In the beginning….
On September 1st, 2016, in a living room in a classic tropical home above Hilo, Hawaii, three friends, Nick Kato, Akemi Fu and Andree Ikezawa Fallas, sat down, shared a cup of tea and some granola with poi and fruit to commemorate the creation of Japan Hawaii Roots.
A hurricane was approaching, as rain fell, off and on, but the three friends looked upon it as a Hawaiian blessing and a sign of good fortune. For the moment, it was calm, possibly the ‘calm before the storm’ and the three friends believed it was a symbol of the growing success to follow.
In 2018, Hawaii residents celebrated the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the first contracted plantation workers from Japan in Hawaii (Gannen-mono) (1868 – Meiji 1).
This well-known and celebrated group has grown and flourished in Hawaii over the last century and a half. Today, the Japanese population in Hawaii constitutes 17% of the total population.
Hawaiian American Japanese have a State Governor of Japanese heritage. The wife of the mayor and many legislators, community leaders, educators and citizens of all walks of life are of Japanese descent.
The Japanese culture, customs, people and lifestyle is rich and one can take pride in the connection to it. Japan Hawaii Roots will assist you in finding a source to trace these roots and get in touch with your ancestors.
The creation of this genealogy project was in anticipation of this 150th anniversary.
Nick Kato, an issei (first generation) from Tokyo, Japan and near 50-year resident of Hawaii, involved in Japan-Hawaii interchange programs, pondered in with former Japan government official, Akira Miyazaki.
Akemi Fu, an associate professor from Osaka Japan with an active interest in Hawaiiana, was currently working on an educational and cultural exchange program between her university and the University of Hawaii in Hilo.
Andree Ikezawa Fallas, a promotions coordinator from Honolulu and 4th generation Japanese American in Hawaii (yonsei), was in the process of researching her personal genealogy and currently looking for a culturally rewarding and enhancing project.
The previous days were spent putting together plans for a website service for others to research and ultimately find connections to their Japanese roots and meeting with the director of the Hawaii Japanese Center in Hilo to review the plan and get confirmation of their involvement in the project.
That morning the pact was solidified with a cheerful ‘gambarimashoo’ (good luck on our journey together)….and Japan Hawaii Roots was created.