Aug 30, 2012

Modernization and Indigenous Culture: Hula and Bon Odori

I'd like to write about the book "Mark Twain's Letters from Hawaii" again.

In this book he wrote about hula as follows.

At night they feasted and the girls danced the lascivious hula-hula―a dance that is said to exhibit the very perfection of educated motion of limb and arm, hand, head, and body, and the exactest uniformity of movement and accuracy of "time." ...

Of late years, however, Saturday has lost most of its quondam gala features. This weekly stampede of the natives interfered too much with labor and the interest of white folks, and by sticking in a law here, and preaching a sermon there, and by various other means, they gradually broke it up. The demoralizing hula-hula was forbidden to be performed, save at night with closed doors, in presence of few spectators, and only by permission duly procured from the authorities and the payment of ten dollars for the same. There are few girls nowadays able to dance this ancient national dance in the highest perfection of the art.

Mark Twain wrote this article in 1866. He always sympathized with Hawaiian culture, but at the same time he described how it had been lost. Now, of course, hula is one of the symbols of Hawaiian culture and nobody would think of trying to prohibit it.

Hula isn't just an element of Hawaiian culture but it spread overseas. For example, there are a lot of amateur hula dances now in Japan . But in 1866, the situation in Hawaii was that "There are few girls nowadays able to dance this ancient national dance in the highest perfection of the art."

This article reminded me of an essay written by Torahiko Terada, who was a famous scientist and essayist born in 1878. He wrote about "Bon Odori" in 1933. Bon Odori is now a very popular dance performed in summer festivals, now.
I wrote about this essay in my Japanese weblog.

I'll try to translate his essay into English.

I saw Bon Odori in a lonely beachside village in Tosa around 1901 or 1902 by chance, and since then I've never seen it again. At that time, I remembered that such a thing was thought to be "a savage and shamful custom that we didn't want Western people watching" and they were prohibited to be performed openly.

I was really surprised to know the fact that Bon Odori used to be prohibited and that Torahiko Terada had seen it only once, because Bon Odori is so popular now that we can't even imagine the possibility of it being prohibited.

I found the 36th (!) Bon Odori Festival 2012 in Malaysia on the internet. Bon Odori isn't as popular as hula in the world, but at least it isn't thought to be "a savage and shameful custom."

Modernization is homogenizing the world, andbut indigenous culture maintains the diversity of the world. Mark Twain knew the importance ofindigenous culture in Hawaii, for example hula, in the middle of the 19th century.

Aug 24, 2012

Hawaii in 1866 and 2012: "Mark Twain's Letters from Hawaii"

As I wrote in the previous entry, I visited Kauai Island, one of the Hawaiian Islands in this summer.

At a bookstore in Honolulu airport I bought the book "Mark Twain's Letters from Hawaii." I brought it everywhere I went during my visit to Kauai.

This book was written by Mark Twain in 1866. At that time he hadn't yet written any novel yet and he was a journalist. He took a trip to Hawaii islands and sent 25 articles to some newspapers in mainland America.

He observed astutely every side of Hawaii, nature, culture, society, industry, language, politics, and so on. Of course he had a great sense of humor and I really enjoyed reading it.

When I read it lying on the deck chair beside the pool in the hotel where I stayed, I went back to Hawaii in 1866.

In 1867 the Meiji Restoration occurred in Japan. The Edo Bakuhu, which was a regime ruled by the Samurai, was overturned, and Japan had became to be a modern nation state. One of the biggest causes of the Meiji Restoration was the visit of Matthew C. Perry's fleet of the U.S. Navy to Japan asking the Edo Bakuhu to open the country, because the U.S. Navy, American whalers, and shipping companies wanted to have bases in the eastern Pacific.

In this book, Mark Twain wrote about the whaling industry and shipping in the Pacific at that time in exact detail and I could understand the background of Japanese history much more than before.

In 1866, Hawaii was the Kingdom of Hawaii, which had been at the mercy of the imperialistic countries. Now, of course, Hawaii is a state of the U.S. The history of Hawaii reminds me Okinawa, Japan.

The Kingdom of Hawaii was established in 1810 by Kamehameha the Great with the help of western weapons and advisors, so it was deeply influenced by Western culture. For example, the flag of the Kingdom of Hawaii was the combination of the flags of British, French, and U.S. (, and now it is the flag of the state of Hawaii.), and some ministers were assumed by American, English, and French people.

