Founding member of 1969 honored at Japanese Cultural Society of Maui’s 50th anniversary gala

The Japanese Cultural Society of Maui will honor Yukie Ueoka, one of the founding board members of the organization in 1969, at its 50th anniversary gala on Sunday, Sept. 29, 5:30 p.m. at the King Kamehameha Golf Club Waikapu Ballroom.

96-year old Yukie Hirano Ueoka served as first vice president of the organization, according to 1969 articles of incorporation the gala organizers from JCSM unearthed from its archives. Further research revealed that Ueoka is the last living founding board member of the organization, where she served along with a roster of 17 all-female board 50 years ago.

Ueoka graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and was a Fulbright Scholar at Sophia University in Tokyo. She had a 20-year teaching career at Waimea, Maui and Baldwin High Schools, and when she retired, her second career of volunteerism and community involvement began. 

She was a founding member of the Maui Arts and Cultural Center, and provided leadership to the J. Walter Cameron Center, Maui Memorial Hospital Auxiliary, Alexander and Baldwin Sugar Museum, Maui County Fair, and the Hawaii Statehood Silver Jubilee celebration, being selected to serve on the planning committee by Governor George Ariyoshi.

It was her love of the Japanese culture, its customs and language, which prompted her to band together with like-minded friends Edith Izumi, Ayako Tofukuji, Ann Wakamatsu, and Jean Nakamura to form the Japanese Cultural Society of Maui, Inc. in 1969. These ladies envisioned the community’s great enrichment in the promotion, preservation, and perpetuation of the Japanese culture.

She married Meyer Ueoka and raised three children on Maui.

Fifty years later, JCSM continues to keep traditions alive through its signature events like the Shinnen Enkai, Maui Matsuri, Oshougatsu mochi pounding, and educational events like okonomiyaki and gyoza making, zen cooking, kite festival and bon dance workshops. JCSM also has community service projects and a scholarship program.

“We want to thank the leaders, volunteers and the Maui community that helped shape JCSM today, and we feel honored that we could celebrate this with a founding member – Yukie Ueoka,” JCSM President Deron Furukawa said. “We hope we met the vision they made 50 years ago, and hope to set the right tone for the next 50 years.”

The tea house at the Japanese garden at the Kepaniwai Park at Iao Valley. The iconic structure, which represents the Japanese in the diverse community of Maui, is in need of repairs. 

The gala is a benefit dinner which will raise funds for the restoration of the iconic tea house in the Japanese Garden at the Kepaniwai Park in Iao Valley, and if funds permit, the rehabilitation of the fence and koi pond. 

Furukawa said it is their goal to hold a traditional tea ceremony in the tea house to commemorate the Gannenmono, the 150th anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii.

Tickets are $150 per person and sponsorship packages are available. The formal evening features a buffet dinner, entertainment, silent auction and a program that honors Maui’s Japanese community. For tickets and information, email jcsmhawaii@gmail.com or go to jcsmaui.org.

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