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Rev. Gensho Hara, Shannon Loo to receive Nihon Bunka Awards at Shinnenkai on Maui : Maui Now

The Japanese Cultural Society of Maui announced the recipients of this year’s Nihon Bunka Awards are Lahaina Jodo Mission’s Reverend Gensho Hara and business owner Shannon Loo.

The award is given to outstanding individuals for their excellence and lifetime dedication to the perpetuation of the Japanese arts and culture, and for their unselfish willingness to share their talents with the community to inspire future generations. 

Rev. Gensho Hara (right), Shannon Loo (left) to receive Nihon Bunka Awards at Shinnenkai. PC: Japanese Cultural Society of Maui

Information on each award recipient was provided by the Japanese Cultural Society of Maui:

Reverend Gensho Hara

The first-born son of a temple priest in Nagano Prefecture, Japan, Reverend Gensho Hara came to Maui in 1963 when he answered a plea to fill a vacant minister’s position in Lahaina Jodo Mission. What was poised as a temporary assignment has turned into 60 years of leadership and service, making him a spiritual and cultural icon, not only for the Japanese community of Maui, but for a town of significant historic value. 


Five years after he arrived, Lahaina Jodo Mission suffered a damaging fire and Reverend Hara, along with the mission members, carpenters from Japan, and the community, rebuilt the beloved temple. He vowed then to ensure the temple would continue to be a place where people gather.

Rev. Hara created a robust spiritual home in Lahaina that became a gathering place for cultural and educational events, which helped his Lahaina community to thrive. His dedication can also be seen in his early participation in organizing interfaith services such as the Thanksgiving Service held at the Old Lahaina Prison in the 70’s. Over the years, he has opened his doors to nonprofit group meetings, film showings, farmers markets, weddings and parties, workshops, concerts and more. Rev. Hara has been instrumental in organizing many successful events that celebrate Japanese traditions, especially Lahaina Jodo Mission’s summer Obon festival, known for its tōrō nagashi, or floating lanterns ceremony.

For sixty years, his name became synonymous with the Maui Japanese community, where many have sought through him the teachings of Buddha. He was made an honorary member of the Japanese Cultural Society by its founding members and has participated in many of its events over the years. He has also appeared in countless local and international news and other publications, and film productions such as Nami no Bon (Lantern Festival of the Waves) and Futaba Bon Uta (The Obon Festival Song of Futaba), and has generously shared his knowledge of Japanese and Nikkei culture and history. Most important, he has imparted values of resilience through adversity, determination, and hard work.

Armed with a hose pipe, Rev. Hara fought hard to battle the fires last Aug. 8 before evacuating safely with his family. The church’s iconic temple and pagoda, nearby structures, and historical records have all turned to ashes. 


But just like in Buddhism, the white ashes are a reminder of impermanence and life that is fleeting. As Rev. Hara has reiterated, “attachment to material things causes suffering.” At 87 years old, Rev. Gensho Hara vows to restore and rebuild. He has done it before and will do it again as his church and ministry shall continue to live in the faces of the community he loved.

Shannon Loo

With innate organizational and creative skills, Loo has driven life into numerous community gatherings- weddings, corporate events, and travels with his leadership. But it was his love for his Japanese culture that remained constant throughout his life and career, which inspired him to also take up space perpetuating Japanese cultural attire. 

Being a regular part of the Bon Dance community on Oʻahu from a very young age and now president and head sensei of Maui Minyo Kai, Loo for nine years, has danced at every Obon on Maui. He has also worked to solidify ties with the Bon Dance community participating on Oʻahu.  Telling stories and honoring ancestors with every movement, he inspires many with colorful kimono. 


Even the global shutdown from the pandemic didn’t stop Loo from sharing the joy of Japanese dance. Along with fellow dancers, he organized “Zoomdori”, a Virtual bon dance experience. Gracing computer screens with dances from Maui, they provided dance step tutorials, played games, and provided comfort and hope during a difficult time. 

Loo has been a seamster for over 25 years, and shares his expertise on kimono fashion with Maui. With his entrepreneurial drive and partnership with his sister, Loo opened the Mise Kimono boutique at the Queen Kaʻahumanu Center in Kahului.

Founded with the purpose of perpetuating the legacy and feisty spirit of his grandmother, Tomiko Mise, Mise Kimono is the only store in the state of Hawaiʻi largely dedicated to the craft of Kitsuke, the art of kimono dressing. Vintage/ second-hand kimono are also upcycled into bags, accessories, and modern fashions. 

As a kimono shop owner, Loo forges ahead with every opportunity to educate others with his craft, while celebrating his Japanese heritage, ensuring cultural traditions transcend generations.

Mise Kimono. PC: Queen Kaʻahumanu Center.

The Nihon Bunka awardees will be honored at the Japanese Cultural Society of Maui’s Annual New Year celebration banquet Shinnenkai on Saturday, Jan. 27, 5:30 p.m. at the Maui Beach Hotel, which includes dinner and entertainment. Attendees may wear formal kimonos at this function.

Sponsorship packages, tables of 10 and general admission tickets are $75, and can be purchased at jcsmaui.org. Email [email protected] for inquiries.

Source: Maui News

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