UJSH’S VIRTUAL OUTSTANDING MEMBER AWARDS
On Friday, Nov. 20, the United Japanese Society of Hawaii presented its 2020 Outstanding Member Awards Virtual Presentation live on YouTube (recorded version: facebook.com/229401947070186/videos/687416141909890/).
The program opened with a congratulatory message from 2020-2021 UJSH President Frances Nakachi Kuba. “Every year, the prefectural organizations that are members of the United Japanese Society of Hawaii recognize an outstanding member of [their] kenjin kai [Japanese-prefecture-based associations where members usually come from those regions, or descend from their issei]. We also recognize an outstanding UJSH Member of the Year, and also recognize an outstanding member who has contributed to the Japanese community in Hawai‘i,” stated Kuba.
She credited these members for preserving and perpetuating Japanese culture in Hawai‘i and thanked them for their commitment to the community. Kuba then expressed her gratitude to family, friends and members of UJSH for their support.
Each club representative gave a brief speech about its honoree’s contributions to nikkei in Hawai‘i. Kenjin Kai member awardees were:
• Janice and Ronald Matsuura of Central Oahu Kumamoto Kenjin Kai
• Keiko Grant of Hawaii Ehime Kenjin Kai
• Wallace Inouye of Hawaii Fukuoka Kenjin Kai
• Minako Okura of Hawaii Kagoshima Kenjin Kai
• Yumiko Kamei of Hawaii Miyagi Kenjin Kai
• Jocelyn Ige of Hawaii United Okinawa Association
• James Okabe of Hawaii Yamagata Kenjin Kai
• Lance Suzuki of Honolulu Fukushima Kenjin Kai
• Kenneth Takao Saiki of Honolulu Hiroshima Kenjin Kai
• Lloyd Nishina of Honolulu Yamaguchi Kenjin Kai
The final two honorees were the 2020 UJSH Outstanding Member of the Year, Annette Matsumoto, and Christine Kubota who was recognized for her contributions to the Japanese community and Hawai‘i.
Matsumoto expressed her feeling of gratitude for the dedication and resilience of UJSH’s members and board during the COVID-19 pandemic. She praised them by stating that “senior members always provide sound advice based on past experience; young members bring fresh viewpoints and relevant skill sets for this new normal. [By] working in unison, so much was accomplished.”
Kubota said it was these local Japanese organizations that helped connect her to ancestral roots. “It is that spirit that has fueled my participation with the community,” she reflected.
The presentation closed with an Okinawan dance performance entitled “Tanchame” — “symbolizing joy and working together” — by members of the Tamagusuku Ryu Senju Kai Hawaii. Music for the performance was provided by Afuso Ryu Choichi Kai USA/Hawaii.
NISEI SOLDIER EXHIBIT AT ARMY MUSEUM
The much-anticipated National Museum of the United States Army in Fort Belvoir, VA, featured prominently among its major opening exhibits the “Nisei Soldier Experience.” When the museum, which opened on Nov. 11 of last year after several coronavirus-related delays, unveiled its key sections through which visitors could “Experience the Army Through Our Exhibits,” this educational history of second-generation Americans of Japanese Ancestry during World War II made AJAs the only ethnic group of soldiers to have one of the 12 exhibits (albeit a temporary one) explicitly dedicated to them, honoring their achievements.
The 12 educational sections include “Soldiers’ Stories,” “Army Theater,” “Founding the Nation,” “Preserving the Nation,” “Nation Overseas,” “Global War,” “Cold War,” “Changing World,” “Army & Society,” “Special Exhibition Gallery,” “Medal of Honor Experience” and finally, “Nisei Soldier Experience” (to explore the 12 exhibitions, see theNMUSA.org/exhibits).
“The National Army Museum is the current home of an unprecedented collection of Japanese American artifacts … that capture their [World War II Nisei soldiers’] rarely-told story,” the museum site states in its featured introduction to the “two front war” which AJA military members of that era had to confront. By two fronts, the museum curators were referring to a quote they included in the exhibit from Cap. Sakae Takahashi stating that, “We were fighting two wars, one for American democracy, and one against the prejudice towards us in America.”
Soldier profiles in the Nisei Soldier Experience exhibit, which takes most visitors about 30 minutes to go through, include those of Sgt. Enoch Kanaya, Col. Harry Fukuhara, 2nd Lt. Yeiki Kobashigawa, Pfc. Jim Tazoi and Ralph Yempuku (oldest brother of the late Paul Yempuku, former Hawaii Hochi president and The Hawaiʻi Herald’s one-time publisher).
