Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko visiting with residents of Kuakini Home. "Several of them offered us kind words and a welcoming handshake that conveyed their human warmth," the prince and princess wrote of their visit. (Photo by Alex Murata)
Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko visiting with residents of Kuakini Home. “Several of them offered us kind words and a welcoming handshake that conveyed their human warmth,” the prince and princess wrote of their visit. (Photo by Alex Murata)

Japan’s Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko Reflect on Their Hawai‘i Gannenmono Visit

Editor’s note: The following essay, written by Their Imperial Highnesses Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, was emailed to The Hawai‘i Herald and other news organizations by deputy consul general Takayuki Shinozawa of the Japanese Consulate in Honolulu. After returning to Japan, the couple penned their impressions of their weeklong visit to Hawai‘i to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Gannenmono’s arrival in the Islands — it was then translated into English. We are happy to share their reflections with you.

In this commemorative year of the 150th anniversary of the first group immigration to Hawai‘i by Japanese people in 1868, our visit to the state of Hawai‘i at the invitation of the state government was a most memorable and fruitful one. Although our visit happened to be at a difficult time for those affected by the Kïlauea volcano eruptions on the island of Hawai‘i, we wish to express our sincere appreciation to Governor Ige and everyone concerned who extended their warm welcome and kind hospitality to us.

The main purpose of this visit was to attend the opening ceremony of “The Gannenmono 150th Anniversary Commemoration and Symposium in Honolulu,” and “The Convention of Nikkei and Japanese Abroad,” which is held annually in Japan, but was specially held in Hawai‘i in this commemorative year. Both events were attended and celebrated by many people, which allowed us to reflect upon the relationships between Japan and Hawai‘i and our shared ties with the Nikkei communities in each different country, and provided great momentum toward further developing these relationships for decades to come.

Prior to these two major events, we visited exhibits at the Bishop Museum and the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i on Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans in Hawai‘i following the Gannenmono, the first Japanese overseas immigrants to arrive as a group in Hawai‘i. These visits enabled us to gain a deepened understanding through viewing the many valuable exhibits on the harsh working conditions in the sugar plantations, the register of names of the Gannenmono and their descendants, and on the wartime situation, and the displays of Japanese words and phrases cherished by the Japanese Americans, among others things.

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Descendants of the Gannenmono waited excitedly at the Bishop Museum to greet the imperial couple. Princess Kiko was happy to meet the keiki descendants of the Gannenmono.
Descendants of the Gannenmono waited excitedly at the Bishop Museum to greet the imperial couple. Princess Kiko was happy to meet the keiki descendants of the Gannenmono.

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