Aloha fellow members, friends, and supporters of the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce,

Who could have ever predicted that 2020, “the Year of the Rat” would bring us an incredible opportunity to create and embrace our future? I’d like to share some highlights since my last update to you in December. And, thank you to our committee chairs and member leaders who assisted with bringing all of these events to fruition.

We culminated 2020 with a fabulous “Building A Foundation For Success” webinar with Melanie Okazaki (McDonald's Restaurants of Hawaii) and Paul Yokota (FCH Enterprises). Then, we quickly kicked off 2021 with a talent-inspired Red and White New Year's Taikai emceed by Keith Regan (Hawaii Tourism Authority) and led by team captains Lynn Araki-Regan (State of Hawaii, Transportation) and Eric Takahata (Hawaii Tourism Japan). This was followed by Mark Glick (Hawaii Natural Energy Institute) and his Managing Climate Change Committee’s Green Concrete presentation by Lisa Rapp (AHL). Paul Uyehara (Aloha Tofu) and Kausuke Ko Kuroda (Hakuyosha, Dust-Tex) shared their business insights which was moderated by Keven Matsuura (First Hawaiian Bank). And finally, Peter Hamasaki (Foodland Super Market) hosted a Government Affairs session with John De Fries, President and Chief Executive Officer (Hawai‘i Tourism Authority). These events were very engaging and we received positive feedback from our members about the information shared.

At our board meetings, Derek Kaneshiro (Central Pacific Bank) presented CPB’s newly created shared-space environment and an update on the Japan market. Riki Shimabukuro presented Illuminage’s LED lighting products and systems. Our members learned about each other through a new “State of the Business” feature added to our agenda. We heard updates from Karl Kobayashi (Carlsmith Ball), Marc Nakamoto (Sodexo), Kristi-Inkinen-Yanagihara (Remedy Intelligent Staffing), Phyllis Kihara (KIKU-TV), Neal Yokota (Stryker Weiner & Yokota Public Relations), Shannon Okinaka (Hawaiian Airlines), Mike McMurdo (Cetra Technology), Sanford Morioka (Edward Enterprises), Brian Kealoha (Hawaii Energy), and Sidney Hamada (Flora-Dec Sales). It was inspiring to hear the impressive and creative efforts put forth in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Three significant highlights for HJCC are:

  • HJCC’s Samurai Classic Golf Tournament chaired by Steve Teruya (Finance Factors) and his hardworking committee … a fun-filled day shared by members and guests at the beautiful Hawaii Prince Golf Course (member) … all in support of the HJCC!
  • HJCC’s 120th Anniversary Virtual Fundraiser titled “Building Upon our Past to Forge our Path Forward” co-chaired by Myles Shibata (MSS Consulting) & Jill Kuramoto (RKT Media Hawaii) … what a home run to celebrate the HJCC’s significant 120-year milestone!
  • Our HJCC membership grew to 599 members strong as compared with 534 members at the same time last year. And, our corporate memberships grew from 4 to 19. Thank you to everyone for your personal recruitment efforts and to Gordon Kagawa (Occidental Underwriter of Hawaii) and his task force.

I would like to congratulate our Co-Outstanding Members of the Year: Peter Hamasaki and Jill Kuramoto. Peter served as the chair of our Government Affairs Committee and assisted our members in interpreting legislative issues and its potential effects on their business. Jill served as the chair of our Communications and Marketing Committee and led many key projects this year – many more than what she had imagined. Jill’s expertise and relationships contributed to our 120th event, the Chamber’s overall communications, and our video creations.

A special recognition goes out to Wayne Ishihara, President and CEO as he plans for his retirement in October. What a remarkable and impactful 12-year career for Wayne! Our Succession Planning Task Force is led by Myles Shibata as we search for HJCC’s new leader.

Our loyal and dedicated staff of Merilyn Oda, Mina Sakai, and Mai Shiomi continue to produce excellent results. Thank you very much for all that you do for our members!

A special Mahalo goes out to my advisors; Vicky Cayetano (United Laundry Services), Paul Kosasa (ABC Stores), Scott Seu (Hawaiian Electric), and Ulalia Woodside (The Nature Conservancy) as they provided valuable guidance and inspiration. What a great sounding board.

We also experienced a few sad moments this year as we bid our fond Aloha to friends Gregg Mueller, Ray Yamasaki, Kathleen Saito, Eugene Villaluz, Russell Mezurashi, and Hiroshi Sakai. Our deepest condolences go out to their families and loved ones.

As a member of the Chamber for over 13 years, our biggest strength continues to be member-to-member relationships. It gives me personal pride in knowing that the relationships I’ve made have matured into meaningful and caring personal relationships. This is the true value of membership in the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce.

As I end my term, it is with sincere gratitude to have been allowed to serve such a distinguished organization. It was an honor and a pleasure to serve each of you. Let’s continue to seek out ways to help each other and work collaboratively to create a brighter, positive way forward into our next 120 years.

A short story … in a competition to decide the zodiac cycle, the quick-witted Rat asked the diligent Ox to take him on a ride to cross the river and then jumped off right before the Ox crossed the finish line. The rat won the race and became the first zodiac animal. Being born in the Year of the Rat, I now pass the torch to incoming Chair of the Board Rika Hirata (First Hawaiian Bank), born in the Year of the Ox.

Congratulations to Rika, her executive committee and her board of directors. I ask that each of you put your full support behind Rika in helping her make the “Year of the Ox” a fantastic one.

Doomo arigato gozaimasu!

Jason Ito
Chair of the Board
Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce – 2020-2021

Vice President of Administration, Labor and Community Relations
Kyo-ya Management Company, Ltd 

July 2021