About 200 United Japanese Society of Hawaii members and friends attended the organization’s annual shinnen enkai on Jan. 24 at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i’s Manoa Grand Ballroom.
The program began with the observance of a moment of silence in memory of deceased members and friends. That was followed by a performance of gagaku court music and the celebratory dance, “Hatsuharu Sambaso” by Bando Mitsumasa II (Joyce Araki) of the Bando Sobi Kai. Later in the program, co-emcee (with Dean Asahina of the Yamanashi Kenjin Kai) Frances Nakachi-Sensei of Tamagusuku Ryu Senjukai Hawaii performed the Okinawan good luck dance, “Kotobuki no Mai.”
In her New Year’s greeting, UJSH president Rika Hirata congratulated the imperial decoration recipients and the Kenjin Kai Young Achiever honorees, who were recognized later in the program. She thanked the UJSH members and friends, noting that their support enables the organization to carry out its Legacy events throughout the year. Hirata closed by wishing everyone good health and a safe and prosperous year.
First lady Dawn Amano-Ige represented her husband, Gov. David Ige, and the state of Hawai‘i. She thanked the imperial decoration recipients for their “lifetime of service to our community and international relations,” adding that they are truly deserving of the recognition.
Consul General of Japan Toyoei Shigeeda also shared remarks. He said he was impressed that the United Japanese Society has helped bring together so many communities.
The 2014 imperial decoration recipients were recognized during the program — spring awardees Dennis Teranishi (The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette) and Lynne Yoshiko Nakasone (The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays), and fall awardee Howard Hamamoto (Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon).
Nakasone, who is grand master of Hooge-ryu Hananuzi no Kai Nakasone Dance Academy, shared her gratitude in Japanese. Hamamoto said he was very honored by the recognition, adding that it was the result of “a lot of work by a lot of people” with whom he shares the award. Teranishi, who grew up in Waialua, said he was sure his grandparents would never have imagined that their grandson would be bestowed an imperial decoration. “I believe growing up in our small community, we were comfortable and proud to be Japanese.” He credited mentoring by Nisei leaders for much of his success. Teranishi vowed to continue his work to improve relations between the United States and Japan.
Three young people were presented the UJSH’s Kenjin Kai Young Achiever award — Dr. Keith Sakuda of the Hawaii Fukuoka Kenjin Kai, Lynn Miyahira of the Hawaii United Okinawa Association and Denise Watanabe of the Honolulu Fukushima Kenjin Kai. Miyahira, who is one of the HUOA’s 2015 vice presidents, spoke on behalf of the three. She said the award means a lot to all of them. “We all share this common pride in our heritage, of belonging to something larger than ourselves.” Miyahira said she was inspired in large part by her late father, Wayne Miyahira, who was actively involved in both UJSH and the HUOA. “I’m proud that I’m able to follow in his footsteps.”
Banzai were offered to the guests and honorees by HUOA president-elect Tom Yamamoto.
The Hawaii Kindenryu Taishokoto Kinyukai group provided the lunchtime taishokoto entertainment. The after-lunch entertainment program featured a lively mix of traditional prefectural dances, hula and an uta-sanshin performance. The closing tejime was led by James Sato, president of the Honolulu Fukushima Kenjin Kai.