On the evening of Feb. 20, the first birthday reception of the Reiwa Era for Emperor Naruhito was held at the Nu‘uanu residence of Koichi Ito, consul general of Japan.
Three hundred eighty guests enjoyed the festivities on the lawn. They were welcomed by live music performed by the Hawaii Gagaku Society and Royal Hawaiian Band.
The celebration commenced with the national and state anthems sung to the accompaniment of the Royal Hawaiian Band. Rev. Takamasa Yamamura, of the Nichiren-Shu Honolulu Myohoji Mission, sang “Kimigayo;” Staff Sgt. Rachel Wilson, U.S. Air Force Band of the Pacific vocalist, sang “The Star-Spangled Banner;” and Karen Keawehawai‘i, local vocalist and entertainer, sang “Hawai‘i Pono‘i.”
Consul General Koichi Ito welcomed guests and highlighted that 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, the 60th anniversary of the “Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security Between the United States and Japan,” and the 120th anniversary of Okinawan immigration to Hawai‘i. He said the anniversaries emphasized the alliance between the U.S. and Japan being “stronger, broader and more essential.”
On a personal note, Ito said that he and his wife, Misako moved to Hawai‘i over two years ago. “In over 30 years as a career diplomat, I have seen quite a few countries around the world. But this is the first time I have felt so deeply integrated into the community. We now call Hawai‘i our second home,” said Ito.
Following Ito’s speech were congratulatory messages from Gov. David Ige and Gen. Paul LaCamera, commanding general of the U.S. Army Pacific. Both speakers, in addition to wishing the emperor a happy birthday, spoke about the deepened mutual trust, friendship and aloha spirit between the two countries.
Former Gov. George Ariyoshi gave a kampai toast to kick off the enjoyment of food and drinks by all guests.
Guests enjoyed tempura and yakitori from Takumi Catering. Some enjoyed the popular takoyaki from Takoyaki Yamachan if they were willing to wait in line. And Chef Kawamura Sushi Bar served fresh poke bowls, gyudon (beef bowls) and katsu curry.
Ito En, Sanwa Shurui, Kirishima Shuzo and Kokusai Sake Kai provided a selection of soft drinks, shochu cocktails and sake.
Attendees topped off their meals with sweet treats that included dorayaki from Usagiya, yokan from Toraya and cookies from Toshimaya.
Guests could also visit various local kenjin kai booths including Hokkaido Jinkai, Hawaii Yamagata Kenjin Kai, Honolulu Fukushima Kenjin Kai, Yamanashi Kyoyukai, Honolulu Hiroshima Kenjin Kai, Hawaii Ehime Kenjin Kai, Honolulu Yamaguchi Kenjin Kai, Hawaii Fukuoka Kenjin Kai, Hawaii Saga Kenjin Kai, Hawaii Miyazaki Kenjin Kai and the Hawaii United Okinawa Association.
The event started with the blessings of a light rain followed by clear skies until the sun went down. The guests returned to their homes with a feeling that Japan and Hawai‘i look forward to a new era of continued friendship, peace and aloha. Hau‘oli la hanau to Emperor Naruhito.