Maui News

Two Selected for Prestigious Nihon Bunka Award

January 7, 2019, 9:58 AM HST
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Nihon Bunka 2019 award recipients are: Ronald Fukumoto (left) and Rinko Jeffers (right). Courtesy photos.

Maui residents, Ronald Fukumoto and Rinko Jeffers will receive the Japanese Cultural Society of Maui’s prestigious Nihon Bunka Award at the organization’s annual Shinnen Enkai (New Year’s) dinner scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 26, in the Elleair Rainbow Room at the Maui Beach Hotel.

The Nihon Bunka award recognizes individuals for their excellence and contributions to the Japanese arts and culture, and for their unselfish willingness to share their talents with the community.

Organization President Deron Furukawa made the announcement today.

The Shinnen Enkai will begin at 5:30 p.m. with the traditional otoso (sake welcome) with no-host cocktail hour to follow. Dinner is scheduled for 6 p.m.

Fukumoto is recognized for assisting a variety of non-profit organizations and volunteering for various programs for many years, including the Maui County Council of the Boy Scouts of America, Wailuku Hongwanji Mission, and the Japanese Cultural Society of Maui. Fukumoto has also been a devoted board member of Maui Taiko for 22 years. As the lead drum maker, he has supervised the construction of about 20 drums, 60 drum stands, and coordinates ongoing maintenance. He also repaired, refinished, and re-skinned many authentic taiko belonging to seven Buddhist temples on Maui. When not teaching, or working on a drum, Fukumoto can be seen out and about transporting drums to venues on Maui and performs with the group in over 30 performances throughout the year, including participation in Maui Matsuri and summer obons.


Jeffers, a Japanese Haiku Poet Master, established Maui Hototo Gisu Kai with the help of Takako Dickinson in 1992, following her 14-year employment with the United Nations in Japan and Africa. She continues to lead the club for the past 26 years. In 2010, she started Haiku Poetry in English and currently teaches at Pāʻia and Waiheʻe Schools. She also volunteers at Kahului Library. “Rinko’s warmth, hard-work, knowledge, and open-mindedness has been key to her success in bringing the joy of haiku to so many poets writing in Japanese and English alike,” said Abigail Friedman, award-winning haiku poet and author of The Haiku Apprentice, and I Wait for the Moon: 100 haiku of Momoko Kuroda.


Cost for the Jan. 26 buffet dinner is $55 Adults, $20 Children (6-11 years old) and free for children ages 5 and under.

Tickets are available at or through Sanrio Ka’ahumanu in Kahului, Maui Box Shop and Credit Associates in Wailuku. The deadline to purchase tickets is Jan. 20, 2019. Tickets are limited and will not be sold at the door.

For more information, visit

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