Colbert Masayuki Matsumoto was conferred The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, by the Government of Japan in a ceremony at the Japanese Consulate on Dec. 21. The Imperial Decoration, which was presented at the Japanese Consulate by Consul General of Japan Koichi Ito, recognized Matsumoto’s work in strengthening ties between Hawai‘i, the United States and Japan.
Matsumoto, who is chairman and president of Island Holdings, Inc., has long been involved in the Japanese community, with both local and national organizations. In 2002, the Läna‘i-born sansei chaired the Committee to Save the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i, which was threatened with closure due to debts in the millions of dollars. In a matter of months, the committee raised $9 million from among 7,000 donors to clear the debts.
In 2011, then-Lt. Gov. (and now U.S. Sen.) Brian Schatz asked Matsumoto to coordinate a fundraising drive to aid the people of northeastern Japan in the aftermath of the massive earthquake and tsunami. The “Aloha for Japan” campaign, as it came to be known, raised $8 million in disaster relief for the Töhöku area.
Matsumoto was also the 2010 chair at PICHTR — Pacific International Center for High Technology Research — the year the “Okinawa-Hawai‘i Clean Energy Partnership” was established, providing the framework for key collaborative activities connecting Okinawa and Hawai‘i in the field of renewable energy.
Last May, Island Holdings was a key sponsor of the Japan-Hawai‘i Economic Summit, which convened in Kona to promote economic ties and friendship between regional businesses in Japan and Hawai‘i.
In presenting the Imperial Decoration to Matsumoto, Consul General Ito stated, “I sincerely hope that Mr. Matsumoto will continue to lend his steadfast focus and his defined leadership qualities so that we may continue to maintain a strong Japan-Hawai‘i and a strong Japan-U.S. relationship in the coming years.”
After receiving the Imperial Decoration, Matsumoto addressed the audience. “I am truly humbled and grateful to receive this prestigious honor from the government of Japan,” he said. “As an American, I am proud of my Japanese heritage and the cultural values that were transmitted to me by many teachers in my life. My involvement in the Japanese American community and with U.S.-Japan relations reflects my desire to share those qualities with others.”
An attorney by training, Matsumoto said he was “truly humbled” to receive the Imperial Decoration. He shared that there was a time when he was not proud of his Japanese heritage.
“It was during the post-World War II period in the 1950s when Japan was the subject of much animosity and derision in America. It was a time when popular American World War II movies depicted Japanese as the enemy and a morally corrupt people because of the notorious sneak attack on Pearl Harbor,” Matsumoto explained. It was a “confusing” time to be a young American boy of Japanese ancestry, he said.
“But my parents and my grandparents raised me to take pride in my cultural heritage. They gave me a Japanese middle name, ‘Masayuki,’ to remind me of my ancestral roots.” They also introduced young Colbert and his brother to various aspects of Japanese culture.
“By the time I attended college on the Mainland, having grown up in Hawai‘i, I was confident in my sense of who I was as an American of Japanese ancestry,” he told friends and family members who attended the presentation.
Each community effort, from the Save the Center JCCH campaign to the “Aloha for Japan” disaster relief effort, to involvement in PICHTR, the Japanese American National Museum and the U.S.-Japan Council, of which Matsumoto was a founding member, deepened his understanding of the community’s “connectedness” and “reminded me of the communal values I experienced growing up among the Issei and Nisei generations.”
Matsumoto said he decided to recount the history of his involvement with activities relating to cultivating ties between the U.S. and Hawai‘i and Japan “because they were truly the result of collective efforts and contributions by many people like all of you who have joined me here today.”
He especially recognized his mother, Matsuko Matsumoto, who was in attendance, for raising him to be a proud American of Japanese ancestry. He also thanked his wife Gail and daughters Maya and Mandy for their support and understanding of his community involvement, Consul General Ito and his staff for organizing the program.