Karleen C. Chinen
“According to the zodiac calendar, we have attained our kanreki (60th) year,” Honolulu Hiroshima Kenjin Kai president Wayne Miyao told the 110 kenjin kai members and guests who gathered at the Waialae Country Club on May 30 for the group’s 60th anniversary celebration. The kanreki year is a time of “rebirth and return to infancy,” Miyao said, adding it is also a time to reflect on “how fortunate we have been all these years.”
The celebration was made even more special due to the presence of a delegation of government and business leaders from Hiroshima, including the prefecture’s governor, Hidehiko Yuzaki. The 17-member delegation also included Naomi Hirata, chairman of the Hiroshima Prefectural Assembly, and Masao Hayashi, past chair of the Assembly, as well as Yasufumi Sasaki, chairman of the Otafuku Sauce Company, and his son Naoyoshi, the company’s vice president.
The Otafuku Sauce Company has supported the kenjin kai’s okonomiyaki booth at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i’s New Year’s ‘Ohana Festival since 2003. Every year, it sends chefs to Hawai‘i to teach kenjin kai members how to cook the popular pancake-like dish. Otafuku also donates equipment and supplies of its special sauce. The kenjin kai will hit its 10,000-okonomiyaki-sold mark at the 2016 ‘Ohana Festival. Proceeds from the sale help fund college scholarships for the children of kenjin kai members.
Joining the celebration were Gov. David Ige and first lady Dawn Amano-Ige. Gov. Ige thanked the Hiroshima delegation for “traveling so far to spend this special evening with us.” He said the ties between Hiroshima and Hawai‘i date back to the early days of Japanese immigration to Hawai‘i. Noting that many Hawai‘i AJAs trace their ancestry back to Hiroshima, Ige proclaimed May 30 as “Honolulu Hiroshima Kenjin Kai Day.”
Gov. Yuzaki, who earned his master’s degree from Stanford University, is in his second term as Hiroshima’s governor. He thanked the kenjin kai members for their warm welcome and congratulated the organization on its 60th anniversary.
Yuzaki noted that 2015 marks 130 years since the first kanyaku imin (contract immigrants) arrived in Hawai‘i in 1885 and that nearly 50,000 immigrants from Hiroshima made Hawai‘i their home. He said the fact that many Sansei and Yonsei are now involved in the kenjin kai is a demonstration of their pride in their ancestral homeland.
Yuzaki also noted that this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and that four students from Hawai‘i will be attending the atomic bomb commemoration events in Hiroshima.
He thanked the “Hawai‘i for Hiroshima Fundraising Committee” — a consortium of Hiroshima-connected groups — for quickly stepping forward and raising more than $20,000 in relief funds for Hiroshima following last August’s landslide. “I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Yuzaki said the Hiroshima Prefectural Government has received “great cooperation” from the Honolulu Hiroshima Kenjin Kai in carrying out its student exchange program for the past 19 years. Some 136 young members of the kenjin kai — now Yonsei and Gosei — have had the opportunity to visit and learn about their ancestral homeland.
For the strong ties Hawai‘i and Hiroshima continue to enjoy, Yuzaki said, “I am deeply grateful.”
In 2017, Hawai‘i and Hiroshima will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Hawai‘i-Hiroshima sister-state relationship.
The evening was also an opportunity for the kenjin kai to recognize its own members for their selfless contributions to the kenjin kai over the years. A Distinguished Service Commendation was presented to Kazukiyo Kuboyama for sharing his carpentry skills with the kenjin kai by creating and constructing games for the summer picnic. Special recognition was also paid to longtime member Richard Mato, whose monetary donations have made it possible for the kenjin kai to undertake projects requiring additional funding.
Also recognized were 10 “outstanding members” — Dan Kinoshita, Benjamin Fukumoto, Wayne Miyao, Kazukiyo Kuboyama, Robert Nagao, George Takeuchi, Kevin Nakata, Wayne Toma, and Calvin and June Miyamoto.
The milestone 60th anniversary was also about looking to the future and
committing to further enhancing the relationship between Hawai‘i and Hiroshima. Miyao said the Honolulu Hiroshima Kenjin Kai would continue its exchange efforts, particularly in the areas of culture and the arts, athletics and peace. He encouraged the kenjin kai members to learn more about their Hiroshima heritage — the food, cultural arts and sake — through mini seminars that the kenjin kai plans to organize. And, he encouraged the members to travel to Hiroshima as often as they can to learn more about the prefecture. Most of all, he encouraged the members to be “Hiroshima Goodwill Ambassadors of Aloha.”
The guests were treated to a preview of the Ohana Arts’ production of “Peace on Your Wings,” with cast members Shayna Yasunaga and Natalie Borsky singing a few songs from the show, which plays this weekend at the Hawaii Theatre. Ohana Arts co-founder Laurie Rubin said they hope to perform the musical in Hiroshima in the near future.
A kampai toast to the kenjin kai was offered by Masao Hayashi, past chair of the Hiroshima Prefectural Assembly, while kenjin kai vice president Darek Sato offered a kampai to the guests. Emcee Wayne Toma closed the evening by leading the audience in a spirited tejime.