Waikiki via Japan: pt.1

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.

Not home.


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…


37 Responses to “Waikiki via Japan: pt.1”

  1. November 17, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    America is a contient, not a country. The country is called USA. Hawaii is part of USA but not part of America.


    • November 17, 2009 at 8:31 pm

      You know what I mean, Enekochan…
      or do you?

    • 3 Brewski_McChug
      November 19, 2009 at 4:28 pm

      Uh, no enekochan. Continents are “North America” and “South America”. There is no continent (nor any “contient” as you say) called simply “America”.


      Secondly, Japanese refer to the nation of the United States of America as, simply, “America”. While we’re on it, the rest of the world also commonly refers to the USA as “America”.

  2. November 17, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    I know one thing for sure: you don’t know basic geography. Like most people in USA. And no, you can’t go from USA to Spain by car!

  3. 5 poopypants
    November 17, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    loco, i know exactly what you mean about having to tell people everyday that hawaii is america. recently i had an encounter with a woman and i asked her if she had been to the good ol us of a. she said “no, i dont speak english.” so then i asked her “what countries have you been to?” and she goes “korea, hong kong (technically china but whatever), etc.” so i ask her “do you speak korean or cantonese?” naturally she says no, so i said “then technically you should never leave japan right?” she shut up pretty fast lol. another time someone told me that they dont consider hawaii part of america because its not on the continental US. so then i said, “by that logic, okinawa, shikoku, hokkaido and all the other small islands off japanese shores are not japan right?” again, they shut up pretty fast lol.

    poopy out.

    • November 17, 2009 at 9:52 pm

      Poopy-san, thanks again for the shout.
      yep, you get me

    • November 17, 2009 at 10:49 pm

      I someone asked me if I had been in America I would think about all the continent, not only Brazil. I know people from Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia, … Do they live in America or in USA? It’s your choise to continue using the wrong or the correct terms. Or do you call an apple like an orange? You USA people are not the center of the world.

      Hawaii is NOT part of America, doesn’t matter how many times you say it.

      I have one question, if you use America as synonym for USA, what word do you use to say America as continent?

    • November 18, 2009 at 9:26 am

      I use the correct name Enekochan: North America. But when I say “America” I mean it, like most people, it’s not so much a synonym as an abbreviation of “The United States of America.” Nobody calls Canada or Mexico by America. Brazil, Chile, etc…are on a different continent. They are in South America. No one calls South America by America, at least to my knowledge. North America and South America are two DIFFERENT continents dude….best check your own geography text books

    • November 18, 2009 at 4:44 pm

      You didn’t use North America until now. And North America also includes Canada, so saying North America doesn’t only mean USA either. America is formed by North America and South America. Even you like it or not.

      It depends about what continental model you talk, but America will always be formed by North America and South America. If you want to use a abbreviation for “The United States of America” use USA. Thats why acronims where invented.

      This is the last time I post here. Don’t like my post to be deleted and responses edited ones I response to them.

    • November 18, 2009 at 6:46 pm

      Enekochan, The reason I edited them was to spare my readers your nonsense…You clearly don’t know what you’re talking about but persists in displaying your ignorance…
      For the last friggin’ time, America is short for the United States of America and North America is the continent.
      I understand English is your second or third language but please try and read again and comprehend what I’ve written BEFORE you respond (if you so choose)

    • November 18, 2009 at 5:14 pm


  4. 12 Theklan
    November 17, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    @poopypants Technically Okinawa IS Japan as Hawaii is the USA. But Hawaii is not America as Guam island is not. Another example: French Guyana IS America and it’s also France… but it’s not Europe. It IS European Union, but not Europe.

    America = Geographical word
    Hawaii = Geographical word
    USA = Political word

    • November 18, 2009 at 9:23 am

      Okinawa was acquired just as Hawaii was aquired Theklan-san (appropriate name). Guam is a commonwealth, a US territory, not a state. Hawaii, though not part of the continental US is a STATE, therefore part of the USA. Ask the President…he’ll tell you. He’s from there and you must be an AMERICAN citizen to become president. America is not a geographical word. NORTH America is. You can look it up…

  5. 14 Dug
    November 18, 2009 at 12:16 am

    Ha.. i went there 20yrs ago and wondered if half of japan took their vacations at the same time.
    really love reading your insites. keep it up.

