Bond grows between Kauai, Japan

LIHUE — A celebration of culture and international friendship marked the 29th Matsuri festival Saturday at the Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall.

A loulu palm, donated by the National Tropical Botanical Garden, was planted in honor of the 40th anniversary of the sister city relationship between Kauai and Moriyama City in Japan.

“As the palm grows, I hope the relationship between Moriyama and Kauai also grows stronger each year,” said Mayor Kazuhiro Miyamoto of Moriyama City.

The highlight of the sister city relationship is the educational exchange program. Matthew Nishimoto represents the 50th student from Kauai to be able to spend a year in a Japanese high school.

“When the Japanese student arrives, it will mean 100 students have benefited from this program,” said Lani Nagao, the first Kauai student to participate in the program. “To date, there have been 49 students from Kauai and 49 students from Japan.”

Tsugio Kawashima was the president of a Rotary Club in Japan when the sister city program was established between Rotary Clubs, one in Japan and the other on Kauai. Kawashima’s goal was to benefit the Japanese youth, and when he fell ill, the program was suspended for six years before being resumed this year with Nishimoto going to Japan.

The visiting Japanese delegation was treated to a special appearance by students from Niihau, accompanied by Bruce Robinson and his wife to celebrate the loulu palm, a native of Niihau island.

Demonstrations featured Japanese culture, including the making of soba, a Japanese noodle, calligraphy, art and ceramics. Local Japanese demonstrated how the culture has been adopted and modified to fit the Hawaii lifestyle, including familiar origami and plate lunches.

The event was hosted by the Kauai Japanese Cultural Society.

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