UNUKUPUKUPU: Traversing Yurihama, Japan

Experience shared by Manaiakalani Kalua                                   

Article edit by Jacqueline Van Blarcom

From July 4-11, UNUKUPUKUPU traveled to Yurihama, Tottori, Japan for the annual Hawaiian Festival. The Hawaiian Festival has been an ongoing event, for 13 years, as part of the sister city relationship between Yurihama and Hilo. This year has been UNUKUPUKUPU’s sixth year invited to participate in the festival.

As part of the festival, UNUKUPUKUPU presented workshops on hula, ʻukulele, and pēʻahi lau hala. There were numerous hula performances during the Festival, some of which are the sole venue of the invited hālau of this event. Unukupukupu performed, as said honored invitee, in the Welcome Concert that begins the Festival, in a handful of in-residence small performances, and in a grand one and a half hour concert that is the finale to the entire Festival.  Unukupukupu also participates in the Festival’s honoring of all the participating hālau, 42 in number this year that traversed from near and far. This year’s Festival was spectacular with over 700 participants in attendance.


UNUKUPUKUPU participating in the community cultural exchange with Yurihama town
Photo Courtesy of Yumi Hilomi Kashihala

Our participation in this event included a weeklong residency wherein we took part in a cultural exchange with the 1st and 2nd graders of Togo Elementary. Through instruction of a fun hand game, we took them on a journey around Hawaiʻi regaling the beauty of the districts we descend from.

The community cultural exchange was a highlight of this year’s trip wherein the local townspeople of Yurihama shared different dances of obon festivals from their region. They also shared with us the taiko-zen, a dance form utilizing the chiming of taiko implements. In turn we presented implement dances that speak to the different relationships of people including friendship, romantic involvement, love for family, and posterity. As the hula speaks to the fostering of these relationships to maturation, we also hope to nurture and foster our relationship with the Yurihama community.

We were very fortunate to visit Misasa Shrine, where we participated in a ceremony to clear the way for the remainder of the year and offered some of our energy and spirit to the well being of Yurihama. We were also shown many sites of the area and visited two distinctive waterfalls. The first waterfall we visited was one known for honoring nature and traditionally used for the ceremonial cleansing when one reaches their Yakudoshi years. The second we visited was a younger waterfall and is well known in the region for its beauty.

This was a spiritual journey taken by our physical bodies to bring into perspective the ties that bind our communities as oceanic people. E OLA LOA KĀNAKA A KAU KA PUA ANEANE!                                                                                       – Manaiakalani Kalua           










This entry was posted in Connecting with Their Communities/Culture. Bookmark the permalink.