The Hilo-based Japanese Community Association of Hawaii honored two longstanding and multigenerational companies — HPM Building Supply and Isemoto Contracting Co. Ltd. — at its Nikkei Kigyo (enterprise of Japanese ancestry) Fundraising Dinner on May 15.
Event chair Roland Higashi said the two businesses “have thrived because of their gambare spirit, hard work, perseverance and the very important role both companies continue to play in the community.”
HPM Building Supply, originally called Hawaii Planing Mill, Ltd., was founded in 1921 by two local building contractors, Kametaro Fujimoto and Sanzo Kawasaki. The company is now run by the fifth generation of Fujimotos — Kametaro’s grandson Bobby Fujimoto, his great-grandson Michael and his great-great-grandson Jason.
HPM’s buildings were destroyed in the 1946 and 1960 tsunamis, forcing them to rebuild. Besides their current location on Kanoelehua Avenue, which they opened in 1961, HPM also operates branches in Waimea and Kona on Hawai‘i island, as well as on O‘ahu and Kaua‘i.
Isemoto Contracting Co., Ltd. was founded in 1922 by Hisato Isemoto as a masonry business. In 1926, the company expanded into general contracting and became known as Isemoto Contracting Co., Ltd. It is now led by third-generation president and chief operating officer Leslie Isemoto, who succeeded his father, Larry Isemoto, who is now retired.
Isemoto Contracting is one of the largest general contractors on Hawai‘i island. Among their bigger projects were the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, Hilo International Airport, Wailuku Bridge and the Edith Kanakaole Multi-Purpose Stadium.
The JCAH also recognized its first scholarship recipients, each of whom received $1,500. They are Fred Chavez Visaya Jr., Runa Ikeno and Keith Nerida.
Fred Visaya, who graduated in 2014 from Kea‘au High School, is a freshman at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, majoring in performing arts with a music concentration and minoring in Japanese studies. Visaya will be studying at Rikkyo University in Ikebukuro, Tökyö, where he plans to pursue his dream of becoming a professional taiko artist and to study music.
Runa Ikeno, a 2014 graduate of Honoka‘a High School, is a freshman at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. She arrived in Hawai‘i in 2007 as a fifth grader who did not speak or understand English. Ikeno aspires to increase her knowledge of Japanese language and literature and English and to develop her communication skills so she can become an expert translator. She is pursuing degrees in Japanese studies and linguistics.
Keith Nerida, also a 2014 Honoka‘a High School graduate, is a freshman at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, majoring in computer science and Japanese studies. He hopes to make his career in computer science and use his Japanese language skills either in the United States and/or Japan.
The Japanese Community Association of Hawaii is a nonprofit organization with over 420 members. It was formed in 1972 to promote and perpetuate Japanese culture and arts in East Hawai‘i and to foster international relationships with Japanese citizens and organizations. The association has a sister-city relationship with Shibukawa City (formerly Ikaho) and works closely with the Consul General of Japan in Hawai‘i.