Steel guitarist Masakatsu Suzuki performing at the Fourth Biennial HSGA Japan Convention last fall with the group Mahana Lua.

By Masakatsu Suzuki

HSGA Japan holds its conventions every other year on even years (the Honolulu conventions are held on odd years). Our fourth biennial convention was held on October 27, 2018 at Hatoba Kaikan in front of the Yokohama Port.

Twenty-eight members and fifty-nine guests were in attendance and all enjoyed wonderful performances. Thirteen groups performed along with twenty-one steel guitar players as follows:

Steel guitarist Katsuhide Sawabe from Tokyo opened the show. He presented a motivating performance with support from the Maui Girls chorus. Songs included “Pūpū A O ʻEwa,” “Kuʻu Lei ʻAwapuhi,” “My Tane,” “Kōkeʻe,” and “Wehiwehi ʻOe.” Joining Katsuhide san were Hiroshi Mizuhara, Hajime Inoue and Osamu Inoue with Maui Girls Yumiko Kusakabe, Mutsumi Uchida, Akiko Takahashi and Michiko Togao.

Katsutoshi Ogata from Tokyo has an “8-dan” ranking in the game of Go and is also a genius on the steel guitar. He performed “Kaulana ʻO Hilo Hanakahi,” “Blue Hawaii,” “Mapuana,” “Hawaiian Sunset,” “Beyond the Reef” and “Analani E.” Joining Katsutoshi san were Yoshihisa Okano, Kunio Sakai and Syuzou Kono.

Noriko Tomita from Tokyo, who attended last year also, played some difficult arrangements by Alan Akaka including “Blue Hawaiian Moonlight,” “Hoʻo Malimali E,” “Sweet Someone,” “Sand” and “Nani Waimea.” Joining Noriko san were Tetsuya Ishiyama, Yoshimi Nose and Tomomi Sekiguchi with Noriko’s husband Shuji providing vocal support.

Yukio Katagiri from Aichi Prefecture, a regular at the HSGA Honolulu concerts, has also attended all our Japan conventions. He played “Hula Blues,” “Mapuana,” “Nani Waimea,” “How’d Ya Do” and “Hawaii Calls.” Expert backup was provided by the group Mahana Lua, which includes Tomomichi Suzuki, Shuzo Kono and Kunio Sakai.

Steeler Kunimitsu Kadoi came all the way from Hiro­shima despite the devastation from the typhoon that swept through the area a month earlier. He played with the group Wiki Wiki, which includes Hirokazu Tasaka, Kazuharu Sakurai, Tomoko Sakurai, Masafumi Okamura and steel guitarist Kazushige Murata. The program included “Hanalei Moon,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” “Pua Kiele,” “Smoke Gets Your Eyes” and “On a Tropic Night.”

Paul Okubo from Tokyo, a regular at all our conventions, has some interesting steel guitars such as the unusual Harmos steel and even a surfboard-shaped model. His program included “Old Plantation,” “Estrellita,” “Pā‘au‘au Waltz,” “Whispering Lullaby,” and “Waikiki Chick­adee” with backup provided by the Mahana Lua band.

Yoshifumi Nihachi has been busy playing Hawaiian-style gigs of late, but much prefers playing country music. His program included “My Window Faces the South,” “Nani,” “Steelin’ the Blues” and “Sweet Memories” with backing provided by Mahana Lua.

Moto Suzuki from Tokyo has performed at all our Japan conventions and recently started playing what he calls the A76 tuning (high to low: E, C#, A, F#, E, A, G, A), a experiment he hopes will make waves in the steel guitar world. He performed “Rainbows Over Paradise,” “Bali Hai,” “E Ku‘u Morning Dew,” “Island of Dreams” and “Caravan.” Joining Moto san were Reina Miki, Koichi Kizaki and Koichi Ishikawa. Moto san organizes a separate steel guitar event on the first Saturday of every month.

Yoshiyuki Endo from Kanagawa Prefecture performed with the group Lohi Lohi, four gentlemen providing enchanting vocal harmony. He performed “Hula Blues,” “In Your Hawai­ian Way,” “G-Hula Med­ley,” “Palama Shuffle,” “Keep Your Eyes on the Hands” and “ Ta Ha Ua La.” Also joining Yoshiyuki san were Hideaki Taka­hashi, Kouhei Makino and Masa­hiro Abe.

Steel guitarist Masakatsu Suzuki from Kanagawa Prefecture is a member of the group Mahana Lua, who are very active in their home town of Yokohama. They played “On a Little Street in Singapore,” “Pretty Maui Girl,” “I’ll Weave a Lei of Stars for You,” “Pūpū Hinuhinu” and “Il Pleut Sur La Route.”

Toshimitsu Shiina of Chiba, a member of the group Lani Welina, opened with his usual “Beer Barrel Polka,” this time using a G9th tuning on his triple-neck Rickenbacker. Also included in the set was “Manuela Boy,” “From Hawaii To You” and “Hilo March.” Joining Toshimitsu san were Yumiko Kusakabe, Keiichi Tsuruoka and Nobuhisa Kurata.

The Lion Ladies Four, a new Tokyo-based group made up of four pupils of “Lion” Kobayashi, played a nice set including “Ho‘o Malimali E” featuring a steel solo by Akiko Watanabe, “Autumn Leaves” with a steel solo by Sakae Machida, “Na Lei O Hawaii,” and “Kamehameha Waltz.” Joining in were Yoko Tanaka, Masako Wakamatsu, and Kumu Lion Kobayashi.

The Lion Halau of Tokyo, comprising members of Lion’s steel guitar class at the Meguro Culture School, performed “Milolii” with a steel solo by Nobuo Numata, “Little Brown Gal” featuring Lion on steel, “Hawaiian Guitar,” “King Kame­hameha” and “Tahu Wahu Wai.” The ensemble consisted of Kayoko Iwade, Yoko Tanaka, Masahiko Ibamoto and Norio Usui. The “vocal team” included Kinjiro Sakata, Hitomi Ito, Haruko Ozeki, Akemi Kamoshida, Akemi Kimura and Toshitake Okano.

The bottom line is the convention was a great success. The Fifth Biennial HSGA Japan Convention will take place in the fall of 2020. Stay tuned for details! Take care, everyone, and we hope to see you again soon.

Opening last year’s show, the Maui Girls chorus providing stellar vocals behind Tokyo steel guitarist Katsuhide Sawabe.

A nice shot of the HSGA Japan stage with Yoshiyuki Endo from Kanagawa Prefecture playing his Excel steel guitar.

Toshimitsu Shiina of Chiba playing a triple-neck Rickenbacker with his group Lani Welina.

Master steel guitarist Kiyoshi “Lion” Kobayashi (bottom row, third from the left) performing and featuring his steel guitar students.

In this issue:

Fort Collins Guest John Ely
Newsletter Goes “Electronic”
Waikīkī Steel Week Preview
Unloved in its Homeland?
Ka Oiwi Nani
HSGA Japan’s Fourth Biennial Convention
WCC Hawaiian Steel Guitar Lessons a Success!
Polynesian Meatballs Recipe
A “Techno-Tale” From Kona Beach
My Wonderful Years In Music
HSGA Staff & info

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