The United Japanese Society of Hawaii held its annual Installation and Recognition Banquet on June 28 at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i’s Manoa Grand Ballroom.

The lunchtime program began with the observance of a moment of silence in memory of UJSH’s deceased members, followed by Hanayagi Miyoshizu’s (Marion Kanemori) celebratory Japanese classical dance, “Sambaso.” Mina Tamashiro and Eric Kobayashi of the Tamagusuku Ryu Senjukai, Frances Nakachi Ryubu Dojo performed the Okinawan dance, “Agitchikuten.”

The 2014-15 officers, directors and counselors were installed by Circuit Judge Edward Kubo Jr. They are: Rika Hirata, president; Cyrus K. Tamashiro, president-elect; vice presidents Dean Asahina, Frances Nakachi Kuba, Rev. Akihiro Okada and Cheryl Sora; secretaries Aileen Moriwake and Faye Shigemura; treasurers Michael Sato and Kevin Matsuda; auditors Robert Nagao, Roy Ota and James Sato; and Clyde Matsumoto, immediate past president.

Outgoing president Clyde Matsumoto presents the president’s gavel to his successor, Rika Hirata.
Outgoing president Clyde Matsumoto presents the president’s gavel to his successor, Rika Hirata.

In his outgoing president’s speech, Matsumoto reflected on how he got involved with the UJSH, beginning at the kenjin kai level. “I really appreciate what UJS has done for me,” he said. Matsumoto thanked the kenjin kai and the various Japanese churches for their continued support, calling them the “backbone” of the UJSH. He also thanked Consul General Shigeeda and his staff, as well as UJSH’s past presidents for their advice based on past experiences, particularly Ken Saiki, whom Matsumoto credited for helping him to “think outside the box.” Additionally, Matsumoto acknowledged his wife Annette for her support during his term.

He concluded his speech, saying, “We’ll be there to support Rika.”

UJSH’s new president Rika Hirata said it was “a pleasure and an honor” to lead the organization, which she joined in 2010. Hirata was born in Chigasaki City in Kanagawa Prefecture and attended high school in Fukuoka. She graduated from Sophia University. While at Sophia, she participated in a study abroad program in Kansas, she where developed a Kansan twang. In 1998, Hirata moved to Hawai‘i with her husband — they have four golden retrievers.

The new UJSH president said she grew up immersed in the “soul of Japan.” Hirata said being involved in UJSH reminds her of the teachings of her grandmother.

She said she wants to share Japanese culture with the generations to come and is looking forward to collaborating with other Japanese organizations in Hawaii. “I look forward to working with and reaching out to as many people as possible,” she said Congratulatory messages were delivered by Blake Oshiro, deputy chief of staff for Gov. Neil Abercrombie; Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and Consul General of Japan Toyoei Shigeeda.

One of the highlights of the afternoon was the presentation of the Outstanding Member of the Year award to Mabel Masuko Yonemori. Yonemori, who was born in Santa Maria, Calif., earned her academic degrees in sociology and psychology and a fifth year teaching certificate from the University of Hawai‘i. She went on to a long career in the state Department of Education, where she served in various positions. Yonemori is active in a number of organizations, including the Japanese Women’s Society Foundation and the Ala Wai Karaoke Club. She has also held numerous positions in the UJSH. The printed program write-up on Yonemori noted that, “Mabel willingly puts out 110 percent effort and gets others to do likewise.”

Also recognized during the program was Hugh O’Reilly Jr., who was presented the UJSH Award for Contributions to the Japanese Community and Hawai‘i. O’Reilly established Peace Bridge, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to carrying on a humanitarian project started by his late father, Sgt. Hugh O’Reilly, in support of the Holy Family Home orphanage in Osaka in 1949.

After accompanying a Red Cross field representative to the orphanage on Christmas Day, the senior O’Reilly took up a collection among the soldiers in his unit, the 27th Infantry Regiment, known as the “Wolfhounds,” which was headquartered at Schofield Barracks. The money, $143, was donated to the Holy Family Home on New Year’s morning. Sgt. O’Reilly and his men continued to raise money to help feed and clothe the children at the orphanage and eventually began bringing two children to Hawai‘i for a short vacation. That goodwill continued until Sgt. O’Reilly’s passing in 2006.

Determined to keep the project alive, Hugh O’Reilly Jr. established Peace Bridge with a small group of local community leaders. UJSH became a community partner in 2008. Its Japanese-speaking members serve as translators during the children’s visit to Hawai‘i. The organization also donates toys and other gifts for the orphans at the Holy Family Home during the holidays.

Another highlight of the program was the introduction of the “Kenjinkai Outstanding Achievement Awards” to kenjin kai members for their contributions to their respective clubs. Prior to introducing the 2014 honorees, Dean Asahina noted that “without the kenjin kai, the UJSH would cease to exist.”

Honored were: Alan Sekigawa (represented by Don Koga), Central Oahu Kumamoto Kenjin Kai; Tomoyo T. Honda, Hawaii Ehime Kenjin Kai; Dennis J. Kinoshita Jr., Hawaii Fukuoka Kenjin Kai; Ronald Okura (represented by the Rev. Hiromi Kawaji), Hawaii Kagoshima Kenjin Kai; Shigeo Minamoto (represented by Yoshimi Endo), Hawaii Kanagawa Kenjin Kai; Shigeko Hamasaka, Hawaii Miyagi Kenjin Kai; Mieko Shintani, Hawaii Miyazaki Kenjin Kai; Taeko Teruya, Hawaii Oita Kenjin Kai; George Bartels Jr., Hawaii United Okinawa Association; Akiko Baba, Hawaii Yamagata Kenjin Kai; Clara Osano, Hawaii Yamanashi Kyo Yu Kai; Clarence Sato, Honolulu Fukushima Kenjin Kai; Calvin and June Miyamoto, Honolulu Hiroshima Kenjin Kai; Terrence Kai, Honolulu Kumamoto Kenjin Kai; Junko and Eiji Tsurumaki, Honolulu Niigata Kenjin Kai; John Okutani, Honolulu Yamaguchi Kenjin Kai; and Lois Tagami (represented by George Hirota), Wahiawa-Waialua Hiroshima Kenjin Kai.

John Okutani from the Honolulu Yamaguchi Kenjin Kai represented his fellow recipients in thanking the UJSH and the kenjin kai for recognizing them.

Two new kenjin kai recently joined the UJSH — Hawaii Ehime Kenjin Kai and Hawaii Kanagawa Kenjin Kai.

Two banzai toasts were offered during the program — the first from Cmdr. Hiromasa Takahashi of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force, who offered a banzai to the UJSH from the guests, and the second from UJSH past president Kenneth Saiki to the guests.

Entertainment included a dance performance, “Enka wa Ii Ne,” by the MY Ohana Performers, featuring outgoing president Clyde Matsumoto and others; and Okinawan eisä and kachäshi by the Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko Hawaii. Bishop Daiya Amano of the Izumo Taishakyo Mission concluded the program with a spirited tejime.


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