More than 400 cards from Kauaʻi students being mailed to Japan

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    ‘Ele‘ele School students Zachkary Villanueva, Vice Principal James Muraoka, Tailana Tanigawa and Raygen Rivera show off some of the nearly 200 cards written and illustrated by the school’s students that were picked up for delivery by Michiko and Raymond Hirao, on the school campus last week.

Diane Nitta, working on behalf of the Rev. Kohtoku Hirao and the Waimea Shingon Mission, estimated that more than 400 cards were written, and in many instances illustrated, by ‘Ele‘ele School students, and will be delivered to Aichi Prefecture, Japan this month.

Nitta said it has been 11 years since the earthquake happened in the Tohoku Region in Japan.

“Eleven years have passed since the earthquake and tsunami,” Nitta said. “And yet there are people who can’t go back to their own homes.”

The 311 Postcard Project, “I haven’t forgotten, even now,” is an opportunity for students to write their thoughts or draw pictures on postcards that will be exchanged between students from Kaua‘i and Iwaki City schools in Futaba, Fukushima, and Aichi, Japan. The postcards that are received are planned to be exhibited in order to be shared with more than students.

“The plan is to exchange postcards with each other’s schools during March (when the earthquake and tsunami took place 11 years ago),” Hirao wrote to students in an invitation to participate. “Especially now, even with this coronavirus pandemic, this can be a tool that you can use to convey your thoughts in the simple, old-fashioned way.”

Hirao said more than 1,000 students in eight towns and villages in Futaba District, Fukushima Prefecture and Aichi Prefecture are planning on writing postcards.

Nitta said the Friday collection involved about 200 cards from students at ‘Ele‘ele School, and another 200 cards from students at the Waimea High School. The idea blossomed after a friend of Hirao’s who lives in one of the impacted areas asked if people, preferably students, could write postcards of encouragement and aloha.

“We hope through this postcard exchange, ties between students from Kaua‘i and Japan can be strengthened,” Hirao said. “Perhaps in the future we may develop cultural-exchange opportunities to explore common issues we all face.”

The reverend from the Waimea Shingon Mission said cultural exchange is one of the purposes of the 311 Postcard Project.

“We believe that by interacting with postcards we can convey the industry, traditions and many other things of Kaua‘i,” Hirao said. “We will also have the opportunity to get to know the Japanese students’ thoughts. It will give us a new sense of values. By learning about different cultures, our world will expand.”


Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or


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