Tuesday, December 21, 1999

Associated Press
Isle resident George Lynch, left, handed over the
Prince Chichibu Cup to Tatsuji Miya, president of
the Students' Ski Federation of Japan, at a Tokyo
hotel in June. The silver trophy, given to the
federation by the late prince in 1928,
had long been missing.

Japan to honor
Big Isle man for
returning cup

He located the goblet,
missing for 50 years,
via an Internet auction

By Susan Kreifels


The Japanese will briefly revive an Imperial tradition next month when a silver goblet bearing the crest of the royal family returns to the country's top university skiers after it disappeared more than a half-century ago.

And George Lynch of the Big Island, who tracked down the historic goblet via the Internet, will have a seat of honor at the event.

Lynch returned the goblet last June to the Intercollegiate Ski Association of Japan with the help of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and the Imperial Household Agency. The association's members now consider it "a symbol of the friendship between the United States and Japan due to your deed," the association wrote to Lynch recently.

The goblet is "too valuable to be used for any particular purpose," and after Prince Tomohito, a cousin of Emperor Akihito, presents the trophy to the top collegiate ski team next month, it will be donated to the Prince Chichibu Memorial Sports Museum. The goblet's historic description will include Lynch's name so that "all Japanese will know it."

The Japanese, Lynch knows, take their traditions "very seriously. They really get into this kind of thing. It's awfully romantic."

Lynch, at the association's expense, will attend the 73rd Intercollegiate Skiing Games on Jan. 11 in Nagano, where the goblet, which bears the chrysanthemum crest of Japan's Imperial family, will once again be awarded. It's a tradition that started in 1928, when ski enthusiast Prince Chichibu, the deceased brother of the late Emperor Hirohito, presented the goblet as a gift. But it disappeared during World War II.

An expert in Asian art, Lynch saw the goblet for sale on, an Internet auction site. Realizing the significance of the goblet because of its gold chrysanthemum, he was determined to bid the highest -- he paid $4,450 -- so that the goblet wouldn't be "a souvenir or someone's trophy," he said in June.

Lynch, 71, retired on the Big Island eight years ago.

He was a well-known face in Tokyo in the 1980s when gaijin, or foreigners, were highly sought actors for TV commercials. He played the Santa Claus who flew over Nissan cars.

He first arrived in Japan with the Army during the U.S. occupation after World War II and became interested in Asian art.

He eventually studied Asian art at the University of Hawaii and then worked here for a number of years.

Lynch traced the goblet from an antique dealer back to a retired Army officer in Honolulu.

He speculated that the goblet fell into the hands of high-ranking U.S. military officers on Gen. Douglas MacArthur's staff after the war.

Lynch is excited about the January ceremony because it will briefly put the goblet back into the hands of young skiers, where it originally went 72 years ago.

"These kids are Japan's finest, the bright and shining future," said Lynch, who believes young Japanese value tradition as much as the old.

"It will have an impact on them."

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