Melissa Uyeunten departed earlier this month for Okinawa to begin a year of intensive study of Okinawan music and dance at the Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts (Geidai) on a scholarship awarded by the Okinawa Prefectural Government. Uyeunten, who is the daughter of Gary and Cindy Uyeunten, is a 1996 graduate of Aiea High School. She earned her associate’s degree in automotive technology from Leeward Community College and was employed as an automotive tech when she was selected for the scholarship.

Uyeunten, a yonsei, has studied sanshin with Grant Murata Sensei of the Afuso-ryu Gensei Kai - Hawaii Shibu, and Okinawan dance with the Tamagusuku Ryu Senju Kai Frances Nakachi Ryubu Dojo. She previously studied taiko with the Ryukyu Kobudo Taiko - Hawaii Shibu.

In addition to her cultural studies, Uyeunten has been active with Club Motobu, of which she is a vice president, and with the Young Okinawans of Hawaii. In her application essay, she wrote: “With the new experiences and skills I will bring home, I will be happy to share what I have learned with my classmates at sanshin and odori. I feel studying in Okinawa will help me be a stronger member in the Young Okinawans and Club Motobu, as I will have many firsthand experiences to share. I will also be able to share what the current culture is in Okinawa. I hope to encourage others to take the chance to study in Okinawa.

Urasoe Shijin Kai member Lynn Miyashiro recently returned to Hawaii after completing her 2000-2001 Geidai scholarship.


Cheryl Okuma-Sepe has been appointed Director of Human Resources by Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris. Prior to her appointment, she had served as First Deputy Corporation Counsel. In 1994 Okuma-Sepe was appointed deputy director of the Department of Wastewater Management and was reappointed to the post in 1997.

Okuma-Sepe graduated from Radford High School and earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. She graduated cum laude from California Western School of Law and was admitted to the California Bar in 1980, and to the Hawaii Bar the following year.

Okuma-Sepe began her legal career in private practice. She also served as an attorney for the state Senate and as an arbitrator for the First Circuit Court. While living in Germany with her husband Don Sepe, who was in the U.S. Army, Okuma-Sepe worked as a management systems analyst for the Army and as an adjunct professor for Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, teaching courses in aviation law.

Okuma-Sepe co-chaired last year’s Okinawan Festival with current HUOA President Jimmy Iha. She is also a former HUOA vice president and is current president of Gushikawa Shijin Kai.

Mayor Harris also appointed HUOA vice president George Tamashiro to the position of deputy director of the city’s Dept. of Design and Construction. Tamashiro has been with the city for the past 31 years, the last three as chief of the Design and Engineering group in the Dept. of Design and Construction. As chief, he directed a staff of 42, servicing various city departments and agencies. He also managed the planning, design and construction of approximately 700 projects at any given time.

Tamashiro served as chief of the Public Building Planning and Construction Division in the Building Department for six years and as assistant chief for 20 years prior to that. He began his career with the city as a civil engineer. Prior to joining the city, he worked as a private sector engineer.

He earned his bachelor of science degree in engineering from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 1962. Tamashiro, who is in his second year as an HUOA vice president, is a past president of Wahiawa Okinawa Kyoyu Kai. He chaired the food committee for last year’s Okinawan Festival.

Mayor Harris also appointed David Z. Arakawa to his second term as Corporation Counsel, the city’s top legal officer. Arakawa is a member of Nishihara Chojin Kai and Hui Makaala and is a sansei descendant of Zempan Arakawa, founder of Hawaii’s much-loved — and missed — Arakawas Store in Waipahu.