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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Aloha, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko

     • Isles geared up for Japan royals
     • Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko's Hawaii Itinerary

    By Dan Nakaso
    Advertiser Staff Writer

     • Past Visits
    Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

    Spectators being lining security barricades in Kapiolani Park where Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko are expected later this afternoon to mark the 49th anniversary of his planting a shower tree near Dillingham Fountain.

    GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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    Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

    This area of Kapiolani Park near Dillingham Fountain awaits the arrival of Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko this afternoon. The public is invited to view a ceremony involving the emperor, who planted one of these shower trees when he was crown prince 49 years ago.

    GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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    Following an 11-day trip to Canada, Japan's Emperor Akihito touches down at Hickam Air Force Base today and will return to the spot at Kapi'olani Park where he planted a shower tree 49 years ago as the then-crown prince of Japan.

    The first generation of issei Japanese immigrants who came to the Islands would have loved to see the 75-year-old emperor with the tree he planted in 1960. But the issei generation has long died out, as have many of the second-generation nissei who struggled with their relationship with Japan during World War II, said Dennis Ogawa, an American studies professor at the University of Hawai'i.

    The fourth- and fifth-generation yonsei and gosei in Hawai'i, for the most part, feel little connection to Japanese royalty, Ogawa said.

    So much of the adoration of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko on their three-day visit to Honolulu and Kona will come from the third-generation sansei, many of whom are in their 60s and 70s, Ogawa said.

    "The sansei baby boomers are much more Americanized, but they still have a sensitivity and a sense of roots and ancestral ties," Ogawa said. "Many of them now have taken their place in Hawai'i society, in government and business. For the Japanese, the Japanese-Americans in leadership roles have become very important because they serve as a bridge to those of Japanese origin."

    At the end of the emperor's first day in Honolulu, he will meet at the Honolulu residence of the Japanese consul general with U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawai'i, 84, a Medal of Honor winner who currently chairs the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

    The royal couple will stay at the Kahala Hotel and Resort under tight security and will have a full day of events tomorrow.

    The day begins with a wreath-laying ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, followed by a luncheon at Washington Place hosted by Gov. Linda Lingle, and a banquet at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship that bears the emperor's name.

    On Thursday, before leaving for Tokyo, the royal family flies to Kona for a private reception at Parker Ranch in Waimea, where two vases are on display that were given to Samuel Parker in the 1800s by the Japanese emperor.

    For tomorrow night's scholarship banquet at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort, the Japan-America Society of Hawai'i expects to see 1,500 people. The group cut the $125 ticket price to $75 for people 70 and older out of recognition for the interest among older Japanese-Americans, said Edwin Hawkins, president of the Japan-America Society of Hawai'i.

    "For many of them," Hawkins said, "this will be the last time they'll be able to see the emperor and empress."

    Lillian Yajima is excited about seeing the couple or at least Empress Michiko for the third time.

    In 1986 Yajima and her family had an intimate audience with the then-princess Michiko in the Imperial Palace as part of the Cherry Blossom reign of Yajima's daughter, Lenny Andrew.

    Yajima brought the empress anthuriums, orchids and birds of paradise and gave her a book of notable women in Hawai'i, which included Yajima's mother, Alice Sae Noda, the first president of the Japanese Women's Society.

    During a 1994 visit, Yajima got to see Empress Michiko again during a reception at the Japanese consulate in Honolulu and the empress told Yajima she enjoyed the book.

    "They're really, really interested in ... their descendants from Japan, the people who came to Hawai'i and took important roles in an American-Hawaiian setting. They're so proud of how Japanese people did," Yajima said.

    On the final day of the royal couple's visit, the Big Island's Parker Ranch will host a reception for the royal couple in the Parker Ranch Historic Homes, which houses the two vases. Diane Quitiquit, one of the ranch's vice presidents, is still researching the links between Japan and Parker Ranch, which includes at least six former Japanese plantation workers who became paniolo on the ranch and purchases of Parker Ranch quarter horses and thoroughbreds by members of the imperial palace riding club through the 1960s.

    "I wish I knew more," Quitiquit said. "There's definitely a history between Parker Ranch and Japan. We're really excited about this visit and in finding bits and pieces of our connection with Japan."

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