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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 17, 2001

Japanese visitors bring aloha to Hawai'i

By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer

A group of 160 visitors from Japan spent their day in paradise yesterday clambering up and down Manoa Stream picking up trash.

Manoa Stream is a lot cleaner thanks to 160 Japanese tourists. The visitors, employees of a chain of restaurants in Japan, spent part of yesterday cleaning rubbish out of the stream. The restaurant's chairman, Kiyoshi Kato, is at right.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

The visitors, employees of the OHSHO chain of Chinese restaurants in Japan, spent their first morning in Hawai'i helping to keep the state beautiful rather than lolling about on the beach.

"To be honest, it was tough," said Masatsugu Shiba, 23, a "Chinese cook" in an OHSHO outlet in Osaka.

"But when we were done we could see the difference," he said. "I found bottles; broken bottles; plastic bags; a wallet, which was empty; cans; a bicycle; shopping carts."

Company Chairman Kiyoshi Kato said the firm usually welcomes new employees with a vacation trip to Hawai'i.

This year, "I wanted them also to have a new experience, and think about the differences between Japan and America, where there is freedom, and where there is an opportunity to volunteer," said Kato.

"America has a big freedom, and also the volunteer," he said. "We cannot do with such a big group in Japan, maybe some small group, but not all together."

The work was directed by The Ala Wai Watershed Association, a community nonprofit group that is spending $500,000 in federal Environmental Protection Agency grants over three years to help keep the watershed clean.

"We appreciate their joining us in the effort to care for the water that flows from the mountain to the sea," said association chairwoman Lynette Cruz.

The Japanese group arrived Sunday and returns home Thursday after a whirlwind tour of island attractions.

They originally planned to work in the taro patch at the Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawai'i, but abandoned that idea when they learned they would have to cross a picket line in the university faculty strike.

Working through Dean Fujii, a consultant with State Volunteer Services, the group learned about the Watershed Association's efforts to clean Manoa and Palolo streams.

Learning volunteerism first hand in Hawai'i is not the company's only good work.

"In Japan, the company has about 30 Asian students coming to Japan on scholarship," Kato said.

Toshio Takata, 18, who is a cook in an OHSHO restaurant in Kyoto, said he came for "sightseeing" but was happy to do some good deeds while he was here.

"In Japan we don't have so much time to volunteer, but it was a great chance to do this," he said through an interpreter.

"Doing the job was very hard, but very pleasurable," Takata said.

The group rested up over bento lunches under the monkeypod trees on the lawn outside Kaimuki High School.

Then it was off to the beach, and some diving lessons, just like other tourists.

But you can bet this is one group of visitors who won't be leaving any soda cans behind.