Senfu and Sentoku.
Senfu married Kama (Sesoko) in 1919 and together they raised 14 children while working on the McBryde Sugar plantation and facing the hardships of the Spanish Influenza, the Great Depression and World War II. In 1933, my grandparents, Senfu and Kama moved the family to Keke Gulch in Lawai, a small spring fed valley that was once home to Chinese rice farmers and Japanese vegetable farmers. My grandparents continued to farm into the 1960’s before passing the farm on to their third son, Senki, my uncle. He carried on the family farming raising watercress and Bluefield bananas until his passing in 1994.
In 1994, my wife Glenna and I became the third generation of Ueunten farmers in Keke Gulch continuing the tradition of being good stewards of the land while providing for our community. In keeping with the changing times we are now sharing our journey with you.
Brief History of the Family Name
The first recorded ancestor was OKUMA NO AGARI, a blacksmith, who saved the life of a fugitive by hiding him in the bellows used by blacksmiths to work the fires. Later, the blacksmith accompanied this man until this man was chosen king of Okinawa. The blacksmith was later promoted to district chief of Kunigami in northern Okinawa. The blacksmith’s relatives who were not promoted to the samurai class still reside in Okuma as the Takayasu family.
Succeeding generations were located in Kunigami, which was also the surname, KUNIGAMI.
About 5 generations later, the third son was adopted by another clan and had his name changed to “SEN”. The prefix SEN is the clan name and does not change with the last name which was usually
the district he was assigned to. The new last name was KAWAKAMI.
About 2 generations later, the second son was adopted by HIRAKAWA. The SEN prefix was retained.
About 10 generations prior to Senjun and Senshou, the last name was changed to UEUNTEN.
SENJUN’s birth parents were SENZEN UEUNTEN (a second son) and USHI HAGIDO. Their four sons were SENKI, SENJUN, SENSHO and SENSHOU. Senjun, the second son, became a stepson of
Senzen’s brother, SENKO UEUNTEN and TSURU UEUNTEN after their son died at age 9.
SENJUN married second wife (divorced first wife) TSURU UFUGUSAKU (KAME OSHIRO) and had 2 sons, SENFU and SENTOKU and two daughters, TOSHIKO and TSURU.
Prior to World War II, the UEUNTEN family in Okinawa changed their names to HIRAKAWA and KAMIUNTEN.