The Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce welcomed the Year of the Rat with its 75th annual shinnen enkai (New Year’s banquet) on Jan. 24 at the Sheraton Waikiki. About 400 HJCC members and their family and friends attended the event.
The shinnen enkai is always well attended, with people enjoying fellowship and the introduction of the new “Shiranami Gonin Otoko” “stars.”
Before the doors to the celebration opened, guests enjoyed the foyer activities, which included a mochi pounding demonstration by Honbushin International and omamori sold by Izumo Taishakyo Mission of Hawaii.
The evening opened with an energetic wadaiko performance by Dragon Beat Hawaii. Emcee Guy Hagi, weather anchor for Hawaii News Now, introduced HJCC board chairman Jon Tsukamoto who welcomed everyone to the event and said the organization continues to strive to grow its membership.
Bishop Daiya Amano of Izumo Taishakyo Mission of Hawaii offered the invocation. Koichi Ito, Consul General of Japan gave a kanpai toast to the chamber; and Rika Hirata, president of Nippon Club gave a kanpai to the guests.
While enjoying dinner, guests were treated to a video collage of past performances of “Shoko Shiranami Gonin Otoko” compiled by HJCC member Craig Hirasaki, owner and creative director of ConnectWorks Group Hawaii; and a “Shoko Shiranami Gonin Otoko” reunion video by JN Productions.
After dinner came the highlight of the evening — the entertaining “Shoko Shiranami Gonin Otoko” program. This year’s cast members were:
• Neal Yokota of Stryker Winer & Yokota Public Relations, Inc., who played the Kojyo;
•Brian Kealoha of Hawai’i Energy, got a lot of laughs playing the role of Nippon Daemon;
• Jill Kuramoto of RKT Media Hawaii, played the role of Benten Kozo Kikunosuke;
• Kristine Wada of Servco Pacific, played the role of Tadanobu Rihei;
• Ina Chang of Aloha Data, bragged the most playing the role of Akaboshi Jyuzaburo;
• Jacce Mikulanec of the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai’i, towered over all the dorobo (thieves) and showed the most leg (which got him the most heckles), playing the role of Nango Rikimaru; and
• Kurt Murao of Hawaiian Electric Industries, Inc., played the role of Meakashi Kingoro.
The performers were the targets of flying paper airplanes and received lots of hoots and laughter from the audience. The show’s production team was made up of Robert Nagao, Ronald Ushijima, Gregg Mueller, and Rika Hirata. The play was also videotaped for airing later on ‘Ōlelo Community Media. Jason Ito, chair-elect of HJCC, led the tejime to close the event.