~”Nikkei” in Palau~ Interview Series: Vol.6 Mr. Santy Asanuma
Mr. Santy Asanuma, a third-generation Palauan of Japanese descent “Nikkei”, is the Post Master General for the Republic of Palau since 2021. He also serves as an Ex-Officio member of Palau Red Cross Society which he was the Chairman of the Board from 2009 to July 2023. From 2005 to 2008, he served as a Senator for the 7th Palau Congress. As a public ambassador for health, Mr. Asanuma engages in activities to raise awareness for diabetes and cancer. He has also been volunteering as a teacher at Mindszenty High School for many years.
Mr. Santy Asanuma was born to Mr. Masami Asanuma and Mrs. Maria Asanuma. He went to Maris Stella School, Mindszenty High School and attended Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. He returned home to help with the family business in Palau after four years at the University.
Mr. Asanuma’s paternal grandfather Siske Asanuma was from Hachijo-jima, a Japanese island located in the south of Tokyo. Mr. Siske Asanuma had three sons, Asao, Tsutomu and Masami. Tsutomu, the second oldest son, went to Japan after the war with his father while Asao and Masami remained in Palau.
Mr. Masami Asanuma, the father of Mr. Santy Asanuma, started out his business in Palau as a barber or in Japanese, “tokoya.” People who knew Masami used to call him Tokoya-san. He also collected copper, which Palauan used to call “shinchu,” and processed them for export to Japan. The family business also sold popsicles and eventually started a small udon shop before it became a store named Asanuma store in 1949.
Since Mr. Asanuma’s uncle Tsutomu moved to Japan after the war and started a family there, Mr. Asanuma has relatives in Japan, who visited him in Palau a few years ago. Mr. Asanuma has also visited Japan several times, and his favorite Japanese food is ramen and udon. He still remembers the family traditions influenced by Japanese culture such as eating oshiruko, a traditional Japanese dessert made with red bean paste and rice cake, and offering New Year’s holiday greetings “omedeto.” He also practices the Japanese custom of bringing souvenirs “omiyage” for family members, friends or colleagues when returning from a business trip overseas.
As Japan and Palau’s diplomatic relations approaches its 30th anniversary, Mr. Asanuma hopes that the friendship between Japan and Palau will continue to flourish based on the mutually shared spirit of respect and cultural similarities. He also hopes that there will be more school exchange programs to rekindle the connection between Japan and Palau.