Notes by Mrs. Shizuko Akamine, Saburo Higa and David Miyashiro: The activities of the
Okinawan community on the island of Hawaii were low-keyed until the clothing
drive for Okinawa's postwar relief. Then after receiving much encouragement
from the Reverend Masao Yamada of the Holy Cross Church, Hui Hanalike was
formed in 1946, primarily as a nisei Okinawan club. In 1960 a tsunami struck
the island. Nearly all the club records kept in the basement of the Yafuso
Appliance store on Ponahawai Street were destroyed. After the tsunami, the
club became relatively inactive as the need for reconstruction of the many
businesses destroyed in the tsunami received top priority. During the period
of inactivity on the part of Hui Hanalike, the issei group, the Hawaii Shima
Okinawa Kenjinkai, contined the annual shinnen enkai (New Year's parties).
In 1968, eight years later, Hui Hanalike was reactivated. The purposes were
to bridge the gap between the issei and the nisei and to perpetuate the
Okinawan cullture. Hui Hanalike decided to sponsor the annual shinnen enkai
as well as the keirokai (party to honor the elders) by combining these
events with the installation of its officers.
Presently, many of the
officers are sansei as the nisei are reaching retirement age. The emphasis
of the club's early years was on he scholarship program and benefit dances
were held to build the scholarship fund. Sine 1968 the primary activity has
been the perpetuation and promotion of Okinawan culture. Because educational
funds from the government had been generally available to students, rather
than awarding scholarships to individuals, the club decided to use the
scholarship fund to sponsor public lectures on Okinawan history and culture.
Speakers have included R. Mitsugu Sakihara, associate professor of history,
University of Hawaii at Manoa, who spoke on the history and culture of
Okinawa, and Dr. Ricardo Trimillos, professor of music, University of Hawaii
at Mano, who spoke on Okinawan music. In 1969 an Okinawan dance group was
organized with Taro Urasaki and his students serving as instructors. The
group practiced weekly for four years until interest finally waned. Later,
new interest in minyo (folk songs) and shamisen led to the formation of a
minyo group. The current instructor of the group is Jiro Arakaki. In 1978
Hui Hanalike changed its name to Hui Okinawa. Recently, the club has been
actively introducing the Okinawan culture to members of other ethnic groups
as well as descendants of Okinawan immigrants. The club has sponsored
Okinawan music and dance programs at various community events, including the
Honokaa Macadamia Nut Festival. The club has also sponsored Okinawan bon
dances, which have been well attended by non-Okinawans. Many non-Okinawans
even attend the shinnen enkai because they enjoy the cultural show. It is
estimated that non- Okinawans make up 25 percent of those who participate in
the various events sponsored by Hui Okinawa.
History written by Ms. Alma Yogi and Mr. Isamu "Ham" Kaneshiro
Hui Okinawa (or Hui Hanalike as it was originally named) was established as a direct cause of World War II.
As part of the United States' military strategy, the US launched the Battle of Okinawa.
The islands of Okinawa were needed by the Allied Forces to invade and vanquish the Japanese Empire.
More than 200,000 people had been killed and Okinawa was devastated.
Important documents, priceless cultural treasurers, homes and farmlands were ravaged and destroyed after months of bombings and air raids.
In late 1945 the U.S. Army requested that the people of Hawaii help clothe and feed the people of war-torn Okinawa.
The Uchinanchus of Hawaii responded generously - tons of clothing and canned goods, school supplies, textbooks, money livestock, vegetable and flower seeds were collected and sent to their ancestral homeland.
This mass effort was the beginning of Hui Okinawa.
As the niseis of the Big Island worked to collect items for Okinawa, they realized that an organization was needed.
In 1946, a nucleus of nisei Uchinanchus met and formally formed Hui Hanalike.
The Rev. Stephen Desha of Haili Church suggested the name Hui (Group) Hana (Work) and Like(together) - a group of Okinawans to work together for the betterment of all Uchinanchus on the Big Island and to preserve and perpetuate the Okinawan culture.
In November of 1946, the first set of officers were elected and installed.
They held fundraisers and gave scholarships to high school graduates of Okinawan ancestry.
In the 1970s and 1980s the club sponsored performances of Okinawan music and dance, held club picnics, shinnen enkai, and keirokais.
Lectures on Okinawan culture were also sponsored.
The club's name was changed to Hui Okinawa in the 1980s.
Today, our membership includes about 500 member families.
Hui Okinawa still gives scholarships to outstanding high school and university students.
Keirokai are still held to honor our elderly members.
Classes on Okinawan dance, taiko, sanshin, koto, and cooking have been held for interested club members.
The club has from its beginning to now fulfilled its goals of honoring its ancestors, perpetuating its culture and working with the community for the betterment of Hilo's multi-ethnic population.