Friday, 1 February 2013

History of the Guam Nikkei Association

Written by Peter R. Onedera

Officially chartered at a re-organizational meeting held on October 3, 2012, the Guam Nikkei Association (GNA) began in late 2007 when a fledgling group of men comprised of Frank S. N. Shimizu who served as its first chairman, Greg Sudo Perez, Roque Yamashita, Absalon Waki who moved to Saipan, Fred Nishihira, and former senators Thomas V. C. Tanaka and Frank T. Ishizaki. The group would meet at breakfast meetings at Shirley’s Restaurant in Hagåtña. Faced with tremendous challenges that included low membership, not being registered and recognized as a bona fide non-profit organization on Guam, and funds that were non-existent became a daunting task for the men. Then, there were periods of hiatuses as most of them had careers and business interests that took them off-island as well as involvement in other personal and professional endeavors.

At many of these morning meetings, various individuals would be invited and attendance at nearly every gathering often saw new faces that came again at least once or twice while others didn’t return. So, too, from time to time, the Consulate General for Guam would invite individuals from this core group to attend or participate in off-island American-Japanese leadership conferences or meetings in the mainland and these were often executed with personal expenses that funded these ventures. Two men, Frank T. Ishizaki and Thomas V. C. Tanaka answered these invitations at the urging of the consul general. Aside from that, no other major function or event provided any sense of signature activity that the Guam Nikkei Association can lay claim to.

During a period of hiatus in 2012, the newly appointed Consulate General Hisatsugu Shimizu issued an invitation to members of the association whose names and mailing addresses were still present in their roster of contacts to come to a dinner at his place of residence in Tamuning. From these, Frank S. N. Shimizu, Fred Nishihira, Thomas V. C. Tanaka, Frank T. Ishizaki and Peter R. Onedera attended and many up-to-date issues were brought up and discussed. It was this evening of friendship and light conversation that the four individuals listed above unanimously appointed Peter R. Onedera as the acting president and to proceed with revitalization and rejuvenation efforts for the organization. After acceptance, Onedera decided upon the day and date of an inaugural meeting and received the assurance of the use of the conference room of the Japan Consular Office located at the sixth floor of the Guam International Trade Center in Tamuning. Next, he drafted a constitution and by-laws and began contacting individuals who may be interested in joining the organization. Guiding him were Japanese surnames listed in phone books, personal knowledge and recommendations from the current members of the organization. So, too, many others were contacted as suggested by acquaintances, relatives and friends among and within the local community. Putting together a draft agenda, securing a photographer which voluntarily came from Thomas V. C. Tanaka, toying with the idea of refreshments, appointing a secretary to take the minutes of the afternoon’s meeting session and photocopying voluminous documents that were the agenda and the constitution and by-laws.

The successful turnout at that meeting saw the following individuals who attended and indicated interest in membership. 1. Aguon, Doris Onedera Maanao 2. Blas, Antonita Sablan Onedera 3. Blas, Raymond Yamanaka 4. Brooks, Terry 5. Caguioa, Julia Akiyama Cruz 6. Cepeda, Kikue 7. Cromwell, Florence Kimura 8. Duenas, Hilda Tajima 9. Duenas, Manuel Okazaki 10. Haga, Kensuke 11. Ishizaki, Frank T. 12. Kawahara, Lance S. 13. Mesa, Monte Delmar Noda 14. Nishihira, Fred S. 15. Okada, David 16. Onedera, Peter R. 17. Reyes, Linda Sugiyama Paulino 18. Salas, Joseph Hara 19. Santos, Barbara 20. Shimizu, Dr. David Leon Guerrero 21. Shimizu, Joe San Nicolas 22. Shimizu, Frank San Nicolas 23. Tanaka, Thomas V. C., Jr. 24. Tanaka, Thomas V. C., Sr. 25. Taniguchi, Jean 26. Torres, Rose Murakami 27. Yamashita, Senator Aline 28. Yamashita, Jeanette Rivera 29. Yamashita, Roque C. 30. *Tenorio, Joseph, staffer, Japan Consulate Office of Guam 31. *Matsumura, Toshio, Deputy Counsel, Japan Consulate Office of Guam 32. *Shimizu, Hisatsugu Shimizu, Counsel General, Japan Consulate Office of Guam

At the meeting, the constitution and by-laws were ratified by the members present and an election of nine (9) board of directors were held. The following individuals garnered the general membership’s votes of confidence.

1. Caguioa, Julia Akiyama Cruz (Member-at-Large) 2. Ishizaki, Frank T. (Board Secretary) 3. Mesa, Monte Delmar Noda (Board Vice-Chairman) 4. Nishihira, Fred S. (Secretary) 5. Onedera, Peter R. (President) 6. Salas, Joseph Hara (Historian) 7. Shimizu, Dr. David Leon Guerrero (Vice-President) 8. Shimizu, Frank San Nicolas (Board Chairman) 9. Tanaka, Thomas V. C., Sr. (Treasurer)

At a subsequent meeting, the newly elected board, as per the provisions of the ratified constitution and by-laws chose among themselves the officers of the organization that are listed in parenthesis above. These officers will oversee the operations of the general membership while the board officers will steer the board in its fiduciary responsibilities and administrative management. The board also set the membership dues at $50 per year per individual member. At present, the Guam Nikkei Association, thanks to the efforts of the gentlemen who put it together, the organization is now registered and duly recognized as a non-profit organization with the Department of Revenue and Taxation. Further, an application to the IRS for a 501(c)3 is pending and the opening of a checking account at the Bank of Guam further indicates that the organization is now legal and forthright. Its plans to strengthen and increase its membership are a major task. There is a list of forty-eight (48) names on the roster.

Membership in the Guam Nikkei Association is open to anyone over the age of eighteen, residents of Guam and whose Japanese ancestry may have come not just from Japan and its prefectures including Okinawa, but Hawaii, the mainland United States, the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshalls, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, and elsewhere in the global arena.