The United Japanese Society of Hawaii honored 36 O‘ahu Nikkei who were born in 1934 and are turning 80 this year with a grand birthday party at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i on Sept. 21. The event was UJSH’s 40th annual Nenchosha Ian Engei Taikai (Senior Citizen Festival). The honorees were treated to lunch and a full day of Japanese and Okinawan music and dance — and even some exercises.
The program, which was attended by 375 people, began with the observance of a moment of silence for the deceased. A celebratory dance, “Bashi Nu Tui Bushi,” was performed by Mitsuko Toguchi Nakasone, kaishu of the Ryusei Honryu Ryuko Kai, and her student Diana Kawaguchi.
The Nenchosha Ian Engei Taikai is organized annually by the UJSH in conjunction with “Respect for the Aged Day,” a national holiday in Japan. Every year, UJSH asks the various O‘ahu kenjinkai, senior citizen clubs and community centers to submit the names of members who are turning 80 that year so that they can be honored at the Nenchosha festival.
Each of the 37 honorees was introduced during the program and presented a certificate. They also had their picture taken with UJSH president Rika Hirata and 2014-15 Cherry Blossom Queen Sarah Kamida.
Congratulatory messages were offered by Linda Chu Takayama, director of the city’s Office of Economic Development, and Deputy Consul General of Japan Kazunari Tanaka. Takayama represented Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, who was traveling, and Tanaka represented Consul General of Japan Toyoei Shigeeda.
The 2014 honorees were: Henry Asahina, Yasuko Duhaylongsod, Shizuko Ellis, Emiko Fujiwara, Henry Fukuhara, Faith Fujimi Fukumoto, Edward Ginoza, Ruriko Hayashi, Lillian S. Inatsuka, Kazuo Inouye, Elsie Ishiki, Tamie Kashiwamura, Edward Kashiwamura, Hiromi Kawaji, Joella Kawamoto, Yolanda Kekaula, Betty Koike, Amy Masui, Harold M. Matsumoto, Hatsuko Matsuoka, Allen Matsuoka, Ann Matsuyama, Richard T. Miyao, Umeko Mogi, Sadako Ogino, Jane Sato, T. Raymond Sekiya, Miriam Stevens, Kenneth Tamashiro, Patsy Tanimura, Harry Tokuda, Franklin Toma, Roy H. Tominaga, Judy Uehara, Yoshie Wear and Wilma C. Yee.
New octogenarians Roy Tominaga, a former UJSH president, and Raymond Sekiya, past president of the Honolulu Fukuoka Kenjinkai, were asked to represent their fellow 80-year-olds in presenting floral bouquets to the two women who were key in organizing the event, Mabel Yonemori and current UJSH president Rika Hirata. State Rep. Bertrand Kobayashi, a past Fukuoka Kenjinkai president, led a rousing banzai to the honorees.
During a performance by the Harada Nao Azusa Kai, emcee Ralston Nagata invited audience members to participate in a “Tanko Bushi” bon dance, which many did happily.
The program closed with a lively Okinawan eisä performance by the Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko Hawaii, directed by Akemi Martin-Sensei. RMD also led the audience in a lively kachashi to close the event.
This year’s festival was co-chaired by Mabel Yonemori, Rev. Akihiro Okada, Nancy Yokoyama and James Sato.