Hawaii Fukuoka Kenjin Kai members gathered at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i on Feb. 11 for the organization’s annual general membership meeting and shinnen enkai. About 150 members and their families attended this year’s gathering. Special guests included former Hawai‘i Gov. George Ariyoshi and his wife, Jean, and Consul General of Japan Koichi Ito and his wife Misako.
Outgoing president Fusayo “Fussy” Nagai presided over her last meeting. Nagai said she made many new cultural discoveries during her time as president and met many people. “I feel truly blessed,” she said.”
The various committee chairs also reported on the past year’s activities. It was indeed a busy year for the Hawaii Fukuoka Kenjin Kai, which celebrated the 25th anniversary of its sister-state relationship with Fukuoka Prefecture and the 60th anniversary of the Kenjin Kai, among many other activities. The group also hosted members of the Fukuoka Prefectural Assembly, who come to Hawai‘i every year for the opening of the Hawai‘i state Legislature.
The Kenjin Kai also traveled to Fukuoka and added visits to Hiroshima and Yamaguchi prefectures on their itinerary. One of the highlights of their time in Fukuoka was visiting the bridge named for Hawai‘i astronaut Ellison Onizuka, whose ancestral roots were in Fukuoka.
As he does every year, Gov. Ariyoshi installed the 2018 officers. The new officers are: Keith Sakuda, president; vice presidents Myles Nomura, Kendrick Settsu and Richard Yasukochi; treasurer Myles Nomura; assistant treasurers Laura Jean Noda and Brandon Hayashi; secretary Jeannie Fujii; assistant secretaries Jennifer Kumamoto and Shari Teruya; auditors Lenny Yajima, Wallace Inouye and Seichi Nagai; counsellors Bertrand Kobayashi and Fussy Nagai; and advisors Koichi Isayama and Raymond Sekiya, along with a team of 14 directors.
In 2017, the HFKK sent four 11-year-olds for a “Short Stay” visit to Fukuoka. They were: Arielle Cook from Hilo, Caitlyn Hosaka from Hawaii Baptist Academy, Mason McMahon from Stevenson Middle School and Jett Takazawa from Punahou School. The trip introduced the students to their ancestral homeland of Fukuoka and gave them an opportunity to meet students their age from other countries, including Peru, Mexico and Paraguay. The students were chaperoned by HFKK member Lori Nakamura.
One of the highlights of the program was the recognition of Hawaii Fukuoka Kenjin Kai’s kupuna (elders). They included 80-year-olds Wallace Inouye, Harriet Natsuyama and Clara Takiguchi; and 88-year-old Mabel Sekiya. Also honored was Nobue Akashi, who turned 99 this year, and 102-year-old Kusuo Tada. Unable to attend the event were 88-year-olds Alfred “Al” Ono and Gertrude Toma, 101-year old Yaeko Kobayashi and 102-year-old Haruko Nomura. However Al Ono and Yaeko Kobayashi were represented by the presence of their family members — Dr. Ruth Ono and son Raymond, and state Rep. Bertrand Kobayashi. Consul General Ito presented each honoree with a certificate of congratulations and a gift from the Fukuoka Prefectural Government.
The audience was treated to a song by talented brothers Tanner and Devin Teruya, and an entertaining English-language rakugo (comedic) performance by Serina Dunham.
The day ended with a lively Hakata Iwaimedeta and Hakata Te-Ippon hand-clapping led by Nikki Thompson.