If you want to know where the story of Hawai‘i’s Japanese people begins, the answer lies in the Gannenmono — the first group of 148 contract laborers from Japan recruited to work on the islands’ sugar plantations. They arrived in Honolulu Harbor in 1868 and were the first of the 180,000 Japanese workers who changed the course of Hawai‘i and paved the way for future immigrants to come to the islands.
The Japanese community has launched a year-long celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Gannenmono that shows the many ways Hawai‘i remains forever linked to Japan and the heritage that has shaped the state’s economy, politics and cultural traditions. A highlight of the events was the first official visit to the U.S. by Prince Akishino, second son of Japan’s Emperor Akihito, and his wife, Princess Kiko.
At several events, Governor Ige spoke of his own grandparents who immigrated to the island from Japan and Okinawa. He paid tribute to the Gannenmono and the ties between Hawai‘i and Japan that go “beyond business, beyond friendship. We are family.” He noted many of them married Native Hawaiian women, raised families, and that their descendants carry on proud traditions of both Japanese and Hawaiian cultures. In a special 1-day exhibit, the State Archives worked with the Japanese Cultural Center to display never-before-seen historic documents. For a video, go to http://bit.ly/2lcUvlc.