Members of the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce began its new fiscal year by installing its new board of directors for 2015-2016 on July 14 at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel. Leading the 115-year-old organization is Tyler Tokioka, vice president of External Affairs and Agency Relations for Island Insurance Co., Ltd.

The executive committee officers are: Wayne Ishihara, president; Dave Erdman, chair-elect; Mark Ibara, vice chair – administration/secretary; Terry Noyama, vice chair – finance/treasurer; and vice chairs Jason Ito, Karl Kobayashi, Brian Nishida, Melanie Okazaki, Eric Tsugawa and Jon Tsukamoto. Immediate past chair is Candice Naito.

In his incoming chair’s speech, Tokioka said he hopes to further develop partnerships with other organizations in order to increase opportunities to create connections beyond Hawai‘i. “As economies become increasingly global, our ability to expand our reach and ability to connect will showcase what makes the HJCC and Hawai‘i so special,” he said.

The keynote address was given by Colbert Matsumoto, executive chairman of the board for Island Insurance Company, Ltd., who spoke on leadership. He detailed the efforts to save the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i in 2002 when it faced a dire financial crisis — a $9 million default on its debts. The center was given a Dec. 31 deadline to clear its debt or be forced to close its doors.

Matsumoto was taxed with being chairman of the “Committee to Save the Center.” He described the fundraising efforts of the committee, which included grassroots outreach, media coverage, direct mail and person-to-person solicitations.

The group’s efforts were successful. They were able to exceed their $9 million goal and cleared all of the center’s debts.

Matsumoto, however, did not take the credit for the group’s success, saying, “It was truly the result of the extraordinary leadership of the people involved.”

He cited various Nisei in their 60s and 70s who were involved in the effort and explained what he learned from each of them. He pointed to JCCH’s permanent exhibition of stone monuments that depict the kachikan, or virtues, that define the character of the Japanese that were passed down by the Issei generation and attributed those virtues to various members of the committee.

He then linked his experience of leading the Committee to Save the Center to the HJCC membership.

“The experience was a reminder that the success of any major effort never rests solely on the leadership of any single individual, but on the collective leadership of the many people who rise up to play a role in delivering a successful outcome. . . . I know each person can gain that same benefit if you take the opportunity to allow yourself to assume a leadership challenge.

“Our community has no shortage of challenges it faces on so many fronts. We cannot expect government alone to solve them all for our community. We should not sit on the sidelines and look for someone else to step up to fix things for the rest of us. We all bear a share of responsibility and have a role we can play to make a positive difference.
“Assert your leadership and go for it!” he said.

The luncheon also included the presentation of the 11th Generational Award, which recognizes a business that has made a significant contribution to the growth and development of Hawai‘i’s business and community sectors over two or more generations of ownership. This year’s recipient was Aloha Tofu Factory, run by the Uyehara family.

Aloha Tofu was founded in 1950 by Kamesaburo and Tsuruko Uyehara. It is now run by the third generation of Uyeharas — Paul Uyehara and his wife Misa.

Paul Uyehara, shown on a large screen at the HJCC’s general membership meeting, accepts the Generational Award on behalf of Aloha Tofu.
Paul Uyehara, shown on a large screen at the HJCC’s general membership meeting, accepts the Generational Award on behalf of Aloha Tofu.


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