Members of the Honolulu Hiroshima Kenjin Kai welcomed the new year and also celebrated the 65th anniversary of the club’s establishment with a luncheon gathering on March 8 at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i.
HHKK president Wayne Miyao welcomed the members and guests in attendance to the get-together. He said this year’s shinnen enkai (New Year’s party) is even more special because 2020 marks 65 years since the Honolulu Hiroshima Kenjin Kai was formed in 1955, adding that the anniversary is “a chance to meet and work with all of you.”
Miyao also informed the members about the formalization of a sister kenjinkai relationship with the Tökyö Hiroshima-Ken People’s Association. And, with 2020 marking the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Miyao said he is continuing to pursue establishment of a sister park relationship between the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument at Pearl Harbor and the Hiroshima Peace Park as a symbol of “peace and reconciliation.” Cementing such a relationship would demonstrate that “once-bitter enemies can become the best of friends,” he said.
The shinnen enkai also served as the group’s annual membership meeting. The various committee chairs reported on their area of responsibility. Kevin Nakata, co-chair of HHKK’s okonomiyaki (Hiroshima’s signature pancake-like dish) booth at the Jan. 10 JCCH New Year’s ‘Ohana Festival, reported that volunteers cooked and sold 650 okonomiyaki during a six-hour period. This year’s festival had to be downsized at the 11th hour and limited to the JCCH campus due to the stormy weather.
Kenneth Saiki, who chairs HHKK’s Ehime Maru Memorial and Hiroshima Torii cleanup efforts, reported on the kenjinkai’s twice a year cleaning of the memorial at the Kaka‘ako Waterfront Park, usually in April and August. The memorial was erected in 2002 in memory of the nine people — students and crewmembers — who were killed when the fisheries training ship Ehime Maru from Uwajima in Ehime Prefecture, collided with a U.S. Navy submarine off of O‘ahu in February of 2001. (Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the planned April cleanup date will likely be rescheduled.)
For his continued leadership and participation in the maintenance of the Ehime Maru Memorial, president Wayne Miyao selected Saiki as HHKK’s Outstanding Member of the Year. HHKK’s okonomiyaki spatula plaque was presented to Saiki by last year’s outstanding member, Sandra Ishihara-Shibata.
Longtime student exchange and scholarship chair Sandra Ishihara-Shibata shared information on the opportunity that she described as “so beneficial” to the members’ children and grandchildren. In addition to HHKK’s $1,000 scholarship award, students ages 15 to 25 can apply for the peace-focused exchange program funded by the Hiroshima Prefectural Government. Four students from Hawai‘i — two from the Honolulu Hiroshima Kenjin Kai and two from the East Hawaii Hiroshima Kenjin Kai — were selected for last year’s trip.
Kaiser High School junior Ethan Kurihara and Chaminade University student Lauren Jay were selected to represent the Honolulu Hiroshima Kenjin Kai last year. They shared their observations and perspectives with the audience.
Kurihara, who is the grandson of HHKK members Robert and Janette Nagao, and the son of Riki and Joy (Nagao) Kurihara, said he learned that even small measures can contribute to bringing about peace. “It was so meaningful just to talk with each other,” he said of interacting with the other participants. The group met with Hiroshima Gov. Hidehiko Yuzaki, who proclaimed each student an “ambassador of peace.”
Jay, who has volunteered for the HHKK’s okonomiyaki sale for several years, participated in the Hiroshima Junior International Forum along with representatives of the 32 participating countries. She said they spent five days drafting a peace declaration document that they presented to Gov. Yuzaki. Lauren’s mother, Lisa Jay-Hirayama, accompanied her as her chaperone.
The next student exchange is scheduled for
Aug. 1 through 11, but may have to be postponed or canceled due to the coronavirus situation.
The HHKK welcomed Takuo Takigawa, director of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, to the gathering. Takigawa thanked the kenjinkai for inviting him. He also thanked the HHKK for its early support when the Hiroshima Peace Museum was just getting started in 1955. He reminded the members that when the museum’s first director appealed for artifacts that could be displayed in a room in a community center, the HHKK assisted in the effort.
According to Takigawa, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum houses approximately 20,000 actual artifacts and 5,000 drawings that help tell the story of that horrific August 6 day in 1945. The average age of the hibakusha, or atomic bomb survivor, today is about 82 years old, meaning most of them were elementary school children at the time of the bombing.
Last year alone, some 1.8 million people from all over the globe visited the museum — and about 70 million have visited since the museum first opened its door to educate the world about mankind’s first use of atomic warfare.
This year’s commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II — and the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki — will include a Hawai‘i stop for a traveling exhibition assembled by the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. The exhibit is scheduled to be shown from July 9 through Sept. 3 aboard the historic Battleship Missouri Memorial at Pearl Harbor, and in Hilo, but may have to be rescheduled due to the COVID-19 virus.
One of the highlights of the program was the recognition of the HHKK’s elders. The kenjinkai recognized three members in their 90s — 90-year-old Lei Yamamoto, 91-year-old Herbert Ogasawara and 98-year-old Shizue Ishihara — and one centenarian, Isamu Shibata, who is 101 years old.
Also recognized were six “younger” kupuna — the kenjinkai’s new octogenarians. Turning 80 years young this year are: Fumie Kitamura, George Kodama, Janette Nagao, Nancy Shimamoto, Lilian Uedoi and Shirley Yamada. Each honoree was presented a certificate from the Hiroshima Prefectural Government. Nancy Shimamoto represented her fellow octogenarians in thanking the Honolulu Hiroshima Kenjin Kai for recognizing this milestone year in their life.
The kenjin kai also recognized and thanked two retiring media members who have covered HHKK activities for many years — Hawaii Pacific Press publisher/editor Kazuo Nakamine and Hawai‘i Herald editor Karleen Chinen. They were presented goodie bags containing Hiroshima memorabilia.
Entertainment was provided by several members of the Okinawan musical school, Ryukyu Koten Afuso-ryu Ongaku Kenkyu Choichi Kai USA Hawaii Shibu, led by Grant “Masanduu” Murata. He and top students Kenton Odo and Tom Yamamoto have family roots in both Okinawa and Hiroshima. The audience also welcomed “Japan’s Elvis Presley,” Toki Toyokazu, who performed several of Elvis’ most popular songs as the audience sang and danced along. Toyokazu was scheduled to perform at the Honolulu Festival and had already arrived in Hawai‘i when the festival was cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum director Takuo Takigawa offered a kampai to the Honolulu Hiroshima Kenjin Kai and state Sen. Brian Taniguchi offered a kampai to the guests. The shinnen enkai planning committee was chaired jointly by Darek Sato, Koshin Soga and Cheryl Sora.
The program closed with HHKK past president Bob Nagao leading everyone in a traditional and hearty tejime hand clap.
(Due to the evolving coronavirus situation, please check HHKK’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/HonoluluHiroshimaKenjinkai/, for updates on all planned activities. You can also email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.)