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Moai group in eighth decade, and is still going very strong

Date Posted: 2007-09-07

The moai system is a social banking system that goes beyond the money and cultivates friendships and long term relationships.

The Mihara Kyoshin Kai moai group in Naha City is still in business after 80 years, something very rare. A moai group usually forms, collects money from members each month at a group gathering, then gives all the money to one person. At each monthly session, a different person is presented the purse. In normal circumstances, once the moai group rotates through its membership, it disbands.

Kamiya Choko is one man who didn’t see it that way. A charter member of the Mihara Kyoshin Kai formed in 1927, he still is in the group. There were 37 families in that initial moai group, and they’ve expanded their number to 65. The 96-year-old Kamiya hasn’t missed a beat, recalling how the start up families were all farmers, sharing advice on how to make good sugar cane harvests, or how to grow the best vegetables, at the monthly moai meetings.

Moai groups operate without formal structure or paperwork, depending on honesty among its members. Occasionally a member will take the pot of money, then disappear, but Kamiya says that’s never been a problem with Mihara Kyoshin Kai.

Kamiya says his members always had fun, and in the old days decided collectively who got the money each month. Now, Mihara Kyoshin Kai has a more formal structure, and equally formal activities such as golf tournaments, picnics and dinners. “We know how important it is to keep friendships with the local area, and with younger and older members,” he says. “It doesn’t matter because all moai members can talk, attend events and exchange friendships.”

Mihara Kyoshin Kai moai has passed its memberships from father to children, to grandchildren, and now to great grand children. The moai has just celebrated its 80th anniversary with a party at JA Okinawa’s Mawashi Branch. More than 120 members and family attended.

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