The United Japanese Society of Hawaii held a grand birthday party for 31 O‘ahu Nikkei who are turning 80 years old this year. The birthday party — UJSH’s 41st annual Nenchosha Ian Engei Taikai (Senior Citizens Festival) — was held Sept. 27 at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i’s Mänoa Grand Ballroom. The honorees were treated to lunch and a day of Japanese and Okinawan music and dance.
The morning began with the observance of a moment of silence for the deceased.
Hanayagi Miyoshizu (Marion Kanemori) then performed the celebratory dance “Sambaso,” followed by the performance of an Okinawan dance
performed at the opening of auspicious events, “Kajadefu Bushi,” by Mitsuko Toguchi Nakasone, kaishu of the Ryusei Honryu Ryuko Kai.
UJSH president Cyrus Tamashiro welcomed everyone to the event, which is organized annually by the UJSH in conjunction with “Respect for the Aged Day,” a national holiday in Japan. Each year, UJSH asks the various O‘ahu kenjinkai, senior citizen clubs and community centers to submit the names of members who are turning 80 that year so that they can be recognized at the Nenchosha Festival.
Each new octogenarian was introduced during the program and presented a certificate. They also had their picture taken with UJSH president Cyrus Tamashiro and 2015-16 Cherry Blossom Queen Kimberly Takata.
Congratulatory messages were delivered by Gary Nakata, director of the city’s Department of Community Services, representing Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, and Consul General of Japan Yasushi Misawa. It was Misawa’s first Nenchosha Ian Engei Taikai since being appointed consul general in Hawai‘i this past summer. He thanked Tamashiro and the UJSH for holding the event, which he said instills values in the hearts and minds of the younger generation. Misawa said he is presently 53 years old and hopes that in 27 years, when he is 80 years old, he can come back and join that group of honorees.
The 2015 honorees were: Grace Aoki, Joyce Araki (Bando Mitsumasa, II), Akiko Baba, Emiko Colburn, Mary Crane, Helen Ginoza, Eleanor Graff, Betsy Kaneshiro, Lois Kobashigawa, Nobuko Kurahara, Raymond Lyau, Donald T. Matsumoto, Chiyoko Mense, Franklin H. Minami, Rose Miyashiro, Mitsuko Nagato, Audrey C. Nakashima, Becky S. Nakasone, Flora Nakaone, Harry Nakasone, Linda Naumu, Hiroko Nishihara, Atsuko Nonaka, Aileen Okamoto, Barbara H. Sasahara, Myris Shinsato, Ruth R. Tamashiro, Loretta Tokuda, Dorothy Tokura, Grace Tsukayama and Nancy Yokoyama.
Honorees Barbara Sasahara and Atsuko Nonaka thanked the UJSH and the audience for the special recognition as they enter the eighth decade of life — Sasahara spoke in English and Nonaka in Japanese.
Roy Tominaga, a UJSH past president and himself an honoree last year, led a rousing banzai to the honorees.
The program closed with a lively Okinawan eisä performance by the Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko Hawaii. RMD also led the audience in a lively kachashi to close the event.
This year’s festival was co-chaired by Mabel Yonemori and Nancy Yokoyama, an honoree who was working even as she was being honored.