Jodie Chiemi Ching
This year marks 120 years since the first Okinawan immigrants landed on our shores. We are bound by history and bound by aloha. Today, we turn another page by signing this special friendship city relationship with Kin Town,” said Mayor Kirk Caldwell. On Feb. 10 Mayor Caldwell met with Hajime Nakama — the mayor of Kin Town in the Okinawa Prefecture of Japan — in the Honolulu City Council Chambers at Honolulu Hale for a friendship city relationship signing ceremony.
Approximately a hundred attendees from both Hawai’i and Okinawa came to witness the ceremony.
Thirty-seven attendees traveled from Kin Town Okinawa for the ceremony, including Kiichi Higa, superintendent of education; Yoshimitsu Kakazu, assembly chair; Tomoyo Ajifu, international exchange coordinator and Yuuhi Daiko Club — a taiko group consisting of 15 elementary, middle and high school students.
Dignitaries from ‘Oahu included Consul General of Japan Koichi Ito; and from the City and County of Honolulu: Ikaika Anderson, council chair; Georgette Deemer, deputy managing director; Gary Kurokawa, chief of staff; Ed Hawkins, Office of Economic Development executive director; and council members Kymberly Pine and Ron Menor.
Community leaders from Hawai‘i included George Toyama, president of Kin Chojin Kai Hawaii; Lynn Miyahira, president of the Hawaii United Okinawa Association; Patrick Miyashiro, president-elect of HUOA; Jon Itomura, HUOA executive director; Akira Okada, president of the United Japanese Society of Hawaii; Frances Nakachi Kuba, president-elect of UJSH.
Anderson began the ceremony with words of welcome and emphasized that “‘Oahu is shaped by many immigrants.” He also said that Kin Town was the birthplace of Kyuzo Toyama, a pioneer of Okinawan migration.
Toyama was passionate about migration policies and sent migrants to Hawai‘i for the first time in December 1899, who arrived in January 1900. He joined the second group of migrants to Hawai‘i in 1903, and since then, sent more to North and South America. Fifty thousand people in Hawai‘i trace their roots to Okinawa and contribute to the local community in various professions such as doctors, attorneys and elected officials.
Following Anderson, Mayor Caldwell rose to the podium and stated, “Today we take our friendship with Kin Town to another level.” He said, 120 years ago, the first Okinawans came and changed the islands for the better, and that the linkage between Okinawa has been made stronger through World War II. “Okinawan people of Hawai‘i never forgot where they came from,” he said, “After the war, they stepped up to help Okinawa [sending] money, clothing and pigs to rebuild their industry.” Even after the fire that destroyed Shuri Castle last October, people of Hawai‘i saw “another opportunity to reach out and help.”
Next, Mayor Nakama expressed his gratitude to Mayor Caldwell and said that Kin Town now celebrates Immigration Day on Dec. 5. He also said that Kin Town has a vibrant student exchange program coordinated by Superintendent Higa.
The ceremony was completed by the mayors’ signatures to bond the friendship agreement of the two cities, along with an exchange of gifts. Festivities followed in the courtyard of Honolulu Hale. On behalf of Col. Larry Jenkins of Camp Hansen — a U.S. Marine Corps base in Kin Town — Col. Brian Howlett congratulated the two mayors. Col. Howlett is the chief of staff of the U.S. Marine Corps Forces of the Pacific.
The event ended with refreshments and a dynamic performance by Kin Town students of the Yuuhi Daiko Club.