When Japan Meets Pele



I have the best job in the world: connecting cultures. And together with our partners at the UHH Conference Center we have the resources to deliver an amazing array of authentic Hawaiian “educational adventures” to our guests.

Well, we just wrapped up a beautiful, inspirational program and are basking in the warm afterglow of success. We’ll cruise through the next couple days totally full of ourselves–then on Monday get to the humbling task of reflecting on ways to improve. But what a great way to kick off the holiday weekend!

This gig was a blast. We hosted a group of 24 lovely hula instructors from Japan. Our guests made the trek all the way to Hilo to study traditional “Hilo-style” Kahiko. Special thanks to Kumu Hula Kiwala’o, the staff at UHH and Samurai Wife for all their hard work. Our guests went home smiling, vowing to return next year. We will continue to nurture this relationship so we can (hopefully) keep them coming back every year.

To keep things pono with our community and promote sustainability, we partnered with quality local vendors and service providers including:

UHH Conference Center
Kumu Hula Kiwala’o and her assistant
An interpreter
A band (a big mahalo to Chino, Kahele and Darren of Island Notes)
Four hip-hop dancers
A photographer
A hotel in Hilo
Restaurants in Hilo
Transportation services (the bus driver thought he died and went to heaven :-))
A catering service
Local craftsmen (ipu heke and hala)

Our guests inspired us. They were sensitive, respectful, and relentless in their efforts to learn the proper chants, steps and protocol required to dance at hula pa. Their training culminated in a dance performance and offering to Pele at the crater’s edge. For those of you with mystical leanings, it’s worth noting that an earthquake occurred right around the time of their offering. Coincidence? I’ll let you be the judge.

And of course we threw a big bash at our house afterwards to celebrate our guests’ hard work and dedication. We hired a great band and our hula dancer guests performed for us. To spice up the party even more, we hired a local b-boy group to perform.

Pictures tell the story better than words. I’ll add more after we consolidate and organize all our photos, but this will get us started. Enjoy!

Day One

Day One

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Learning to play ipu heke

Learning to play ipu heke

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Kiwala'o getting her students ready for the big performance

Kumu Hula Kiwala'o getting her students ready for the performance

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Before the offering

Before the offering

The offering

The offering







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Copyright © Tim Sullivan 2009

All pictures and written material are the intellectual property of Tim Sullivan


6 responses to “When Japan Meets Pele

  1. Wow! That looks beautiful and exciting! I’d love to come watch the performance next year!

  2. I can only picture the smile on that bus drivers face.

    You do have a great job!!! Let me know when you resign. 😉

  3. Anna Marie Cesaletti

    aloha and congratulations on a very interesting and stimulating event shared by the Japanese teachers. How lucky can you get? I’m sure it made a lasting impression. I am privileged to call Kumu Kiwalao my dear friend. I witnessed her journey in hula and know first hand how deserving she is to be called Kumu. Good luck with this program. Keep up the good work.
    Aloha. Anna Marie Cesaletti

  4. Aloha Anna Marie!

    Thanks for checking in and taking time to post. Thanks to Kumu Kiwala’o, the program was a smashing success. It was a pleasure working with Kiwala’o. And our Japanese guests raved about her! Can’t wait to do it again 🙂

    Tim & Kurumi

  5. Hey Tim,

    Looks like a great event. Wish I were there.

    I know of one, maybe two, banjo players on the islands (one guy lives on Maui). These guys play very traditional music from the mountains of Kentucky, West Virginia, North and South Carolina, etc. It ain’t Bluegrass and of course, as far as I know now, it ain’t got any island influences. They play other instruments as well. If you would be interested in having them participate in one of your musical events, I can make set up the contacts. Let me know.


  6. Dave, if your friend(s) are on the East side of the Big Island, then I’d love to meet ’em.

    Hey, why don’t you jump on a plane and fly over so you too can participate in one of our musical events? Not enough harmonica players on the island

    Also, sorry to hear the evil developers are knocking on your back door. We’re trying to stave off the same forces of evil here. Hope it works out. Stay in touch.

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