by Karleen C. Chinen (Bito Doshi Kai)

The weather was picture-perfect for Maui Okinawa Kenjin Kai’s first Okinawan Festival, which drew some 4,000 people to the Rinzai Zen Mission in Paia on June 9. The event lived up to its theme, “Celebrating Our Okinawan Legacy,” with Okinawan entertainment, food, cultural displays and products the fare of the day. The festival was co-chaired by former MOKK presidents Koki Tamashiro and Mike Hondo.

The entertainment program featured a good mix of homegrown Maui talent who performed Okinawan dances, Japanese songs and dances, innovative world fusion music and paranku and taiko drumming, as well as martial arts demonstrations. Performers and MOKK friends from the Neighbor Islands traveled to the Valley Isle to support the first Maui Okinawan Festival, including Hawaii United Okinawa Association President Jimmy Iha. HUOA’s colorful banners lined the perimeter of the festival site.

Traveling all the way from Okinawa was a group from Kin Cho, who brought along their lion to perform shishi mai and other dance numbers. Much of the program emceeing was done by Darren Konno, a sansei member of the Maui Okinawa Kenjin Kai, sensei of the Maui Okinawa Taiko group, and the first Maui recipient of the Okinawa Prefectural Government’s University of the Ryukyus scholarship.

“It was a very, very successful festival. Lots of people enjoyed themselves. The members worked hard — the chairs of the various committees worked really hard, and we had great help from HUOA,” said co-chair Koki Tamashiro. He said the shishi mai dance by the group from Kin Cho added much to the festivities.

“We’re happy that it went really well,” added co-chair Mike Hondo. MOKK President Alan Arakawa thanked HUOA for its support of the festival. “We can now appreciate how much work goes into the Honolulu festival,” he said, adding that MOKK has decided to make the Maui Okinawan Festival an annual event.

Hondo and Tamashiro thanked the various committee chairs and their sub-committee chairs: program: Darren Konno; food: Roy Fusato and sub-chairs June Konno, Fumiko Cup Choy, Jana Molina, Andre Ajimine, Toshiko Oki, Ron Kono, Hideo Goya, Casey Nakasone, “shave ice” Marvin Tengan and “rice” Marvin Tengan; crafts and cultural tent: Linda Kiyabu and Judy Tanaka; country store: Alan Arakawa and sub-chairs Helen Kawahara, Helen Tamashiro, Betty Yamashiro, Amy Yatsushiro, Roy Nakasone, Annette Omuro and Russell Gushi; Oriental products: Bob Yonahara; children’s games: Wendy Tamashiro and Raina Takumi; publicity: Todd Hondo and Jere Shimomura; grounds: Harry Kochi and Clarence Uehara; parking: Jerry Arakawa and Shigeru Nakanishi; manpower: Tony Arakaki and Sumi Kuniyoshi; hospitality: Debbie Yoshimi; first aid: Charlotte Fusato; clean-up: Frank Kawahara and Shigeru Nakamura; and finance: Colleen Takamura.

The day-long festival came to a climactic close with a festive bon led by Hirotada Toyama Sensei under the Maui stars.