Hawaii Members Welcome Prime Minister Abe

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We thank USJC Associate Nate Gyotoku for providing the below article about the reception on December 26 welcoming Prime Minister Abe to Hawaii, and extend our appreciation to USJC Associate Nicole Velasco for the live report through social media (much of which has been captured here).

For details on the Prime Minister’s historic visit to Pearl Harbor the following day, please see this statement by USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye.

Governor Ige and Prime Minister Abe, with Foreign Minister Kishida in the back (Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Twitter page)

On December 26, 2016, a capacity crowd at the Hawaii Convention Center welcomed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The Prime Minister was in Hawaii to make a historic visit to Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial, but was first greeted by the people of the Aloha State. The sound of conch shells and an oli (a Hawaiian chant) blessing filled the ballroom, marking the start of the momentous occasion.

Prime Minister Abe opened his speech by sharing stories about his love and connection to Hawaii. He spoke about his aunt and uncle who relocated from Yamaguchi Prefecture and how he dreamed of visiting Hawaii as a young boy. He also spoke about the deep bonds that tie Japan and Hawaii together, and the lasting legacies of the Issei immigrants, Nisei veterans and other Japanese American influencers. He paid homage to important Japanese Americans from Hawaii like the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye and Former Governor George Ariyoshi. He closed his speech by saying that under the alliance of hope, Japan and the United States can continue to work together.

USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye (left) with Council Leader Lori Matsukawa at the reception

Governor David Ige spoke next, extending his gratitude to both Prime Minister Abe and President Barack Obama for making the historic joint visit to Pearl Harbor. He also spoke about his ancestral roots in Japan, his family’s plantation legacy, and how Hawaii’s history is deeply influenced by the Japanese. He echoed the message of peace and hope, reinforcing the importance of Hawaii’s role in U.S.-Japan relations.

Governor George Ariyoshi, Member of the USJC Board of Councilors, spoke about an experience he had in Occupied Japan. He met a starving young boy and gave him a sandwich. The boy immediately wrapped it up instead of eating it. Governor Ariyoshi, then a member of the Military Intelligence Service, urged him to eat the sandwich, but the boy replied that he wanted to share the food with his younger sister. Continuing his speech, Governor Ariyoshi commended the resilience of the Japanese after WWII and highlighted the core value of shikata ga nai, the Japanese phrase meaning “to maintain dignity in the face of unavoidable hardship.” He urged the crowd to continue strengthening U.S.-Japan relations, as it is a key relationship for the Pacific and the world.

USJC Chairman of the Board Dennis Teranishi (left) with Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida

The evening concluded with a performance by ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro. Prime Minister Abe took photos with each table in the ballroom. It was truly a special night to mark a historic visit to Pearl Harbor by the Prime Minister of Japan. The people of Hawaii are grateful for the Prime Minister’s visit and will always welcome him with gratitude and aloha.

Hawaii-based USJC members at the reception

We thank everyone who supported us in witnessing this historic event, as well as everyone who contributed photos and social media!

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