More than 800 Uchinanchu and Uchinanchu-at-heart came together in the Teruya Pavilion of the Hawaii Okinawa Center on Jan. 26 to cheer on the 2001 Uchinanchu of the Year and to install 2002 HUOA President Gladys Tokunaga-Asao and her fellow officers.

Tokunaga-Asao is a member of Tamagusuku Club and Hui O Laulima. In 1998 Tamagusuku Club recognized her as its "Uchinanchu of the Year." Tokunaga-Asao served many years as a Hawaii Okinawa Center trustee and chaired the HOC's 10th anniversary celebration during the Okinawan Centennial Celebration. Last year, she co-chaired the Okinawan Festival with then-vice presidents George Tamashiro and Keith Kaneshiro. Tokunaga-Asao is married to Charles Asao and has three children. She works for Bonded Construction.

The 2001 "Uchinanchu of the Year" in all their glory

The installation banquet program featured a mixed bag: some installation pomp and circumstance; cheering on the "Uchinanchu of the Year" and HUOA sports champs; traditional Okinawan entertainment by Jolene Nakama during the dinner hour and later, dances by students of the Majikina Honryu Buyo Dojo, of which Tokunaga-Asao is a member; and a cha-cha performance by the HUOA Chiburoos Plus One.

Gladys Tokunaga-Asao is installed as the 51st
president of the HUOA. (David Shimabukuro photos)

Serving with Tokunaga-Asao are President-elect George Tamashiro (Wahiawa Okinawa Kyoyu Kai); Vice Presidents Keith Kaneshiro (Aza Gushikawa Doshi Kai, Kochinda Chojin Kai and Hui Makaala), Rodney Kohagura (Ginowan Shijin Kai and Okinawan Genealogical Society of Hawaii) and Karleen Chinen (Bito Doshi Kai); Executive Secretary Jane Tateyama (Club Motobu); Assistant Executive Secretary Thelma Lam (Yomitan Club and Hui O Laulima); Japanese Language Secretary Chikako Nago (Young Okinawans of Hawaii); Treasurer Sandra Goya (Nishihara Chojin Kai and Young Okinawans of Hawaii); Assistant Treasurer Jaysin Asato (Nago Club); and Immediate Past President Jimmy Iha (Chatan-Kadena Chojin Kai and Wahiawa Okinawa Kyoyu Kai). Tokunaga-Asao selected Dorothy Shiroma Hoe (Hui O Laulima) , Jean Seki (Nago Club), John Tasato (Ginowan Shijin Kai), Jimmy Toyama (Yonabaru Chojin Kai), Henry Uyeshiro (Onna Sonjin Kai) and Maurice Yamasato (Haneji Club) as her advisors. The new officers were installed by former HUOA president Ryokichi Higashionna, and congratulatory karii were offered by Tamagusuku Club President Takashi Tsuhako and the new president's father, 92-year-old Takeichi Tokunaga.

In her installation speech, Tokunaga-Asao thanked outgoing President Jimmy Iha for the time and energy he gave to HUOA during his presidency, which coincided with HUOA's 50th anniversary. She also thanked his wife Marian and the rest of the Iha family for sharing Jimmy with HUOA.

Tokunaga-Asao said she was honored to serve as the HUOA's 51st president. "All of us working, playing, honoring and celebrating together as member clubs of the HUOA have played a part in preserving, perpetuating and promoting our Okinawan cultural heritage," she said.

The new president cha-chas with the HUOA Chiburoos Plus One.

Tokunaga-Asao paid tribute to the late Shoei Moriyama, a fellow Tamagusuku Club member, who passed away last November. Before he became ill, Tokunaga-Asao said she had talked to him about a theme for her administration. Moriyama, a talented Okinawan musician, creative artist and all-around HUOA supporter, suggested the Uchinaaguchi words, "Ichimadin Kanaganatu," meaning "forever embracing." "I would also like to dedicate this theme in memory of Shoei-san, for he practiced 'Ichimadin Kanaganatu' every day of his too-short life," she said.

As the HUOA begins its second 50 years, Tokunaga-Asao said the organization must rededicate itself to preserving all that it can about the early Okinawan experience. "We need to keep this legacy alive for the future generations. By doing so, we will make their lives richer and more fulfilling. And, we will ensure the perpetuation of the Uchinanchu Spirit."

She said the organization must also analyze what it is doing and how it can better serve HUOA's member clubs, the Uchinanchu community and the larger Hawaii community. "And then we must have the foresight and the courage to make the changes that we need to so that the HUOA will continue to be relevant and to serve our community long into the future."

"We have much to do. But in the spirit of "Ichimadin Kanaganatu - Forever Embracing," I know we will prevail. I humbly ask for your support."