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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Group will share plans to save Japanese center

By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer

A committee to save the Japanese Cultural Center will hold a press conference tomorrow to announce a last-ditch campaign to raise $9 million in 47 days to prevent four banks from foreclosing on the museum/dojo/tea room/office and banquet complex in Mo'ili'ili, officials said yesterday.

Potential donors have offered more than $500,000 so far to kick off the campaign, and others have indicated they are willing to consider making substantial gifts to prevent a foreclosure at the end of the year, said Save the Center leader Albert Miyasato.

Miyasato, a Japanese Cultural Center member, said a major potential buyer of the property no longer is interested in acquiring it.

The proposal to sell the 8-year-old building that houses the center at 2454 South Beretania St. failed to gain approval at a meeting in October because there were not enough members present to make a quorum.

Miyasato said 22 people have called him since that meeting with offers of support ranging from $10,000 to $60, both of those offers from widows living on fixed incomes.

Others who wish to pledge money or assist with the campaign may call him at 595-4574, Miyasato said.

Tomorrow, committee officials plan to announce a grass-roots campaign and a major donor campaign to see if enough money can be raised in time, he said.

If they are not, the martial arts dojo and the teahouse, both built with major donations from cultural organizations, could end up being demolished by a buyer after a foreclosure sale, said Miyasato, a retired state schools district superintendent.

The displays in the "Okage Same De" gallery, depicting the history of Japanese in Hawai'i from plantation days to the present, would have to be removed.

"One of the displays," Miyasato said, "is a series of granite pillars which list the values and virtues Japanese have respected in the past, things like ganbari, or perseverance, and haji, shame for not doing the right thing.

"For many of us, it is inconceivable to let the emblems of those values be removed without observing those very values in an effort to preserve them," he said.

Wayne Miyao, another leader in the effort to save the center, said the group is "optimistic and determined to free the center from crippling debt."

Miyasato said the committee has been keeping the center's board apprised of its activities and is cooperating with the board, which earlier had concluded such a fund drive could not succeed. The committee will outline its plans at a 10 a.m. press conference in the center courtyard tomorrow, Miyasato said.

Reach Walter Wright at wwright@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8054.