The Hawaii United Okinawa Association recognized the 2018 “Uchinanchu of the Year” (highlighted in the Herald’s Feb. 15 edition) and installed its 2019 officers on Jan. 19 at the Hawaii Okinawa Center. Students from Hawaii Okinawa Creative Arts opened the program with a lively Shishimai dance.
Among the 900 people in attendance were Gov. David Ige, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Consul General of Japan Koichi Ito, United Japanese Society president Faye Shigemura and, from Okinawa, Hajime Nakama, mayor of Kin Town, the ancestral home village of incoming president Jocelyn Ige.
In his remarks, Gov. Ige called HUOA and its members the foundation of the Okinawan community in Hawai‘i. He also thanked outgoing president Courtney Takara for her hard work during the past year.
He congratulated the HUOA on its successful first Okinawan Festival at the Hawai‘i Convention Center and praised the organization for developing the Hawaii Okinawa Plaza, calling it a “foundation for the future.”
Ige also thanked HUOA for welcoming Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko to the Hawaii Okinawa Center last June during the Gannenmono 150th anniversary celebration in Hawai‘i.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell called the “Uchinanchu of the Year” and installation program one of the best events of the year. He said outgoing president Courtney Takara did an “incredible job” and exemplified “grace under fire” following the passing of executive director Jane Serikaku last August. Caldwell said incoming president Jocelyn Ige “is going to be a blast to work with.”
Consul General of Japan Koichi Ito thanked and congratulated Takara and Ige. He also thanked the HUOA for its participation in last year’s Gannenmono activities and for welcoming Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko to the Hawaii Okinawa Center, where they enjoyed a presentation by Children’s Day Camp keiki. “Thank you for your warm welcome to their imperial highnesses,” he said. Ito also asked HUOA to continue supporting events organized by the Japanese Consulate.
In her final remarks as president, Courtney Takara thanked a long list of people: the HUOA clubs and their members, her immediate family and her boyfriend, Ford Chinen for stepping in and serving as interim executive director following the passing of Jane Serikaku and, most of all, HUOA’s regular crew of volunteers.
“You still did your jobs. When we lost Jane (Serikaku), you told us what we had to do,” Takara said.
The 2019 officers were installed by Circuit Judge Karen Nakasone, who is a member of Yagaji Club.
Serving with Ige, a retired public school educator, are: Lynn Miyahira, president-elect; vice presidents Valerie Kato, Tammy Namihira and Roberta Umeno; executive secretary Sandra Yanagi; assistant executive secretary Terry Goya; Japanese secretary Hanae Gushiken Higa; treasurer Norman Nakasone; assistant treasurer Naomi Oshiro and immediate past president Courtney Takara. The 2019 advisors are Scott Arakaki, David Arakawa, Jon Itomura, Rodney Kohagura, Paul Komeiji, Gainor Miyashiro, Cyrus Tamashiro and Allison Yanagi. Rounding out the HUOA’s 2019 executive council are: Donna Kakazu from Wahiawa Okinawa Kyoyu Kai, David Shinsato from Ginoza Sonjin Kai and Laura Akamine from Chatan-Kadena Chojin Kai, who will serve as the club representatives to the executive council.
In her acceptance speech, newly installed president Jocelyn “Jo” Ige said she selected “Reflection: Looking to the Past to Create the Future” as the theme for her administration. She noted that 1868, the year the Gannenmono — the first immigrants from Japan — arrived in Hawai‘i is also significant to the Okinawan community. In that year, Toyama Kyuzo was born in Kin Town, Okinawa. Thirty-two years later, he would arrange for the first of many groups of Okinawan immigrants to leave Okinawa to start a new life in Hawai‘i, the first overseas destination of Okinawan immigrants. Toyama is today recognized as the “father of Okinawan immigration to Hawai‘i.” A statue of him stands in the HOC’s Issei Garden.
Ige congratulated the Uchinanchu of the Year honorees for their service and dedication to HUOA.
She described last year’s Okinawan Festival, the first held at the Hawai‘i Convention Center, as “a huge leap of faith.” She said it was “a year when we had to journey forth like our ancestors,” and “the accomplishments could not have happened without you,” Ige told the audience of HUOA members.
Ige issued a challenge to the community for 2019: “Will we be wind-chasers or world changers?” and then answered her own question. “HUOA is about being world changers,” she said, encouraging the community to join her “Josei Power,” or women power, team and to “chibariyo (persevere) with Jo.”
Joining the festivities from Okinawa was Kin Town Mayor Hajime Nakama. Jo Ige’s ancestral roots are in Kin Town. Mayor Nakama said the people of Kin are proud that Ige was chosen to lead HUOA this year, noting that she has been involved in exchange programs between Hawai‘i and Kin Town. Nakama said he looks forward to working with Ige and HUOA during her term as president.
Two karii toasts were offered — the first by past president (2017) Vince Watabu to the guests, and the second to the HUOA by Colin Sewake, a Wahiawä native who adopted Okinawa as his home after retiring from the U.S. Air Force. Sewake and his Uchinanchu wife reside in Yomitan and have two children. He is also a Hawai‘i Herald columnist.
Also on the program was the presentation of HUOA’s sports awards. The Goodwill Golf Tournament champion was Ronn Miyashiro from Club Motobu, with the Inamine Golf Cup presented to Nakagusuku Sonjin Kai. Team Young Nakagusuku was awarded the Mixed Handicap Bowling League trophy, and Urasoe 1 took home the Mixed Volleyball League trophy. Urasoe was awarded the Invitational Slow-Pitch Softball League championship trophy.
A full program of music and dances followed the formal activities, including a performance of “Kajadifu” by Kin Town kenshusei (interns) from 2010, 2014 and 2017: Carmen Higa de Almeida, Chris Ige, Rachel Kamita, George Toyama and Sarah Fong Abe. Other performers included dancers from Azama Honryu Hawaii Buyo Kenkyujo and Tamagusuku Ryu Senju Kai Frances Nakachi Ryubu Dojo with jikata music by Ryukyu Koten Afuso Ryu Ongaku Kenkyu Choichi Kai USA Hawaii. A lively kachashi closed the event.