The Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce rang in the Year of the Rabbit at its 77th Annual Shinnen Enkai – New Year’s Celebration, on Friday, Jan. 6 in the Generations Ballroom at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i.  The HJCC’s Shinnen Enkai presented a lighter side of the Chamber’s history, people and events, while celebrating the New Year with best wishes for a healthy and prosperous new year.

Cast and HJCC members pose for a photo after performing “Shiranami Gonin Otoko.” (Photo by Brandon Miyagi)
Cast and HJCC members pose for a photo after performing “Shiranami Gonin Otoko.” (Photo by Brandon Miyagi)

Since 1938, the highlight of this event has been the HJCC’s re-enactment of the famous kabuki play “Shiranami Gonin Otoko,” which features a cast of seven prominent Honolulu business professionals playing the parts of a narrator and five notorious dorobos (thieves) who are stopped by a policeman on the bank of the River Inase where they each share about themselves in full kabuki costume and makeup. This year’s cast members included the following HJCC members:

  • Kojyo (narrator) – Marc Nakamoto, Vice President, Sodexo
  • Nippon Daemon – Brandon Tomita, Chief Operating Officer, Wahiawa General Hospital
  • Benten Kozo Kikunosuke – Luana Alapa, Trustee – Moloka‘i Island, Office of Hawaiian Affairs
  • Tadanobu Rihei – Ayaka Hamai, Co-Owner, Pacific Appliance Group
  • Akaboshi Jyuzaburo – Shannon Okinaka, EVP – CFO, Hawaiian Airlines
  • Nango Rikimaru – Sheri Morishige, Marketing & Communications Administrator, Bank of Hawaii
  • Meakashi Kingoro (policeman) – Robert Furukawa, President/COO, JN Productions, Inc.

The Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce was established in 1900 and is one of Honolulu’s major business organizations. Its purpose is to provide its diverse membership with the leadership and organization to promote Hawai‘i’s business and economic development with an emphasis on Japan. The Chamber represents a cross-section of Honolulu’s businesses, industries and professions.


On Monday, Jan. 16, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Hawaii Betsuin Buddhist Women’s Association past president Cindy Alm and newly-installed BWA president, Jo desMarets, were aided by Dave Atcheson in draping a lei of peace on the statue of Shinran Shonin to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of peace. The lei of peace were made by stringing together hundreds of origami cranes made by BWA members.

Following the lei-draping, 14 Hawaii Betsuin members and friends gathered in the lounge for an MLK Day event coordinated by the temple’s Social Concerns Committee. Participants listened to a 1967 MLK speech entitled “The Three Evils of Society” and then engaged in informal discussion.

A mini food drive was held later in honor of the day as members and friends brought in donations of non-perishable food for Hawaii Foodbank. The mini food drive was in continuation of donations leading up to MLK Day, which began a week prior.


For the first time in three years, the Hawaii United Okinawa Association held its Uchinanchu of the Year 73rd Installation Celebration at the Hawaii Okinawa Center on Saturday, Jan. 21. The 2022 “Uchinanchu of the Year” were recognized for their service to their respective clubs, the HUOA and the larger Hawai‘i community. The honorees were: 

  • Val Kubota (Aza Gushikawa Doshi Kai)
  • Brandon Nakasone (Bito Doshi Kai)
  • Amanda and Travis Nitta (Chatan-Kadena Chojin Kai)
  • Kaulana Chang (Gaza Yonagusuku Doshi Kai)
  • Dean Yoshito Oshiro (Ginowan Shijin Kai)
  • Monica Hatori (Ginoza Sonjin Kai)
  • Drake and Keline Akiyoshi (Gushikawa Shijin Kai)
  • Megan Yoshino (Haebaru Club)
  • Sharon Ho Miyashiro (Haneji Club)
  • Angie and David Goya (Hawaii Sashiki Chinen Doshi Kai)
  • Kathy Shibuya and Shantelle Rego (Hui Alu, Inc.)
  • Sharon Ho Miyashiro (Hui O Laulima)
  • Masaru Nakama (Kin Chojin Kai)
  • David and Bertha Arakawa (Kitanakagusuku Sonjin Kai)
  • Seifuku “Lefty” Nakayama (Kohala Okinawa Kenjin Kai) 
  • Lorraine “Lori” Gibo (Maui Okinawa Kenjin Kai)
  • Dr. Robin Matsukawa and Cheryl Nakamura (Nago Club)
  • Nadine and Tomomi Shimabukuro (Nakagusuku Sonjin Kai)
  • Maty Arakawa (Nishihara Chojin Kai)
  • Curtis Shinsato (Okinawan Genealogical Society of Hawaii)
  • Yoshino Teruya (Oroku Azajin Club)
  • Kathy Yuriko Atta Zaha (Osato Doshi Kai)
  • Aaron Muraki (Shinka Hawaii)
  • Robin Tokunaga Kwak (Tamagusuku Sonjin Kai)
  • Naoko Nagamine and Yumiko Carol Nagata (Tomigusuku Sonjin Kai)
  • Ryan Hunt (Wahiawa Okinawa Kyo Yu Kai)
  • Paula Lewis (Yomitan Club)
  • Melissa Ching and Jonathan Loomis (Young Okinawans of Hawaii)
The 2023 executive council, being sworn in by the honorable Karen Nakasone, associate judge intermediate court of appeals. (Photo by Kristen Nemoto Jay)
The 2023 executive council, being sworn in by the honorable Karen Nakasone, associate judge intermediate court of appeals. (Photo by Kristen Nemoto Jay)

