With teru-teru bozu hanging from the branches of trees in the courtyard, hoping to fend off a threatening downpour, the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i blessed and rededicated its resource center as the Tokioka Heritage Resource Center. The Nov. 22 blessing ceremony was conducted by the Rev. Todd Takahashi and preceded the opening of the JCCH’s Aki Matsuri, a celebration of children and culture.
The renaming honors the decades-long support of JCCH by now three generations of the Tokioka family. A donation from the Island Insurance Foundation and the Tokioka family helped fund the upgrade of workspaces and computers in the center and make other general improvements to the resource center.
Honolulu City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, a longtime family friend of the Tokiokas, noted the family’s years of dedication and commitment to the community.
The renamed Tokioka Heritage Resource Center houses some 5,000 English- and Japanese-language books, 170 oral history transcripts and 50 archival collections, as well as a vast historical photo collection and phonograph records of music from the 1930s to the 1950s. Print and digital collections of The Hawai‘i Herald are also available for viewing at the center.
“The Tokioka Resource Center will ensure this unique and valuable collection will be available to educate future generations about the evolving Japanese American experience in Hawai‘i,” said JCCH president and executive director Carole Hayashino. She acknowledged Kurt Osaki and Stacy Fujitani from Osaki Creative Design for their customized work on the signage for the Tokioka Heritage Resource Center.
For many years, retired school librarians Jane Kurahara and Betsy Young oversaw the collections as volunteers. Kurahara told the gathering of members, supporters and volunteers that the resource center “connects heart with mind.” She acknowledged the center’s first two hands-on volunteers, Clara Okamura and Mildred Takara. The center is now managed by Marcia Kemble, who holds a master’s degree in library and information studies from the University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa and was previously library director at Mid-Pacific Institute.
Colbert Matsumoto, chairman and president of Island Holdings, Inc., the parent company of Island Insurance, called the Tokioka Heritage Resource Center a valuable resource for the community. “History is very fragile,” he said, recalling an exhibit he saw on Kaua‘i that distorted history by stating that plantation workers were separated into camps by ethnicity for their own safety — a clear misrepresentation of the facts, he pointed out.
Matsumoto said it is ironic that many descendants of the Issei, who suffered injustices as new immigrants, are now calling for the banning of refugees. That, he said, is why it is important to always study the influence of the Japanese in a broader ethnic context.
Family representative Tyler Tokioka, a past JCCH board chair, said his ‘ohana deeply appreciated the “tremendous honor” of associating their family’s name with the resource center.
He said the lives of many families in Hawai‘i began much like his own — with the Issei mustering the courage, as his great-grandparents Tozo and Kazu Tokioka did, to “leave everything behind in hopes of providing a better life for their family on an unfamiliar island in the middle of the Pacific.” “Often, communication with their relatives in Japan was lost over the years, as well as important details about their first generation that immigrated from Japan decades ago,” Tokioka said. “With each passing generation, the questions about family history in Japan and ancestry become more difficult to answer.”
He said the resource center’s various rare documents, supplemented by JCCH’s translation services and customized genealogy research, make the Tokioka Heritage Resource Center an invaluable resource in helping families find their roots while also preserving the unique experiences of Hawai‘i’s Japanese immigrants.
“We are truly grateful to the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i, its staff, membership and many volunteers for allowing us to be a part of the journey of discovery for local families and future generations.”