Close to 100 Hawaii Fukuoka Kenjin Kai members came together at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i on Feb. 16 for the organization’s annual general meeting and New Year’s party. Special guests included former Hawai‘i Gov. George Ariyoshi and his wife Jean; Consul General of Japan Koichi Ito and his wife Misako; and, from Tökyö, Dr. Osamu Otsubo and his wife, Kimiko Otsubo, also a physician. Dr. Osamu Otsubo is the past president of the 10,000-member Tökyö Fukuoka Kenjin Kai.
Gov. Ariyoshi, whose family roots are in Fukuoka Prefecture, installed the 2020 officers. They are: Keith Sakuda, president; vice presidents Myles Nomura, Kendrick Settsu and Satoko “Nikki” Thompson; treasurer Laura Jean Noda; assistant treasurer Myles Nomura; secretary Jeannie Fujii; assistant secretaries Jennifer Kumamoto and Lori Nakamura; auditors Wallace Inouye, Seichi Nagai and Mamina Tahara; counselors Bertrand Kobayashi and Fusayo “Fussy” Nagai; and advisors Koichi Isayama and Raymond Sekiya. The directors are Chikage Ariyoshi, Donn Ariyoshi, Mayumi Kwok, Eileen Masuda, Paul Misaka, Jannelle Perreira, Betsy Sekiya, Reiko Sullivan, Brian Suzuki, Kazuko Yamada and Richard Yasukochi.
Ariyoshi reminded the officers that their leadership is very important to the kenjinkai. “You will all contribute to making this organization successful,” he told them. Ariyoshi said the bilateral relationship between the United States and Japan is the two countries’ most important relationship. But, he also reminded them that it is not enough to view the relationship from a strictly diplomatic perspective.
The kenjinkai plays an important role in fostering that relationship on a people-to-people level, he said. “You have a responsibility to further the relationship,” Ariyoshi said.
The Hawaii Fukuoka Kenjin Kai already does this in many ways.
For example, as they do each year, kenjinkai members welcomed and hosted Fukuoka Prefectural Assembly members, who traveled to Hawai‘i in January for the opening of the state Legislature.
Additionally, last year, 25 HFKK members traveled to Fukuoka for a worldwide Fukuoka kenjinkai convention, which attracted about 400 people whose family roots are in Fukuoka. The next worldwide convention will be held in Peru in 2023.
But the interaction isn’t limited only to adults. At the New Year’s party, 11-year-old Kayla Settsu Hernandez shared her experience of being the Hawaii Fukuoka Kenjin Kai’s representative to the Fukuoka Prefectural Government’s 10-day, all-expenses-paid “Short Stay” visit to Fukuoka last July. She said it was a “great” experience and that she met other Fukuoka descendants her age from Bolivia, Peru, Mexico, Canada, Los Angeles and Seattle. Kayla, who was accompanied on the trip by chaperone Kimi Takazawa, said people were kind and that she made many new friends. Kayla visited two elementary schools in the prefecture and enjoyed visiting sights such as the Fukuoka Tower and Fukuoka Castle. She said she also enjoyed seeing how puppets are made.
Another highlight of the shinnen enkai program was the recognition of the Hawaii Fukuoka Kenjin Kai’s elders. Richard Settsu and Martha Takaki, both of whom are in the upper 80s, were recognized along with new 80-year-olds Lei Learmont, Fusayo “Fussy” Nagai, Jeanne Inouye and Kenneth Hosaka.
Member Richard Yasukochi was recognized as the Hawaii Fukuoka Kenjin Kai’s “Outstanding Kenjin Kai member” at the United Japanese Society of Hawaii’s installation banquet last year.
The celebration of Fukuoka heritage ended with a lively Hakata Iwaimedeta and Hakata Te-Ippon hand-clapping led by Nikki Thompson.