LIHUE — The Matsuri Kauai, open to the public with free admission, is just one of the fruits of the sister city relationship with Suo Oshima.
The students on stage will be the next people celebrating the next 50th anniversary of the sister city relationship, said Takumi Shiiki, mayor of Suo Oshima.
“The relationship between Hawaii and Japan started long before the sister city agreement, and it is only through the hard work of our forefathers that we are here, today,” Shiike said Friday. “We must never forget the work they did and continue to honor them so others in the future will know of their efforts.”
The County of Kauai and Suo Oshima celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Resolution as Affiliated Sister Cities and Reaffirmation ceremony for another 50 years at the Moikeha Building, which was drenched with passing showers, sending children and adults alike scurrying for shelter.
“We are so delighted that many dignitaries and citizens, including keiki, middle and high school students and media crews from Suo Oshima, and nearby Iwakuni City braved stormy weather and typhoon to fly on an inaugural flight from the New Iwakuni International Airport to join us, today,” said Beth Tokioka, county’s communications director. “This is a very historic day, a very special day to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the sister city relationship between Kauai and Suo Oshima, which was introduced and signed into agreement on March 20, 1963.”
Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. said the relationships between Kauai’s four sister cities in Japan — Suo Oshima, Ishigaki, Moriyama, and Iwaki — have maintained a strong and rich tie, especially through children, education, sports and hula programs.
“In August, we had four middle school students from Ishigaki City for an English study program with Kauai High School,” Carvalho said. “In September, we hosted a marathon runner from Iwaki who ran the Kauai Marathon. We also had students from Suo Oshima Maritime Academy who spent three weeks at the Kauai Community College for a multi-cultural study program.”
Carvalho said just two weeks ago, a group of hula dancers and ukulele artists from Kauai were invited to perform to more than 5,000 students at nine elementary schools in Moriyama.
This week, four Kauai hula dancers returned from Iwaki City where they performed at the Pacific Nations Dance Festival to an audience of 90,000 people.
“Kauai was the only island representing Hawaii and the United States,” Carvalho said. “Cultural and educational exchanges with Sister Cities are vital to providing a brighter future for our children.”
Shizuo Niiyama, chairman of the Suo Oshima County Assembly, said during the first 10 years since the agreement was made, more than 3,900 workers from Japan came to Hawaii.
“I am honored to be part of the history of 50 years as a sister city, and to start a new era,” Niiyama said. “I respect the decision of our forefathers in 1885 to let people come to Hawaii.”
Nadine Nakamura, vice chair of the Kauai County Council, the first immigrants to Hawaii arrived to fill the labor needs of the sugar plantations, Nakamura said.
“These were changing times in Hawaii, and the Issei, or first immigrant generation to Hawaii, were influential in the development of new labor laws and the improvement of working conditions and wages on the sugar plantations,” Nakamura said. “While sugar is no longer a booming agricultural industry in Hawaii, there are approximately six generations of people of the Japanese heritage living here, and our culture is richly intertwined with the Japanese culture.”
Matsuri Kauai is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall.
• Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.