The Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce celebrated the arrival of the “Year of the Rooster” at its 72nd annual shinnen enkai (New Year’s banquet). The Jan. 6 event at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i attracted a sold-out audience of 410 people, including HJCC members, their families and friends. The shinnen enkai is traditionally a time for fun and fellowship as the newest “class” of “Shoko Shiranami Gonin Otoko” kabuki stars are introduced.
HJCC board chair Dave Erdman welcomed the guests with a boisterous “Shinnen akemashite omedetou gozaimasu!” “New Year’s is one of the most significant holidays in the Japanese culture,” said Erdman, adding that the shinnen enkai is an opportunity for everyone in the business community to greet each other in a positive way.
The event was chaired by HJCC member and Finance Factors president and chief operating officer Steven Teruya, and emceed by former Cherry Blossom Queen Kimberly Takata and HJCC member and Carlsmith Ball attorney Kenji Price.
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 PICHTR president Dennis Teranishi and Nippon Club president and JTB Hawaii president and CEO Tsukasa Harufuku.
For the first time this year, attendees were treated to an Uta Matsuri, or song festival, patterned after Japan’s popular New Year’s Kohaku Uta Gassen. The contest pits the all-women’s red team against the all-men’s white team. The HJCC’s version featured songs sung by members of the Quad-Chamber — HJCC and the Chinese, Filipino and Korean chambers of commerce. The Quad-Chamber was organized last year. The very talented men’s team swept the contest.
And then it was time for the “Shoko Shiranami Gonin Otoko” performance. The kabuki play is about five dorobo, or thieves, and is set in Ösaka during the Edo Period. The HJCC version of the play has the performers bragging about their career and personal successes.
The five dorobo in this year’s play were:
• Scott Barlow, president of Aloha Gateway Marketing, as Nippon Daimon;
• Sandra Tory, secretary-treasurer of Tory’s Roofing & Waterproofing, as Benten Kozo Kikunosuke;
• Sydette Higuchi, office manager for Allan Y. Segawa, DDS, as Tadanobu Rihei;
• Denis Kaneshiro, vice president at Central Pacific Bank, as Akaboshi Jyuzaburo; and
• Steve Koyama, owner and principal broker of Koyama Realty, portraying Nango Rikimaru.
Keven Matsuura, brokerage manager for Occidental Underwriters of Hawaii, Ltd., played the role of Meakashi Kingoro. But the show’s biggest star this year was Consul General of Japan Yasushi Misawa, who portrayed the Kojyo. The Kojyo “bragged” about having held 19 different diplomatic positions — including Germany, Austria, Indonesia and Canada — that have taken him to the four corners of the earth — all by age 54. He also bragged about having known his wife Yoko since they were youngsters growing up in Kyöto, and about studying ‘ukulele with Roy Sakuma and Okinawan sanshin with Grant “Sandaa” Murata.
The audience encouraged the Gonin Otoko performers with laughter and cheers. The performance concluded with the cast and the audience joining together in singing “Hotaru No Hikari,” the Japanese version of “Auld Lang Syne.”
Robert Nagao served as producer and director of the performance. He was assisted by retired HJCC president Ronald Ushijima and HJCC member Greg Mueller, who were responsible for the script and casting. HJCC member Rika Hirata assisted with the Japanese script, and former Gonin Otoko producer Walter Saito served as advisor. Musical accompaniment was provided by Kineya Sakio on shamisen and Kineya Samei on drums and percussion. Hanayagi Dancing Academy Foundation members assisted with the costuming and makeup.
HJCC president-elect Brian Nishida closed the evening with a rousing tejime. The “Shoko Shiranami Gonin Otoko” performance was videotaped by ‘Ölelo Community Media and will be shown at a later date.