Welcome to Japan (Nihon E Yokoso~)


There is no denying the strong influence Japanese Culture has had on Hawaii and our local culture.  Likewise, there is a strong love and connection from people living in Japan for our Hawaiian Culture.  One of the more popular podcasts in Japan is called the “Hawaii Podcast” and has a group of hosts – two in Hawaii and one in Japan.  Every week, they talk about upcoming events of interest in Hawaii and share other tidbits of local culture to a conservative estimate of over 20,000 listeners (2008 estimates).

Hula Performance Photo Courtesy of Keely Rivera

In our last post, we featured Alyssa Souza, a student at Brigham Young University who traveled across the United States and into Russia with the Living Legends Performance Group.  This week, Keely Kau’ilani Rivera was kind enough to share with us her experiences traveling to Japan with her halau, .  You may have seen Keely if you have flown on Hawaiian Airlines and watched some of the Hawaiian Performances showed during the last portion of the flight.   Here’s her message below:

“I started dancing hula at the age of five for Hālau Nā Lei Kaumaka O Uka, under the direction of nā kumu hula Nāpua Makua and Kahulu Maluo. At the time, I loved dancing hula merely because it was fun and I was able to socialize with other girls my age; little did I know that it would turn into my life-long passion. I attribute a lot of who I am and have grown to be to hula, to my culture. Hula has taught me valuable life lessons that have opened my eyes to the way I view the world around me. It has given me an everlasting gratitude for my culture and my kūpuna. I am currently a student at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo studying Hawaiian Language/Studies, Anthropology, and History. My hope is to be able to teach the future generations the value of culture and educate them on the importance of knowing who and where they come from.

Cast of Nā Lei o Hōkū 2008, Tōkyō, Japan ~ photo courtesy of Keely Rivera

“One of the main reasons why I love hula so much, is because it allows me to share my culture through dance. Not everyone can speak Hawaiian, and therefore, not everyone can understand the true meaning of traditional mele and moʻolelo. However, when an audience hears a song and can actually see the dancerʻs interpretation of the words through his/her body movements, they can better understand the meaning. Personally, I believe that dancing hula is rewarding for both the audience and for the dancer. When I am able to share my hula with others, I gain a sense of pride for my culture and then my desire to learn more about the ways of my kūpuna grows.

Keely at the DaiButsu (Giant Buddha) in Kamakura, Japan

“I have had several opportunities to travel to Japan with my hula hālau to perform in various locations, and every time I have gone, I have never been disappointed. It is so amazing to see such a rich and thriving culture that holds great value to tradition and is still so open to other cultures. I always enjoy dancing for the audiences there, because their love for the Hawaiian culture is so inspiring. It is so amazing to see and feel their appreciation for a culture that is not even theirʻs. Every time I return from a trip to Japan, I always come back humbled and so thankful to be Hawaiian and to know who I come from. He Hawaiʻi au mau a mau. Maopopo au i koʻu mau kūpuna a me koʻu mau kuleana. I am Hawaiian now and forever. I know who I come from and I know my responsibilities.”

An absolutely gorgeous shot of Keely Rivera dancing - photo courtesy of Keely Rivera

Keely is another member of the rising generation who love being Hawaiian and serve as a great ambassador for the islands!   Thanks Keely for sharing your thoughts with us and we wish you the best of luck in all your future endeavors!~


2 thoughts on “Welcome to Japan (Nihon E Yokoso~)

  1. I LOVE the Kamakura DaiBatsu picture! I think I have like a dozen of myself standing in that same spot from all of my visits there. Your blog is beautiful- very simple and lovely. 🙂

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