The Honolulu Hiroshima Kenjin Kai held its general membership meeting and shinnen enkai at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i’s Manoa Grand Ballroom on March 8. The event began with committee reports from the various chairs: Ehime Maru Memorial and Hiroshima Torii cleanup by Ken Saiki, summer picnic by Wayne Toma and the kenjin kai’s okonomiyaki sales at the JCCH New Year’s ‘Ohana Festival by Kevin Nakata. Sandra Ishihara-Shibata reported on the scholarship program and student exchange, which sends high school and college students to Hiroshima each summer.
Evan Takeuchi, who participated in the 2014 exchange, spoke about his experience. He said he and fellow Honolulu Hiroshima Kenjin Kai participants Kaylea Miyake and Kasey Kam visited, among other places, the Mazda Museum (and factory) and the Itsukushima Shrine, where Hiroshima’s iconic torii (shrine gate) is located just offshore. Takeuchi spoke of the new friendships he forged with Hiroshima students and families and the Hiroshima-style aloha they experienced. “I’d like to do the same for you all,” he told the Hiroshima students in the audience at the shinnen enkai.
Kenjin kai president Robert Nagao urged the members to encourage their children and grandchildren to apply for the exchange program. He noted that the Hiroshima Prefectural Government generously provides the air and ground transportation, meals and lodging. All the students have to bring is their own spending money.
The shinnen enkai marked the conclusion of Nagao’s three-year term as president. He thanked the kenjin kai’s board for their support during his term, saying they “certainly made my job easier.” He also thanked the members for their continued support and participation in club activities and his wife Janette and family for their patience and support.
In reviewing the accomplishments during his term, Nagao said he was happy that the updated version of the kenjin kai’s by-laws had been adopted. He also initiated recognition of club members 90 and older. Six members were recognized this year: Beth Tsutsuse (age 90), Alice Masuda (92), Tatsukichi Kobayashi (93), Tetsuo Tsutsuse (94), Isamu Shibata (96) and Shizuo Yamada (97).
Also recognized for turning 80 years old was Barbara Sasahara. Nagao and committee chair Ken Saiki presented Sasahara with a certificate and a gift from the Hiroshima Prefectural Government.
Roy Amemiya, managing director for the City and County of Honolulu, installed the kenjin kai’s new officers and directors, led by incoming president Wayne Miyao. Supporting Miyao are immediate past president Robert Nagao; vice presidents Peter Kobayashi, Gregg Mueller and Darek Sato; secretaries Chiemi Okamura, Donna Masuda-Kam and Nancy Shimamoto; treasurers Kevin Nakata, Thomas Sakamoto and Sandra Ishihara-Shibata; auditors Dan Kinoshita, Richard Park III and Walter Saito; historian Brandon Saigusa; and advisors Thomas Agawa, Benjamin Fukumoto, Chojiro Kageura, Tatsukichi Kobayashi, Robert Nagao, Ken Saiki and Wayne Toma. They will be further supported by the kenjin kai’s board of directors.
In accepting the president’s gavel, Wayne Miyao said it was an honor to serve as president and to succeed Nagao in the position. This is a second go-around for Miyao as president. He previously served as the kenjin kai’s president in 2005. He said his passion for his Hiroshima roots and his interest in Hiroshima grows ever stronger with each passing year. Miyao encouraged the kenjin kai members to “continue to be Hawai‘i goodwill ambassadors of aloha,” especially when visiting Hiroshima, or hosting visitors from Hiroshima.
Kampai toasts were offered by state Sen. Brian Taniguchi, whose family roots are in Hiroshima, and Nobuyoshi Tanada, executive director of the Hiroshima Convention & Visitors Bureau, who came to Hawai‘i to promote Hiroshima at the annual Honolulu Festival. Tanada prefaced his kampai by thanking the Honolulu Hiroshima Kenjin Kai for “sharing your aloha” in the aftermath of landslides last August in Hiroshima. The kenjin kai, in partnership with the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce, Hiroshima-Hawai‘i Sister-State Committee and the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i, raised over $21,000 in Hawai‘i to aid those affected by the landslides.
Joining Tanada for the Honolulu Festival were the Hiroshima Goodwill Ambassadors — Riyo Sekimoto, Mayu Matsuoka and Nagisa Yoshida — who sang the popular and lively song in praise of Hiroshima, “Hiroshima Kibun.”
The Honolulu Hiroshima Kenjin Kai has two major events planned for August. The annual summer picnic will be held Sunday, Aug. 2, from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Area 9 at Ala Moana Beach Park. And, on Thursday, Aug. 6, the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima will be commemorated with a peace ceremony at the Izumo Taishakyo Mission at 11 a.m. The Hiroshima commemoration is open to the public.