I recently attended the 3rd Annual Japanese Community Association of Hawaii (JCAH) Nikkei Kigyo Recognition Banquet.This year, the JCAH honored KTA Super Stores who you may have noticed is also celebrating their centennial anniversary this year. The JCAH started in 1971 and works to perpetuate Japanese culture in the County of Hawaii. You may have been to some of their events including Bunka no Hi (Japanese Culture Day), Kodomo no Matsuri (Children’s Day Festival), or the Nikkei Kigyo banquet.The Nikkei Kigyo Recognition Banquet aims to recognize long-standing, multi-generational Japanese American businesses in East Hawaii that have continued to thrive in spite of the challenges they have faced through their history. Some previous honorees are Suisan Co. Ltd.; I. Kitagawa, & Co. Ltd.; HPM Building Supply; and Isemoto Contracting Co. Ltd. We enjoyed a taiko performance by Paul Sakamoto and his Puna Taiko group. There was also a Shinto blessing by Rev. Naohiro Hotta of Hilo Daijingu followed by a Kagami Biraki. According to Wikipedia, Kagami Biraki (鏡開き) is a Japanese traditional ceremony which literally translates to “Opening the Mirror” or, also, “Breaking of the Mochi.” It refers to the opening of a Kagami mochi, or to the opening of a cask of Sake at a party or ceremony. After the Kagami Biraki, there were congratulatory messages, toasts, and singing to honor KTA and all it has done for our community.
My husband was one who was asked to give a congratulatory message and without any prior notice to me, he shared a story I told him years ago. I was a junior in high school and was interviewing for a position at the downtown KTA. During the interview, managers Ron and Gayle asked me what I thought was the most important thing that KTA sells. I thought and thought. Was it rice, Spam, meat, fish, vegetables? The list went on and on. I finally settled on rice and confidently gave my answer. Ron and Gayle smiled (and tried not to buss laugh) and let me know that the item did not have to be tangible. Of course, after that, I got the right answer. . . CUSTOMER SERVICE! I got the job and worked there while in high school and part of college and learned a lot–not only about customer service but also about teamwork, work ethic, and about how much KTA supports our local community.
Of all the award banquets I have attended, this was one of the most touching and heartwarming ones. KTA Super Stores is loved by many, if not all, who know KTA. All of the people in attendance at this dinner either shops at KTA, works/has worked at KTA, or knows someone who works/has worked there. We all feel a connection to this 100-year old grocery store. Those of us of a certain age grew up with Taniguchi store (now known as KTA) and feel that KTA is part of our personal history. That is what made this recognition banquet so special. We all feel connected in small and large ways to this Hilo establishment. Thank you, KTA Super Stores, and congratulations on your 100th anniversary! Living Hilo Style.