Why do the Japanese love Hawaii?

(CNN) — Hawaii is one of the most popular vacation destinations for Japanese tourists. But they don’t show their love by just going there.

Food, clothing and festivals throughout Japan reflect the people’s love for the islands rather than the beaches.

According to a 2022 travel report from the Japan travel agency HIS, Hawaii has the largest number of outbound travelers for summer vacations, accounting for 20% of those booking summer vacations. abroad through business.

Japan’s two airlines, ANA and JAL, have resumed daily flights to Hawaii in July and June, for the first time since the pandemic.

“ANA and JAL recognize that Hawaii is the first destination for Japanese tourists when traveling abroad. “These airlines are heavily promoting their Hawaii promotions… They only advertise for trips to Hawaii.”

Japan’s love affair with Hawaii can probably be summed up in one word: iyashi. It means “healing” or “comforting” in English but often connotes the sense of freedom and relaxation that Japanese people associate with the islands.

Rise in popularity, rise in prices

While Japanese tourists have loved Hawaii for decades, it will take time for tourist numbers to return to their pre-Covid-19 levels.

Before the pandemic, Japanese tourists were the largest number of foreign tourists in Hawaii. According to data from the Hawaii Tourism Agency, Japanese tourists spend the most money per visitor.

The number of tourists from Japan fell by 95.2% for the first half of 2022 with 34,925 visitors compared to 734,235 in 2019. Japanese tourists spent $ 86.7 million in the first half of 2022, to fall measure 91.6% from $ 1.03 billion in 2019 alone. Hawaii.

And there is another factor at play, which is the weakening of the yen. It has become more expensive for Japanese to travel to America due to the weakening of the yen against the dollar. Most of the current flight bookings to Hawaii are for upper classes such as business and economy.

“The people who want to go now are mostly rich people or people who are paid a lot because it’s normal for them. Thorium is added.

Experience Hawaii without leaving Japan

For those who cannot travel to Hawaii, Japan offers local options.

Hawaiian festivals are very popular — with hula dancers, ukulele players and Hawaiian food trucks.

These festivals are located in metropolitan cities such as Tokyo, Yokohama and Osaka, as well as rural areas such as Ikaho Onsen, a hot springs town in Gunma Prefecture.

“(In Japan) people are in a hurry, because of going to university or (worrying about) other things like the war or politics, but in the Hawaiian culture, there is this culture of caring to the island,” said David Smith, CEO of Leiland Grow, a company in Japan that produces concerts and Hawaiian events.

“I thought (these festivals) would lead to bringing that kind of Hawaiian culture to Japan and making people aware of the beauty of Hawaii.”

Punalu'u is painted yellow to remind visitors of the Hawaiian sky.

Punalu’u is painted yellow to remind visitors of the Hawaiian sky.

Kathleen Benoza

In addition to the regular festivals, there are Hawaiian restaurants in Japan.

Punalu’u, a Hawaiian restaurant in Yachiyo, Chiba, is decorated with a variety of American and Hawaiian memorabilia. There is a Harley Davidson motorcycle in the center of the wall and a surfboard on it with the store’s name on it.

The owner and chef, Yuji Nonaka, 57, quit his paying job and started his restaurant 14 years ago with his wife, Kiyomi Nonaka, 50.

Kiyomi discovered her love for Hawaii — and hula hula — during her career as an 18-year-old.

“Hula has helped me to achieve many things in life, whether with my relationship with others or if something did not go well at work. share this idea with others, so I opened my dance school here 18 years ago,” she said.

A common misconception about hula is that it is a traditional dance for women. No. In ancient Hawaii, men were the dancers, and the best dancers were chosen to be warriors. Today, Ke Kai O Kahiki—one of Hawai’i’s most famous male dance schools—continues this tradition by telling warrior stories through dance. To do so, the dancers train in the same way as their ancestors did, using the land itself as a serious and unforgiving sport. To dance like a warrior, you must train like one. ,

The roots of a relationship

Yujin Yaguchi, a professor at the University of Tokyo, focuses on Hawaiian and US-Japan cultural relations.

Yaguchi notes that in the early 19th century, many Japanese came to Hawai’i, and it became a familiar and easy place for Japanese tourists to travel.

There are many families they visit, and it also helps with the language barrier.

Data from the American Community Survey conducted by the US Census Bureau in a 2016-2020 survey showed that 22.3% of Hawaiian residents identified as Japanese or half-Japanese.

“Today, I think people (in Hawaii) speak Japanese for business purposes. It’s very easy to engage with people who can understand, if not speak, Japanese, and you get ads. and signs and everything in Japanese,” explained Yaguchi.

For nearly 20 years after the end of World War II, recreational trips abroad were prohibited in Japan, with occasional exceptions for study programs or other Business travel.

Spa Resort Hawaiians is the first Hawaiian style resort in Japan.

