The Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai‘i inducted five more Living Treasures of Hawai‘i™ at its 42nd annual program on Feb. 11 at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Coral Ballroom. Honored for their sustained contributions to enriching the community in Hawai‘i were: Bishop Ryokan Ara of the Tendai Mission of Hawaii, businesswoman and Hawaiian rights advocate Beatrice “Beadie” Kanahele Dawson, ‘ukulele master Roy Sakuma, flower arrangement sensei (teacher) Nobuko Kida and social services advocate the late George Yokoyama.

Honpa Hongwanji’s Living Treasures program is modeled after Japan’s Living National Treasures (Ningen Kokuho) program. Since its introduction in 1976, 224 individuals have been recognized as “Living Treasures of Hawai‘i.”

Lehua Matsuoka opened the event with an oli (Hawaiian chant). Bishop Eric Matsumoto of the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii welcomed everyone to the event, which is the closing activity of the mission’s annual legislative assembly. The Rev. Bruce Nakamura of Lihue Hongwanji Mission delivered the invocation.

Jikoen Hongwanji Mission’s resident minister, the Rev. Shindo Nishiyama and his wife Suzue “Suzy” Nishiyama were recognized for their 25 years of service to Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii and its temples and members. Nishiyama was recently appointed rimban (head minister) of Honpa Hongwanji’s Hilo Betsuin. Nishiyama will be dividing his time between Hilo Betsuin and Jikoen Hongwanji.

The five Living Treasure honorees were recognized individually with a video presentation that was produced by Mark Nitta.

Bishop Ryokan Ara was born in Fukushima, Japan, and is bishop of Tendai Betsuin Temple. His numerous contributions to society are rooted in his desire to promote friendship and understanding between Japan and Hawai‘i.

Ara-Sensei began training for the priesthood at the age of 10. He is an accomplished artist and calligrapher and has used his talents to introduce Japanese culture to the local community through classes in calligraphy, flower arranging, Japanese-style painting and tea ceremony. These classes led to the establishment of the Hawaii Bijutsuin, or the Hawaii Institute of Arts.

Ara-Sensei later established the Hawaii Ichigu Kai, a service organization based on Buddhist philosophy and teachings. One of the group’s main undertakings was the audio recording of 100 Issei who shared their life stories.

In 1987, Ara initiated the Honolulu Toro Nagashi (floating lantern) ceremony down the Ala Wai Canal to honor the memory of those who died in war, in particular the Nisei who died fighting for America in World War II, and to pray for peace. In an effort to preserve the stories of courage and sacrifice by the Nisei soldiers, Ara assembled the Hawaii Nikkei History Editorial Board, made up of veterans and other volunteers to publish a series of books titled, “Japanese Eyes, American Heart.” The editorial board is currently working on its fourth volume, which will highlight the exploits of the World War II Military Intelligence Service.

Beatrice “Beadie” Kanahele Dawson has been a staunch advocate for the native Hawaiian community. Her mantra in life is “to take one’s gifts and talents and do something with it.”

In 1981, at the age of 52, Dawson passed the Hawai‘i Bar exam and decided to use her law degree to fulfill her passion for helping others. One of her most notable efforts was to seek justice for the beneficiaries of the Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate. In 1999, Dawson helped a Kamehameha Schools alumni group organize a campaign against Bishop Estate trustees after it was discovered that they had mismanaged the charitable trust fund.

Dawson has served as an officer and director of the Native Hawaiian Bar Association and the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation. She is currently president of the Social Science Association, an organization of Hawai‘i’s most prominent leaders that was established in 1882.

Among her greatest accomplishments was assisting in the restoration of ‘Iolani Palace through the Friends of ‘Iolani Palace, of which Dawson was a founding member.

Nobuko Kida was born in Okinawa and is a master teacher of Ikenobo Ikebana. Kida-Sensei began studying the Ikenobo style of ikebana (flower arrangement) at the age of 15. She began arranging flowers for temple services and functions after arriving in Hawai‘i in 1978 with her Hawai‘i-born husband. That led to Kida-Sensei teaching classes for temple children and the founding the Ikenobo-Ikebana Society of Hawai‘i.

“Doing flower arrangement is to have people look at it, but I’m happy if people feel something when they look at the flowers,” she said.

Kida-Sensei was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement certificate from the 45th headmaster, Sen’ei Ikenobo. She was also the Hawai‘i United Okinawa Association’s 2014 Uchinanchu of the Year for Nago Club.

Kida-Sensei continues to hone her ikebana skills by working with teachers from Japan and attending workshops in Japan. She continues to share her talents through displays and classes, always with the hope of bringing people together in peace and harmony.

Roy Sakuma, an ‘ukulele virtuoso, “connects hearts to harmony,” as noted in his video presentation. A former groundskeeper for the city Department of Parks and Recreation, Sakuma now shares his love and passion for ‘ukulele with the world — and especially with Hawai‘i’s keiki. He fondly recalled visiting a third grade class where he taught the children to play the ‘ukulele. “Hold it gently and play it where your heart is,” he told them.

Sakuma and his wife Kathy formed the Roy Sakuma Studio, opening teaching studios in ‘Aiea, Kaimukï, Käne‘ohe and Mililani. In 1971, he founded the annual Ukulele Festival, which attracts thousands of spectators to free concerts by amateur and professional ‘ukulele players. Among his more famous students are Jake Shimabukuro and the late Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole.

Ukulele Festival Hawai‘i, a nonprofit charitable organization created to coordinate and organize the festival, awards academic scholarships to high school seniors and helps sponsor other festivals in Hawai‘i.

George Yokoyama, a Hilo native, died a few weeks before the Living Treasures of Hawai‘i banquet. Yokoyama was affectionately known as the “grandfather of grant writing and a purveyor of community action programs.” As a grant writer for the Hawai‘i County Economic Opportunity Council, Yokoyama was successful in securing hundreds of millions of grant monies for worthwhile projects over the last 45 years. They ranged from funds for job training for welfare recipients, to a cultural center in Hilo to create jobs and showcase Hawai‘i’s multicultural populations, to obtaining a dialysis machine for patients in rural Ka‘ü.

Yokoyama wrote “A Memoir of Fighting Poverty in Paradise” in which he shared insight into his passion for helping the poor, hoping to inspire others to make a difference in our communities.


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