Karleen C. Chinen
Over 350 people turned out for the installation of the United Japanese Society of Hawaii’s 2015-16 officers and directors at the organization’s annual Installation and Recognition Banquet. The event was held June 27 at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i’s Manoa Grand Ballroom.
As is done each year, the program began with the observance of a moment of silence in remembrance of deceased members. The mood then picked up with Hanayagi Mitsujyuro (Bryson Goda) of the Hanayagi Dancing Academy performing “Sambaso,” a celebratory Japanese classical dance. The celebratory mood continued with a shishimai Okinawan lion dance by the Hawaii Okinawa Creative Arts.
The banquet marked the conclusion of president Rika Hirata’s term and the start of Cyrus Tamashiro’s year as president. Circuit Judge Karen Nakasone installed the new officers and directors. In his “day job,” Tamashiro is president of his family-owned Tamashiro Market, a popular fresh seafood and produce store started by his paternal grandparents in Pälama.
Serving with Tamashiro are: Dean I. Asahina, president-elect; vice presidents Rev. Akihiro Okada, Frances Nakachi Kuba, Kalei Kini, Cheryl Sora and Sheree Tamura; secretaries Aileen Moriwake, Fusayo Nagai and Faye Shigemura; treasurers Christopher Kanehiro, Eric Kuniyoshi and Michael Sato; auditors Robert Nagao, Roy Ota and James Sato; and Rika Hirata, immediate past president.
In her outgoing president’s speech, Hirata, who was born and raised in Japan, said she enjoyed her time as UJSH president. “I learned many things,” she said, adding that the success of the “Legacy Events” was due to the participation and hard work of UJSH’s officers and volunteers. She said she was especially grateful to her predecessor, Clyde Matsumoto. “I didn’t know what to do, so I followed him when I was president-elect.”
In his incoming president’s message, Tamashiro said the United Japanese Society of Hawaii installation banquet is a time to recognize community service and celebrate Japanese tradition, culture and spirit. He said he was “honored and humbled to be a part of the United Japanese Society of Hawaii with its rich history of service to our community and commitment to international goodwill.”
Tamashiro said he was excited to lead the organization and encouraged to see so many friends from the various kenjin kai in the audience. Tamashiro, who served as Hawaii United Okinawa Association president in 2012, said he hoped to get to know more of the people in audience while leading the organization. He said he was also encouraged to see so many participants from the various cultural schools, nonprofits, businesses, the media, and the religious and academic communities in the audience.
Tamashiro took the time to recognize his former University of Hawai‘i American Studies professor from the mid-’70s, Dr. Dennis Ogawa, whose Japanese Americans course “lit a spark” in Tamashiro to want to learn more about his Japanese heritage. “He taught me about the Issei values of hard work, education, filial piety.” From Ogawa, he said he learned the phrase, “Kodomo no tame ni” — sacrificing for the sake of one’s children, and about the many adversities that the Issei and Nisei overcame to still contribute significantly to their society and country. “When I think of my grandparents and parents, they are the embodiment of these values,” he said.
Two years after taking Ogawa’s course, Tamashiro had the opportunity to visit his grandfather’s birthplace in Okinawa on a young leaders study tour sponsored by the Okinawa Prefectural Government. “What an exhilarating experience it was,” he said, recalling the experience of meeting his extended family and connecting with them, despite their language challenges.
“Wouldn’t it be great if the Yonsei and Gosei could travel on a similar study tour — not only to their home prefectures, but to other prefectures and different regions of Japan?” He said he hopes the kenjin kai will strive in the coming years to encourage their Yonsei and Gosei to travel to their furusato (family roots), take active roles in their organizations and network with members of various kenjin kai to share ideas and promote leadership and fellowship.
He said that although UJSH is recognized as the umbrella organization of the various kenjin kai, O‘ahu’s churches and cultural organizations are also an important part of the organization because they aid in the understanding of Japanese culture. He noted also that there are many prospective UJSH members among newly arrived Japanese — the Shin Issei (new first-generation immigrants) — who may be interested in joining UJSH, where they can all learn from each other.
