David Laʻamea Kamanakapuʻu Mahinulani Nalōiaʻehuokalani Lumialani Kalākaua was born on the Hawaiian island of Oahu on 16 November 1836, the second surviving son of the High Chief Caesar Kaluaiku Kapaʻakea and high chiefess Analea Keohokalole. By Hawaiian custom, the infant was adopted by the chiefess Haaheo Kaniu, who took him to the court of King Kamehameha III on the island of Maui. When Kalakaua was four, he returned to Oahu to begin his education at the Royal School.
Kalakaua studied law from the age of 16, but never completed his studies because of his military duties and being appointed to various government positions - in the Department of the Interior and as Postmaster General. In late 1863, he married Kapiʻolani. Although it was a low-key ceremony, he was criticised for holding it during the mourning period for King Kamehameha IV.
When Kamehameha V died in 1872 without having designated an heir, Kalakaua fought an election held to determine his successor but lost to Prince William Charles Lunalilo. Two years later Lunalilo also died without naming a successor. Kalakaua then won the subsequent election against Queen Emma, Kamehameha IV’s widow. However, when supporters of the queen rioted, King Kalakaua asked for the help of US and British troops then in harbour.
Later that year, Kalakaua toured the country’s islands, and then he travelled to the US to finalise a reciprocity treaty. This removed the tariff on some Hawaiian products, particularly sugar, which led to a period of prosperity. Kalakaua tried to restore the ancient Hawaiian social order and helped revive traditional customs, such as hula. He also built himself a luxurious home, the Iolani Palace (now said to be the only royal residence anywhere in the United States).
In 1881, Kalakaua embarked on an innovative fact-finding trip around the world, keen to see how other countries were ruled and how they dealt with immigration, and so as to improve Hawaii’s foreign relations. During his nine month absence, his sister and heir, Princess Liliʻuokalani, ruled as regent. He visited San Francisco, then Japan and China, Burma, India, Egypt and several European countries. By the mid-1880s, however, he was facing growing political unrest from some monarchists wanting to replace Kalakaua with his sister, and from many others wanting to end the monarchy and join with the United States.
In 1887, a group called the Hawaiian League assembled an armed force strong enough to demand the king sign a new constitution (the so-called Bayonet Constitution). This severely restricted his powers, and effectively put an end to the monarchy. He died a few years later, in 1991, while on a visit to the US. Further biographical information can be found at Wikipedia, Hawaii History, Hawaii for Visitors, and The Samurai Archives.
There is no evidence that Kalakaua was a diarist by nature, but during his voyage around the world, he did keep a diary for a short time while in Japan. This was discovered in the 1970s by Masaji Marumoto, a lawyer and community leader in Hawaii, in the Bishop Museum library, Honolulu. And, on the basis of the diary, he wrote a paper for the Hawaiian Journal of History (Volume 10, 1976) entitled Vignette of Early Hawaii-Japan Relations: Highlights of King Kalakaua’s Sojourn in Japan on His Trip around the World as Recorded in His Personal Diary. This is freely available on the University of Hawaii community website, and contains several extracts from the diary. Also freely available - at Internet Archive - is Around the World with a King, published in 1904, which contains an account of the entire trip as written by William N. Armstrong, Kalakaua’s Attorney General and companion on the journey.
According to Marumoto, the diary covers the first 48 pages of a notebook containing 100 letter-size pages, and, at the time of his discovery, had not been mentioned or referred to in any existing histories of Hawaii. Apparently, he says, it lay in the archives of the museum for many years unnoticed and unread. Marumoto explains that in Kalakaua’s diary he ‘described in detail his meetings with Emperor Mutsuhito and the Empress at officially scheduled functions; the numerous courtesies extended to him by Prince Higashifushimi Yoshiaki and other members of the Emperor’s reception committee; the military parade given in his honor; and the visits to the printing office, arsenal, paper factory, naval academy, civil engineering school, and other places of interest.’
