Emperor shown the ropes


POSTED: Friday, July 17, 2009

WAIMEA, BIG ISLAND » With the imperial couple of Japan looking on, 10 paniolo on horseback set about to demonstrate calf roping yesterday on the dry, open pastureland of sprawling Parker Ranch.

But one calf had other plans and hurdled a rock wall, away from the action.

While a cowboy chased and roped the runaway, the other paniolo finished the demonstration smoothly.

“;Nothing goes as planned,”; said Keoki Wood, a paniolo and livestock manager at the ranch for seven years. “;It was very unpredictable, but I think we accomplished showing the emperor and empress what cowboys really do.”;

The roping demonstration and a reception at Parker Ranch Historic Homes were the final events for Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko on their three-day tour of Hawaii.

Akihito and Michiko flew from Honolulu to Kona Airport yesterday morning, then departed for Japan shortly after 4 p.m.

A keiki hula performance by 60 children from five Big Island charter schools greeted the couple when they arrived at Kona Airport.

“;I was very nervous,”; said Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi. “;A lot of planning went into protocol. I wanted to find out what to do, where to stand, how to shake.”;

Kenoi introduced Akihito and Michiko to 10 guests: Dr. Masahiko Hayashi, Saeko Hayashi, Dr. Luoluo Hong, Christopher J. Aamodt, Lillian Noda, Yasuo Kuwaye, Hanako Kuwaye, Larry Isemoto, Beatrice Isemoto and Paul Neves, who escorted Japanese Princess Sayako 10 years ago to the top of Mauna Kea.

“;I told their majesties that I had the honor of escorting their daughter to Mauna Kea,”; said Neves, the alii aimoku, or chief, with the Royal Order of Kamehameha I. “;I said I hope that someday I have the honor to escort my daughter to Mount Fuji.”;

Neves was one of 60 guests at a reception hosted by the Japanese ambassador and consul general at Parker Ranch Historic Homes.

Yasuo Kuwaye, 87, said he was excited to speak to the emperor for the first time and wore his imperial decoration for the occasion. Kuwaye received the Order of the Sacred Treasure from the government of Japan in 2001.

“;I was very surprised. I didn't know what to say,”; said Kuwaye, who initiated the sister relationship between the Big Island and Oshima Island off Japan in 1962.

Emily Naeole, a councilwoman from Puna, said she felt so honored speaking to Akihito and Michiko that she asked permission to perform the Aloha chant for them.

“;I told them I wanted to give the love from the people on this island,”; said Naeole, who performed the chant after the imperial couple left. “;Our people in the old days had a great relationship with Japan, so as a native Hawaiian I feel so proud to be here today and meet them personally.”;

After the imperial couple greeted most of the guests at Parker Ranch, they moved outdoors to watch the paniolo from the shade of a tree. A light drizzle fell from otherwise sunny skies.

Wood, the livestock manager, admitted he was jittery.

“;It was a real privilege for everyone,”; he said. “;Of all the things (the emperor) has seen, he chose to see Parker Ranch cowboys.”;

Once the imperial couple left, the enormity of the event began to sink in with guests, including the mayor's wife, Takako.

“;It's beyond expectations,”; she said. “;You would never dream of anything like this.”;

At the airport yesterday afternoon, hula halau Na Lei o Kaholoku from Kohala performed with the Big Island's Lim family, famous for traditional Hawaiian music, in “;I Makana Na'u Ia Aloha,”; a song written by King David Kalakaua for his wife while he was visiting Yokohama in 1881.