by Roy Kaneshiro (Chatan Sonjin Kai)
1982-83 HUOA President
Chair, HUOA 50th Anniversary Committee

It began 50 years ago this September with the coming together of 14 Okinawan clubs: Ginowan Sonjinkai, Goeku Sonjinkai, Gushichan Sonjinkai, Gushikawa Sonjinkai, Kailua Okinawa Kenjinkai, Kaneohe Okinawa Doshikai, Kita Nakagusuku Sonjinkai, Nago Chojinkai, Naha Shijinkai, Onna Sonjinkai, Osato Doshikai, Shuri Shijinkai, Tamagusuku Sonjinkai and Yomitan Sonjinkai. Together, they formed the United Okinawan Association of Hawaii. Although two of the clubs no longer exist, over the years, 40 other Okinawan clubs came to realize the benefit of working together as one organization — maintaining their ties to their own ancestral villages back in Okinawa, but speaking as one united voice in Hawaii.

The Hawaii United Okinawa Association is today made up of 52 member clubs whose commitment to keeping alive the Okinawan culture and Uchinanchu spirit has made HUOA one of Hawaii’s most active and viable ethnic community organizations.

Viability cannot be taken for granted, however. It needs to be worked at. Organizations like HUOA survive — and thrive — because we know our strengths and weaknesses and are able to change with the times while valuing what keeps us strong.

HUOA is at an important juncture in its existence. Our strength, and that of our clubs, has always been grounded in our common experience as Uchinanchu and in the values we share. But HUOA is only as strong as its member clubs — for our strength comes from you, our member clubs.

With that in mind, the HUOA 50th Anniversary Committee thought it time that we all come together — our members clubs and the leadership of HUOA — to talk about the challenges our clubs and organization face, share ideas, and develop a plan of action to ensure our futures. The forum for that coming together will be an HUOA Summit, themed “Our Clubs, Our Future.” The Summit will be held on Saturday, April 28, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., at the Hawaii Okinawa Center. A light breakfast and lunch will be served.

All HUOA club presidents were sent a registration form, requesting that they invite their officers and a few of their younger members to the Summit. Please fill out the registration form and fax it to HUOA at 676-7800, or e-mail their names, titles and phone numbers (or e-mail addresses) to as soon as possible.

Just a few months ago, optimism marked the closing of the Uchinanchu community’s centennial celebration marking 100 years since the first Okinawan immigrants arrived in Hawaii. We were confident that our children and grandchildren would keep alive the Okinawan cultural heritage and share it with all of Hawaii’s people. Ensuring that that dream remains alive rests in all our hands. We need to begin mapping out our future so that our children and grandchildren will grow up with a sense of pride in their Okinawan heritage and in possessing the “Uchinanchu spirit,” which today knows no ethnic boundaries. Let’s all be part of shaping that future by participating in the HUOA Summit.

The celebration of HUOA’s 50th anniversary will continue with a Storytelling Festival, set for Wednesday through Friday evening, May 9 -11, at the Hawaii Okinawa Center. The Festival, themed “Building Bridges of Aloha,” will feature “concert class” storytellers. Admission is free. Jimmy Toyama of Yonabaru Chojin Kai and his committee have spent months organizing the Festival, which promises to be a blockbuster event.

The Storytelling Festival is aimed at reaching out to the greater Hawaii community and building bridges between generations and cultures through the medium of storytelling. It is also a gift of aloha from HUOA to the Hawaii community for the many blessings it has received over the past century. Invite your relatives, friends and neighbors and come listen to these extremely talented storytellers.

Veteran Island storytellers Karen Yamamoto Hackler and Woody Fern will open the festival on Wednesday evening (May 9) with multicultural stories centered around the theme, “Mixed Plate.” On Thursday evening, Nyla Ching-Fujii and Dann Seki take centerstage with stories that span the generations. The Storytelling Festival will conclude on Friday evening with chickenskin stories from Makia Malo, who spent his teen and adult years amidst the spirits in the Hansen’s disease settlement at Kalaupapa on the island of Molokai. Nyla Ching-Fujii will return for a second night of storytelling. She and Malo will be joined by a special guest storyteller also sharing obake (ghost) tales.

Parents who are concerned that the obake stories may be a bit too spooky for their young children can walk them over to the Young Okinawans of Hawaii tent where YOH members will put on a program of Okinawan folk tales for the kids.

Each night’s program will begin with cultural entertainment fronting the Legacy Ballroom, followed by the summoning of the audience into the hall by the Ryukyu Kobudo Taiko - Hawaii Shibu. On the opening night of the Storytelling Festival, the Young Okinawans’ shiisa will lead the way into the hall. The storytellers will begin sharing their tales at about 6:30 p.m. Each storyteller will present a story or two and then return for a “tag-team” performance following a short intermission.

Those planning to make an entire evening of the event can enjoy a light “Oodles of Noodles” dinner and a few other menu items prepared by A Catered Experience and sold for a nominal price. An outdoor accommodations tent will be set up so attendees can enjoy their dinner in a picnic-like setting.

The Storytelling Festival is sponsored by HUOA with financial support from the Hawaii Imin Shiryo Hozon Kai and City Bank — and outreach support from a vast network of community organizations.

Other events are being planned for the 50th anniversary celebration — we’ll keep you posted on them.


Wed., May 9: “Mixed Plate” featuring Karen Yamamoto Hackler and Woody Fern

Thurs., May 10: “Generations” featuring Nyla Ching-Fujii and Dann Seki

Fri., May 11: “Obake” featuring Makia Malo, Nyla Ching-Fujii and a special guest storyteller