The Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce welcomed the “Year of the Dog” at its 73rd annual shinnenkai (New Year’s party) on Jan. 5. The event at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i was attended by a sold-out audience of 300, including HJCC members, their families and friends. The highlight of the event was the “Shoko Shiranami Gonin Otoko” play, featuring the newest “class” of kabuki “stars.”

HJCC board chair Brian Nishida welcomed the guests at the entrance to the Manoa Grand Ballroom. In his welcome remarks during the program, Nishida said New Year’s is a time to pause, reflect and refresh.” He said this year is extra special because of the various events being planned to commemorate 150 years since the Gannenmono, the first group of Japanese immigrants, arrived in Hawai‘i in 1868. Nishida thanked Consul General of Japan Koichi Ito for supporting the celebration.

Nishida also acknowledged the “Shoko Shiranami Gonin Otoko” sensei (teachers) — Robert Nagao, producer and director; Ronald Ushijima and Greg Mueller, script and casting; Rika Hirata, Japanese script; and Walter Saito, advisor — for the time and dedication they put into developing an entertaining play for the audience.

Bishop Daiya Amano of the Izumo Taishakyo Mission of Hawaii performed a traditional Shinto blessing and then offered the invocation before dinner. Kampai were offered by Consul General Ito and Nippon Club president Toshihiro Shoji.

The “warm-up act” before the kabuki play was an “HJCC’s Got Talent” show, featuring a hula by Kristin Alm Kamakahi, songs by Gus Yniguez and Craig Hirasaki and members of the shinnenkai planning committee, led by co-chairs Steven Teruya and Rick Mishima.

Finally, it was time for the highlight of the evening, the “Shoko Shiranami Gonin Otoko” show. The “modified kabuki play” was set in Ösaka during the Edo Period. It features five dorobo, or thieves, who boast about their professional and personal accomplishments.

This year’s five dorobo stars were:

• Yasuhiko Ishikawa, financial manager for Kyo-ya Management, as Nippon Daemon;

• Cynthia Yamasaki, chief energizing officer and founder of EEpath, as Benten Kozo Kikunosuke;

• George Takase, project manager and electrical engineer for Ronald N.S. Ho Associates, as Tadanobu Rihei;

• Richard Manungas, assistant vice president at Territorial Savings Bank, as Akaboshi Jüzaburo;

• Guy Tanioka, business development manager for ProService Hawaii, portraying Nango Rikimaru;

• Brandon Miyagi, vendor manager at First Hawaiian Bank, as Meakashi Kingoro; and

• Caroline Witherspoon, president of Becker Communications, Inc., as the Kojyo.

The audience egged on the Gonin Otoko performers with humorous remarks, laughter and cheers.

The Shoko Shiranami Gonin Otoko production team also included shamisen performers Kineya Sakio and Kineya Samei, along with Kineya Satsutama and Kineya Satsuharu on drums and percussion. Hanayagi Dancing Academy Hawaii Foundation members dressed the dorobos and applied their stage makeup.

HJCC president-elect Melanie Okazaki closed the evening by leading the audience in a spirited tejime.

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