by Albert H. Miyasato
HUOA 2000 President
Member, Club Motobu

On Feb. 1, a delegation of four HUOA members returned to Hawaii following a very hectic but productive trip to Okinawa. The delegation included 2001 HUOA President Jimmy Iha; President-elect Gladys Tokunaga-Asao; Dexter Teruya, chair of last year’s Centennial Celebration Committee and this year’s Third Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival; and myself. Dexter traveled to Okinawa at his own personal expense because as chair of the HUOA committee, he wanted to personally thank the people of Okinawa for supporting the centennial celebration.

We departed Honolulu on Jan. 25 on a multi-task mission that included thanking the people of Okinawa (the public, government officials, businesses, Okinawa-Hawaii Kyokai) for their overwhelming support of last year’s highly successful Okinawan Centennial Celebration, introducing HUOA’s 2001 President Jimmy Iha and President-elect Gladys Tokunaga-Asao, outlining President Iha’s 2001 program — which includes special events marking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of HUOA, and finally, meeting with officials of the Third Worldwide Uchinanchu Taikai regarding HUOA’s participation in the event. (See Dexter’s Taikai update on the following page.)

The HUOA Board of Directors approved a $10,000 budget for the entire trip, which included a stand-up, cocktails and heavy pupus “mahalo” reception for about 80 select Okinawan guests. We were advised to budget about 5,000 yen (approximately $50) per person for the reception food and cocktails. We also presented each guest with an orchid lei and a gift bag of coffee, jam and cookies.

HUOA President Jimmy Iha — a man of many talents — joined the Kyokai’s Leilani halau for “Aloha ‘Oe” and “Hawaii Aloha.” (Photos courtesy of Dexter Teruya)

We are especially grateful to Akira Makiya, president, and Eiken Genka, headquarters secretary, of the Okinawa-Hawaii Kyokai, who among many, many other things, drove us to all of our appointments, and to Chieko Nakamura of the Okinawa Prefectural Government’s International Exchange Division for setting up our itinerary and scheduling our courtesy calls and the press conference we convened.

We arrived in Naha late Friday evening, Jan. 26. On hand to greet us at the airport were Mr. Makiya and Mr. Genka from the Kyokai, and Dr. Yoshihiro Miyasato, my first cousin, who is a pediatrician and a member of the Harbor View Hotel, where our reception was to be held. Several other cousins were also there to offer their Uchinanchu aloha. Nansei Kanko Hotel owner Mr. Maeda sent a van to transport our luggage and the 19 large boxes we had brought for the reception to the hotel. Despite the late hour, we met with Mr. Makiya, Mr. Genka and Dr. Yoshihiro Miyasato to go over the week’s itinerary and details for the mahalo reception. It was almost midnight when we settled into our rooms.

On Sun., Jan. 28 we were the special guests of the Okinawa-Hawaii Kyokai at their New Year’s Party at the Sun Palace Hotel. The party was attended by about 50 people, among them many longtime Hawaii supporters: Mr. and Mrs. Kamesuke Nakamura, Ichiro Oyadomari, Kin-cho Mayor Katsuhiro Yoshida, Mr. Makiya, Mr. Genka, Choichi Terukina Sensei, Masayuki Oshiro, former Hawaii prisoner-of-war Hikoshin Toguchi, a few dance sensei, Mrs. Keiko Ota (wife of former governor Masahide Ota) and Choko Takayama.

Okinawa-Hawaii Kyokai President Makiya formally welcomed us in his speech. We were asked to go on stage and share a few comments with the Kyokai members. As immediate past president, I relayed our thanks to the group for their tremendous support throughout our centennial year. We received the biggest applause when I announced that in spite of the multitude of events and activities held to commemorate the centennial, the celebration budget will end up “in the black” — thanks in large part to the support of the Kyokai and the people of Okinawa, and particularly to Dexter Teruya, our Okinawan Centennial Celebration Committee chairman, who watched our finances like a hawk.

