A Dec. 12 article in the International Herald Tribune reported on Hawai’i’s new anti-smoking law, one of the strictest in the country, posing the question: “But how will Japanese tourists react?”
The writer apparently couldn’t come up with any hard numbers, but with one of every five tourism dollars coming from a Japanese visitor, it won’t be long before someone knows the answer. The law, which took effect in mid-November, prohibits smoking in nearly all public places and within 20 feet of entrances to those establishments.
One of the supporters of that new law was state Senator Colleen Hanabusa, who on Jan. 17 will officially become Senate president, the first woman leader of either house in the Hawai’i legislature and also the first Asian American woman in the country to preside over a state legislative body.
Hanabusa’s colleagues elected her as president less than a month after former lieutenant governor Mazie Hirono won election to Congress in the seat once held by Patsy Takemoto Mink. Hirono edged out Hanabusa in the Democratic primary for the Congressional seat in September.
Hirono joins Sen. Daniel Inouye and Reps. Mike Honda and Doris Matsui as the Japanese American members of Congress.
Sen. Inouye was featured in a new film by one of Hawai’i’s most respected political observers explaining why the government during World War II did not mass intern Americans and immigrants of Japanese ancestry living in what would become the 50th state.
The First Battle: The Battle for Equality in War-Time Hawai’i, a docu-drama written, produced and directed by Tom Coffman premiered Sept. 5 at the Hawai’i Theatre and here in the Bay Area in November at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center in Japantown.
The film was notable for its quality on a modest budget and the exploration of a new rationale for kama’aina mostly avoided internment.
One man who was trapped in Japan when World War II broke out was Albert Miyasato, who was then a teenager. He became a translator for the Army and then returned to Hawaii to work 24 years as a public school teacher and principal. Miyasato became deputy superintendent of the school system and in 1975 served as acting superintendent.
After retiring in 1976, he became active in numerous community organizations, including serving as president of the Hawai’i United Okinawa Association. A jovial, generous and good-natured person, Miyasato was a beloved leader in the Hawai’i Nikkei community. He passed away Feb. 24 at age 80.
Daughter Leigh-Ann Miyasato graduated from law school at Cal and was part of Fred Korematsu’s coram nobis legal team along with Dale Minami, Don Tamaki and others. During her career, she was the founding program director of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies as well as the D.C. lobbyist for the Japanese American Citizens League. Her husband Hoyt is brother to pioneering journalist Helen Zia.
In July, a new plaque was unveiled at Punchbowl Memorial dedicated to the Japanese American veterans who served in the Military Intelligence Service during World War II. The plaque is on the 67th one-ton granite stone that lines a walkway at the cemetery honoring the “character of the American citizen soldier.”
The inscription on the stone reads: “Mostly Japanese Americans, with knowledge of the language and culture of the enemy, collected intelligence that enabled Allied forces to hasten victory in the Pacific, saved countless lives and significantly contributed to the rebuilding of Japan as a democracy and as an ally of the United States.”
Larry Nakatsuka, the first Japanese American to report for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, in 1941 asked the Japanese consul general: “Do you know that Japanese planes are bombing Pearl Harbor?”
Nakatsuka, who died Jan. 1, 2006, at age 85, would go on to be press secretary to Govs. Samuel Wilder King and William F. Quinn and assistant to Sen. Hiram L. Fong.
In 2002, the Asian American Journalists Association honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Last year, the organization held its annual convention in Honolulu, co-chaired by Star-Bulletin reporter Craig Gima and NBC-affiliate reporter Joann Shin, who is a former Nisei Week queen.