URASENKE TEA CEREMONY
On Tuesday, July 18, the Urasenke Foundation of Hawaii presented a sacred tea ceremony for world peace, performed by Dr. Genshitsu Sen, a 15th generation grand tea master in the Urasenke Chado tradition at the historic Kawaiaha‘o Church. The event also celebrated Dr. Sen’s 100th birthday, which took place earlier this year.
Over 200 people were in attendance, in the event chaired by former First Lady Jean Ariyoshi, including Governor Josh Green and First Lady Jaime Kanani Green and former governors and first ladies David Ige and Dawn Amano-Ige; John Waihe‘e and Lynne Kobashigawa Waihe‘e; Consul General Yutaka Aoki; chief justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Mark Reckenwald; city council chair Tommy Waters, representatives of the Hawaiian Royal Society; Dr. Sen’s daughter-in-law, grandson, niece and grandniece from Japan along with several current and former officials from Japan.
The ceremony began with an organ prelude by Richard Buddy Naluai, with Dr. Elizabeth Keith as the mistress of ceremonies. Justice Sabrina McKenna then read a bible verse followed by Hawaiian lyric soprano Malia Kaai-Barratt singing “The Lord’s Prayer.” A processional began with Dr. Sen and Rev. Kenneth Makuakane and the Hawaiian Royal Society. Kaai-Barratt then sang the “Queen’s Prayer” before former First Lady Ariyoshi introduced Dr. Sen.
The room fell silent as Dr. Sen prepared and purified the tea, whisking the bowl of tea with hot water and folding the fukusa cloth. He presented two bowls of teas and bowed his head in prayer.
“This was a tremendous honor this tea dedication ceremony here in this prestigious and beautiful Kawaiaha‘o Church,” said Dr. Sen. “This ceremony was unique in certain ways. You may have noticed that there was an offering made not of one bowl of tea but of two bowls of tea, and there’s a significance to that — honoring the spirits.”
Governor Green gave the congratulatory message and the ceremony closed with Dr. Sen and Rev. Makuakane’s recessional as “Aloha ‘Oe” played on the organ.
BACKGROUND HISTORY OF THE “SISTER” PARK RELATIONSHIP
Six years ago, Wayne Miyao, president of the Honolulu Hiroshima Kenjin Kai, had the ideas to create a “sister” park relationship between Pearl Harbor National Memorial and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park as World War II started with the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and ended with the tragic bombing of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima City have both known war, suffering, pain and nightmarish memories.
Miyao met with Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui’s staff to propose this concept on October 3, 2017. They agreed, but felt that there may be some resistance from the hibakusha (or atomic bomb survivors) and to be patient.
With this assurance, Miyao made a formal speech to the public announcing his idea at the Hiroshima Commemoration and Peace Service on Aug. 6, 2018, in Honolulu.
Since then, whenever Miyao met with Mayor Matsui or his staff, they discussed the sister park initiative.
Miyao has been also discussing the concept with Pearl Harbor superintendents over the years, and they have agreed that such a sister park relationship should be made and would benefit both parks.
In early April, the staff of Hiroshima mayor Kazumi Matsui informed Miyao that a U.S. Embassy official, Richard Mei, of the U.S. Consulate in Osaka, Japan, had contacted Mayor Matsui to discuss a possible sister park relationship. Mayor Matsui’s staff informed Richard Mei that the sister park idea was made in 2018 by Miyao.
On Sunday, April 16, Mei called Miyao and discussed his idea of the establishment of such a partnership. Subsequent phone calls and emails were shared during the latter part of April and in early May.
Initially, it was believed that the sister park partnership would be signed at the G-7 Summit held in Hiroshima from Friday, May 19 through Sunday, May 21. However, with the surprise attendance of President Volodymyr Zellenskyy of Ukraine to the G-7 Summit, the sister park pact was not yet realized.
In the weeks to follow, Miyao held discussions with Mei and his staff, Tom Leatherman, superintendent of Pearl Harbor and Mayor Matsui’s staff.
It was decided that Mayor Matsui would seek approval from his Hiroshima City Council as well as from consent from several survivor groups in Hiroshima. If the responses received were favorable, Mayor Matsui would agree to sign the partnership agreement.
Finally, an agreement was reached that a sister park relationship was agreed upon and signed on Thursday, June 29 by U.S. Ambassador Rahm Emanuel and Mayor Matsui at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.