President-elect Gladys Tokunaga-Asao and I present anthuriums to Okinawa Governor Keiichi Inamine while President Jimmy Iha looks on.

Jimmy Iha followed with his aspirations for the year 2001. He outlined plans for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the HUOA, participation in the Third Worldwide Uchinanchu Taikai, and his plans to expand the annual Okinawa Festival to greater success. He said he was concerned about passing on the Okinawan cultural legacy to the younger generations. Only in this way can we assure the well-being of the future of the HUOA. He closed with a request for continuing support for the HUOA.

Entertainment was provided by the Okinawa-Hawaii Kyokai Hula Leilani Halau. Jimmy Iha picked up an ukulele and joined the Hawaiian group for the closing songs, “Hawaii Aloha” and “Aloha ‘Oe.”

We spent the remainder of the evening enjoying the fellowship and renewing acquaintances. The gathering was a great prelude to the week’s activities.

We held a press conference on Mon., Jan. 29 at the Okinawa Prefectural Government press room to thank the people of Okinawa for supporting our centennial celebration and to tell them about our programs for this year and to ask for their support. The press conference was covered by nearly a dozen media organizations, including the two major dailies, Ryukyu Shimpo and Okinawa Times and several television and radio stations.

Some in the press were concerned about the rapidly diminishing number of Issei and Nisei whose life stories should be recorded. They asked for references so they can arrange interviews for oral history purposes. Several of our subsequent meetings were also covered by the Okinawa media.

Our mahalo reception at the Harbor View Hotel in Naha on Tues. evening, Jan. 30, was attended by 82 people, including our four scholarship students from Hawaii. My cousin, Dr. Yoshihiro Miyasato, worked with Mr. Makiya to help us secure the hotel at a reasonable rate. The Kyokai assisted with invitations and RSVP cards and took care of the reception table. They also made a large banner for the reception.

As the guests arrived, members of the Kyokai’s Leilani hula halau, dressed in colorful muumuus, presented each person with a lei and a name card. Special thanks to our own Dot Hoe, who ordered 82 extra fresh orchid leis and to the Nansei Kanko Hotel, in whose refrigerator we stored the leis. They were still fresh five days after we arrived in Okinawa. We had brought special leis for Governor Inamine and Speaker Iramina. Unfortunately, they were called away to Tokyo, so we presented the leis to Vice Governor Hideo Ishikawa and Vice Speaker Takara as well as to Mayor Takeshi Onaga, the newly elected mayor of Naha.

The Kyokai donated two cases of wine for the reception. Mr. Makiya personally donated two cases of awamori, and Dr. Miyasato donated six bottles of whiskey and vodka. The beer for the reception had to be purchased from the hotel with the food.

We were fortunate to have Yuki Miyazato, who is bilingual, as our reception emcee. Each of us gave a short speech. Congratulatory messages were given by Vice Governor Ishikawa for Gov. Inamine and Vice Speaker Takara for Speaker Iramina, and by Mayor Onaga.

Entertainment was provided by the Leilani Group, led by Mr. and Mrs. Nobuo Utsuki — who also made a monetary donation to HUOA. Our four scholarship students — Lynn Miyashiro, Alyce Nakama, Allison Yanagi and Kelly Takamiya — also performed at the reception. We were also fortunate to have Mamoru Miyagi perform several numbers from his native Yaeyama. He will be the special guest performer from Okinawa at this year’s Okinawan Festival. He performed several numbers from Yaeyama. (If you want a sneak preview of his music, we brought back copies of his latest CD which can be purchased that the Hawaii Okinawa Center gift shop for $20.) The program ended with everyone holding hands and singing “Hawaii Aloha” and “Aloha ‘Oe.”

As our guests left, they were each given a gift bag containing coffee, jam and cookies from HUOA. The mahalo party was a huge success and was pulled off under budget. The people with whom we worked closely on this trip — Mr. Makiya, Mr. Genka, the Okinawa-Hawaii Kyokai, Dr. Yoshihiro Miyasato and Ms. Chieko Nakamura of OPG — were all more than satisfied at the success of the event.

