On February 11th, the Ukulele Picnic in Hawaii Festival celebrated its 10th anniversary under sunny skies and Hawaii’s warm aloha spirit. Held each year at the Kakaako Makai Gateway Park, the Ukulele Picnic in Hawaii Festival draws thousands of local residents and Japanese tourists to Kakaako to celebrate the friendship, peace, and aloha spirit the ukulele represents between native Hawaiian and international communities.
Event founder and Japanese ukulele musician Kazuyuki Sekiguchi established this festival in 2009 to recognize the compassionate response of Hawaii residents in response to the Ehime Maru tragedy (in which 9 students, teachers and crew members of the Ehime Maru training vessel died). The Ukulele Picnic in Hawaii Festival is held adjacent to the Ehime Maru memorial in Kakaako Waterfront Gateway Park, where victims’ families and friends gather annually on the anniversary in remembrance of their loved ones.
Last year’s Ehime Maru memorial was visited by Japanese Prime Minister Abe in commemoration of the 2017 services held at the memorial, while Mayor Fumiaki Okahara of Uwajima City attended this year’s memorial services. The care and maintenance of the Ehime Maru memorial is undertaken by dedicated volunteers of the Japanese American Society of Hawaii, which coordinates clean-ups and special activities at the site.
With 2018 being celebrated as “Gannenmono,” the 150th anniversary of Japanese immigration to Hawaii, events like the Ukulele Picnic in Hawaii Festival in Kakaako and The 24th Annual Honolulu Festival (between Friday, March 9th-Sunday, March 11th) at the Honolulu Convention Center offer a broad range of culturally-rich music, dance, taiko and many other experiences for the whole family to enjoy! Please check out the Honolulu Festival’s activities at http://www.honolulufestival.com/en/festival/, culminating with fireworks over Waikiki sponsored by Nagaoka Sister City.
More importantly, this year’s Ukulele Picnic in Hawaii Festival underscores the benefits of restoring active recreational, educational and multi-generational activities in Kakaako as the best way to reduce homeless encampments in the Kakaako Makai neighborhood. Please stay tuned for opportunities for neighbors to offer feedback on the siting of dog parks in Kakaako in the near future! State and county officials are now discussing the potential transfer of some of the Kakaako Park lands to county jurisdiction to expand upon the types of positive recreational and educational uses that can be made in this key waterfront neighborhood.