Since the arrival of the first shipload of 153 Japanese contract labor immigrants in 1868, much has changed. Success, devotion and perseverance by the Japanese immigrants had finally paid off to the future generations to comm. But the strong Japanese culture and traditions in Hawaii today has remained the same.
On March 12, 1959, minutes after Congress passed the Statehood Bill, Emily Morisada was born at Queen's Hospital. The first statehood baby was of Japanese ancestry. Recently, according to the 2000 Government Census the total population in the state of Hawaii was 1,211,537. Of that total, 296,674 are of Japanese ancestry. The Japanese make up 24.5% of the population in the State of Hawaii.
Throughout the years, the dreams of success the immigrants once dreamt were now becoming a reality. In the 1950's and 1960's many local Japanese entered state politics. Three Japanese Americans sat in congress. John A. Burns was elected governer in 1962, and won reelection in 1966 and 1970. Burns' lieutenant governor in 1970 was George R. Ariyoshi, who served two years as governor due to Burns' illness in 1972. Ariyoshi and Lieutenant Governor candidate Nelson Doi won the election in 1974. Ariyoshi was then reelected in 1978 and 1982. He held the office longer than any other governor. He was also the first American of Japanese ancestry to lead a state of the union. Other Japanese American political officials were Senator Daniel Inouye, the late Congresswomen Patsy Mink, and the late Representative Sparky Matsunaga. In a recent election, Mazie Hirono and Matt Matsunaga, son of Sparky Matsunaga, were running mates for governor and lieutenant governor.
Another successful local Japanese was astronaut, Elision Onizuka, the first Asian American astronaut . On the morning of January 28, 1986, all of Hawaii watched the launch and crash of the Challenger. The life and death of Ellision Onizuka was a true example of the Japanese American spirit.
Lantern Floating Festival
Besides the successful accomplishments the local Japanese have achieved, culture and traditions are another important part of the Japanese life line. Today, the local Japanese people still celebrate the many important events. Bon Festival, a celebration honoring the deceased ancestors, is held annually on the Buddhist temple grounds. Another is the Lantern Floating Festival held in July and August. Girls' Day and Boys' Day, Cherry Blossom Festival and Shinto Thanksgiving Festival are some of the other events that the Japanese celebrate annually. The welcoming of the New Year is the most celebrated event by the local Japanese. Symbolic foods and major housecleaning before the New Year begins, promises health, prosperity, and happiness throughout the year.
The folding of the 1001 gold cranes is a very significant tradition to many brides-to-be. It is said that if the bride-to-be can have the patience to fold such an amount, then she would have the patience to her marriage. These festivals and traditions not only benefit the people of Hawaii but also for the State Tourism. Every year, thousands of visitors come to experience these special events.
The Sansei (third generation of Japanese Americans) went through the unsteady decades of the 1960s and 1970s. They experienced world and national events including the Vietnam War, Civil Rights Movements, women's rights, urban development and environmental pollution. These have all impacted Hawaii and its Japanese Americans.
Currently, most sansei are now middle-aged. Many hold positions of responsibility. They face the challenge of preserving the Japanese American unique heritage and yet assimilating to Hawaii's mixing pot of diversity. About half of all marriages in Hawaii today are "mixed," as families grow increasingly multiethnic. Most sansei (3rd generation), yonsei (4th generation), and gosei (5th generation) view themselves as "locals" in Hawaii. Most are fully "Americanized."
Looking back at the past century, the Japanese have gone through many difficult times. But they managed to build up slowly the foundation of today. The Japanese of Hawaii today are very fortunate to enjoy the traditions and events only because their grandparents and parents worked hard to keep them alive.
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