There was one New Year, then another Welcome to Kaua‘i

New Year came twice this weekend, and there were people who were not going to miss out on the festivities.

Saturday night, the Kaua‘i Chinese Cultural Society hosted its annual Chinese New Year celebration that kicked off with the lighting of thousands of firecrackers.

That ruckus on the grounds of the Hilton Kaua‘i Beach Resort summoned a pair of golden Chinese lions accompanied by their escorts garbed in red.

The lions frolicked among the estimated 300-plus spectators that lined the drive leading to the main entrance, stopping to accept lai shi from the spectators.

At the entrance, the lions quizzically checked out the offering of mandarin oranges hanging from the resort entrance before snapping up the offering and pausing to enjoy it before disappearing into the depths of the resort’s grand ballroom.

That celebration was followed Sunday by the Hui Alu Shinnen Kai, or New Year’s celebration held at the Kaua‘i Veterans Center in Lihu‘e.

Bernie Sakoda, one of the Hui Alu leaders, said the group was hosting visitors from Okinawa and O‘ahu to provide the estimated 200 people with a special entertainment program.

Sharon and Wes Sahara, Myles and Wanda Shibata, and the Sakoda family were part of the Saturday evening celebration as well.

On Sunday, Sharon was busy working alongside Hui Alu members in preparing the buffet line with food prepared by the Okinawa club’s members.

Among those being honored at the Hui Alu event were three first generation residents — sensei Harry Nakasone of O‘ahu, Yasuko Yamasato and Kosuke Miyashiro of Kaua‘i.

“Nakasone and Yamasato are both 95 years young,” Sakoda said. “Miyashiro is the baby since he’s only 93.”

The Hui Alu Shinnen Kai, or New Year’s celebration, is always held in February, said Gary Ueunten, noting the club was a little late this year.

Max and Kathy Miyashiro were announced as the Hui Alu Uchinanchu of the Year and as part of that honor, the couple started the buffet line.

Sakoda said the couple were being honored for their work at the Warabi Ashibi, or Children at Play, day camp that has been held for the past three years.

That event, allows youngsters a hands-on approach to learning about traditional and contemporary Okinawa culture.

Warabi Ashibi is held on each of the four major Hawaiian Islands, with Kaua‘i’s event scheduled for June 12 to 14 at the convention hall.

This year’s event will occupy the Veterans Center.

Part of the entertainment lineup featured visiting dancers — Megumi Chibana, Rinda Yamashiro and Lisa Agarijo who were joined by other traditional Okinawa dance groups in performing dance for the lunch crowd, one diner busy in her notebook taking notes from the performances.

Tomoyuki Terukina, a sanshin, the Okinawa version of shamisen, also led a group of visiting sanshin instructors in a special performance.

“He’s here to learn English,” Sakoda said, noting they took him and the O‘ahu instructors to enjoy the East Kaua‘i Lions Pancake Breakfast earlier.

“His dad is also a sanshin instructor, and on Okinawa, they consider him a Living Treasure.”

Coming off a busy schedule that included performances at the Waimea Town Celebration, the Kodomo no hi Girls Day celebration at Kukui Grove, members of the Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko were able to enjoy lunch before taking the stage, their sound audible to parents and fans watching the ongoing KSA soccer games at the North Vidinha fields.

“This is Hawai‘i. We share everybody’s culture,” said one observer, Sharon Sahara.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@kauaipubco.com

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