Dr. Yosihiko Sinoto

Melissa Moniz
Wednesday - July 05, 2006
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Dr. Yosihiko Sinoto
Dr. Yosihiko Sinoto

With 52 years of service at the Bishop Museum and esteemed honors such as a Tahitian knighthood and Japan’s Order of the Rising Sun, one would think that 82-year-old world-renowned archeologist Dr. Yosihiko Sinoto would be ready to retire.

But he’s not.

In fact, Sinoto is on his way to the Society Islands, French Polynesia, in September to lead an eight-day expedition. This unique opportunity is open to the general public, and already more than a dozen have signed up to go.

“I’m just a guide of this tour and showing what I’ve been doing on the Huahine Islands, as well as showing very important sites on Raiatea,” says Sinoto, senior anthropologist at Bishop Museum.


Some of Sinoto’s work at Huahine includes rebuilding the fare pote’ea (the round-ended chief’s house), helping to preserve the the prehistoric village of Maeva, and even finding some undiscovered marae (sacred place which served both religious and social purposes).

“Why I stuck to the Huahine Island is because it is a very unique settlement, because all the families live side-by-side in one place called Maeva,” says Sinoto. “I have been proposing to the Tahitian government since the 1980s how to preserve that area.”

Sinoto has been actively working on preserving the culture and heritage of Tahiti for about 40 years, and says his biggest challenge is getting the support of the government and the community. “The government has lots of projects going on, but the community, I think, now people are realizing how important their cultural heritage is and to preserve it,” adds Sinoto.

Since he appeared on the MidWeek cover in March 1995, Sinoto also has been busy urging that a lake in Maeva be preserved.

“In 1960s they planted watermelon on the island and the insecticides they used drained into the lake, killing small shells,” adds Sinoto. “At the end of the lake there was an electric generator, and diesel oil drained into the lake. All those things happened while I’m trying to preserve the cultural and natural environment.


“So I told the minister of agriculture to ask the farmers not to use certain insecticides, and don’t drain the oil into the lake. And so now the situation is getting better.”

As busy as Sinoto is, he still manages to find some time for fishing when he’s in Tahiti. And when he’s home he also enjoys jewelry making and carving chops (traditional Chinese and Japanese stamp). “But now they say I cannot do that because everything, when you reach about 80, everything is slow,” laughs Sinoto. “I want to do so many things, but my hand doesn’t work.”

But he’s still able to lead an expedition.

- Melissa Moniz

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