Japanese-Hawaii Culture

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Happy Thursday Dashing Readers!  Today I wanted to share a post with you that I had shared on Melyssa's blog, The Nectar Collective last month.... Enjoy!

Through the last two months of getting to know Melyssa, through twitter chats and her blog – I’ve come to realize that we found some similarities in things we experience or encounter in life even though we are roughly 4,000+ miles away from each other.  The thing is that Hawaii and Japan have been intertwined for over a century and much of the regional Hawaii culture today has been influenced by Japan (and many other Asian countries).   I thought it would be interesting to talk about Japan’s influence in Hawaii, so without further ado…

Cultural Festivals
One of the most publicized events in Hawaii is the Memorial Day Floating Lantern Ceremony which was started back in 1999 by Shinnyo-en Buddhist Master, Her Holiness Shinso Ito.  Her mission is to bring together many “rivers” that form one “ocean”.  The ceremony is an outward expression of our commitment to harmony and peace.  Throughout the ceremony there are a mixture of Hawaiian and Japanese elements such as the Hawaiian ‘Oli and Japanese Taiko Drumming that make this ceremony a one of a kind experience.  There are also many other Japanese cultural events that take place throughout the year.

While most students in the continental US take up Spanish or French, most Hawaii students learn Japanese.  Tourism is our economy’s number one industry and most of our tourism revenue comes from Japan.  That said, we cater to our lovely Japanese tourists with Japanese signage at popular places, especially in the tourist district, Waikiki.  Also – many popular tourist stops as well as most state/county publicized materials are available in Japanese.  Besides traditional Japanese language we also borrow words from the Japanese to use in our own Hawaiian “creole”, or pidgin. Bocha is derived from the Japanese word for splash and refers to bathing.  Habut is short term for habuteru, which means to be in a bad mood. Mochi Crunch or Kaki Mochi refers to arare or rice crackers. Shoyu is the Japanese term for soy sauce. Skosh is a Japanese derived term for “a little bit”.  It is derived from the term sukoshi.

Oh, where do we even begin?  Well I guess the ‘ol Spam Musubi (Hawaii’s onigiri)!  Hawaii loves Japan’s musubi.  We love it  the traditional Japanese style – plain or with ume; and we love it even more with SPAM!  Then you have Spam Katsu Musubi (spam dredged in egg and panko, then fried), Teri Spam Musubi, Spam and Egg Musubi and now we even have Mochiko Chicken Musubi.  Personally, my favorite condiment is this bottle of wet nori that you can get in the Asian isle of most grocers and Longs.  I’m not sure of the official name as the bottle is completely in Japanese, but I love it.  It is amazing in a musubi or just plain rice.  By the way, we LOVE rice too.  It is our main staple and we eat it with everything.   

Mochi!  Mochi is basically mochiko flour, something wet and good flavoring with a hint of sugar.  People in Hawaii make a ton of variations.  Besides the obvious green tea, azuki bean and peanut butter, some companies make mochi stuffed with chocolate dipped strawberries and even whole oreo cookies.

Then you have the Okazuya.  Okazuyas were born out of a desire of Japanese plantation workers to have their own business.  Most okazuyas open around 6am and close at 2pm.  They offer a wide range of traditional Japanese food, western food, and a combination of the two.   

Some of my favorite Japanese food and snacks are: musubi, shrimp tempura, chi chi dango mochi, tako, arare, nori, nishime, kamaboko (fishcake), miso soup with tofu, gyoza, teppanyaki, furikake and more.

I could go on and on about Japan’s influence in Hawaii.  Rather, please visit the following sites and you can learn much more about how our cultures and traditions are intertwined together: Hawaii Bonsai Association | Ho’opulapula Haraguchi Rice Mill |  Lili’uokalani Gardens | Cherry Blossom Festival | UltimateGuide to Japanese Food in Hawaii | Club Narwhal Goes to Valley of the Temples

Do you live in a melting-pot where cultures are intermixed?  Tell us in the comments below!! (And thank you Melyssa for letting me take over your space!)

Domo Arigato – Sayonara
Aukere-san (my Japanese name according to some of the Japanese workers in my kitchen at work).

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1 comment:

  1. that's so neat that there is so much similarity! i had no idea!


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