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

It’s been a five-month whirlwind experience…..I hope you, your family, and your associates are healthy and in good spirits.

Who could have ever predicted that we would still be struggling through this Covid-19 pandemic? While we continue to persevere through these unusual times, I’d like to share a “Did you know?” factoid. Did you know that the November 1899 bubonic plague and the resulting fire in Chinatown left 3,589 Japanese adults and 183 children homeless? And, since every cloud has a silver lining, it also eliminated the activities of 350 gamblers and 250 prostitutes in the neighborhood.

Despite all of the challenges brought on by the pandemic this year, the silver lining for HJCC has been the many impactful suggestions and ideas generated from our loyal members highlighting their overwhelming dedication and commitment in support of our organization.

I sincerely appreciate our dedicated staff who now work and communicate remotely from home. While they have experienced a reduction in work hours, our members have not experienced any reduction in services, or hours of operation. As a team, they have quickly adapted and diligently transitioned to the new, online environment. Their support of you -- our members -- is simply outstanding as they are busier than ever. Thank you very much to Wayne, Merilyn, Mina and Mai for your outstanding dedication!

It is with gratitude and much appreciation that our chamber is led by an executive committee and board of directors who serve as valuable resources guiding us through these unprecedented times. Their commitment and collective insight has positively impacted our organization by keeping us on the path forward.

“Celebrating 120 Years of Leadership, Together Creating our Way Forward” remains our mantra which has transformed some of our traditional events. Our popular Samurai Classic Golf Tournament shifted to a multi-course, two-person pairing culminating with an online Zoom reception. Our heavily attended Chopsticks & Wine event went online as an educational wine session with member Jason Fukeda (Fujioka’s Wine Times) and his wine partners. The Virtual Beer & WingZ Workshop with members Kailey and Nick Wong (Beer Lab) and Paul Yokota (Zippy’s) was a homerun. Congratulations go out to Steve Teruya (Ways and Means Chair), Marc Nakamoto (Chopsticks and Wine Series Chair) and their supportive committee members for bringing these creative events to our members and guests. Finally, our Mayoral Forum, Covid-19 Pandemic, and General Election Recap events were all delivered on-line thanks to Event Chair Peter Hamasaki. Great job to all.

Women in leadership continue to make headlines at the chamber. Women comprise 27 percent of our membership and 38 percent of our board of directors. These women are bringing exciting events and webinars to us, including:

  • A Virtual Cooking Class with Chef Mark Noguchi: Tobie Wada, Kristin Alm-Kamakahi, Jennifer Okubo
  • Our 120th Anniversary Video: Jill Kuramoto, Phyllis Kihara
  • A “Members Supporting Members” Video project: Phyllis Kihara

In August, on behalf of the Kizuna group, I had the distinct honor of introducing Consul General Koichi Ito & Mrs. Ito as they bid a fond Aloha to Hawaii. We will surely miss them! In November, a warm welcome was shared with incoming Consul General Yutaka Aoki as he was introduced to the Kizuna group.

Please be on the look out for our newly designed 120th Commemorative Shirt by members Craig Hirasaki (Connect Works) and Jay Hinazumi (Golf Concepts).

Our mission to foster friendships, connect “B2B” (business-to-business) and caring for the land (mālama ka ‘āina) has remained the same. Our organization is resilient and continues to overcome the challenges facing us and this time is no different. I appreciate the work of our membership taskforce as we took on an overwhelming project of reaching out to all of our members to inquire “how are you doing?” and “what can HJCC do for you?”. Our taskforce members had many meaningful and warm member-to-member conversations. We garnered direct and valuable insight!

A special Mahalo goes out to my advisors; Vicky Cayetano, Paul Kosasa, Scott Seu, and Ulalia Woodside as they continue to provide valuable guidance and inspiration to me and our HJCC leadership team. They are a great sounding board.

With December already here, I wish each of you and your families a remarkable holiday season. Remember, just when you think things may be falling apart, perhaps they are falling in place. My wish is for you to find the silver lining in every cloud ………….

Let’s continue to seek out ways to help each other and work together to create our way forward into the next 120 years.

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 

December 2020