YWCA of Oahu Honoree: Helen Nakano

YWCA Honoree: Helen Nakano

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Winning is not everything to Helen Nakano, but she sure gets a kick out of it when playing Hanafuda.

"When I first started playing with Hanafuda, I had no idea that there was anything beyond card game," said Helen Nakano of Hanafuda Hawaii.

The more she played, the more rooted she became in her Japanese heritage, and she wanted to share that with her granddaughter and with others.

"Arielle lives in San Francisco, and we are 66 years apart in age and 2400 miles apart," said Nakano.  "I wanted to bond with her, so I thought of Hanafuda."

"My grandma is very knowledgeable," said Helen's granddaughter Arielle Spivack.

"I came up with an instructional booklet for her," said Nakano. "This was my gift to Arielle."

Not only did Arielle appreciate the creative instructional book -- to Helen's surprise, many did.

"Other people wanted buy my book," said Nakano.

Helen's son Jason wanted to do something extra special for his mom knowing her love of playing and sharing Hanafuda with others, especially younger generations.

"He surprised me with a brand new set of hanafuda cards that he had created, and that is where it all started," said Nakano.

To Helen, age is just a number. She was a financial planner until 65, and at 68, she started teaching yoga. Now, at 79-years-young-- Helen launched her own company "Hanafuda Hawaii."

"My grandma she is very passionate and she is very talented," said Spivack.

Helen is using this ancient card game to link generations, and now, she's connecting it all with Hawaii's unique island landscape.
Helen's passion to teach others about Hawaii's culture and how to play this card game is one of the reasons why she is a YWCA role model. She has a big heart for our youth and our youth's future.

"Our cards are based on Native Hawaiian plants," said Nakano. "I have been raised and born in Hawaii, and I knew very little about the plants, so I started reading books and volunteering."

Helen's son Jason diligently spent over 200-hours in research and development on the artwork.

"We tried to make it as pono as possible," said Nakano.

This special Hawaii-version, Hanafuda cards will be available on July 9th at Louis Pohl Gallery.  They will also offer free lessons after a blessing.

"How rich the Hawaiian culture is with the legends with the indigenous plants," said Sandra Pohl, owner of Louis Pohl Gallery.
"It is sharing Hawaii's story."

A story that will be passed on.

"I love her (my grandma), I'm very proud with what she is doing, said Spivack. 
"This card game will be my legacy to her (Arielle)," said Nakano. "Even when she is a grandmother herself, she will recall the many happy times we had together."

Helen is a loving grandmother, community role model, and now YWCA leader.

Visit her website here: hanafudahawaii.com

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