Along with the recognition of the Uchinanchu of the Year award, there was the introduction of outgoing officers, a message from the 2022 past president David Jones and current president Clarisse Kobashigawa and the installation of other incoming elected officials: Brandon Nakasone (president-elect); Jodie Ching (vice president); Ryan Hunt (vice president); Greg Kuwazaki (vice president); David Shinsato (vice president); Sandra S. Yanagi (executive secretary); Wendy Horikami (assistant executive secretary); Chikako Nago (Japanaese language secretary); Courtney Takara (treasurer); Brianne Yamada (assistant treasurer); David Jones (immediate past president); Dave Arakawa (advisor); Lynn Miyahira (advisor); Norman Nakasone (advisor); Roy Arakaki (advisor); Gail Watanabe (advisor); Chris Iwamura (at-large member); Aolani Yamasato-Gragas (at-large member); Wesley Yonamine (at-large member); Kathleen “Kathy” Matsuda (Hawai‘i isle representative); Robert Kaneshiro (Hawai‘i isle representative); Christine Hondo (Maui isle representative); Jonathan Chun (Kaua‘i isle representative); Gwen Fujie (club representative); Joy (Shimabukuro) Schoonover (club representative); Jessica Yamamoto (club representative); and Mark Higa (business advisory and audit committee chair). There was also a special karii to the guests and HUOA and a presentation of sports awards. Entertainment was provided by Chinagu Eisa Hawaii and Hawaii Okinawa Creative Arts, Dustin Ebesu, Hooge Ryu Hana Nuuzi No Kai Nakasone Dance Academy, Tamagusuku Ryu Senju Kai Hawaii Frances Nakachi Ryubu Dojo, Dexter Teruya, Afuso Ryu Gensei Kai Hawaii Shibu, Ryukyu Sokyoku Koyo Kai and Ryukyu Koten Afuso Ryu Ongaku Kenyu Choichi Kai Hawaii, Yuttai Kwattai and Urizun Minyo Group. The program was lively and smooth, thanks to emcees David Arakawa and Jon Itomura. There was also food provided by A Catered Experience and beer by Beer Lab HI. 


The Year of the Rabbit sprang into action with two major cultural events that shared the same weekend in January: The Night in Chinatown Festival (which included the Lunar New Year parade) from Friday and Saturday, Jan. 13-14 in Chinatown and the ‘Ohana Festival on Sunday, Jan. 15 at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i. Both events attracted thousands of people of all ages, eager to celebrate Hawai‘i’s diverse cultural traditions after two years of retrenchment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The good news is that the celebrations continue into February at Hawaii’s Plantation Village with its Lunar New Year celebration on Saturday, Feb. 4 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 94-685 Waipahu Street in the Waipahu Cultural Garden Park. The event will feature a Chinese lion dance by the Lung Kong Physical Culture Club, entertainment and demonstrations, food booths, keiki games and prizes, genealogy information, cooking demonstrations by the Waipahu High School Culinary Program, crafts for sale in the plantation gift shop and country store, and a Playbuilders of Hawai‘i Theater Company tent. Admission and parking are free, with a free shuttle service from Waipahu Elementary School. More information can be found on the HPV website at hawaiiplantationvillage.org.

Playbuilders Hawai‘i Theater Company is currently looking for actors and community members willing to work together to create, write and design a play about caregiving. Called “Malama the Caregivers,” the organization hopes the resulting play will have a positive and meaningful impact on caregivers in Hawai‘i. People interested in this project can visit their website at playbuilders.org or meet those associated with the project in person by the Bodhi tree at the HPV Lunar New Year event.

Then on Saturday, March 4 at 11 a.m., also at HPV, author Gail Okawa will be sharing stories from her meticulously researched book, “Remembering Our Grandfathers’ Exile: US Imprisonment of Hawai‘i’s Japanese in World War II” in an illustrated talk called “Remembering Our Grandfathers’ Exile: The Many Infamies of December 7, 1941.” (Okawa’s book was reviewed by author and historian Tom Coffman in the July 2, 2021, issue of The Hawai‘i Herald.) HPV hopes to host a traveling exhibit of the Santa Fe Internment Camp in New Mexico where hundreds of Issei (first-generation Japanese immigrants) were imprisoned. HPV already has a permanent exhibit depicting the Honouli‘uli Internment Camp that was located in Kunia. Over the years, Okawa and a number of other researchers have played an important role in ensuring that this period in Hawai‘i’s history is not forgotten and that the personal stories of Hawai‘i’s internees are dignified and honored through remembrance. A limited number of books will be available for sale at the event.

– Written by Kevin Kawamoto



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