The first group of immigrants who traveled from Japan to Hawaii have come to be known as the Gannenmono, or “first-year arrivals.” Their journey to the islands in 1868 laid the ground for the many generations of Japanese who would come in the following decades. In commemoration of their arrival 150 years ago, the Maui Matsuri committee and many other organizations around the state have banned together to curate a year-long celebration across all the islands. Maui Matsuri is honored to host the official Maui portion of these events through its many festival activities.

The planning group behind the state’s Gannenmono activities is a coalition of over 20 organizations known as the Kizuna Group. Meaning “bond,” the committee chose the Japanese word “kizuna” to symbolize the many connections being celebrated during this auspicious anniversary. The links between past and present, the camaraderie felt between islands, and the connection between communities in Hawaii and Japan are all rejoiced in the festivities occurring throughout the year.

This year’s Maui Matsuri encompasses a number of exciting events:

Wednesday, May 2nd – Arrival of the Kaiwo Maru training vessel. Wave your welcome from one of the many vantage points around Kahului Harbor as the four-masted sailing ship arrives from Japan at 10:00 a.m. The Kaiwo Maru embarked on its journey specifically to join in at the Maui Matsuri festivities and to celebrate the Gannenmono.

Thursday, May 3rd – Screening of the 2017 film Go For Broke: an Origin Story. In addition to the 150th anniversary of the Gannenmono, this year also marks the 75th anniversary of the US incarceration of Japanese during WWII. The film, featuring an all-Japanese American cast, tells the tale of the start of the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team of World War II and will take place at Wailuku’s historic Iao Theater at 6:30 p.m.

Friday, May 4th – Maui Matsuri Musical Extravaganza. This tribute to Maui’s plantation heritage will be attended by over 100 crew members of the Kaiwo Maru training vessel and feature many Hawaii favorites, including comedian Frank De Lima, social media ukulele phenoms Honoka & Azita, and Maui’s own Uluwehi Guerrero. Joining them on stage will be San Francisco Awa Odori group Awakko Ren and a number of other local performances representing Hawaiiian, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Portuguese, and Japanese cultures.

Saturday, May 5th – Maui Matsuri Festival Day. A full day of fun starts at 2:00 p.m. and concludes with a community Obon dance from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Entertainers, food booths/trucks, kid’s crafts, martial arts demos, eating contests, cultural exhibits, a cosplay exhibition, video game tournament, and much more await on the final day of Maui Matsuri at UH Maui College.

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