Three Nihon Bunka awardees will be recognized at annual JCS event

Stephanie Ohigashi

Stephanie Ohigashi

The Japanese Cultural Society of Maui will welcome the Year of the Dog at its annual Shinnen Enkai (New Year) dinner on Jan. 27 at the Elleair Rainbow Room at the Maui Beach Hotel. The Shinnen Enkai will begin at 5:30 p.m. with the traditional otoso (sake welcome) with no-host cocktail hour to follow. Dinner is scheduled for 6 p.m.

Cost for the buffet dinner is $50, $20 for children ages 6-11, and free for kids 5 and under. Tickets are available through the Maui Box Shop and Credit Associates in Wailuku, and Sanrio at Queen Ka’ahumanu Center.

The deadline to purchase tickets is Jan. 18; they will not be available at the door.

The event will feature Dennis Ogawa, who will speak about the Gannen Mono — 150th anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants who arrived in Hawaii from Yokoyama in 1868.

The event will also showcase performances by professional Japanese dancer and vocalist Dazzman Toguchi.

Mildred Okuda

Mildred Okuda

Stephanie Ohigashi, Mildred Okuda and Tom Fujita will be honored as the JCS Maui Nihon Bunka awardees for 2018. Selected by the JCS Maui board, they are being recognized for their dedication to helping the Japanese culture to flourish on Maui.

Besides being instrumental in creating a sister chamber relationship between the Maui Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Fukuyama Chamber of Commerce in 1988 and eventually a formal sister city relationship between Maui County and Fukuyama City in 2008, Ohigashi has organized various high school study trips abroad to Japan and coordinated local Maui families to provide homestay activities when the Japanese students visited Maui.

Ohigashi was also instrumental in coordinating a historic two-week cultural event, “Sho Chiku Bai,” in 1994, and has been involved with the 18-year annual Maui Matsuri. She is currently a member of the Maui Gannen Mono committee that will be instrumental in coordinating a series of events to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii.

In her professional capacity, Ohigashi is the international student recruiter/ instructor working under the direction of University of Hawaii Maui College Chancellor Lui Hokoana and Vice Chancellor Debra Nakama to recruit and welcome international students to the campus, and also to create opportunities for local students to study abroad at one of the more than 14 partner universities across the world.

Okuda, president of the Maui Karaoke Club, has actively promoted and perpetuated the Japanese culture through Japanese karaoke, providing monthly entertainment at Hale Makua Kahului and Wailuku, as well as Maui Adult Day Care Center, Roselani Place, Kaunoa Senior Center and at social functions for the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center, Maui Kumamoto Kenjin Kai and Yamaguchi Kenji Kai. Her goal is to work with Japanese language teachers to encourage their students who may be interested in Japanese singing to join her group, as well as introduce preschool children to Japanese children’s songs.

Tom Fujita

Tom Fujita

Besides having hosted a variety of Japanese students who came to Maui as part of an exchange program with Maui Community College, Fujita has held mochi-pounding events for the past 32 years. While he never promoted or publicized the event, his annual mochi-pounding events were open to everyone as he and his late wife had a strong desire to promote and perpetuate this aspect of the Japanese culture.

The event will also have a silent auction with proceeds going toward the club’s various projects.

To make a donation to the silent auction, call Tiffany Iida at 276-5444.

JCS Maui will also arrange to dress attendees who wish to wear kimono.

To schedule kimono dressing, held during the afternoon of the event, call 283-9999 by Jan. 15.

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