County Prepared for Visit by Emperor and Empress of Japan

Media Release

The County of Hawai’i is prepared for an extraordinary event on Thursday, July 16, 2009, when Mayor Billy Kenoi and his wife Takako will greet Their Majesties the Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan at the Kona International Airport.

kenoi and wife

As the Emperor and Empress exit the plane, Kekuhi Keali’ikanaka’olehaililani, granddaughter of Edith Kanaka’ole of Halau O Kekuhi of Hilo, who founded the halau in 1953 and performed for Emperor Hirohito in 1975, will present a beautiful Hawaiian chant “Welcoming the Rising Sun,” composed especially in honor of Their Majesties visit to our Island of Hawai‘i.

Sixty children from five Big Island charter schools and community ohanas, gathered from throughout the island communities of Kona, Ka`u, Puna, Hilo, Hāmākua and Kohala, will perform a hula.

Among the Japanese-Americans living in Kona who will be at the airport in the morning will be Mary Beth Oshima-Nakade, a 1978 valedictorian at Konawaena High School and recipient of the Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship, which allowed her to study at Komazawa University in Tokyo, Japan, in 1983-1984. She met then Crown Prince Akihito and Crown Princess Michiko at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo in 1984, and remembers it vividly as a “very, very special event in my life.”

“They were very gracious, humble, and kind,” said Oshima-Nakade, who wants to greet the Japanese royal couple again to “express my aloha and gratitude.”

The Kona Japanese Civic Association, Hiroshima, Kumamoto, Yamaguchi, and Fukuoka Kenjin Kai clubs, Mutsumi Kai, Daughters of Hawaii, Kona Lion’s Club, Kona Historical Society, Urasenke Club, and Kona Saga Goryu Ikebana are some of the local organizations excited about Their Majesties visit to Kona.  Seven-year-old Jana Kiyo Lily Masunaga said, “I’ve never met an Emperor or Empress in my whole entire life!  I’m so excited to see the Emperor and Empress of Japan because I am Japanese-American (Yonsei, fourth generation).”

Bobby Command, Executive Assistant for Mayor Kenoi, said, “Being the son of a Japanese immigrant with deep ties to Japan, this is an honor for my family and me. I was also present for Emperor Showa’s visit (Emperor Hirohito who reigned from 1926-1989) in 1975, and it is an incredible experience for me to now have Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visit our island.”

After their arrival, the Emperor and Empress will visit Mauna Kea Beach Hotel where they will be greeted by residents of Waimea and Hilo. They also will travel to Parker Ranch for a private reception hosted by the Ambassador of Japan and the Consul General of Japan.

When the plane departs from Kona International Airport Thursday afternoon, hula halau Na Lei O Kaholoku from Kohala will perform. In addition to Mayor Billy and Mrs. Kenoi, Hawai‘i County Police Chief Harry Kubojiri, 102-year-old Shizuko Teshima, owner of Teshima’s Restaurant, and 102-year-old Taketo Sasaki, will wish the Emperor and Empress a safe flight back to Japan.

The Mayor and Mrs. Kenoi, Chief Kubojiri, Hawaii County Research & Development Director Randy Kurohara, County Deputy Managing Director Wally Lau, County Executive Assistants Hunter Bishop, Kevin Dayton, Bobby Command and Deputy Director Margaret Masunaga are coordinators in the Emperor and Empress of Japan’s visit to the Big Island.

Due to security requirements, public access to the Emperor and Empress’ visit to the Big Island will be tightly restricted.


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