In July 2019, the National Veterans Network held a “virtual preview” that toured this exhibit online, screened via livestream broadcast. During the 45-minute, 30-second event, museum Director Tammy Call introduced the Nisei Soldier Experience; Chief of Exhibits Paul Morando overviewed its galleries; Gen. Eric K. Shinseki offered special remarks and ABC7 evening News Anchor David Ono presented the Emmy-winning documentary “Sadao Munemori: An American Hero.”
“(I)t (the exhibit) is spectacular, as you will soon see,” Ono said in his introduction to the streamed event. “… Some very hard working and devoted individuals have quite literally spent years on this project, using their expertise and making it a shining example of a modern museum that highlights American heroes,” he stated.
Gen. Shinseki explained how this official museum of the U.S. Army was created by an act of Congress and underscored the efforts of his Army Historical Foundation (of which he is a lifetime member) to co-create the Nisei veteran exhibit with the museum. He emphasized that the exhibit showcased the World War II Congressional Gold Medal, earned by the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd RCT and the Military Intelligence Service due to their soldiers’ distinguished combat and wartime contributions.
“This is a magnificent facility, and you are going to enjoy the tour,” said the general who in speaking in the Virtual Preview represented the AHF president. All three organizations, the Army National Museum, the AHF and the NVN, he said, had partnered together to make the virtual tour possible.
The broadcast included six Nisei veterans who had fought in non-nisei units during the war and 44 World War II Nisei veterans from places such as Hawai‘i, Illinois, California, Oregon, Washington and Arizona.
Executive Director Christine Sato Yamazaki of NVN, which worked with the museum for three years to assure that the AJA veteran story was included, explained the importance of the exhibit generally.
“This is an American story: a story about loyalty, patriotism and selfless service at a time when
Japanese Americans were looked upon with suspicion and experienced discrimination. We know this story will touch many,” explained Yamazaki, who expressed how the exhibit would educate not just new generations of Nikkei but also people in the U.S. from different backgrounds, “many of whom will hear the story for the first time.”
Shinseki recognized both Call and Yamazaki for their tremendous efforts to reach AJA communities across the nation, as they had personally sought out then found World War II veterans or their families so as to make the exhibit possible, especially by procuring important wartime objects and authentic artifacts. Previous to these women’s work, the Army had not had these material things through which to tell the visual story of Nisei veterans, he said. “These are the kinds of things that draw a crowd, and when you draw a crowd, you get to tell a story,” he appraised of their getting the objects and artifacts.
Artifacts include an M1 Steel Helmet of Pvt. George Sakato of the 442nd RCT; an ID Disk (dog tag) of Terry Toyome Nakanishi of the Women’s Army Corps and Military Intelligence Service; the Medal of Honor of Pfc. Kaoru Moto of the 100th Infantry Battalion; and other materials.
AARP co-sponsored this virtual preview, the private recording of which is accessible to veteran families and friends only.
The National Museum of the U.S. Army, a 185,000-square-foot facility created over the past three years as a joint effort between the U.S. Army and the non-profit AHF from 2017, built upon 84 acres of federal land, has since closed on Dec. 11 due to safety concerns related to the virus. For an introduction to the Army National Museum, its sections and resources for visitors, see youtu.be/3MLNA_bf2EE. For the recorded Opening Ceremony of the museum last November, see dvidshub.net/video/772508/opening-national-museum-army.
To support the work of the NVN in keeping the Nisei soldier legacy alive, donate here: nationalveteransnetwork.networkforgood.com/projects/98970-nisei-soldiers-an-american-story-keeping-the-legacy-alive.
HJCC PERSEVERES WITH INNOVATIVE EVENTS
Celebrating 120 years of supporting the Nikkei (and other) small-business owners, government administrators and corporate executives who make up O‘ahu’s network of managers who care about the local community, the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce has pivoted during the coronavirus era, offering a boldly reinvented slate of virtual and socially distanced activities to engage its more than 550 members.
“Our leadership team came up with these ideas since there is no possibility to gather during these challenging times. We realized, however, that some way of seeing each other was important for networking activities,” reflected President and CEO Wayne T. Ishihara of the mostly online events in an email communication with the Herald. “Frankly all of them have been successful based on attendance, comments and member involvement in the planning,” he evaluated.
