I was so excited about this culture project I needed to do for my Japanese class in school which aimed to explain why Japanese tourism is so prevalent in Hawai‘i. I wrote to seven different people in the tourism industry in Hawai‘i asking questions that I thought might yield some answers for me and add depth to my project. As someone who is learning Japanese specifically so that I am better equipped to work in the tourism industry in Hawai’i if I should continue to want to when I’m older, I put a lot of effort into those emails. I researched the best person at each place, personalized each email, and kept my questions brief and professional so that I might get some responses.
Two of my targets were resorts that are focused on children and families, the Disney Aulani and the Hilton Waikoloa Village, and I even mentioned the fact that my family are long-time Disney and Hilton devotees. Surely they, at least, would take pity on a twelve-year-old.
I was pretty proud of myself.
Week one passed with no response.
Week two… ditto.
And today as the deadline I’ve set for myself looms, I must face the bleak fact that no replies are coming my way.
Disheartened, I decided to pursue some answers for myself. Thanks to two helpful articles I located, I’ve learned a lot.
Right now, the number of Japanese tourists traveling outside their own country has been decreasing. Yet Hawai‘i “…is without a doubt the most resilient Japanese travel destination,” with 1.5 million Japanese tourists coming to the archipelago last year alone, according to Philip Brasor and Masako Tsubuku in their article in The Japan Times “Japanese tourists’ longing for Hawaii is still worth banking on.” In fact, “… flights for all airlines between Japanese airports and Hawaii are running at 80-90 percent capacity.”
Also, they note that 60 percent of Japanese tourists going to Hawai‘i have visited Hawai‘i before.
But why do they make this long trek halfway across an ocean?
Hawaii has a long history of luring Japanese travelers, going as far back as before World War II, and then really taking off when the song “Akogare no Hawaii Koro” (which means “The Hawaii Cruise I Long For”) became a hit in 1948.
It was still just a pipe dream for most to go to Hawai‘i until the 1970s when middle class people could finally afford to make the trip.
Now, “practically anyone” can afford a trip there according to The Japan Times article, with the average monthly salary of a worker in Japan at 205,000 yen, while a package tour of Hawai‘i can run as little as 79,000 yen.
So, the price is a huge draw for people in Japan.
Also, the Japanese language is common in Hawaii and the tourism industry works hard to maintain that. In the hotel where I stayed recently, the Hilton Waikoloa Village, they had an entire “Asian Lobby” dedicated to people from Asia complete with Japanese speaking staff and Japanese brochures and signs. That was when I became interested in learning Japanese so that I could get a job if I move to Hawai‘i. As Brasor and Tsubuku state, “A visitor can spend a week or two in Hawaii without ever having to use English or, for that matter, emerging from their Japanese comfort zone in terms of food and accoutrements.”
Also, as noted by the unnamed managing editor of an eTurboNews article I found, “Why Japanese tourists keep coming to Hawaii – and love it,” Umeyoshi Kakinuma, director of Jalpak’s Hawaii and Micronesia GroupTravel states that, “Hawaii has a pleasant climate and a high level of public safety, and also well-developed tourism resources such as beaches and hula shows… The food is delicious, too. Free loop-line buses operated by travel companies run every few minutes, and do the rounds of major tourist attractions.”
For these reasons, Hawai‘i continues to be not only a favorite destination for me, but for many people in Japan. And while I’m crestfallen that I didn’t receive any answers, I still learned a lot. I still hope to work in that industry and, when a twelve-year-old writes to me, I will make certain I give them a reply.
Brasor, Philip, and Masako Tsubuku. “Japanese Tourists’ Longing for Hawaii Is Still Worth Banking On.” The Japan Times, www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/03/12/business/ japanese-tourists-longing-hawaii-still-worth-banking/#.Wvx81C-ZPSx.
“Why Japanese Tourists Keep Coming to Hawaii – and Love It.” eTurboNews (ETN), 29 July 2013, www.eturbonews.com/71582/why-japanese-tourists-keep-coming-hawaii-and-love- it.