Spa Resort Hawaiians is the first Hawaiian style resort in Japan.

Hawaiian Spa Resort

“Leisure travel was not allowed for nearly two years after the end of the war. The war ended in 1945 and travel was severely restricted until 1964, but in “When the travel ban was lifted, Hawaii was one of the most popular places for Japanese people to visit,” Yaguchi said.

Even though they couldn’t go, they dreamed of Hawaii.

Spa Resort Hawaiians is a hot spring park in the Joban district of Fukushima Prefecture and is the epitome of Hawaii in the years after the ban.

As the coal industry declined in the 1960s, the local mining industry turned to tourism to help maintain jobs and revive the local economy, creating the first resort in Japan. , with a hot tub, palm trees and Hawaiian hospitality.

The rise in the value of the yen along with the Japanese economy in the 1980s gave Japan the ability to visit Hawaii until the 1990s, when the economy was at its peak.

“Hawaii became a beach paradise and a shopping paradise for the Japanese in the 1990s,” Yaguchi said. “Then there’s this reformulation or re-conceptualization of Hawaii as a shopping paradise (but more so) as a place for iyashi.”

The owner of Da Plate Lunch 808 wanted to create a Japanese lunch restaurant similar to the ones he visited in Hawaii.

The owner of Da Plate Lunch 808 wanted to create a Japanese lunch restaurant similar to the ones he visited in Hawaii.

Kathleen Benoza

Peace on a course

Lunch is a product of Hawaiian culture. It’s usually two servings of white rice, a side of macaroni salad with a big dollop of mayonnaise and your choice of protein, usually seasoned with thick, sweet fat.

“When I went to Hawaii and saw lunch, I found it interesting. There aren’t many lunch restaurants in Japan that come close to what I have in Hawaii,” said Akihiro Misono, who opened his Da Plate Lunch 808 lunch restaurant in Sakura, Chiba Prefecture, last year.

Honolulu radio station KSSK-FM from Hawaii is broadcast into the restaurant. Shoppers often sport a “palule aloha,” known as a Hawaiian shirt in the US.

Eggs ‘n Things, a breakfast bar and restaurant based in Hawaii, has only overseas locations in Japan. The first opened in Harajuku in 2010.

Kota Matsuda, Managing Director of Eggs ‘n Things Japan, shared the brand’s popularity among Japanese tourists visiting Hawaii.

“In these difficult times of Covid, for many people, the barriers to travel abroad are high. Not just for Hawaiian food but for the ‘Hawaiian Vibe,'” Matsuda said.

Eggs 'N Things is a Hawaiian breakfast restaurant with a large Japanese following.

Eggs ‘N Things is a Hawaiian breakfast restaurant with a large Japanese following.

Matsuda City

Posting your fandom

Surfer and surfer Yosuke “Yo-chan” Seki surfs every weekend and never tires of returning to Hawaii — he’s been going every year since 2011.

“Since I started wearing love shirts, I mostly wear them in my daily life,” said the 47-year-old. “I hope people will look at me wearing them and think they want to try wearing them. It costs about 20,000 to 30,000 yen.

Forty-year-old Asami Seki, a t-shirt lover, has a charity called 82 of love. A year ago, he started making hypoallergenic items that people could wear while they were surfing.

“I’ve only been to Hawaii once, but now, even though I can’t go because of cancer, I’ve slowly come to love Hawaii,” he said.

“I always wanted to go to Hawaii and I was always grateful before my first visit.

Her husband, Yosuke, agrees: “It’s become a status quo for me.”

Hawaiian shirts are also known "Love shirt" in Japan.

Hawaiian shirts are known as “palu aloha” in Japan.

Kathleen Benoza

“When I want to dress up, I wear love shirts. I feel like I’m very dressed up when I wear them and it’s really fun to choose a theme for the day and get together with other people,” said Asami.

The shirts are heavily influenced by Japanese craftsmanship and designs.

Sun Surf, a t-shirt brand under Toyo Enterprise with almost 50 years of experience, focuses on reproducing t-shirts from the 1930s -1950s. Its brand manager Yoshihiro Nakano, 47, is a t-shirt enthusiast who started collecting shirts at a young age.

According to Nakano, the aloha shirt started with the Japanese immigrants in Hawai’i.

“They wore Japanese clothes all the way to Hawaii. In the latter half of the 1800s, people came to Japan, and soon after, they started bringing Japanese clothes and clothes. .The locals saw and thought it would be interesting to make shirts using them, so they started making friendly shirts with Japanese styles,” said Nakano.

It started to work in the mass market after that. Instead of importing fabric rolls for Japanese clothes from Japan, stores in Hawaii brought in different types of printed fabrics for aloha shirts.

Today, these beloved shirts are considered collectors’ items.

“A lot of (customers) don’t wear (the shirts) and just collect them or hang them up,” Nakano said.

It’s in Iyashi’s soul.

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