More than 2500 University of Hawai‘i alumni live in Japan. Some of these graduates are Hawai‘i expatriates, while others returned to their home country after completing their studies in the Aloha State. Common student experiences connect them as grads, and strengthening their connections is the goal of one proud alum.
Kennard Wong (Mānoa, BBA, '89) is president of the Japan alumni group of the University of Hawai‘i. After earning his BBA in accounting at UH Mānoa, the ‘Aiea High School grad was an auditor for Ernst & Young Japan for six years. Twenty years ago, he moved to Unifrutti Japan, an international grower and exporter of fresh fruit, first as financial controller and now as president.
What do UH grads in Japan find they have uniquely in common?
They share an acute awareness of – and affinity for – Hawaiian culture and all things Hawaiian. Sunsets from Ala Moana, Joe Moore reading the local news, rainbow shave ice with ice cream: these memories connect us even if we didn’t know each other in Hawai‘i. There is a large number of UH grads here. It makes us special, and I’m hoping to expand this ‘ohana network.
What do you miss most about Hawai‘i, and when were you last here?
I definitely miss my family, my friends and the warm climate. I was last there last December.
How are networking needs for UH grads in Japan different from alumni elsewhere?
I get the feeling there is more of a personal element in Japan due to the affinity for Hawai‘i, so it's like a UH Alumni-Hawai‘i network. I accepted the presidency of the Japan chapter because it’s important to connect with others who love Hawai‘i, and to promote an interest in my home state. This is why I encourage my fellow alumni to get to know us! Attend one of our events; let’s have some laulau and Spam musubi together, and remember what makes us special!