Gannenmono Plenary Feature: Celebrating the 150-Year Legacy

The following is the summary of a session that was part of the 2018 Annual Conference.


  • Christine A. Kubota, Director, Damon Key Leong Kupchak Hastert
  • Dennis Ogawa, Ph.D., Professor, University of Hawaii Manoa
  • Tyler Tokioka, Vice President, External Affairs, Island Insurance


Ms. Kubota and Mr. Tokioka discussed their work on the 150-year anniversary of Gannenmono, Hawaii’s first Japanese immigrants. They expressed their appreciation for Japanese royalty who visited their symposium earlier this year. They then showed a video clip that gave the background of how Gannenmono arrived from Japan to work on sugar plantations in Hawaii. The term also refers to the descendants of those Japanese immigrants. The video described their lives working on the plantations and how they assimilated into Hawaii. It also described the intense pride and deep connection that Gannenmono have with their heritage.

Dr. Ogawa was introduced, and he emphasized that the essence of Gannenmono is about having strong people-to-people relations. He went on to explain the story of King Kalakaua of Hawaii’s visit to Japan during the time of the Gannenmono. Dr. Ogawa explained the immense effort that Japan put into welcoming King Kalakaua, including 21 gun salutes from Japanese war ships and the Hawaiian national anthem played by the Emperor’s band. Even though King Kalakaua was well educated in cultural customs, when he met the Emperor in Tokyo, he shook his hand. This was worth mentioning because it is unheard of to greet the Emperor in such a manner. The symbolism of the two shaking hands was a display of positive chemistry, human bonds, and true friendship. During the King and Emperor’s private meeting, the King expressed his appreciation for the Gannenmono who stayed in Hawaii, and called them truly remarkable individuals. Dr. Ogawa told this story because he believes that the early history of Gannenmono is a living testament of what we value, which is human relationships.


Click here to see the video of the session.