by Ken Kiyabu (Yagaji Doshi Kai)

Co-chair, HUOA 50th Anniversary Celebration

On September 22, 2001, over 800 Uchinanchu and Uchinanchu-at-heart gathered at the Hawaii Okinawa Center to celebrate the Hawaii United Okinawa Association’s 50th anniversary. About three weeks before the event, George Uyema of Chatan-Kadena Chojin Kai, co-chairman of the Banquet Committee, stated, “It doesn’t look good; we have less than 300 people signed up for the banquet,” However, true to the Uchinanchu spirit and the yeoman work of the club presidents and their members, a capacity crowd of over 800 guests showed up for the exciting evening.

A well-planned program was in store for the members and guests: paranku to start the banquet, koto music during dinner, some speeches, a fantastic video of 50 years of HUOA and great entertainment by Hawaii’s Geino (performing arts) groups and also the Hawaii students who had attended Geidai, the performing arts university, and the University of the Ryukyus (Ryudai).

The 50th Anniversary banquet had a couple of firsts: A zillion kudos go to entertainment chairman George Kaneshiro of Chatan-Kadena Chojin Kai for working so hard to get all of the Geino groups to perform on the same stage on the same night, and in some cases, together. Over 200 entertainers and helpers kept the audience entertained. This was a first in Hawaii. Another first for an HUOA function was to serve Okinawan cuisine, brainchild of Dot Hoe of Gaza Yonagusuku Doshi Kai and Nishihara Chojin Kai. Dot helped A Catered Experience develop the menu and even taught the chef how to cook some of the dishes, like rafute (shoyu pork), etc. There were many complements about the ono food. Give Dot Hoe a giant hand.

There were many more people involved in making the banquet a success. Roy Kaneshiro of Chatan-Kadena Chojin Kai, co-chair of the 50th Anniversary Committee, was the task master who kept all the committees moving along to accomplish the mission. Banquet committee co-chairs Pam Tamashiro of Hui Makaala and George Uyema published a beautiful and informative banquet booklet.

The 50th Anniversary Video Committee, co-chaired by Cheryl Okuma-Sepe of Gushikawa Shijinkai and Lillian Takata of Nago Club, produced a very informative and entertaining video of the 50 years of the HUOA and of the future. Producing this film took many hours of research, hunting and begging for materials. It also resulted in the discovery of valuable photographs and articles. Lillian Takata spent many hours calling people for photos. George Kaneshiro did a lot of legwork and provided lots of history of UOA functions, and the HUOA Video Subcommittee under the direction of Lane Inamine of Chatan-Kadena Chojin Kai, Itoman Shijin Kai and Young Okinawans of Hawaii filmed a few of the interviews and also provided footage from past events. But Karleen Chinen of Bito Doshi Kai was the scriptwriter, producer, director and coordinator who made this such a fantastic film.

There were numerous more volunteers who helped to stage this enjoyable event and they all deserve our heartfelt appreciation.

Besides the scrumptious Okinawan cuisine and the thought-provoking film, the entertainment by the Geidai and Ryudai students were the highlight of the evening. These young students who studied in Okinawa, the members of Young Okinawans of Hawaii and the young people in our sonjinkai are the future of the Hawaii United Okinawa Association and the Okinawan people in Hawaii.

In the process of producing the video of the past 50 years of the HUOA and its future, one glaring point stuck out: the HUOA lacks data, photos, oral history of members and documents for people wanting to do research on Okinawans in Hawaii, much less for our children and future generations of Okinawans. Therefore, I strongly recommend that the next administration set up a committee or task force to at least do oral histories of our elders who are rapidly vanishing. I urge the next leaders to approach the Young Okinawans of Hawaii and the former Geidai and Ryudai students to lead this project and to involve other young members of HUOA’s various sonjinkai to help them better understand their connection to their Okinawan heritage. These young people are highly intelligent, educated and, most important, their hearts are in the right place. They will make us proud to be American and Uchinanchu. Think about it: the Nisei and Sansei generations have run the HUOA for 20 years. It’s time to give the Yonsei and Gosei the opportunity to direct and manage the HUOA in the 21st Century and beyond.



Koto students from Toyoko Toma Sensei’s Ryukyu Sokyoku Koyokai perform at the 50th anniversary banquet. (Michael Young photo)

HUOA President Jimmy Iha presents a plaque to 1957-58 UOA president Shinsuke Nakamine while other former presidents or their representatives look on. Choki Kanetake, who succeeded Nakamine as UOA’s fifth president is seated to Nakamine’s right. (Michael Young photo)