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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Donations raise hope for cultural center

By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer

The head of the campaign to save the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii is heartened by an outpouring of support that he hopes will allow the group to buy more time and stave off foreclosure.

Benefit Art Sale

• 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday

• Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, 2454 S. Beretania St.

• Sponsored by Robyn Buntin of Honolulu and the Hawaii Kendo Federation

• Sale to include: Japanese screens, scrolls and woodblock prints; Hawaiiana; and European engravings and prints

• Donations: Send checks to Committee to Save the Center, 3660 Wai'alae Ave., Suite 301, Honolulu, HI 96816.

By the end of last week the Committee to Save the Center had raised more than $2.5 million, said Colbert Matsumoto, committee chairman.

This won't erase the $9 million debt faced by the financially troubled Mo'ili'ili facility, which houses a teahouse, gallery, martial-arts dojo and rooms to rent for special events.

But Matsumoto said he's hopeful that by the Dec. 31 deadline, about half the amount will be raised, enough to enable further discussion with lenders. The bulk has come from larger contributions, he said, but about $1 million of the money raised comprises smaller donations — anywhere from under $100 to $10,000.

The committee's efforts have included mailing 20,000 letters to Hawai'i and Mainland residents seeking donations, and money has been sought in Japan.

Matsumoto is encouraged by the participation of a wide range of supporters planning a variety of fund-raisers. For example, he said, Robyn Buntin Galleries and the Hawaii Kendo Federation will host a sale of 300 art pieces to benefit the center (see box).

Additionally, KIKU-TV is hoping to rally donations of merchandise and memorabilia linked to the retro Japanese TV craze, Kikai-

da, to sell at the cultural center's annual New Year's festival slated for Jan. 12, said Joanne Ninomiya, president of JN Productions Inc., producer of the station's programming. She said her company is trying to book Kikaida star Daisuke Ban to make an appearance and help draw crowds.

Matsumoto said he's also got a commitment from "Star Trek" actor George Takei to make an appearance at another benefit, to be scheduled for January or February.

Although these events will occur after the deadline, Matsumoto said he's optimistic that the center's creditors will see the campaign's progress as reason to extend.

"The outpouring of support of people coming forward to contribute their time and resources has been really tremendous," he said. "The challenge we're facing is, do we have enough time?"

Reach Vicki Viotti at vviotti@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8053.