    • November 18, 2009 at 5:40 am

      Thanks Dug

  6. November 18, 2009 at 12:33 am

    Yo, Yeah I feel ya on that. Having live din Hawaii and just returned form a visit. It is much as you say in Wakiki. I like to avoid it unless I want to do some Asian sight seeing…

    Now here is what this comment is about, you have been of late signing everything “to be continued” but nothing ever is, WTF is up homes?!?!?

    • November 18, 2009 at 5:39 am

      I continue MOST of them but I’m battling ADD over here some cut me some slack LOL
      Thanks for the shout Zen-san and for your Zen-like patience (-;

  7. 18 Kevin
    November 18, 2009 at 9:08 am

    Japan traded Roppongi for the Hawaiian Islands back in the 90s. About the same property value. ;-P
    Really love the blog Loco!

    • November 18, 2009 at 9:09 am

      Thanks Kev! Yeah it appears so.
      Yeah, it is expensive as hell in Hawaii!

  8. 20 poopypants
    November 18, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    i think we are having a problem here of people talking about the literal context of thing. these people also troll forums and are commonly referred to as “grammar nazis.” assuming you are going to take every single thing at face value (as anything less would make you a hypocrite), i can only imagine how difficult it would be for you to master another language. i mean, you must be literally translating everything. so 私はpoopypantsです。 becomes “i poopypants is.” right? we all took social studies in elementary school, we all know that america is a continent, and we also all know that when someone says “america” they are using it as shorthand for the United States of America. i mean, i guess all the news sources are wrong right? (just picked a few examples from many)




    this also means that when you refer to china you MUST refer to it as the peoples republic of china and when you refer to north korea, you MUST refer to it as the democratic peoples republic of korea, right? if you answer no, you are a hypocrite. it seems everyone on the face of the planet knows that, given the context (key word here folks), america can be used to refer to the USA or the continent.

    poopy out.

  9. 21 Bored in Kanagawa
    November 18, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    If you want a taste of America in Waikiki go to the Cellar for tatoo Thurday. I bet that will bring back some East, West, and down South memories, hood style!

  10. 22 Bored in Kanagawa
    November 18, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Why are you guys so stuck on geography? Is just as simple as Loco mentioned above if I were to ask a random person where they are from and the answer was American, of course it’s understood he/she aren’t speaking of Mexico or Canada. People from those countries just say Mexico or Canada not North America. Give me a break does anyone say I’m North American when asked where they are from?

  11. November 18, 2009 at 8:20 pm


    Holy moly, this tickled me pink! The man just wanted to talk about his dad-burned holiday! Christ on the cross, weeping.

  12. 24 mas
    November 19, 2009 at 3:16 am

    educational!!! have a good time dude

    • November 19, 2009 at 5:23 am

      back already dude

  13. 26 Brewski_McChug
    November 19, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    I am an American from America. God bless the USA!

  14. 27 Annoyed
    November 21, 2009 at 5:02 am

    You know absolutely nothing about Hawaii. I mean who are you even referring to as Hawaiian? The Hawaiian and or other Pacific Islander population here is less than 10%. True Hawaiians are a rare breed around here now. Also even though Hawaii is recognized by the US and many other countries as a state, it was actually illegally annexed, as there was NEVER a true treaty signed, and the US broke international laws of sovereignty in their means of attaining the territory. Hawaii was one of the first kingdoms granted sovereignty which is something that cannot be ripped away once it is established. You should try doing some research, the three pages about Hawaii in your high school textbook aren’t necessarily accurate or honest. I mean you come to Hawaii, make all of these presumptuous assumptions about the land, and you think that you’re making some sort of significant point here by saying that there are just sooooo many Japanese people here. There is a huge Japanese population here mainly because they were brought over as plantation workers from the mid 1880s and hence have had a great influence on the Hawaiian culture. And as for the influx of Japanese tourists that come to Hawaii, yeah Japanese tourists love Waikiki just like they love Disneyland and Hollywood. These places are called “tourist attractions”. Waikiki is the most popular place in Hawaii? Uh, ok maybe to people that come visit for a week, but residents sure as hell do not go there. Waikiki is not at all representational of the real Hawaii. It’s got a fancy paradiso facade created by multi-national corporations for the sake of $$. I mean, much of the Hawaiian culture has been destroyed by this kind of crap. LOCALS don’t have money, they don’t see that shit “trickle down” like the American government claims. It’s all bs. I truly regret that you came to Hawaii stayed in Waikiki of all places and left with the most manufactured understanding of it. You know nothing about our people’s culture, heritage, life, land. Do some real research, or next to you come here try talking to a real local rather than just other visitors or hospitality workers.

