Kauai, Japan ‘connection’

LIHUE — There were gasps of amazement as the aloha print fabric was whisked away Thursday by Kauai Museum Director Chucky Boy Chock.

Murmured whispers of admiration and amazement permeated among the group of 74 hula dancers from Hui o Mapuana’s Hula Nani and Mapuana Studio who watched the portrait depicting Japan shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu and Kauai ali‘i Ka‘ahumanu catch the light for the first time.

“These are great rulers who believed in peace,” Chock said. “Tokugawa Ieyasu is considered one of the three unifiers of Japan, and Ka‘ahumanu was the ali‘i of Kauai. By paying tribute to these great rulers, I want to build a bridge between Japan and Kauai. I want people to see these great rulers together.”

The piece was created by Evelyn Ritter, who did the Hawaiian mural against which the portrait was unveiled. She also did a number of artwork depicting scenes of Kauai’s story.

“We tell the story of Kauai,” Chock said. “It is only natural that artists render pieces that are part of the story. This piece becomes a part of the story where we as Americans have a great relationship with Japan.”

Art Umezu of the county’s Office of Economic Development served as translator for the group who arrived here to perform for “A Lei of Kauai Stars” Wednesday at the Courtyard by Marriott at Coconut Beach.

“Mapuana comes from the historic castle city of Odawara near Tokyo,” Umezu said. “When she saw the portrait, she said she felt the connection.”

Joining Chock and the Kauai Museum staff, former mayor Maryanne Kusaka, the president of the Kauai Museum trustees, was familiar with Mapuana’s halau, and extended her hand in symbolic friendship between Kauai and Japan.

Mark Perriello, president of the Kauai Chamber of Commerce, also joined in the celebration, noting the strong economic impact of Japanese visitors to Kauai.

As the brief messages concluded, the hula dancers set out to get photographs before the portrait while others eagerly dove into The Kauai Museum Gift Shops seeking omiyage from Kauai.

“I want to build a bridge,” Chock said. “Not just for Hui o Mapuana’s Hula Nani, but all halau who come to Kauai. I don’t want them to just pass us by. I want them to come and hear and learn the story of Kauai.”

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