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Hawaii's Japanese are celebrating their centennial.

A hundred years ago, 944 Japanese arrived in Honolulu on the S.S. City of Tokio to work as contract laborers on Hawaii's sugar cane plantations. They were welcomed at the pier by King Kalakaua and the Royal Hawaiian Band.

Today the descendants of these and other Japanese immigrants--at 240,000, they are a quarter of hawaii's residents--are celebrating the centennial with a year of special events and exhibits.

Many activities are timed to coincide with the visit of Japan's Prince and Princess hitachi (he's Emperor Hirohito's second son) from June 14 to 24. But all through the summer and fall, Hawaii visitors can take in festivities dedicated to the Kanyaku Imin--the contract immigrant.

Hardship and hard work in cane fields

Early contract laborers saw Hawaii's growing sugar industry as an opportunity to break away from the poverty and restrictions of Japan's semifeudal system.

The newcomers were prepared for hard work and low wages: 10-hour days harvesting sugar cane paid just $9 a month for men and $6 for women. But they were not prepared for the regimentation, racial segregation, and crowded, unsanitary living quarters many encountered. During the first decade, 7,454 returned to Japan after fulfilling their three-year contracts.

Contract laborers kept coming until 1924, when the United States enacted the Oriental Exclusion Act. Between 1902 and 1908, more than 35,000 went on to the West Coast in search of higher-paying jobs. But a Japanese community slowly developed in the Islands. Single men sent to Japan for "picture brides"; between 1907 and 1923 more than 14,000 arrived. Old-country traditions were carefully guarded. Most nisei (second-generation) children went to Japanese language school after regular school, joined local temples and clubs, and used the community furo (bath).

Although Hawaii's Japanese became increasingly Americanized even as they observed their own customes, they were not allowed to become naturalized citizens until 1952. Their patriotism was severely tested in World War II when the Islands' Japanese were unfairly suspected of treason (though few were interned) while their nisei sons fought heroically in Europe. Since the war, Japanese-Americans have become leaders in every segment of Island (and American) life.

The celebration calendar

Here are highlights of major long-running programs on Oahu. For details, write or call the Governor's Coordinating Committee, 1985 Japanese 100th Anniversary Celebration, Box 2359, Honolulu 96804; (808) 548-8597.

A number of events are planned on other islands, including tea ceremonies, sumo wrestling, lantern parades, and grand-scale memorial Bon dances. For a list, write or call the Kanyaki Imin Centennial Celebration Committee chairman for each island: Hawaii, Richard Taniguchi, Box 1124, Hilo 96721,935-3795; Kauai, Jay Otsuka, Box 300, Kapaa 96746,822-4056; Maui, Yasunari Hamai, 180 Kono Place, Kahului 96732,871-4034; Oahu, Kenji Goto, 1441 Kapiolani Blvd., Room 803, Honolulu 96814,955-7797. When writing to any of these groups, send a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

Centennial festivities in Honolulu

Japanese pop stars. Shows by musicians from Japan, at Neil S. Blaisdell Memorial Center (NBC) Concert Hall, S. King Street and Ward Avenue; tickets from $5 to $25 at box office. Hiroshi Itsuki in three performances June 7 and 8; he sings, dances, and plays many instruments, sometimes in samurai costume. Umezawa Show, 6:30 P.M. June 22; two brothers sing and dance, one in geisha and one in samurai costume; one also sings Japanese country music. Mori Shinichi, 6:30 P.M. June 23 (in NBC Arena); traditional and contemporary Japanese songs, some country.

Cultural show. From 10 to 10 June 12 through 16 at NBC Exhibition Hall. Everything from flower arranging to the martial arts to a gagaku (traditional Japanese orchestral music) performance; admission $2.

Takarazuka review. At 2 P.M. and 7:30 P.M. June 12 through 16, NBC Concert Hall, with 40 members of Japan's famous all-woman musical show in which some women play men's roles; in five evening performances and three matinees; tickets from $10 to $27 at box office.

Matsuri centennial parade. At 10 A.M. on June 23 along Kalakaua Avenue from Fort DeRussy to Kapiolani Park, with floats and custumed marchers from Japan and Hawaii.

Minyo show. At 2 P.M. June 23 at McKinley High School Auditorium, 1039 S. King Street. Folk songs and dances by Tokyo performers; free.

Japan expo. August 2 and 3, 7 through 11, in NBC Arena and Exhibition Hall, with trade exhibits, cultural and art demonstrations, entertainment, all from Japan. Ticket prices not set.

Japanese film festival. At Honolulu Academy of Arts Theatre, 900 S. Beretania Street. Fourteen feature films and documentaries on "The Immigrant Experience" at 7:30 P.M. Mondays through Wednesdays June 3 through 26. Admission is $2.50; for a schedule, call 538-3693.

Centennial art exhibits, all free. At Honolulu Academy of Arts (open 10 to 4:30 Tuesdays through Saturdays, 1 to 5 Sundays). Portraits of Japan by noted 19th-century American painter Theodore Wores, May 21 to June 30. Exhibit of Japanese swords, May 30 to June 30, with demonstrations of swordmaking and handling from 11 to 1 June 16 through 22. Lanscape brush painting; primitive, Edo Period, and modern Japanese prints; July 9 to August 18.

At Bishop Square Gallery, second floor, Pauahi Tower, 1001 Bishop Street (8 to 5 weekdays, 8 to 1 Saturdays). Early 20th-century Japanese toys, from the Academy of Arts lending collection, through June 2. Okinawan lacquerwork, June 12 through August 25.

Historical exhibit. At Bishop Museum, 1525 Bernice Street (9 to 5 daily), free. Artifacts and photographs of immigrant plantation life, through the end of the year. (The museum's new book, A pictorial History of the Japanese in Hawaii: 1885-1924, will be available this month.)
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Date:Jun 1, 1985
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