Native Intelligence: O‘ahu

Sweet Perfection

Story by Martha Cheng. Photos by Jenny Sathngam.

“Bees are the one language I can share anywhere in the world,” says Yuki Uzuhashi. “It is an international language.” He first heard it in Jamaica, as he accompanied a Rastafarian whose protective gear consisted of a ripped window screen wrapped

around his large, single dreadlock and plastic shopping bags pulled over his hands. Neighborhood kids helped with the harvest by burning cow dung, which created a smoke to sedate the bees. With bees buzzing around him, Uzuhashi tasted honey straight from the comb for the first time.

A few years later, while studying sculpture at a Kyoto art school, Uzuhashi tagged along with “honey nomads” who follow flower blooms from the southern islands of Japan north to Hokkaido, harvesting honey along the way. Uzuhashi was drawn to their “really romantic way of living. It was poetic, life as art.” For his final art school exhibition, Uzuhashi constructed a yurt beside beehives. “That was my declaration that I would be a beekeeper from here on.”

Inspired by the “honey nomads” of his native Japan, beekeeper Yuki Uzuhashi came to Hawai‘i in pursuit of honey perfection. Now Uzuhashi runs Manoa Honey, with hives in fifteen locations around O‘ahu.

Uzuhashi ran a honey business with his grandmother in Hyōgo prefecture until a buzzing restlessness led him to answer an ad seeking crew for the Transpacific Yacht Race. He had no sailing experience but “always dreamed about oceans afar.” He would cross the Pacific multiple times: from Tokyo to San Francisco, for the race from Los Angeles to Honolulu, and then back to San Francisco to be with his future wife, the first woman he saw when he arrived in San Francisco after forty days at sea. When Uzuhashi heard that Michael Kliks, the founder of Manoa Honey, was ready to retire, he headed to Honolulu to take over the business.

Now Uzuhashi oversees about 350 hives in 15 different locations across O‘ahu. Manoa Honey’s white kiawe honey, gathered from the Wai‘anae coast, is thick, opaque and creamy as whipped butter, while the golden Christmas berry honey, harvested from the North Shore, has a hint of roasted chestnut. For Uzuhashi, honey has never been just a sweetener, but the essence of a relationship: The honey made of the nectar from millions of blooms is the connection between bees and flowers. His responsibility, he says, is “to extract it in its purest form.”