Karleen C. Chinen
About 120 people gathered at the Waialae Country Club on May 7 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hawai‘i’s sister-state relationship with Hiroshima Prefecture. The group included a delegation from the Hiroshima Prefectural Government, led by Gov. Hidehiko Yuzaki, Assembly Chair Shin Uda and former Assembly member Masao Hayashi. They were warmly greeted by Gov. David Ige and first lady Dawn Amano-Ige, Consul General of Japan Yasushi Misawa and his wife Yoko, state Senate President Ron Kouchi and his wife Joy, state Sen. Brian Taniguchi and his wife Jan, and Hawai‘i-Hiroshima Sister-State Committee chair and Honolulu Hiroshima Kenjin Kai president Wayne Miyao and his wife Susan. Members of the Honolulu Hiroshima Kenjin Kai, the Waialua-Wahiawa Hiroshima Kenjin Kai, Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce and representatives of various Japanese community groups in Hawai‘i took part in the celebration, as well.
The Hawai‘i-Hiroshima sister-state relationship was established on May 30, 1997. Wayne Miyao was selected to chair the committee, which was charged with planning events and activities relating to the relationship. Miyao and vice chair Brian Taniguchi decided to focus the committee’s activities around business and economic development, culture and arts, education, athletics and peace.
“We have benefitted tremendously from this relationship,” Miyao said, noting that fruits from the relationship are already being realized. On their visit marking the 20th anniversary, HHKK members took the Hiroshima delegation to the Valor in the Pacific Monument to see the Sadako Sasaki crane, which was folded by Sadako herself before she died. Sadako’s brother donated to the crane to the monument.
Additionally, through the efforts of Gov. Yuzaki, Sen. Taniguchi and first lady Dawn Amano-Ige, sister-high school relationships were established between high schools in Hawai‘i and Hiroshima. A teacher abroad program was also established, enabling teachers from 26 Hawai‘i schools to observe teaching methods in Hiroshima, and vice versa. The sister-state committee also staged two Hawai‘i evenings with the Hiroshima Carp baseball team at the Mazda Zoom-Zoom Stadium in Hiroshima City.
Gov. Ige thanked Gov. Yuzaki and Assembly chair Uda for hosting Sen. Taniguchi and his wife during their visit to Hiroshima, which have resulted in stronger relations between Hawai‘i and Hiroshima. He noted that in the more than a century since the arrival of the first immigrants from Hiroshima, “their descendants have found success in every profession.” Ige thanked Sister-State Committee chair Wayne Miyao for his dedication to building the relationship into a “strong, vibrant and enduring” one.
“Regardless of the changes in the world, we continue to rely on each other,” said Ige. “Mahalo for 20 years of a terrific partnership.”
Gov. Yuzaki was cheerful and full of enthusiasm, despite having arrived earlier in the day following a whirlwind trip to Rome and Venice with a short stopover in Tökyö en route to Hawai‘i. In Rome, the Hiroshima-born governor — who earned his bachelor’s degree from Tokyo University and his master’s in business administration from Stanford University — met with Pope Francis and invited him to visit Hiroshima.
“I’m really honored to celebrate our friendship ties,” Yuzaki said. He said he learned that as a result of so many Issei having emigrated from his prefecture, Hiroshima ben (dialect) became the standard language for many of the early immigrants in Hawai‘i.
“Since May 30, 1997, there has been active engagement in many fields,” said Yuzaki, recalling the economic seminars that were held five years ago. He said much has been accomplished to further Hiroshima’s sister-state relationship with Hawai‘i.
Gov. Yuzaki noted that in Japan, turning 20 years old is celebrated as a young person’s “coming of age” year. He said Hiroshima Prefecture would continue to enhance its relationship with Hawai‘i on many fronts — human relations, business opportunities and in education. “Hiroshima has the unique support of the Hawai‘i kenjin kai,” Yuzaki said.
This October, a delegation from Hawai‘i will travel to Hiroshima to celebrate the 20th anniversary there.
Gov. Yuzaki and Gov. Ige participated in the exchange of state gifts: Gov. Ige presented Gov. Yuzaki a framed feather lei, and Yuzaki presented Gov. Ige with a ceramic pot that was made by noted Hiroshima ceramicist Eisen Nishimoto.
Hiroshima Prefectural Assembly Chair Shin Uda thanked the Hawai‘i participants for their hard work in organizing the 20th anniversary celebration activities in Hawai‘i. Uda said he hopes the bonds of friendship in business and culture between Hawai‘i and Hiroshima will continue to flourish and that there will be celebrations of the 50th and the 100th anniversaries of the Hawai‘i-Hiroshima sister–state relationship.
Sen. Brian Taniguchi concluded the speeches for the evening. “It’s hard to imagine we have achieved this milestone in our sister-state relationship,” he said. “On behalf of the people of Hawai‘i, thank you for committing resources to these relationships,” Taniguchi said. He said he looks forward to continuing the celebration in October in Hiroshima.
The audience was then treated to a performance by ‘ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro. It was a special treat for the Hiroshima guests, many of whom heard of Shimabukuro’s talents, but had never had the chance to see him perform in person. Shimabukuro played several songs, among them, “Koko ni Sachi Ari — Here is Happiness,” “Over the Rainbow,” “Sakura,” “Nada Sou Sou” and “What a Wonderful World.” He also invited Gov. Ige and Consul General Misawa to join him in playing “Wipe Out.” Shimabukuro concluded his performance by presenting an ‘ukulele to Gov. Yuzaki, who closed the evening by leading the audience in a boisterous and feel-good tejime.