The 2017-2018 officers and directors of the United Japanese Society of Hawaii were installed on June 24 at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i. Two celebratory dances were performed at the start of the program: “Kotobuki Samba,” a Japanese dance, which was performed by Bando Michie II, and the auspicious Okinawan dance, “Kazadihuu,” was performed by sisters Lisa Nakasone Nakandakari and Julia Nakasone Okumura, both shihan (teachers) with Hooge Ryu Hana Nuuzi no Kai Nakasone Dance Academy.
The annual installation banquet is also UJSH’s opportunity to recognize people who have advanced and supported the organization’s mission through its Kenjin Kai Outstanding Member awards. Selected by their respective kenjinkai (prefectural club) were: Carol Koga, Central Oahu Kumamoto Kenjin Kai; Yoshiko Matsuoka, Hawaii Ehime Kenjin Kai; Eileen Yasuko Masuda, Hawaii Fukuoka Kenjin Kai; Kazuko Tarumi, Hawaii Kagoshima Kenjin Kai; Masumi Na-kagome, Hawaii Miyagi Kenjin Kai; Yumiko Yamamoto, Hawaii Miyazaki Kenjin Kai; Kasumi Tanaka, Hawaii Oita Kenjin Kai; Tom Yamamoto, Hawaii United Okinawa Association; Hisao Baba, Hawaii Yamagata Kenjin Kai; Janet Yoda, Hawaii Yamanashi Kyoyu Kai; Kanzo Nara, Hokkaido Club Hawaii; Joni Keiko Kaneshiro, Honolulu Fukushima Kenjin Kai; Thomas Sakamoto, Honolulu Hiroshima Kenjin Kai; Laureen M. Kai, Honolulu Kumamoto Kenjin Kai; Gregg Hideki Hirohata-Goto, Honolulu Niigata Kenjin Kai; Lorelei K. Fukuda, Honolulu Yamaguchi Kenjin Kai; and Katherine Fujii, Wahiawa-Waialua Hiroshima Kenjin Kai. Kanzo Nara of Hokkaido Club Hawaii spoke on behalf of the honorees, thanking UJSH for recognizing their work.
Outgoing president Dean Asahina presented the UJSH Member of the Year award to Sheree Tamura, his successor as president. Citing the numerous health challenges he faced during his year as president, he said, “When I was down, she took my place,” said Asahina. Tamura accepted the award, saying, “I’m not supposed to be recognized. I was just doing my job.”
The UJSH Award for Contributions to the Japanese Community and Hawaii was presented to Hanae Miura-Sensei, who has taught the martial art of Jikishinkage-Ryu naginata since settling in Hawai‘i in 1972.
The second highlight of the day was the installation of Sheree Tamura as UJSH’s 2017-2018 president. Serving with Tamura are Faye Shigemura, president-elect; vice presidents Terrence Kai, Kalei Kini, Frances Nakachi Kuba, Rev. Akihiro Okada and Cheryl Sora; secretaries Wendy Abe, Annette Matsumoto and Mariel Moriwake; treasurers David Jones, Christopher Kanehiro and Norman Nakasone; and auditors James Sato and Michael Sato, along with 27 directors and nine counselors. Consul General of Japan Yasushi Misawa will serve as honorary advisor.
In his outgoing president’s message, Dean Asahina called his term “a most memorable year.” “I experienced a lot,” he said. The year 2016 marked the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which prompted a visit to Hawai‘i and the Arizona Memorial by President Barack Obama and Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe. UJSH was involved in the activities associated with the prime minister’s visit.
Asahina also thanked his siblings, Gene and Audrey, for their support during the year. He concluded his outgoing president’s message thanking UJSH’s members. “UJSH is about its members,” he said.
Sheree Tamura has been involved in UJSH for many years. The adopted — and only child — of the late Sadao and Hatsuko Tamura, she developed a deep interest in Japanese culture from a young age, even training in Japan. Tamura is a longtime member of the Hanayagi Mitsusumi Dance Studio. Besides Japanese classical dance, she enjoys singing Japanese songs and continues voice training with the Dennis Oshiro Music Studio. She is also an aikidö and naginata student. And, she is mom to daughter Sheera Yoshimi Hai Bao Tamura, whom she adopted from China as a young child. Tamura raised Sheera as a single parent with the help and encouragement of her parents. This past spring, she watched with pride as Sheera graduated from Pacific Buddhist Academy. When not doing her cultural and community activities or tending to her daughter, she works as the student service and English language learner coordinator at Momilani Elementary School in Waimalu.
Congratulatory messages were offered by Alvin Katahara, director of external affairs in the governor’s office, representing Gov. David Ige, and Gary Nakata, director of community services, representing Mayor Kirk Caldwell.
Consul General of Japan Yasushi Misawa assured Asahina that his presidency “has been a successful one.” He noted that the biggest event of the year for him was the visit of Prime Minister Abe. He thanked UJSH members for their support and assistance. “I truly appreciate it very much,” Misawa said.
He said newly installed president Tamura is “multitalented” and “the right person to be president for next year’s 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Gannenmono.”
Honolulu Hiroshima Kenjin Kai member and UJSH past president Kenneth Saiki offered a kampai toast.
A full program of entertainment followed, including Japanese and Okinawan dances and singing. Newly installed president Sheree Tamura also shared her talents, singing “Chichibu Yo Matsuri.”