Hawai‘i’s sister-state ties with Japan are the focus of a series of programs airing on Oceanic Cable’s Nippon Golden Network, a subscription-based network of stations. The series highlights Hawai‘i’s sister-state relationships with Fukuoka, Okinawa, Hiroshima and Ehime — all located in southern Japan.
According to NGN president Dr. Dennis Ogawa, the programs were produced in cooperation with television networks in the four prefectures, which provided subtitled programs to NGN.
The series was inspired by the work of former Hawai‘i Gov. George Ariyoshi, who initiated the sister-state program in 1981. Fittingly, Ariyoshi introduces each program, followed by a message from current Gov. David Ige and then the governor of the featured prefecture. The programs focus on the prefecture’s signature foods, events and local communities. The goal of the series is to foster closer people-to-people relationships with the prefecture and to deepen the bonds between Hawai‘i and Japan.
In 1981, Gov. Ariyoshi established Hawai‘i’s first sister-state relationship with Fukuoka Prefecture, located on Kyüshü island. Ariyoshi’s father, Ryozo, immigrated to Hawai‘i from Fukuoka. Ariyoshi also involved the Honolulu Fukuoka Kenjin Kai, emphasizing the importance of its involvement if the relationship was to be successful.
And it has been fruitful. The relationship has resulted in a delegation from Fukuoka’s prefectural assembly traveling to Hawai‘i annually for the opening of the state Legislature. While in Hawai‘i, the delegation also visits several local companies with potential for doing business with Fukuoka in the future.
The Fukuoka program, titled “Gurutto J:COM Tankentai,” premiered earlier this month. In it, Gov. Hiroshi Ogawa welcomes viewers to Fukuoka. The “J:COM expedition team” travels throughout Fukuoka and its surrounding cities, introducing viewers to restaurants, landmarks, local events and people. Like all of the sister-state programs, it will show on NGN on a continuous basis.
In 1985, Okinawa Prefecture became Hawai‘i’s second sister-state, followed by Hiroshima in 1997 and Ehime in 2003. Large numbers of emigrants from Fukuoka, Okinawa and Hiroshima arrived in Hawai‘i in the late 1800s and early 1900s to work on the sugar plantations.
“Okinawa BON!!” will premiere Friday, June 26, at 8:30 p.m., introducing viewers to fashionable stores, popular restaurants and the latest trends in Okinawa. In it, Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga welcomes viewers to Japan’s southernmost prefecture.
As Gov. Ariyoshi envisioned, the respective kenjin kai, or prefectural organizations, have gotten involved in their respective sister-state relationship.
The Hawaii United Okinawa Association’s already-strong ties with Okinawa have expanded even further since formalizing its sister-state relationship. This summer, Hawai‘i and Okinawa will celebrate the 30th anniversary of their sister-state relationship with several events being organized by the HUOA.
The relationship led to the establishment of a number of programs, including a high school student exchange with the Okinawa Department of Education. This year marks the 25th anniversary of that exchange. This past March, 25 students from Okinawa spent 10 days in the homes of families on O‘ahu. Next month, 15 Hawai‘i high schoolers will travel to Okinawa and home-stay with families there while learning about and experiencing Okinawa. The HUOA is also facilitating with Okinawa’s interest in developing clean energy partnerships with Hawai‘i and in higher education initiatives.
The Hiroshima program is titled “Okonomiyaki Kiko.” Gov. Hidehiko Yuzaki welcomes viewers to Hiroshima, which is located in Japan’s main island of Honshu. The largest number of Japanese immigrants to settle in Hawai’i in the early 1900s was from Hiroshima.
According to Honolulu Hiroshima Kenjin Kai president and Hiroshima Hawaii Sister State Committee chair Wayne Miyao, the establishment of the sister-state relationship with Hiroshima Prefecture has spurred other “sister” relationships with Hiroshima in areas such as culture and arts, sports, education, business and even peace.
“Over the years, we have initiated and been successful in creating such ‘sister’ relationships between schools (several high schools, middle and elementary), chambers of commerce (Hilo, Kona and Maui) and even cities (Maui County with Fukuyama City),” Miyao wrote in an email.
He said the Hiroshima sister-state committee began working with Ogawa in September 2012 to establish a “sister” television relationship between NGN. That station turned out to be Hiroshima Telecasting Company, which now enjoys a sister-TV station relationship with Hawai‘i’s NGN.
“The goals for this relationship would be exchange of programming and possible assistance in English translation,” Miyao explained.
Ehime Prefecture’s sister-state relationship with Hawai‘i grew out of a tragedy that claimed nine lives — the 2001 collision between the nuclear-powered submarine, USS Greeneville, and the Ehime Maru, an Uwajima Fisheries High School training ship from Ehime Prefecture on the island of Shikoku.
Hawai‘i’s Japanese American community quickly began soliciting donations of sympathy and support. A memorial was built at Kaka‘ako Waterfront Park, with the Ehime Maru Memorial Association assuming responsibility for its upkeep. Various organizations, including some kenjin kai, take turns cleaning the memorial every month. A service is also held annually on the anniversary of the accident in both Ehime and at the Hawai‘i monument. Family members of the deceased crewmembers sometimes attend the Hawai‘i service.
The tragedy and the friendship and good will that developed in its wake led to the establishing of sister-state ties between Ehime and Hawai‘i in 2003. Sports exchanges have taken place between Hawai‘i and Ehime and, earlier this year, students from Matsuyama University in Ehime made a reciprocal visit to Hawai‘i and the University of Hawai‘i as part of the U.S.-Japan Council’s TOMODACHI Inouye Scholars Program. Additionally, local residents with roots in or ties to Ehime organized the Hawaii Ehime Kenjin Kai.
Like the other programs in the sister-state series, Gov. Tokihiro Nakamura welcomes viewers to the Ehime program, titled “Mogitate TV.”
In the 1980s, cultural exchange was the main focus of Hawai‘i’s sister-state programs. However, the growth of Japanese tourism and investment in the Islands in the 1990s, coupled with the start of business relations with China and Taiwan, led to economic development also being considered in the selection of sister-states in the 1990s.
The Office of International Relations in the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism oversees Hawai‘i’s sister-state relationships.