More than 250 people packed the Manoa Grand Ballroom of the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i on July 1 for a luncheon to bid aloha to outgoing Consul General of Japan Toyoei Shigeeda and his wife Michiko. The Shigeedas arrived in Hawai‘i in 2012.
The luncheon was organized by the Kizuna Group, which consists of a number of Japanese community organizations, including the Hawaii United Okinawa Association, Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce, Honolulu Japanese Junior Chamber of Commerce, Japan-America Society of Hawaii, Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i, Japanese Women’s Society Foundation, Sakura Hawaii Alumnae, United Japanese Society of Hawaii, University of Hawai‘i Center for Japanese Studies, University of Hawai‘i Center for Okinawan Studies and the U.S.-Japan Council.
Carole Hayashino, president and executive director of the JCCH, said she appreciated the Shigeedas’ interest in Hawai‘i’s Japanese American community. “The fact that this farewell luncheon was put together so quickly is a testament to the impact that the Consul General and his wife have made on our community,” she said.
Irene Hirano Inouye, president of the U.S.-Japan Council and widow of the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, also commended Shigeeda on the “wonderful job” he did during his tenure in Hawai‘i. “The best of the best was assigned to Hawai‘i,” she said.
The Shigeedas were treated to a cultural send-off, as well, with Kristin Alm, representing the Sakura Hawaii Alumnae (former Cherry Blossom Festival contestants) and the HJJCC in performing the hula, “Lawakua.” Lisa Nakandakari and Julia Okamura of the Hooge Ryu Hana Nuuzi no Kai, Nakasone Dance Academy, performed the Okinawan dance, “Choodegwa.”
Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., head of the U.S. Pacific Command, offered the kampai toast to the Shigeedas, who were returning to their home in Japan to await their next posting. Rev. Takamasa Yamamura of the Honolulu Myohoji Mission delivered the invocation. Yamamura, who was also trained in opera, also honored the Shigeedas in song.
After lunch, KoAloha Ukulele founder Alvin Okami performed two ‘ukulele numbers, which his wife Pat danced hula to — “A Dream Called Hawai‘i” and “Nandemo Dekiru.”
In his farewell remarks, Shigeeda recalled the moment he and his wife stepped off the plane in Honolulu. “I loved Hawai‘i the second I came here, and Michiko loved it two seconds after,” he said.
“Hawai‘i is definitely one of few paradises in this world — nature and the people. When we arrived nearly three years ago, it felt alien, but everyone welcomed us with open arms.” He then used the phrase, “Ichigo Ichi-e,” meaning “one opportunity, one encounter.”
“Take every opportunity to experience something new,” he said. “It has been an honor and privilege for Michiko and me. Mahalo.”
Shigeeda then sang a song he wrote, a 2015 version of a holehole bushi, while the audience clapped along.
The Shigeedas were presented a variety of gifts and mementos by which to remember Hawai‘i. Among the items were University of Hawai‘i logo merchandise and matching ‘ukulele made for them by Alvin Okami.
The afternoon was capped off with a rousing tejime, given by Ed Hawkins, president emeritus of JASH.
Shigeeda was succeeded by newly arrived Consul General Yasushi Misawa, who began his assignment in July.