The United Japanese Society of Hawaii honored 24 new 80-year-olds at its annual “Nenchosha Ian Engei Taikai” program on Sept. 28 at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i’s Manoa Grand Ballroom. The program is held in conjunction with the observance of “Keiro no Hi,” or “Respect for the Aged Day,” which is a national holiday in Japan. UJSH asks the various O‘ahu kenjinkai, senior citizen clubs and community centers to identify its new octogenarians so that UJSH can recognize them at the Nenchosha Festival. This year’s new octogenarians were born in 1939.
The program opened with a lively taiko performance by Wahiawä-based Ryugen Taiko and the Japanese dance, “Kotobuki Sambaso,” performed by Bando Michiye II (Estelle Araki).
UJSH president Rev. Akihiro Okada welcomed the 250 people in attendance, offering his “sincere appreciation to the nenchosha (elders) for teaching and passing on significant values to younger generations. The younger generation grew up by watching you,” he told the honorees. “Please take care and live a long life with happiness and joy.”
Gov. David Ige said there is much that can be learned from our seniors. He called them “the silent generation” — the generation that appreciated their family, was fiercely determined, and that possessed an inspiring work ethic and a commitment to their community.
Consul General Ito thanked the UJSH for organizing the Nenchosha Ian Engei Taikai and for perpetuating and preserving Japanese heritage in Hawai‘i.
Honored were: Nancy Akamichi, Laura Doi, William Doi, Ellen Fujihara, Jane Fujii, Roy Hamasaki, Hiroshi Honda, Kenneth Hosaka, Owen Iha, Helen Iha, Jeanne Inouye, Kathy Kaneshiro, Asako Kitahara, Ryosho Kokuzo, Edith Ko‘omoa, Lei Reiko Learmont, Fusayo “Fussy” Nagai, Robert Nagao, Yukihide Nakama, Hiroko Okabe, Mary Sueda, Yoshiko Sickels, Kazue Uechi and Janice Yokooji.
Each honoree was introduced individually, presented a certificate, and then had their photo taken with Gov. Ige, first lady Dawn Amano-Ige, Consul General of Japan Koichi Ito, UJSH president Okada and current Cherry Blossom queen Lauren Sugai. They were also treated to a buffet lunch and a program of music and dance and were presented a gift bag of goodies.
Fusayo Nagai, past president of the Hawaii Fukuoka Kenjin Kai, and Robert Nagao, past president of the Honolulu Hiroshima Kenjin Kai, spoke on behalf of their fellow octogenarians. Nagai thanked the UJSH for honoring the new nenchosha with the special program. She encouraged her fellow honorees to live long and healthy lives. “Our honorees have contributed much to society,” she said.
“Hontö ni arigatai (We’re truly very grateful),” said Robert Nagao, adding that he and his fellow octogenarians can now add celebrating their beiju, or auspicious 88th birthday, to their bucket list.
UJSH past president Ken Saiki led the audience in a rousing banzai to the honorees.
The entertainment program included a mix of songs, dances and even some magic by Roy Hamasaki, one of the new nenchosha. Audience favorites included the duets by 2018-19 Cherry Blossom Festival queen Melanie Carrie and Charles Mukaida singing “Only Us” from the Broadway musical, “Dear Evan Hansen,” and the Teruya brothers — Tanner and Devin — who congratulated their grandmother, Fusayo Nagai, for being one of the honorees and then sang one of their audience favorites, “The Prayer.”
Chinagu Eisa Hawaii closed the program with an eisä number, followed by a closing tejime (Japanese ceremonial hand-clapping) led by UJSH past president Christine Kubota.
UJSH member Karen Kuba-Hori chaired the Nenchosha Ian Engei Taikai event.