Karleen Chinen
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

It began with Jikoen Hongwanji Mission member Gene “Geno” Oshiro’s email to temple leaders suggesting that they organize a fundraiser to help the people of Maui who had been devastated by the Tuesday, Aug. 8 wildfires. Within days, Jikoen’s board had approved of the idea and plans for a modest fundraiser were in the works. By Wednesday, Aug. 16, just eight days after the raging wildfires had turned historic Lāhainā town into ash, claiming over a hundred lives in the process, plans for a two-hour-long, drive-thru fundraiser on Sunday, Aug. 20, were emailed to temple members and supporters. Its theme: “Jikoen Chikara,” or “Jikoen Strong.” “The first 100 donations will receive a special gift of Reverend Nishiyama’s famous curry and rice bowl, Jikoen’s andagi and yummy energy balls. The suggested minimum donation to receive a special gift is $20,” the email read.

The Rev. Shindo Nishiyama, Jikoen’s multitalented resident minister, planned to make the curry himself. He and his wife Suzue (“Suzie”) donated the two full pots of chicken curry to the fundraiser. “Gassho,” the Japanese word for “gratitude,” is used often in Buddhist correspondence — even when raising funds for others who lost everything on Aug. 8. “He (Nishiyama-Sensei) wanted to give back to the donors,” explained Doris Oshiro, the temple’s immediate past president.

On the morning of Aug. 20, Nishiyama-Sensei was in the temple’s kitchen at 7 a.m., standing over the stove, adding ingredients to two big pots of curry. Other temple members and volunteers, 35 in all, began arriving a short time later. Woks for the andagi were filled with cooking oil and fired up. The volunteers planned to make at least 300 andagi, filling 100 sandwich bags with three andagi each.

Inside the social hall, other volunteers lined up the 100 aqua-blue eco bags that Keith Shiroma, manager of Central Pacific Bank’s Kalihi Branch, had donated to the temple. Later, like a fine-tuned assembly line, they packed each bag with Jikoen Hongwanji’s gifts of gassho: a curry rice bowl, a bag of three hot andagi and another sandwich bag with three energy balls that the Rev. Irene Nakamoto had donated to the effort.

At 10 a.m., cars began turning into the North School Street parking lot with their donations for Maui’s people. Nishiyama-Sensei picked up his big “MAHALO” sign and, for the next two hours, joined volunteers on the distribution line, personally greeting and thanking the occupants of every car that dropped off a donation to help the fire-stricken people of Maui.

By noon, all of the blue bags were gone. After enjoying lunch together, the volunteers cleaned the kitchen, put away all of their supplies and called it pau hana at 2 p.m., happy to have lent a hand to support Maui’s people. “Jikoen Chikara” had been a total labor of love and compassion: the volunteers, the ingredients needed to produce the yummy treats, the bags — complete with “Thank you” tags — that held the treats, the event banner, publicity flyers and even lunch for the volunteers.

“In Jikoen style, we knew it would not be perfect,” summed up Jikoen president John Toguchi. “But with everyone’s heart being invested, we knew it would be successful. Our result was a sangha/‘ohana/community response, not to mention an Uchinanchu response,” Toguchi said, referring to Jikoen’s long historical ties to the Okinawan community.

Rev. Nishiyama said he and Suzie enjoyed spending the day with Jikoen’s members and supporters. “I appreciated everyone for supporting me and Jikoen for Maui as ‘Jikoen Chikara.’ Jikoen is always loving to help others with Uchinanchu chibariyo!, and they are so sincere in caring for our community!”

As of Wednesday, Sept. 6, donations for “Jikoen Chikara” totaled $20,200, which was sent to the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii, Hongwanji’s statewide headquarters, for its “Maui Wildfire Disaster Relief Fund.” Attached to the check was a letter requesting that Jikoen’s funds be dispersed immediately to the Maui residents who are in need as a result of the fire.

Karleen Chinen is a former Hawai‘i Herald editor and writer. She is currently writing a book chronicling Hawai‘i’s Okinawan community from 1980 to 2000, titled “Born Again Uchinanchu: Hawai‘i’s Chibariyo! Story.”

Seventeen-year-old volunteer Kekoa Foltz double-checks the bags lined up and ready to be given to “Jikoen Chikara” donors.
Seventeen-year-old volunteer Kekoa Foltz double-checks the bags lined up and ready to be given to “Jikoen Chikara” donors.
The Rev. Shindo Nishiyama welcomes and thanks “Jikoen Chikara” donors for aiding Maui’s fire-stricken residents.
The Rev. Shindo Nishiyama welcomes and thanks “Jikoen Chikara” donors for aiding Maui’s fire-stricken residents.


On Saturday, Aug. 26, JCI Honolulu, the Honolulu Junior Chamber and Todaiji Hawaii teamed up to bring the ultimate community bon dance event to the Aloha Stadium. The purpose of the event was to offer an authentic bon dance experience, complete with Japanese festival food, live entertainment, and games.

Enjoy these photos highlighting the festivities!



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