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78th Annual Shinnen Enkai New Year’s Celebration

Otsukaresama deshita to our Kabuki cast! From left to right: Aaron Muraki, Shannon Cleary, John Leano, Joy Barua, Tobie Egami, David Jones. Seated: Craig Hirasaki
Otsukaresama deshita to our Kabuki cast! From left to right: Aaron Muraki, Shannon Cleary, John Leano, Joy Barua, Tobie Egami, David Jones. Seated: Craig Hirasaki

Members of the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce (HJCC) and their guests helped ring in the New Year on January 5, 2024 at the 78th Annual Shinnen Enkai New Year's Celebration.

Guests were blessed with a warm welcome from Chair of the Board Kristi Inkinen Yanagihara and President & CEO Steven Teruya as they passed through the bright orange torii gate. A beautiful set of kadomatsu decorations were donated by Don Quijote (USA) Co., Ltd. New this year, participants enjoyed a special calligraphy of auspicious Japanese phrases by HJCC Member and master calligrapher Ina Chang. Guests were also able to purchase New Year Omamori from HJCC Member Izumo Taishakyo Mission of Hawaii as well.

The program kicked off with a powerful taiko performance by Ryugen Taiko followed by a dance performance by Chinagu Eisa. Master of Ceremonies Dean Yoneshige and Mistress of Ceremonies Shari Nishijima (70th Cherry Blossom Festival Queen) welcomed the sold out crowd of over 260 special dignitaries, HJCC friends and family. Bishop Daiya Amano of Izumo Taishakyo Mission of Hawaii provided a special invocation; HJCC Chair Kristi provided welcome remarks, Deputy Managing Director Krishna Jayaram provided celebratory remarks, a kampai toast was presented by HJCC Director Ina Chang and tejime by Chair-Elect Marc Nakamoto. Guests enjoyed a delicious dinner provided by Chef and HJCC Member Jason Takemura of the Generations Ballroom. Special thanks to HJCC Member Minamoto Kitchoan for donating the table favors.

The highlight of the evening was the Shoko Shiranami Gonin Otoko kabuki play, the Chamber's adaptation of an actual kabuki play called Shiranami Gonin Otoko, which debut in Edo, Japan in 1862. Our rendition of the play starts with a welcome by the kojo who introduces the story of the five notorious thieves who brag about their accomplishments before being captured by a clever policeman who encounters the band of thieves on the bank of the River Inase. Starring in this year's production were:

  • Craig Hirasaki [Kojyo] (Owner/Creative Director, ConnectWorks Group)
  • David Jones [Nippon Daemon] (Senior VP and Division Manager, Properties, Central Pacific Bank)
  • Tobie Egami [Benten Kozo Kikunosuke] (Marketing Coordinator, G70)
  • Joy Barua [Tadanobu Rihei] (President, Finance Insurance, Ltd.)
  • John Leano [Akaboshi Jyuzaburo]  (Owner, Techsperts)
  • Shannon Cleary [Nango Rikimaru]  (Vice President of Institutional Advancement, Mid-Pacific Institute)
  • Aaron Muraki [Meakashi Kingoro]  (Land Surveyor, AFM Surveying, LLC | President, Honolulu Japanese Junior Chamber of Commerce)

Sensei's Ron Ushijima, Bob Nagao and Rika Hirata provided direction for this year's play with the support of script writing apprentice Jill Kuramoto. The production of our Shoko Shiranami Gonin Otoko performance would not be possible without the support of the Hanayagi Dancing Academy. The Hanayagi Dancing Academy has been providing the authentic kabuki makeup, kimono, and background shamisen music and sound effects since the inception of the HJCC's first Shinnen Enkai in 1938.

Special thanks also goes to event photographer Brandon Miyagi, audio visual support by New Hope, videography by JN Productions, the Shinnen Enkai planning committee members Jenna NakagawaBrian TerayamaYuta Yokoyama and volunteers who made this event possible. We also thank the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii for allowing us to use the Ohana Room for the kabuki practices.

Please visit our HJCC Facebook Page for more photos from the Shinnen Enkai!

PC: Brandon Miyagi (HJCC Member)