Note: There have been some protests from several groups in Hiroshima, but Mayor Matsui did not feel their discontent was warranted and signed the agreement.
In reflecting on the nearly six-year period that has transpired since he announced his idea of the sister park partnership, Miyao said, “Hawai‘i and Hiroshima have so many ties and partnerships which have been established over the past 120 years. The creation of a ‘sister’ park relationship between Pearl Harbor and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park would build another bridge of friendship, goodwill, peace and reconciliation between Honolulu and Hiroshima City, as well as with Japan and the United States! Please join us in supporting this sister park relationship now and for the future!”
Aftermath: Aileen Utterdyke, president and chief executive officer of Pacific Historic Parks; Tom Leatherman, superintendent of Pearl Harbor National Museum; and Miyao have been invited as special guests to attend the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Service to be held on Thursday, Aug. 6.
-By Wayne Miyao, edited by Summer Nakaishi
CELEBRATING ACTIVISM AND COMMUNITY
In 1975 and 1976 in San Francisco, members of the Committee Against Nihonmachi Eviction (CANE) – tired of seeing residents and small businesses being ignored and disrespected by the Redevelopment Agency (RDA) – staged sit-ins at the mayor’s office and at the RDA office in the Western Addition.
These sit-ins, along with many other protests and tenant support activities, will be fondly remembered when former CANE activists and supporters gather at the Japanese Cultural & Community Center of Northern California on Saturday, Aug. 19 to celebrate their efforts to stop the destruction and dispersal of Nihonmachi.
In 1973, CANE was started by young activists who had marched against the Vietnam War and identified with the Black Power/Third World struggles of the day. It quickly grew into an intergenerational organization of residents, small shopkeepers and students who stood up against the SF Redevelopment Agency’s final push to destroy Nihonmachi.
Having seen their long-time friends evicted and dispersed from Japantown, residents described the evictions as the “second destruction and dispersal of the community,” referring to the U.S. government’s forced mass removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.
In a 1977 interview, March Dobashi, owner of Yamato Auto Garage, spoke about CANE’s impact on him as one of those facing eviction by the Redevelopment Agency:
“I was approached to join with CANE and consequently, their fight was for my survival … there was no one in Japanese town to stand up on our behalf … I notice these young people of today –- really standing up and fighting for their rights and also for all the injustices that was done to us. So, when these young kids say, ‘Mr. Dobashi, you gotta fight; join us,’ I thought that was a splendid idea! …. CANE put a lot of pressure on the RDA, so consequently, CANE was being heard, being recognized and respected, so when CANE demanded certain things, the RDA gave me this place — temporarily, maybe –- but still, it’s a place where I could work. The only thing I can say is, if it wasn’t for CANE, I would be pounding the beat – the pavement!”
CANE fought throughout the 1970s to keep residents and small shopkeepers from being evicted and demanded that RDA rehabilitate the buildings for low-rent housing instead of tearing them down.
It sought to preserve Nihonmachi as the historic and cultural center for future generations of Japanese Americans. CANE opposed the gentrification and transformation of Nihonmachi into a tourist attraction and organized demonstrations, letter writing, petitions, sit-ins and even had members move into some of the apartments to help the tenants keep watch against suspicious fires.
By the late 1970s, CANE began to help organize the Tule Lake Pilgrimages and after 1980, it transformed into the Japanese Community Progressive Alliance and joined the National Coalition for Redress and Reparations.
As Mickey Imura, one of the organizers of the Anniversary Celebration commented, “August 19 will be a wonderful time to reconnect with old friends from the CANE days, some of whom will be coming from as far away as Japan to attend the event.”
Highlights of the program include a preview of a new CANE documentary by Boku Kodama, a slideshow of CANE members in Memoriam and toasts from former CANE members and supporters.
Accomplished poet/spoken word artist AK Black, accompanied by musician/composer Francis Wong, will perform Black’s poem “Still I Rise,” about resistance to the destruction of J-town, and performances by Jiten Taiko and Bill Tamayo will round out the program.
Photos of CANE activities and a memorabilia exhibit will be on display and souvenir copies of the new CANE T-shirts will be available for purchase.
The CANE 50th Anniversary event will be on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2 p.m. PST at 1840 Sutter St. in San Francisco. For more information and to RSVP, please visit the website at cane50.org.
-By June Hibino
June Hibino, part of the CANE 50th Anniversary Planning Committee, now lives in Los Angeles and is active in Little Tokyo-based Nikkei Progressives.