Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
“Okinawa is such a beautiful place, not just the ocean and scenery and culture, but the people. I’ve been treated well and taken care of by many people here in what has become ‘My Hawai‘i.’” — Colin Sewake
HAWAI‘I-OKINAWA SOFTBALL TOURNEY PREPS
Location: Yomitan; February 2018
For about a year now, several of us have been helping to plan the Hawai‘i-Okinawa Goodwill Softball — HOGS — tournament, which will be held in Okinawa next month. The idea for a tournament surfaced during the Sixth Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival in October 2016 when several senior league members from Hawai‘i played against teams from Itoman. They wanted to continue the friendship-building here, so they scheduled three days of games against teams from Okinawa-Shi (City), Chatan, Yomitan and Nakagusuku. The visitors will also be doing some sightseeing while in Okinawa.
HOGS member Gary Yamaguchi was here in Okinawa last month for work, so fellow Okinawa-Hawaii Kyoukai member Masaji Matsuda and I met up with him in his free time to go over details for their visit to Yomitan on March 9.
After meeting at Matsuda-san’s house in the Takashiho area of Yomitan and enjoying some ika (squid) and beni-imo (Okinawan purple sweet potato) tempura and kabocha (pumpkin) andagi, we headed over to the Tokeshi Sports Ground, where the Tokeshi Urashima (pictured in red shirts) were practicing so that Gary could meet their team captain. Tokeshi Urashima is one of two teams that the HOGS will play. Gary also met the captain of the Zanpai Softball Aikoukai, the other team the Hawai‘i team will play.
The Tokeshi Urashima team members took a break from their practice to meet Gary and take a group photo. Matsuda-san made everyone flash a shaka for the shot.
Gary, the two team captains and Matsuda-san discussed some of the league rules, schedule information and other logistical details. Matsuda-san and I then took Gary to the Uza Sports Ground, where the tournament will be held.
After trading numerous emails with the HOGS in Hawai‘i and calling Ma-tsuda-san many times to coordinate details and share info on this end, I am so excited that our long-awaited visitors from Hawai‘i will be here in just a few weeks.
RECOGNIZING JIMMY INAMINE
LOCATION: Jimmy’s Island Grill; Oyama, Ginowan; January 2018
My Hawai‘i friend and I met for lunch on my day off from work at our favorite restaurant — Jimmy’s Island Grill! We met at the Oyama restaurant in Ginowan City, which is one of the three Jimmy’s. The other two are located in Naha and in the Misato area of Okinawa-Shi.
While waiting for my friend, I read the various plaques and pictures hanging on the walls. I’d seen them before, but I never had the time to read through them. They are certificates of recognition from the Hawai‘i the state Senate and the Honolulu City Council. Read through them so you have an idea of the contributions Seiho “Jimmy” Inamine, founder of the business, made to Hawai‘i and Okinawa. Jimmy’s son Seiichiro, has run the business since his father’s passing.
You can view the original certificates for yourself on your next visit to Okinawa while enjoying one of my favorite buffets on the island!
Speaking of Jimmy’s . . .
It was the season to be jolly and enjoy Jimmy’s Bakery cakes and party menu items last December. During the holiday season, Jimmy’s Bakery makes beautiful Christmas cakes and also puts together a party menu with various selections of “odoburu” party platters, loaded with sushi and other goodies.
Keiko and I placed our order for a double tiramisu cake before the deadline and received a 10 percent discount and a couple of chocolate cookies.
Holidays or not, when you visit Okinawa, I urge you to stop by one of Jimmy’s bakeries and, of course, enjoy their lunch or dinner buffet, which comes complete with their delicious desserts and a drink bar. The website is: http://jimmys.co.jp.
GOSPEL OF THE CROSS CHURCH 50TH ANNIVERSARY
LOCATION: Sobe, Yomitan; November 2017
Since 2000, I have been attending church services at Gospel of the Cross Church in Sobe, Yomitan. The church celebrated its 50th anniversary last November. The late Pastor Shigeaki Ikehara and his wife Chizuko started it half a century ago. The Ikeharas’ fourth son, Naoaki, is the current pastor. The church is located outside the main gate of Torii Station, a U.S. Army base — up on the hillside behind the Family Mart convenience store.
The ties to Hawai‘i are interesting and quite amazing. Shigeaki-Sensei and his wife followed his third son Akira, who also is a pastor, to Argentina to help him run a church there. Akira-Sensei stayed in Argentina for a while and Shigeaki-Sensei made his way back to Okinawa, but not without first stopping in Hawai‘i to lead the Aloha Bible Church in Kalihi for about three years.
While I was still new to our church and the Air Force Reserve program around the 2000s, one of the first of what would become annual training sessions was scheduled for Hickam Air Force Base in Hawai‘i. I told Naoaki-Sensei that I planned to visit his father when I was in Hawai‘i.
In Hawai‘i, I visited Aloha Bible Church and met Shigeaki-Sensei and a local church member, who was playing the piano at the beginning of the service.
Less than a year later, I returned to Hickam for another training session for my Air Force Reserve job. One of my Hawai‘i friends took me to his friend’s ‘ukulele factory. At the time, I didn’t know anything about ‘ukulele companies — I thought that all ‘ukulele were made by the Kamaka family. When I walked through the front door of the KoAloha ‘ukulele factory, there was Alvin Okami, who was playing the piano at Aloha Bible Church less than a year earlier. I also discovered that he was the owner of KoAloha ‘ukulele, and that he had patented two inventions under his previous business, “Precision Plastics” — the toothpaste tube roller (used to squeeze toothpaste from the bottom of the tube going up to avoid waste) and the Spam musubi mold.
Through my Okinawa church connection, I have become close friends with the Okami family and their staff). I have also become strong supporter of their instruments. I now have a collection of their beautiful sounding products and include the KoAloha factory as a regular stop on my visits home to Hawai‘i.
Getting back to our church’s anniversary celebration . . . We catered a buffet dinner from Royal Hotel & Restaurant, which is located just a block away from our church and directly across from the Torii Station main gate. Part of the menu included a couple of beautifully decorated trays of sashimi, as well as the favorite local item — tebichi, which is pig’s feet. I’m not a big fan of tebichi; I’ll take the sashimi any day.
Colin Sewake is a keiki o ka ‘äina from Wahiawä, O‘ahu, who was assigned to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa in December 1994 to fulfill his U.S. Air Force ROTC commitment. He met his future wife, Keiko, within a month and decided to make Okinawa his permanent home. Colin retired from the Air Force and, recently from the Air Force Reserves. He now works as a customer service representative for Hotel Sun Palace Kyuyokan in Naha.