Its planning efforts praised in a Nov. 25, 2020, HJCC profile written by Mid-Week magazine’s Paige Takeya (hawaiiislandmidweek.com/honolulu-japanese-chamber-of-commerce), the community organization that was born in 1900 in the wake of one frightening pandemic (the bubonic plague in Chinatown) seems custom-made to survive another. Its leadership team’s decision to respond to the coronavirus situation by taking on the “overwhelming project of reaching out to all [almost 600] of our members to inquire ‘how are you doing?’ and ‘what can HJCC do for you?’, gathering ‘direct and valuable insight,’” as Chair of the Board Jason Ito phrased it (in his December 2020 message to the chamber’s members), was the essence of resilient adaptation.
One of the most innovative events HJCC had put together, that showed off its canny business strategy in the face of the coronavirus, was not held purely online. It was a socially distanced, “virtual” version of the for-profit organization’s popular Samurai Golf Classic held on Sept. 24.
HJCC leadership, including Ito and Ishihara, had considered having tournament players golfing over the course of a week instead of a single day, and
being able to play at three golf courses rather than just one location, so that members would not overcrowd playing locations and thus lower the risk of viral transmission. Organized with a Sept. 24, 2020, event date before the Honolulu City and County mayor’s second lockdown, HJCC had to wait weeks for the government to acknowledge the then-improved coronavirus numbers in the island and thus to ease the lockdown — which finally occurred the day before the event date!
When HJCC’s well-organized communication network efficiently let its members know that it was finally a go, the event quickly met its goal of selling the majority of tickets by the time the Samurai Golf Classic started, Ishihara explained to the Herald on the day before the classic was held. Overall, 82 members and guests participated; held on the single day for which it had originally been planned, HJCC organized 12 starting times at two courses, wisely choosing a “two-player shamble” format and limited games to 24 teams per course. There are many “die-hard golfers out there,” Ishihara laughed.
This kind of carefully calculated, yet by the skin-of-the teeth planning is no surprise coming from an organization that has survived so much. “We are proud of our legacy which has survived this long, with various challenges we faced at certain times in the past,” Ishihara shared with the Herald of the 12 decades that the chamber has been in existence, originally as the Honolulu Nippon Jin Shonin Doshikai (the Honolulu Japanese Merchants Association). According to HJCC’s website, the Doshikai helped out the Japanese victims of the 1900 Chinatown plague and its related fires, assisting issei immigrants in filing claims with the government and in finding them shelter, food and supplies.
By 1912, the organization changed its name to the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce, largely to reflect its membership of Nikkei importers and wholesalers. The chamber also promoted “trade and goodwill between Japan and Hawai‘i” and merged by 1939 with the Japanese Merchants Association of mostly retail businessmen. It even survived the wartime anti-Japanese hysteria which resulted in HJCC officers, prominent members and key staff incarcerated as possible enemy aliens on Sand Island
and/or Hono‘uli‘uli as well as shipped off to mainland concentration camps. Eventually, Nisei took over the organization which discreetly reappeared after the war under another name (which eventually changed back to HJCC). Over the decades, as the U.S. rebuilt its relationship with Japan, other organizational
Currently, the membership represents a wide range of business sectors in the islands. Estimates Ishihara, “At least 40% of our members are small-business owners (100 employees or less). The industries represented are very diverse, with no one particular majority [dominant business sector].”
“Within the past five years, we have focused our attention on middle managers and younger members, with the realization that they are tomorrow’s leaders — working with this group in building a strong foundation for them in the personal development areas,” he explains.
The new events reflect not just these younger-generation members but women executives and managers who now comprise 27% of HJCC membership and 38% of the board of directors, according to Ito in his member message. Female chamber members especially have created more diverse, fun activities that seem perfect for professional networking in a stressful era. These have included a virtual cooking class with Chef Mark Noguchi; a “Members Supporting Members” video project; a “Virtual Game Night/Scavenger Hunt”; and a “Shop. Create. Support. Décor Workshop” for the holidays, in addition to the usual small-business webinars.
At the same time, the chamber’s leadership continues to survey its members on their changing situations and needs due to the coronavirus, reminding them to provide quantitative and qualitative data on its Government Affairs survey so that the organization can advocate for its business people.
“We want to continue to be an important member of the business community and to continue working with our Japan partners,” sums up Ishihara.