The Japanese Community Association of Hawaii honored two multigenerational Big Island businesses — Hirano Store and Yamada Furniture — at its annual Nikkei Kigyo Awards banquet on May 10 at Nani Mau Gardens in Hilo. The two longtime Nikkei businesses are now run by Sansei and Gosei family members.
The event began with a lively performance by Puna Taiko Club, followed by a blessing by Rev. Naohiro Hotta of the Hilo Daijingu Temple. The banquet also included a kagami biraki, or breaking open the sake barrel, ceremony by honorees Eric Inouye and his aunt, Shinae Hirano, from Hirano Store, and Gene Yamada and his son Bryce from Yamada Furniture and JCAH president Mike Miyahira.
The two businesses were highlighted in a video presentation. It told the story of issei Naojiro Hirano’s journey from Shizuoka Prefecture to the establishment of the now-101-year-old Hirano Store in Glenwood, and of 90-year-old Yamada Furniture’s issei founder, Iwakichi Yamada, who immigrated to Hawai‘i from Kumamoto. The video showed how both businesses overcame challenges and hardships and involved family members who were determined to keep the family business going.
The banquet was attended by Consul General of Japan Koichi Ito and his wife Misako. Hawai‘i County managing director Wil Okabe, who represented Mayor Harry Kim; Hawai‘i County Council Chair Aaron Chung; Dennis Onishi, who represented Gov. David Ige; and state Reps. Chris Todd, Joy San Buenaventura, Richard Onishi and Mark Nakashima.
JCAH president Mike Miyahira and event co-chairs Roland and Jan Higashi presented the awards to the honorees. Carol Yamada Makino and her son Gareth accepted the award on behalf of Yamada Furniture, and Eric Inouye and Shinae Hirano accepted for Hirano Store.
A portion of the event’s proceeds were earmarked for the JCAH’s scholarship program. This year’s scholarship recipients, Mollie Green and Mayuko Yoshida, were also recognized. Each student received a $1,500 scholarship from JCAH.
Green, a 2019 Honoka‘a High School graduate who finished first in her class, will attend Temple University in Japan, where she plans to major in Japanese language. Yoshida will attend Keio University, also in Japan, where she plans to focus on international relations, global human rights and Japan development.
The Japanese Community Association of Hawaii is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote and preserve Japanese culture. Its next major event, Bunka no Hi (Japanese Culture Day), will be held Nov. 16 at the Honpa Hongwanji Hilo Betsuin Sangha Hall with a mikoshi parade, Japanese displays, shichi-go-san dressing, food and entertainment.