The remainder of our time in Okinawa was spent visiting at least a dozen dignitaries: mayors, educators and businesspeople. My article on our trip would go on forever if I told you about each person with whom we met, so I will limit my comments to three especially heartwarming visits we made — to Kin-cho Mayor Katsuhiro Yoshida, Naha City Mayor Takeshi Onaga, and to Gov. Keiichi Inamine.

It is becoming a tradition to recognize Kin-cho as the most notable area in Okinawa. After all, it is the birthplace of Toyama Kyuzo, the father of Okinawan immigration to Hawaii and elsewhere. Okinawans in Hawaii have consistently been reminded of Toyama’s trailblazing role and the impact he made on countless lives. The role Kin-cho Mayor Katsuhiro Yoshida and the people of his town played in the celebration of our centennial was spectacular and phenomenal and is well-documented.

It was most fitting, therefore, that our first official visit was to Kin-cho on January 27. We were welcomed by Mayor Yoshida and just about his entire staff. This is noteworthy because it was a Saturday, normally an off-day for most of his staff. We met in the conference room with a group of 16 leaders that included leaders from neighboring villages. We talked about why we had come to Okinawa.

After the short conference, we were given a short tour of Kin-cho, which included a stop at the birthplace of Toyama Kyuzo. After the tour, Mayor Yoshida invited us to lunch.

On January 29, we visited with Mayor Takeshi Onaga to ask for his support in the future. Mayor Onaga succeeded former Mayor Kosei Oyadomari, a good friend and supporter of Hawaii Uchinanchu who retired last November. Mayor Onaga said he was awed by a video he saw of pigs being transported to Okinawa to help the people in the aftermath of World War II.

Several Okinawa-Hawaii Kyokai members and our Hawaii scholarship students join us for a group photo at our mahalo reception. The banner overhead was provided by the Kyokai.

On January 31, we called on Governor Keiichi Inamine. We relayed the purpose of our visit and presented him with gifts of coffee, jam, cookies and a dozen anthuriums. Governor Inamine had been briefed in detail about our mahalo reception and repeated some of the points we had made at the night before. He focused his remarks on the Third World Uchinanchu Taikai and was optimistic that it will be a resounding success. Dexter reported that we are hoping to bring 600 people from Hawaii to the Taikai, which will be the largest Hawaii group to ever attend a Taikai.

Every person we met with pledged their support to HUOA and Hawaii’s Uchinanchu community. These individuals included:

• Mayor Keizo Yasuda of Yomitan Village;
• Geidai (Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts) President Kosei Abe, and Masayuki Oshiro, director of the Student Affairs Division;
• Superintendent of Education Yoshimori Onaga;
• University of the Ryukyus President Moshin Morita;
• Jimmy’s Bakery and Supermarket founder Jimmy Inamine;
• Chatan Mayor Choichi Hentona;
• Kadena Deputy Mayor Eisaburo Yamaguchi;
• Tamagusuku-son Mayor Akira Oshiro;
• Okinawa Prefectural Government Speaker Kokichi Iramina;
• Fumiko Nagahama, chairperson of the Naha Chamber of Commerce Women’s Division; and
• Hajime Amuro, director of the International Relations Foundation and former Superintendent of Education.

We presented a gift package of coffee, jam and cookies to each person we called on.

Our only regret is that we were not able to visit with former Governor Junji Nishime because of our heavy appointment schedule. However, at a later opportunity, we hop to present him the HUOA Certificate of Appreciation we had brought with us.

Such was the experience of our aisatsu and mahalo trip to Okinawa. We sincerely hope that trips made by future delegations will enhance and further raise the quality of HUOA programs to greater heights as the years march on.

On behalf of 2001 President Jimmy Iha, President-elect Gladys Tokunaga-Asao and centennial celebration chair Dexter Teruya, I would like to extend a heartfelt Ippe nihei deebiru to the HUOA Executive Council, Board of Directors, membership and office staff for supporting this very important and worthwhile trip.