The Honolulu Fukushima Kenjin Kai celebrated its 95th anniversary with a festive gathering at the Ala Moana Hotel’s Hibiscus Ballroom. The June 3 event started with a briefing by Fukushima Vice Gov. Masaaki Suzuki on the prefecture’s progress and current challenges following the 2011 Töhöku earthquake, tsunami and radiation disaster.
Later, during the formal program, Suzuki presented outstanding achievement and service awards to HFKK members June Motokawa, Clarence Sato, Aileen Moriwake, Jane Akita, Sadie Watanabe, Shitsuko Abe, Toshiko Abe, Shizue Ishihara and Hiroshi Yoshida.
Sunny Sane Tominaga accepted a special Outstanding Service Award on behalf of her late husband, Roy Tominaga. As Honolulu Fukushima Kenjin Kai president from 2002 to 2008, Tominaga established many programs and activities for the kenjinkai with other community organizations and initiated a disaster relief fundraising program for Fukushima. He personally presented $40,000 in donations to Fukushima’s then-governor Yuhei Sato in April 2011, just a month after the disaster.
Tominaga also organized a Hawaiian cultural exchange program between the crew and cadets of the maritime training vessel Fukushima Maru and Hawai‘i high school students. Additionally, to aid in Fukushima’s economic recovery, he planned two furusato (return to the motherland) tours — one in 2014 and a second just last year. His most significant contribution was the launch of the North America Kenjin Kai Youth Homestay Program which was coordinated with the Fukushima Prefectural Government. It gives young descendants of Fukushima immigrants an opportunity to visit their ancestral homeland and connect with their roots.
HFKK president Wallace Watanabe presented 103-year-old Thelma Watarai the kenjinkai’s Senior Service Award. Watarai, beaming with a wide smile, raised her arms in joyful celebration.
Vice Gov. Suzuki also presented large daruma to the presidents of the three Hawai‘i Fukushima kenjinkai –– Wallace Watanabe, representing the Honolulu Fukushima Kenjin Kai; Brian Moto from the Maui Fukushima Kenjin Kai and Winston Towata of the Hawaii-Shima (Hawai‘i Island) Fukushima Kenjin Doshi Kai.
Moanalua High School student Skyler Chun, who participated in the North American Youth Homestay Program, shared her experience of visiting Fukushima in Japanese. Among her favorite memories were Fukushima’s friendly people, stunning natural landscapes and Kitakata ramen (a light-tasting shoyu ramen with shijimi clam soup stock).
The entertainment portion of the celebration included culturally blended performances of Japanese taiko by Somei Taiko and Ku‘u Wa Hula. Additionally, Nanako Numazaki, an exchange student from Fukushima currently studying at Leeward Community College, performed a Japanese dance titled “Rokudan no Shirabe.” She said that although her experience during the 2011 Fukushima Earthquake was harrowing, she was extremely grateful when she witnessed the abundance of support from all over the world. Numazaki said her dream is to give back by sharing her Japanese dance performances around the world.
The Honolulu Fukushima Kenjin Kai strives to nurture Fukushima Prefecture’s heritage and culture and “promote fellowship, goodwill, understanding and harmony among descendants of Fukushima Ken,” among other goals.