Me: Have you ever been to America?
1000 Japanese People I’ve spoken to over the past 6 years: No, I haven’t. But, I have been to Hawaii.
Me: Hawaii is in America, you know.
1000 Japanese People I’ve spoken to over the past 6 years: You know what? You’re right!
Me: (To myself) Damn right, I’m right!!!
And then one day you pack your stuff and you board a JAL flight to Hawaii and 7 hours later find yourself on the island of Oahu, in the city of Waikiki…and you look around your hotel, and the beaches, and the shops, and the streets, and you listen to the language being spoken around you, and the language used on signs and advertisements and on three of the stations you can pick up on the TV in your hotel room, and you can’t help but check the stamp on your passport to make sure you got off the airplane in the right country.
Because all of the above is replete with Japanese.
Which would be all well and good if one of the highest highlights of vacationing away from Japan wasn’t getting away from Japanese people, language and all the foolishness you have to tolerate as an ex-pat in Japan for a spell, a mental breather, a hiatus so to speak.
Yes, if no one has made it official yet, let me be the first: Waikiki, which by all means is not the entire island of Oahu, but is the most popular area, is a Japanese colony in America. And if, like me, you live in Japan and vacationing to you means a brief respite from the Japanese, do your yourself a favor and avoid Waikiki at all costs. Because, at the risk of exaggerating, slightly, I will say there were as many Japanese in Waikiki as there were Hawaiians…
If I wanted to see an overabundance of Japanese in an exotic tropical locale I would have gone to Okinawa or Saipan.
I must admit, though, I never really thought of Hawaii much, certainly never thought of it as home before. When I thought of Hawaii, like most mainland Americans, I would think of, first and foremost. Pearl Harbor. As a WWII buff Pearl Harbor holds endless fascination for me. After that there’s also Hula, surfing, pineapples and, of course, Hawaii Five-O!
Tell me Jack Lord wasn’t the coolest cop in TV history (besides Columbo). And tell me that wasn’t the coolest theme music to a TV show ever.
Probably because I’m from the East coast, Hawaii has always seemed just a little too out of touch. When we Nor’eastern folk think exotic, tropical island, we don’t think umpteen hour flight across the country. We think 3-5 hour flights to the Caribbean. Jamaica comes to mind…
Not to mention Bermuda, The Bahamas, The Cayman Islands, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Cuba, St. Lucia, Trinidad, etc,etc, etc… I can’t speak for Californians and those west coast folks but on my side of the US, Hawaii rarely comes up in travel plans. Not even on a Bucket List.
That is, until Obama came along.
He’s from where? Hawaii? Say word?
Which, I must admit, is what put Hawaii on my radar as a possible vacation spot. That, and the recommendations that have flooded in since I’ve been living in Japan. It seems virtually every Japanese person has been to or will go to Hawaii in their lifetime. And their reviews of Hawaii are always chockfull of superlatives: The best this and the greatest that, most beautiful this and the most delicious that.I’m not exaggerating.
And MOST will probably never think of it as a trip to America.
One of my favorite Tom Clancy books, Debt of honor, is in part about an ill-advised bloodless Japanese invasion of the island of Saipan ( A US commonwealth located in the Mariana Islands of the Pacific), among other things. Until the battle of Saipan in 1944, Saipan was a Japanese territory. After that battle it became an American commonwealth. The fictional invasion from the novel was executed with 30,000 Japanese soldiers who would constitute immigrated citizens. Then once an election is held and these immigrants vote the Japanese criminals in the story would regain political power in the Marianas.
Silly, really, and a bit of Japan bashing to be sure but overall it was a great read. Mostly because Clark and Chavez are so damn cool.
Anyway…walking around Waikiki I was reminded of this book. It seriously felt like the island was under siege…and to make it worst, the natives (The Hawaiians) seemed to be in on it and welcomed it. It seems that Japanese tourism is a big part of the economy in Hawaii, so most businesses, especially in Waikiki, cater and pander to Japanese.
Which is all well and good until some goddamn tourist in my country, by virtue of the fact they have been made to feel very comfortable in my country by my fellow Americans (of Pacific Island descent), starts to get the idea that they can treat me like they would in their country…
Then we got problems!
to be continued…