In 1866, Okinawa, the southernmost part of Japanese islands, was the Kingdom of Ryukyu, which was formally an independent country. It had been at the mercy of China and Japan, and in 1879 it was annexed to be part of Japan. From 1945 to 1972 Okinawa was occupied by U.S. army, and it's no wonder that Okinawa could be like Guam, which is the unincorporated territory of the U.S, now.

I love Hawaii and Okinawa, so I visit there frequently. Though I love Hawaii in present times, I am thankful to Mark Twain for making it possible for me to to enjoy a Hawaii long gone, Hawaii in 1866.

Aug 18, 2012

The Perfect Climate for T-shirts

I visited Kauai Island, one of the Hawaiian islands for this summer vacation.

It's the fifth time to visit Hawaii, and the first time Kauai. I love to spend time on tropical islands, especially Okinawa, Japan, and Hawaii.

What I like most about Hawaii is its climate.

In Tokyo it's hot, moist, and, uncomfortable in summer. In daytime temperature rises over 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit), and I pour sweat in the open. In nighttime it keeps over 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit), and I can't sleep well. In doors it's too cool for me with air conditioners, but this coolness makes me feel no good.

On the other hand in Hawaii it's cooler and much dryer than in Tokyo. The sea breeze is always blowing, and it's really comfortable out in the open air.

There are many beer gardens in Tokyo during summer, but I don't feel like drinking beer in these beer gardens, because it's too hot and wet even in nighttime. On the contrary in Hawaii, it's weather is perfect for drinking beer or Pina Colada under an umbrella along the beach in either daytime or nighttime.

I also played golf in Kauai. In summer it's tough to play golf in Japan, because it's so hot that I get exhausted. I wasn't exhausted in Kauai after playing through 18 holes. I've never played golf more fun than this time.

I was always wearing a T-short and shorts in Hawaii. It's the perfect climate for T-shirts.

Aug 10, 2012

Richard Brautigan's "The Tokyo-Montana Express"

Last week I got a package by mail from England.

I couldn't remember what this package from England was. I opened it, and I found an old paperback.

In response to the entry "Haruki Murakami and American Literature" I got a comment, which recommended  that I read Richard Brautigan's "The Tokyo-Montana Express", because "Brautigan's novel The Tokyo-Montana Express is full of episodes which resemble instances and connections that we find in Murakami's novels."

I looked for this novel at, and I found that it was out of print, so I ordered a second hand book through At that time I didn't realize that I had ordered it from a second hand bookstore in England..

Although I could enjoy it, I don't necessarily think that this novel is resembled to Haruki Murakami's works. It is full of short episodes about slight matters in his everyday life. Short novels about slight matters in the author's everyday life are one of the categories in Japanese literature. "The Tokyo-Montana Express" doesn't resemble Haruki Murakami's works, but Japanese literature in general.

In these novels, authors write just the surface of their lives and don't get into the depths beneath. Brautigan also stopped at the surface intentionally. He revealed his backstage in the episode "Dancing feet."

In conventional storytelling this would be a good time to say some things about the life of the businessman: Maybe his age, country, background, family, does he masturbate? is he impotent? etc., but I won't because it's not important.

Brautigan cut off what he thought of as important from his everyday life, and just put them to me. He didn't interpret them and let us interpret them by ourselves.

Aug 4, 2012

Olympic Games and Internationalization: Judo and NBA

In Japan, judo matches in the London Olympic games has been broadcasted everyday. Although I don't dislike judo matches, I've almost got a little bored with them.

I want to watch basketball games, but they are not broadcasted on TV, because the Japanese national team doesn't appear. (I can watch them through the internet.)

I wonder if judo is proper for the Olympic games. I expect Olympic games of the best performance by the top athletes. Nevertheless judo's been internationalized, it's still a minor sport in the world. The top athletes might choose major sports, I guess.

In the London Olympic games we can see Lebron James and Kobe Bryant with the U.S. uniform, Pau Gasol with Spanish uniform, and Manu Ginobili with Argentine uniform, who are the real top athlete, playing basket ball.

In the Barcelona Olympic games 1992, the U.S. men's national basketball team, the dream team, appeared and won a gold medal. The member of the other country teams saw almost Michel Jordan playing just like as his big fans.

And then, many players from all over the world joined the NBA and they thought about themselves as equivalent players to Michel Jordan. In the Athens Olympic games 2004, the U.S. men's national team missed a gold medal. Now, the NBA has been internationalized and got more colorful.

Some Japanese are pointing that some foreign judo fighters don't learn the judo sprit. But it's natural that the judo spirits are getting diverse with the internationalization of judo. If they wanted to keep the purity of the judo spirit, judo shouldn't join the Olympic games.