The Japanese Cultural Society of Maui will welcome the Year of the Rat and present the prestigious Nihon Bunka Award at its annual Shinnen Enkai (New Year) dinner, January 25, at the Maui Beach Hotel.
This year’s Nihon Bunka Awards will honor Senator Joe Tanaka, Reverend Shinkai Murakami, and artist Kirk Kurokawa for dedicating their lives to perpetuating Japanese arts and culture. Through its Nihon Bunka Awards, the JCSM recognizes individuals from varied sectors of the community to inspire future generations to preserve Japanese traditions and values.
Former State Senator and Maui County Councilmember Tanaka has served the community for decades with an emphasis on economic and cultural development. As councilmember and senator, he understood the importance of the connections between Hawai‘i and Japan, not only because of history, but also because of the economic benefit, especially in light of the huge local investment from the Japanese economic boom of the ‘80s and ‘90s.
He founded the Maui Japanese Chamber of Commerce, which helped to bring those with common values and goals together. The members led the effort to create a sister-chamber relationship with Fukuyama City, Hiroshima, Japan in 1997.
“Joe Tanaka had a vision for Maui to have international relationships because he realized that it would help our local residents to not only appreciate our own culture and traditions, but also learn from others across the world, especially Japan,” said a JCSM spokesperson. “It is because of his spirit of caring for the community and a lifetime of service that Senator Joe Tanaka is receiving the Nihon Bunka Award.”
Reverend Murakami was born in Fukuoka, Japan and is the current residing minister for the Wailuku Hongwanji Mission, a position he has held since 2004. Prior to joining the mission in 1985, Murakami served as associate minister of Hilo Hongwanji, resident minister of Kapaa Hongwanji, and resident minister of Pearl City Hongwanji, garnering more than 28 years of experience and service.
During his previous assignments, he helped reorganize the Japanese Language School and was appointed to the board of the Hawaii Japanese Language School Association in 1988. Rev. Murakami also served as president of the Hawaii Japanese Language School Association.
As the principal of the Japanese Language School for the Wailuku Hongwanji, he has implemented new programs that have significantly increased student enrollment over the years. Programs include culture days that teach origami, sushi, and musubi making; okonomiyaki and mochi making; and educational trips to Japan. In 2012, the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce presented him with an award to recognize his efforts with the Japanese language schools throughout the state.
Murakami was a former president of the JCSM and assists many community programs and organizations, volunteering to teach calligraphy, Japanese cooking, and many others. “Sensei Murakami’s contributions to the community doesn’t go unnoticed and we thank him for his years of service,” said the JCSM spokesperson.
Kurokawa, a Maui-born resident of Hawaiian, Japanese, and Chinese descent, received a BFA with distinction in illustration from the California College of Arts and Crafts. In 2001, he returned to Maui, became a self-taught oil painter, and pursued his dream of becoming a fine artist.
Kurokawa’s paintings focus predominantly on the “simple, everyday life moments” and have been showcased in various exhibitions throughout the state. Most recently, his installment at the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center’s mural has brought the 442nd Regiment Combat Team and 100th Infantry Batallion’s history to life.
Many of his paintings feature aspects of the Japanese culture such as scenes from bon dance, Maui Matsuri, Tokyo life, Japanese wood carving, among others. He is best known for his portraiture and has been in every installment of the Schaefer Portrait Challenge, and was awarded the Juror’s Choice Award in 2006, and the People’s Choice Award in 2015. He is also the first and only Native Hawaiian to paint the official portrait of the governor of the state of Hawai‘i.
With his desire to achieve goodness and truth through his art, Kurokawa hopes to make a difference in the community. Most importantly, he would like to pass on the knowledge of art to the future artists of Hawaii in the hopes of creating a much more diverse art community that is truly creative.
The Shinnen Enkai dinner begins at 5:30pm. Tickets are $55 and can be purchased online at Jcsmaui.org. The evening will also feature a performance by Tevita Apina, aka Hikariyama Torao, and the installation of JCSM’s new set of officers for 2020-2021.
Guests will be welcomed by traditional otoso (sake welcome). The event will also feature a silent auction with proceeds to go toward the club’s various projects. JCS Maui will also arrange to dress attendees who wish to wear kimono. To schedule kimono dressing, or for other information about the dinner, call 808-298-3352.