Banquet celebrates half-century of UH Japanese scholarships


POSTED: Thursday, July 16, 2009
This story has been corrected. See below.

Hawaii residents stood in long security lines to dine in the presence of the Japanese imperial couple last night as they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and the 50th anniversary of a scholarship foundation in the emperor's name.

“;I feel really excited about it,”; said Maurice Yamasato, 67, whose parents have the emperor's photo displayed in their home. “;When he was crown prince I found him interesting”;—a calm, intelligent man.

The banquet, honoring the Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship Foundation, was the main event for the imperial couple's three-day visit to Hawaii, honoring the foundation's five decades of service.

On the menu: petit filet mignon, taro-crusted mahimahi, Molokai sweet potatoes and mesclun greens from Nalo Farms.

About 70 scholarship recipients and their spouses attended the banquet and got to meet the imperial couple at a short private reception afterward.

The hushed crowd rose to its feet as a conch shell was blown and kahili bearers preceded the Japanese emperor, wearing a black suit with several strands of ilima, and the empress, adorned in a cream kimono and obi with a pikake lei, in the Hilton Hawaiian Village's Coral Ballroom.

;[Preview]  Japan Royals Attend Historic Banquet

The Japanese Emperor and Empress wrapped up their Oahu visit at a historic and elegant banquet in Waikiki to honor the Prince Akihito Scholarship Recipients.

Watch ]


Some of the estimated 1,600 guests immediately bowed as the emperor and empress entered the room.

Attendees dressed in their finest, with some women wearing kimonos.

“;What an opportunity to see them in person,”; said Manoa resident Amy Okamoto, a sansei (third-generation Japanese) in her 60s, who describes herself as old-fashioned. “;I saw their faces. I was this close (about three feet). They looked very regal.”;

Each year, the foundation provides scholarships to two graduate students from the University of Hawaii at Manoa to study in Japan for up to two years, and to two Japanese scholars to study at UH-Manoa. Recipients also get to meet the emperor and empress at the Imperial Palace.

“;The scholarship opened windows of opportunity,”; said scholarship recipient Dr. Susan Moriyama-Yi, 40.

She went on to Stanford University Medical School and ended up a family practitioner.

“;It's the key to opening opportunities for me,”; she said. “;Without the scholarship, I don't think I would be anywhere. In hindsight, I realize what a blessing it was.”;

The scholarship was founded by Honolulu residents in 1959 as a wedding present to then-Crown Prince Akihito and Michiko, who did not want material gifts.





        » The banquet in honor of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko Wednesday was not a fundraiser, as was reported on Page 11 yesterday.