United Japanese Society of Hawaii members and supporters welcomed the “Year of the Rooster” with a lively New Year’s celebration at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i’s Manoa Grand Ballroom on Jan. 14.
After opening koto music by Darin Miyashiro, the program commenced with the observance of a moment of silence for deceased UJSH members. The celebratory dance “Sambaso” was then performed by Onoe Kikunobukazu (Howard Asao), Onoe Kikunobutomi (Brandon Goda) and Jordan Ragasa of the Onoe Kikunobu Kai.
UJSH president Dean Asahina welcomed everyone to the shinnen enkai. He spoke of the many activities of 2016, in particular the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in late December to join President Barack Obama in honoring the memory of the Americans who were killed in Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Asahina thanked the members for participating in and supporting the UJSH’s many activities. “We can do anything if we stick together in the Issei spirit,” he said.
One of the highlights of the program was the recognition of the 2016 Hawai‘i recipients of imperial decorations from the Government of Japan — spring awardees Dr. Dennis Ogawa, who received The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon; Joichi Saito, recipient of The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette; and fall recipient Garrett Serikawa, who received The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays. Ogawa is a longtime University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa American Studies professor and chairman of Nippon Golden Network. Saito is chairman emeritus of Central Pacific Bank and former president of the Hawaii Bankers Association. Serikawa, a retired accountant, is a past president of the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce and former board chair for the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i.
Also recognized during the program were the 2016 Kenjin Kai Young Achiever Awardees — Rachelle Fong, representing the Central Oahu Kumamoto Kenjin Kai; Shari Teruya from the Hawaii Fukuoka Kenjin Kai; Lisa Tamashiro, representing the Hawaii United Okinawa Association; Zane Jansson from the Hawaii Yamanashi Kyoyu Kai, Jamielynn Tateyama from the Honolulu Fukushima Kenjin Kai; Shawn Hamamoto, representing the Honolulu Hiroshima Kenjin Kai and LesliAnn Kikuchi of the Honolulu Kumamoto Kenjin Kai.
The young leaders were applauded for their service to their respective kenjin kai. Lisa Tamashiro, co-founder of Shinka, the HUOA’s newest club for young adults, and the instructor of her eisä group, Chinagu Eisa, spoke on behalf of her fellow recipients. She said pride in her culture and community were instilled in her from a young age. She encouraged the younger generation to learn as much as they can about their cultural heritage from their elders while they are still alive and able to share information and experiences with them.
Special guests included Gov. David Ige, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and Consul General of Japan Yasushi Misawa. Gov. Ige said he was never prouder to be Japanese American than to have been able to welcome Prime Minister Abe to Hawai‘i. “It was truly an opportunity for Hawai‘i to shine,” he said. Ige also thanked the UJSH for being part of the community welcome for Prime Minister Abe and for the “spectacular showing of the strong relations between Hawai‘i and Japan.” He said he had an opportunity to speak with U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy during Abe’s visit. “As your governor, I was truly proud. We believe we are true partners in peace and prosperity.”
Mayor Caldwell noted that the Pearl Harbor attack changed Hawai‘i in so many ways. Consul General Misawa recommitted himself to strengthening the ties between Hawai‘i, the U.S. and Japan.
A banzai to the honorees, UJSH and its guests was offered by Cmdr. Taijiro Omata, liaison officer for the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Forces, headquartered with the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet.
The rest of the program was devoted to performances by the various kenjin kai, including UJSH board members singing “Naniwa Bushi Dayo Jinsei Wa;” Okinawan dances by Dazzman Toguchi and students of Tamagusuku Ryu Senjukai Frances Nakachi Ryubu Dojo; a moving rendition of the song “The Prayer” by brothers Tanner and Devin Teruya; and the comical “PPAP” song and dance by Honolulu Fukushima Kenjin Kai members James Sato, Clarence Sato and Wally Watanabe. Hawaii Chinagu Eisa closed out the entertainment program with several lively eisä numbers.
UJSH immediate past president Cyrus Tamashiro concluded the shinnen enkai with a lively tejime.
The shinnen enkai was chaired by UJSH president-elect Sheree Tamura.