Mayor Kenoi and Wife Takako Meets Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan

From Hawaii County News extended coverage at Hawaii247.org:

Mayor Billy Kenoi and his wife Takako greeted Their Majesties the Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan at the Kona International Airport today to begin the Imperial visit to the County of Hawai’i.

Mayor Billy Kenoi and his wife, Takako, greet Their Majesties Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan at Kona International Airport Thursday. (photo courtesy of Baron Sekiya/Hawaii247.org)

Mayor Billy Kenoi and his wife, Takako, greet Their Majesties Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan at Kona International Airport Thursday. (photo courtesy of Baron Sekiya/Hawaii247.org)

As the Emperor and Empress exited the plane they were presented with a special chant written for the occasion by Kekuhi Keali’ikanaka’olehaililani, granddaughter of Edith Kanaka’ole. The chant is called “Welcoming the Rising Sun.”

The Emperor and Empress were greeted by dignitaries on the red carpet outside the airplane, and were treated to a hula performance by 60 children from five charter schools across the Island of Hawai’i. The children come from the communities of Kona, Ka`u, Puna, Hilo, Hāmākua and Kohala. About 150 invited guests from West Hawai’i looked on and waved the flags of Japan, the United States and the State of Hawai’i.

The invited guests are made up mostly of people of Japanese ancestry, and groups represented include the Kona Japanese Civic Association, Hiroshima, Kumamoto, Yamaguchi, and Fukuoka Kenjin Kai clubs, Mutsumi Kai, Daughters of Hawai’i, Kona Lion’s Club, Kona Historical Society, Urasenke Club, and Kona Saga Goryu Ikebana.

“This is a tremendous honor to be able to greet the Emperor and Empress and show them the aloha and warmth of the Island of Hawai’i,” Mayor Kenoi said. “We are so pleased and humbled to be part of the Imperial visit to Hawai’i.”

On behalf of the residents of the County of Hawai’i, Mayor Kenoi has given the Emperor and Empress a gift of a framed photograph by Jack Jeffrey of the ‘I’iwi bird feeding on the endangered Oha Wai plant, a plant found only on Hawai’i Island.

Their Majesties’ motorcade traveled from the airport to the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel in South Kohala, where the Emperor and Empress were greeted in the lobby by about 130 well-wishers, most of whom were Japanese-Americans from East Hawai’i. Groups represented at the resort included the Japanese Community Association; East Hawaii Hiroshima Kenjinkai; Hui Okinawa; Urasenke Hilo Association; and Kumamoto Doshi Kai.

Some of the guests who came to greet the Emperor and Empress are originally from Japan, while others are second-, third-, and fourth-generation Japanese-Americans. Some chose to wear a traditional kimono as a sign of respect for the royal couple, said Art Taniguchi, president of the East Hawai’i Hiroshima Kenjinkai.

“For us on the Big Island, it’s huge event,” said Taniguchi. “It’s a real honor for them to come to our island.”

From the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel the motorcade traveled to Parker Ranch in Waimea for a private reception hosted by the Ambassador of Japan and the Consul General of Japan. The reception was held for the Emperor and Empress at the 162-year-old home called Puuopelu, the home of former ranch owner Richard Smart. Parker Ranch is the fifth largest ranch in the United States, spanning approximately 130,000 acres.

Trustees of Parker Ranch Foundation Trust welcomed Their Majesties to the Parker Ranch. Paniolo of Japanese descent played a very important role over the years in the success of Parker Ranch, and five of the ranch’s more famous paniolo of Japanese descent have been inducted into the Hawaii Cattlemen’s Association Paniolo Hall of Fame. They include Yutaka Kimura, one of Parker Ranch’s most famous paniolo and the son of Japanese immigrants from Yano Village, Hiroshima prefecture in Japan.

Before departing from Parker Ranch, the Emperor and Empress were treated to exhibitions of paniolo prowess including calf roping and a demonstration of the Po’o Wai U. The Po’o Wai U is found only at Hawaiian rodeos, and involves roping a steer and restraining the steer at a Y- shaped post in the middle of the arena. It is a tradition that grew out of the cowboy practice of roping wild cattle in the mountains and tying them before moving on to round up more cows.

From Parker Ranch, Their Majesties’ motorcade returned to the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, and then proceeded to the Kona airport for their departure.

At the airport, hula halau Na Lei O Kaholoku from Kohala performed with the Lim family presenting “I Makana Na’u Ia Aloha,” which is a song written by Hawai’i’s King David Kalakaua for his wife while he was visiting in Yokohama, Japan in 1881.

The performers also sang “Aloha ‘Oe” written by Hawai’i’s Queen Liliu’okalani as the Emperor and Empress boarded their flight home. Mayor Billy Kenoi and his wife Takako, Hawai‘i County Police Chief Harry Kubojiri, 102-year-old Shizuko Teshima, owner of Teshima’s Restaurant, and 102-year-old Taketo Sasaki were among those wishing the Emperor and Empress a safe flight back to Japan.

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