SDFJ group photo at entrance of Iolani Palace, once the state capitol and now a museum, the only official royal palace in the US. Quentin Kawananakoa, a descendant of Prince David Kawananakoa and former State Representative, arranged a private tour for SDFJ. Quentin is behind Mr. Muragaki's (center) right shoulder. Photo by Jon Yoshimura.
By Jon Yoshimura.
Honolulu, HI. Nearly 160 years ago, 77 samurai representing the Tokugawa shogunate departed Yokohama on the U.S.S. Powhatan destined for Washington, DC, to meet President James Buchanan and establish the first Japanese Embassy in the United States. Unanticipated heavy weather and rough seas caused the mission to stop in Honolulu in March 1860, setting the stage for a historic first meeting between Hawaiian and Japanese government officials.
Earlier this year, 30 descendants of the 77 Japanese diplomats traveled to Hawaii to attend three days of events commemorating the historic meeting between King Kamehameha IV and the Japanese delegation. On April 17, a welcome reception hosted by the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii and attended by Hawaii Governor David Ige, Japanese Consul General Koichi Ito, and approximately 50 representatives of Hawaii community organizations kicked off the commemorative events. Governor Ige welcomed the descendant group, known as the Society of Descendants of the First Japanese Embassy (SDFJ), and spoke about their ancestors’ role in what would develop into a special relationship between Hawaii and Japan.
On April 18, the SDFJ were honored guests at the final event of the Hawaii Gannenmono Commemoration celebrating the arrival of the first Japanese contract workers in Hawaii 151 years ago (1868). A stone monument made in Yokohama recognizing the Gannenmono was installed and dedicated at Honolulu City Hall. The SDFJ then made the short walk to Hawaii’s State Capitol where a special exhibition of historic photos and documents related to the March 1860 visit and meeting with King Kamehameha IV was presented by the Hawaii State Archives.
Later, both chambers of the Hawaii State Legislature hosted SDFJ members and issued Certificates of Recognition to the group. SDFJ Executive Director, Mr. Takashi Muragaki, was given the special honor of addressing the Hawaii State House of Representatives prior to its regular session.
The second day of events was capped by an audience with Governor Ige in his Executive Chambers where he presented the SDFJ with a Proclamation praising its effort to perpetuate the historic first meeting between Hawaiian and Japanese government officials.
On the final day of the visit, the SDFJ were treated to a special tour of Iolani Palace, the only royal palace on American soil, arranged by Quentin Kawananakoa, a direct descendant of Prince David Kawananakoa. Although Iolani Palace had not yet been built in 1860, it contains many historic artifacts that date back to the early years of the Hawaiian monarchy.
Many Hawaii organizations and individuals were responsible for arranging the commemorative events, including the Hawaii Gannenmono Commemoration Committee, the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, the Hawaii State Archives, the Governor’s Office, the Hawaii State Senate, and the Hawaii State House of Representatives.
Governor Ige (center, navy blue jacket holding Proclamation) received SDFJ delegation in his executive chamber, where he presented a Proclamation to Mr. Muragaki, Society Executive Director (right of Governor). Photo by Jon Yoshimura.
Mr. Muragaki with Senate President Ronald Kouchi (L) and State Senator Brian Taniguchi (R).
Photo by Jon Yoshimura.
Jon Yoshimura (standing), former Director of Communications for US Senator Daniel Akaka and Coordinator of SDFJ visit to Honolulu, discusses past governors since Statehood in ceremonial room of Governor’s executive chambers. Mr. Muragaki, seated left front. Photo from Jon Yoshimura.
Mr. Muragaki addressing the members of the State House of Representatives. Photo by Jon Yoshimura. Inset placed by Phoebe Ford.