Tamashiro recognized several UJSH members who have been especially helpful in introducing him to the organization, including past president Clyde Matsumoto and his wife Annette; past presidents Ken Saiki and Roy Tominaga; and members Mabel Yonemori and Nancy Yokoyama, who help to organize UJSH events. “The members of UJSH are grounded, committed and purposeful,” Tamashiro said.
He concluded his speech by thanking outgoing president Rika Hirata, for serving as an example to him during her year as president.
In her last act as president, Hirata introduced the recipients of several awards, including the selection of Nancy Yokoyama as UJSH’s “Outstanding Member of the Year.” Yokoyama is an active member of the Honolulu Yamaguchi Kenjin Kai and the Iwakuni Odori Aiko Kai and still makes time to help UJSH with its bookkeeping and to help greet guests.
The “UJSH Award for Contributions to the Japanese Community and Hawai‘i” was presented to JCCH volunteers Jane Kurahara, Betsy Young and Tatsumi Hayashi for their tireless work on the Honouliuli Internment Camp project.
Congratulatory messages were offered by Gov. David Ige (read by UJSH past president David Arakawa), Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and Consul General of Japan Toyoei Shigeeda.
UJSH also presented its “Outstanding Kenjin Kai Achievement Awards” to members whose “exemplary accomplishments” in support of their individual kenjin kai have perpetuated Japanese culture in the community. “The kenjin kai are the foundation of Japanese culture in Hawai‘i,” noted president-elect Dean Asahina.
Honored were: Hugh Noguchi, Central Oahu Kumamoto Kenjin Kai; the Rev. Yasuhiro Yano, Hawaii Ehime Kenjin Kai; Satoko “Nikki” Thompson, Hawaii Fukuoka Kenjin Kai; Alice Takata (represented by the Rev. Hiromi Kawaji), Hawaii Kagoshima Kenjin Kai; Kie Nakamura, Hawaii Miyagi Kenjin Kai; Hironori Yamamoto (represented by Mieko Shintani), Hawaii Miyazaki Kenjin Kai; Hideko Higashi, Hawaii Oita Kenjin Kai; Chris Shimabukuro, Hawaii United Okinawa Association; the Rev. Ryosho Kokuzo, Hawaii Yamagata Kenjin Kai; Mary Endo, Hawaii Yamanashi Kyoyu Kai; Sadie Watanabe, Honolulu Fukushima Kenjin Kai; Darek Sato, Honolulu Hiroshima Kenjin Kai; Lynn Odani, Honolulu Kumamoto Kenjin Kai; James Shimotsukasa, Honolulu Yamaguchi Kenjin Kai; and Seichi Nagai, Wahiawa-Waialua Hiroshima Kenjin Kai.
Honolulu Fukushima Kenjin Kai honoree Sadie Watanabe spoke on behalf of the recipients, thanking the UJSH for recognizing them.
Two banzai toasts were offered — one by Cmdr. Taijiro Omata, Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force liaison officer, and the other by UJSH past president Gary Kobashigawa.
The entertainment portion of the program included the Okinawan classical court dance “Kazadihuu,” performed by sisters Lisa Nakandakari and Julia Okamura of Hooge Ryu Hana Nuuzi no Kai — Nakasone Dance Academy; Shishimai by Jon Itomura and Eric Nitta of Hawaii Okinawa Creative Arts and Okinawan eisä by Chinagu Eisa. Newly installed president Cyrus Tamashiro sang one of his favorite songs, “Shimanchu nu Takara,” the Begin composition about the treasures of island people, which he said speaks to all of Japan’s people. The entertainment closed with Ryukyu Koten Afuso-ryu Ongaku Kenkyuu Choichi Kai performing “Toshindoi” and leading the audience in a kachashi finale.
Former president of the Japan America Society of Hawaii and UJSH counselor Ed Hawkins concluded the program with a spirited tejime.