    • November 21, 2009 at 7:52 am

      Umm, annoyed, sorry, never claimed to know anything about real Hawaiians and real Hawaiians are irrelevant to my post, as is your rant, but i let it slide because, i don’t know, you seemed to have something you want to get off your chest and I can totally identify with that. I’m sorry if I made u feel I was trying to come off as some sort of authority on Hawaiian culture or people…I wasn’t. I’m not even sure how you cam to that conclusion. I mean, after having spent only 5 days there, that would be really stupid of me and mama didn’t raise any fools. And sorry if you were expecting a history of real Hawaii when you came to my blog…or even of the Japanese experience in Hawaii…I really don’t know much about that stuff nor claim to….but you made some interesting points if they are accurate thanks for sharing.
      and thanks for the shout

  15. 29 Annoyed
    November 21, 2009 at 5:16 am

    Oh yeah also, Mr. Loco Yoko. Try stepping outside of this US mindset you’ve cultivated and learning and paying attention to things outside of US discourse. In Canada, Europe, Latin America, people understand that America is not just the US. Try looking at a tourism book on Chile, Columbia, Argentina, Venezuela, Peru, etc, the word America is used to describe all of these countries, because America existed before the USA. Our government just chose to incorporate it into it’s official name. And because this country has such an egocentric view, we claim that WE are America… when in deed every country in the two American continents are. So yeah… you might get some fellow American’s to agree with you on your point, but it’s recognized as pure ignorance when anyone else hears it. Sorry I’m not trying to be a jerk, just pointing things out that are obvious to the rest of the world.

    • November 21, 2009 at 7:37 am

      geez, not another one….annoyed, please read previous rants before commenting

  16. 31 Annoyed
    November 21, 2009 at 5:18 am

    haha i meant “Americans” in the sense that our countrymen understand it

  17. November 22, 2009 at 12:43 am

    I understand the sentiment that the common understanding and use of America as shorthand for the U.S.A is an indicator of the exclusion of many different nationalities and peoples, and a reflection of the power relations between the U.S and the rest of the Americas. I think there is merit to the argument that Loco should have been more cognizant of the potential for his language to cause offense.

    I gotta say, though. My feeling is that if you demand circumspection, you ought to be prepared to engage in it yourself. Which is to say, I’ve been entertained greatly by some very ironic criticisms on this thread.

    God bless the internet.

  18. 33 Rune
    November 22, 2009 at 4:16 am

    Here in Denmark, ‘Amerika’ and USA are interchangable. ‘Amerikaner’ is used to refer to people from the USA.
    In the UK, ‘America’ and USA are interchangable. ‘American’ is used to refer to people from the USA.
    In Germany, ‘Amerika’ and ‘der USA’ are interchangable. ‘Amerikaner’ is used to refer to people from the USA.
    In Japanese, アメリカ is used for the US. アメリカ人 (America person) is used to refer to people from the USA.

    So, it’s quite widespread to shorthand ‘a citizen of the United States of America’ to ‘an American’. If referring to someone from the North American continent, one usually uses the construction ‘a North American’ and for South America ‘a South American’. These constructions appear as they do due to expedience. Reffering to a denizen of the USA is something that occours more often than reffering to someone from the North American continent. So grow up people, there is nothing implicitly racist or countryist or whatever-ist in the phrase. Normally I am the first to lambaste American Exceptionalism when I encounter it, but here you are just being petulant PC-whores.

    • November 22, 2009 at 7:04 am

      Rune san to the rescue!!!
      Petulant PC Whores LOL ROTFLMAO!!!

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