Karleen C. Chinen
It’s 2020 and you know I am very happy,” said 2019 Hawaii United Okinawa Association president Jocelyn “Jo” Ige, smiling from ear to ear as she delivered her final message as HUOA’s leader on Jan. 18 to a packed hall of over 800 in the Albert T. and Wallace T. Teruya Pavilion of the Hawaii Okinawa Center.
The event was the HUOA’s Uchinanchu of the Year and 70th Installation Celebration. Ige said it was her pleasure to have served as president in 2019. She thanked the 2019 “Uchinanchu of the Year” honorees for sharing their talents and generosity with the community and encouraged all of HUOA’s “volunteer leaders” to carry on. The outgoing president also acknowledged with gratitude the unwavering support of the cultural organizations, Gov. David Ige, Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Consul General of Japan Koichi Ito and the United Japanese Society of Hawaii. And, she thanked her predecessor, Courtney Takara, for her advice and guidance.
Ige also honored the contributions of the Uchinanchu who came before us. “They helped us establish what we have today,” she said.
The new officers were installed by Circuit Judge Karen Nakasone, a member of Yagaji Club. Nakasone noted that families make up the foundation of the Okinawan community, citing the Warabi Ashibi Children’s Day Camp, which her twin daughters have been attending since they were little girls. At age 16, they still look forward to participating in the camp, but now as junior leaders, thanks to the relationships and friendships they have made over the years.
The 2020 officers are: president Lynn Miyahira; president-elect Patrick Miyashiro; vice presidents David Jones, Naomi Oshiro and Christopher Agena; executive secretary Terry Goya; assistant executive secretary Sandra Yanagi; Japanese-language secretary Chikako Nago; treasurer Norman Nakasone; assistant treasurer Courtney Takara and immediate past president Jocelyn Ige. Serving as advisors will be Roy Arakaki, David Arakawa, Gainor Miyashiro, Myles Nakasone, Cyrus Tamashiro, Brianne Yamada and Tom Yamamoto.
Lynn Miyahira, a yonsei, is a member of her family clubs — Gaza Yonagusuku Doshi Kai and Nishihara Chojin Kai — as well as Shinka, a club for millennial Okinawans. Miyahira’s father, the late Wayne Miyahira, served as 1990-91 president of the then-United Okinawan Association of Hawaii. As she noted in her installation speech (published in the Herald’s Feb. 7 edition), she grew up with HUOA always in her life because of her father’s involvement and service and decided to reprise the theme that guided the organization during his year as president, with a twist — “Ukaji Deebiru: Celebrating 120 Years of Uchinanchu in Hawaii.”
By day, Miyahira is an account director for the communications and public relations firm, iQ 360. The new president graduated from Castle High School. In 1997, while a junior, she participated in the Hawai‘i-Okinawa Student Exchange Program, which, this year is celebrating its 30th anniversary. The program leader at the time was Tom Yamamoto, an HUOA past president and now a vice principal at ‘Iliahi Elementary School in Wahiawä.
Miyahira earned her bachelor’s degree in politics and Japanese Studies at Willamette University in Washington state, where her late mother, Pat Miyahira, was born and raised, and her master’s in business administration from the UH’s Shidler College of Business. She also worked in Okinawa for the Japanese Exchange and Teaching program for five years and speaks Japanese fluently.
As is tradition with the installation of the new president, Miyahira performed several karate and kobudo kata (routines). Her older sister, Ann, an accomplished singer sang “Nada Sou Sou,” to a dance performed by Dazzman Toguchi of Azama Honryu Sumi no Kai.
Gov. David Ige offered his congratulations and support to Miyahira and HUOA. Noting this year’s multitude of milestone anniversaries, he said the theme, “Ukaji Deebiru,” was a fitting one that celebrates the Okinawan immigrants and the generations that came before us and worked hard to preserve Uchinanchu culture in Hawai‘i. Recalling his own history, he said his issei grandfather arrived in Hawai‘i in 1907 with the equivalent of $3.40 in his pocket.
Ige called the HUOA the “model of community engagement” and recalled his first trip to his ancestral homeland in 2015. He said HUOA was instrumental in connecting him with his family in Nishihara, where met 40 family members for the first time. “That’s the power and strength of the HUOA . . . providing a way for the next generation to pick up and carry on,” the governor said. “Thank you for remembering those who came before us.”
Consul General Koichi Ito congratulated Miyahira on her installation as president. He also recalled the highlight of 2019: the installation of Japan’s new emperor, from Akihito to Naruhito. Ito also recalled with sadness the fire that destroyed Okinawa’s beloved Shuri Castle last October. The year 2020 will be a full one, with the Tökyö Olympics in July and August and, a short time later, the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell noted that the first 26 immigrants who left Okinawa for Hawai‘i “changed our lives forever.” He applauded the community for never forgetting their roots and paid tribute to HUOA’s late executive director and first woman president, Jane Serikaku, saying “Jane was about those values and traditions.”
United Japanese Society of Hawaii president Akihiro Okada applauded the HUOA for carrying on the traditional values of the Okinawan people.
The new president also involved her Miyahira family cousins in the installation program: Cousin Jill Kuramoto served as emcee, and cousin Ken Ige offered the Karii toast to the HUOA. Ken Ige remembered their late family members and the pride he knew they felt watching Lynn being installed as president. “Their smile is especially bright today,” he said.
The Karii to the guests was offered by Tom Yamamoto, past president and one of Miyahira’s advisors this year.
Cultural performances were shared by Hawaii Okinawa Creative Arts, Hooge Ryu Hana Nuuzi no Kai Nakasone Dance Academy, Azama Honryu Sumi no Kai and Nuuanu Shorin Ryu Karate Club with Ryukyu Koten Afuso Ryu Ongaku Kenkyu Choichi Kai USA Hawaii providing the live Okinawan music. A traditional and lively kachashi closed the event.