Marumoto also observes: ‘In a sense, Kalakaua’s diary is a tourist’s diary. However, it is more than that. In it Kalakaua emerges as an educated man with catholic knowledge of human affairs, a monarch thoroughly versed in royal etiquette and comfortably at home with his peer, and a man deeply affected by kindnesses extended to him.’ He concludes his paper with this: ‘The events which are recorded in Kalakaua’s diary did not bring about any result of lasting consequence. They merely added some romantic touch, and thus provided a fascinating and intriguing vignette, to early Hawaii-Japan relations.’ Here are several extracts from Kalakaua’s diary as found in Marmot’s paper.
4 March 1881
‘We arrived in Yokohama at 8 a.m. March 4th 1881. Having had a passage of 24 days from San Francisco weather heavy most of the way. . . . The harbor was studded with vessels of different nationalities War and Merchant vessels. . . . Those having saluting batteries fired 21 guns each Japanese Russian and French. Two Japanese Officers in uniform boarded the Oceanica waited for the arrival of the Admiral. Then came Mr. R. W. Irwin Acting Hawaiian Consul General with Mr. D. W. Stevens Secretary to the American Legation immediately followed. . . . After breakfast Mr. Irwin announced the arrival of Commissioners from the Emperor to receive us and after the presentation of the members consisting of Junii Hachisuka Ex Daimio, Mr. Ishabashi Secretary Foreign Department Vice Governor Isogi of Kanagawa and Admiral Natamuta of the Imp. Jap. Navy we left the ship amid the hearty cheers of the Officers Passengers and Crew of the ‘Oceanica’. The Admiral’s launch conveying us to the Admiralty Office Landing, where we were met by other Deputations sent by the Emperor to receive us. . . . On landing, a Detachment of soldiers and marines paid the usual honors, the Marine Band playing the Kamehameha Hymn or Hawaiian National Anthem. After a short detention of an hour in receiving the presentations of the Naval Officers of the Japanese fleet in the harbor, we drove to the Emperor’s Marine Resident Junii Hachisuka escorting us in the first carriage and the others of the party following in the second and third carriages.
At 11 1/2 a.m. His Imperial Highness Prince Higashifushiminomiya arrived, welcoming us in the name of the Emperor as his guest. Arrangements was [sic] then made for our reception by the Emperor of Japan to take place the next day Saturday the 5th.’
7 March 1881
‘Early at 9 1/2 H. I. H. escorted us to the Arsenal. General Oyama Gan General Murata were presented and with them we were lead to the various departments. Guns of the most improved patterns were orderly placed on racks in tiers from the ground to the Sealing as well as the upper second story. We went through the machinery, gun & cartridge Rooms and small gun factories, where they were making a new gun of their own invention. The piece was somewhat similar to the Hotchkiss American small arm and the test of the Arm showed great precision with low trajectory. . . . The breech lock is simple containing but 5 pieces to the whole mechanism.’
13 March 1881
‘The Prince received us in the front entrance of the Building and conducted us to a side room on the left or East Room on the second story. On a small table was placed a floral cushing of white jassimin flowers and the word ALOHA inscribed in the center in large letters made of the Red Cherry blossom. When this rare and precious token of friendship met my eyes, a thrill of gratefulness penetrated my whole frame and only restrained the emotion by the faint exclamation how beautiful.
Within the door, H. I. H. Princess Higashifushiminomiya advanced to welcome us and led me to a sofa near the fire, bade me to sit, she seating herself on my left. Trays of warm tea and cordials were placed before us and through the medium of the interpretation of Mrs. Uyeno the conversation alluding to the inclemency of the weather and other topics, she arose to allow Princess Fushiminomiya and Princess Kitashirakawa to be presented. When Luncheon was announced she arose and offering myself lead her to the table. . . . I sat on Princess left and Prince Fushiminomiya opposite.
When the Roast were brought in His Imperial Highness Prince Higashi arose and proposed my health in a most cordial manner. In arising to reply I was so choked with emotion that I hardly could speak, but in a broken sentence thanked him for his kindness.’