LIHU‘E — JoAnn Yukimura, Vice Chair of the Kaua‘i County Council, said just as the sounds of Taiko Kaua‘i carried her through the recent Kaua‘i Marathon, she prays the winds will carry the sound of the taiko across the oceans to Iwaki City and help with the recovery efforts.
That spirit of aloha permeated the morning heat that veiled the solemn sister city agreement signing, Monday morning at the courtyard of the Mo‘ikeha Building, attended by a host of local government dignitaries and an Iwaki City delegation.
Signs of the relationship between Kaua‘i and Iwaki City were everywhere, starting with Nalani Brun, of the county’s Office of Economic Development, who rendered the national and state anthems for the ceremony.
Brun was one of the first hula groups to perform in Iwaki, OED director George Costa said.
Noelani Naumu was in Iwaki earlier this year, leaving just a few days before the city was devastated by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami of March 11. She offered a hula interlude during the signing ceremony.
“Iwaki is still suffering from the March disaster where more than 300 people died, 40 are still missing and 50,000 homes suffered major damage,” said Art Umezu, the program emcee and the county’s Film Commissioner. “It has been just six months, but Iwaki got inspiration and launched the hula caravan from the Spa Resort Hawaiians.”
Umezu said on Sept. 11, while Americans stopped to reflect on their nation’s 9/11 terrorist attacks, the hula caravan drove to Oshima, one of Kaua‘i’s sister cities, to perform and offer aloha to the 25,000 people there.
Kazuichi Ishii, director of Iwaki City representing Iwaki City Mayor Takao Watanabe, said the people are inspired by Kaua‘i, who in the face of a large hurricane rebounded and recovered.
“Mayor Watanabe is back in Iwaki helping the people recover from the March disaster,” Ishii said, through the aid of interpreter Shu Igari of the Iwaki City government. “But he sends his appreciation for the prayers and aid from the people of Kaua‘i.”
The visiting delegation from Iwaki City included Ishii, Naoto Katono, president of the Iwaki Chamber of Commerce and Industry, toshinori Ohba, vice president, Iwaki Tourism and City Planning Bureau, Takashi Wakamatsu, general manager, Spa Resort Hawaiians/Joban Kosan, Tsuneo Suzuki, president, Iwaki Hawai‘i Exchange Association, Akira Kaji, administrative officer, Iwaki Government for Promotional Events Division, and Igari.
Aid continued to pour in as three organizations broke protocol to present its ho‘okupu, results of separate fundraising events to help Iwaki City.
Bertram Almeida of the Aloha Kaua‘i from Japan concert offered a check for $20,000 followed by Ernie Pasion, Oscar Portugal and the Kaua‘i Filipino Chamber of Commerce who offered $4,000 from its Banyanihan event held at the Kukui Grove Center.
Pasion said the event actually raised $9,000, but $5,000 was presented to Japanese Red Cross, and $4,000 is for the Iwaki City.
Leina‘ala Rivera and Lei ‘Ilima Rapozo were joined by kumu hula Kamaka‘okalani Herrod in offering their ho‘okupu, including a posterboard display showing the array of people who have ties to Iwaki. The offering is the result of a concert to benefit the Japanese people held earlier this year.
Umezu said Iwaki City shares a lot in common with Kaua‘i, the city being formed in 1966 by incorporating a lot of smaller villages.
Today, Iwaki City has a population of 345,000. It’s Japan’s 10th largest and 72nd most populous city.
Formerly, coal mining formed the core of its economy, but in the face of advancing technology, turned to tourism, the Spa Resort Hawaiians being one of its biggest attractions.
This is similar to Kaua‘i where sugar was once king. But about the time Iwaki City turned to tourism, Kaua‘i also started depending more on tourism, leading Sue Kanoho, director of the Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau and a frequent visitor to Iwaki City, to suggest a relationship between Iwaki and Kaua‘i.
“Recently, when each Hawai‘i county was asked to establish a sister city with a town from an APEC region, we seized the opportunity to formalize a sister city relationship with Iwaki City,” Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. said. “Sister city relationships promote peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation. It offers communities the opportunity to develop partnerships on many levels — educational, professional, technical, municipal, and of course, cultural.”
This was further demonstrated through the County Council resolution presented by Yukimura, stating a sister city relationship fosters and promotes the exchange of cultural exhibits, educational programs, visits by citizen groups, and the acknowledgement and sharing of common bonds.
The council resolution further states the City of Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, has expressed a desire to enter into a sister city relationship with the County of Kaua‘i based on the common history and heritage which its citizens share with descendants of immigrants who currently reside on the Garden Island.
Costa said since 2009 there has been an agreement to send winners of the Kaua‘i Marathon and the Iwaki City Sunshine Marathon to each other’s event, and in the past, Kaua‘i has benefited from the visit of Manju Shaka, a kabuki group which performed for free for Kaua‘i residents, that trip being coordinated by Kaleinani Hayakawa and Spa Resort Hawaiians.
“With the signing of the sister city agreement with Iwaki City, it is hoped that we can learn and gain from each other,” Costa said.