The Final Film in the Award-Winning Hula Trilogy
“A reverent exploration of the intersection between culture and commerce.”
– Doc Edge Film Festival
Winner Best Moana Whārahi – Films from the Pacific, Doc Edge 2020
Audience Choice Award – Tokyo Lift Off Film Festival 2020
Nominated for Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary Feature – Guam International Film Festival 2020
Nominated for Best Documentary Feature - Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival 2020
Winner Best Feature Film – Made in Hawaiʻi Film Festival 2021
Winner Outspoken Voices Award – Outer Doc Film Festival 2021
TOKYO HULA explores the phenomenal popularity
of the hula dance in Japan from both Native Hawaiian
and Japanese perspectives.
Today it is estimated there are nearly 2 million people dancing hula in Japan – a figure greater than the entire population of Hawaiʻi. With more people dancing hula in Japan than in Hawaiʻi where the native art was born, this explosive growth has created a multi-million dollar industry based on culture as commodity. But what motivates Japanese students and teachers to dance hula and how is it translated into a foreign culture? How do Native Hawaiians participate in this cross-cultural exchange?
Many Hawaiian master hula teachers, or kumu hula, have found it difficult to sustain their hula schools in Hawaiʻi. The same is true for many musical artists, cultural experts, and performers who must often work day jobs to pursue their passions and supplement their income on an island home many would consider paradise – but where the cost of living only continues to rise. Many have discovered that there are more opportunities across the Pacific Ocean in Japan where a hula boom continues to grow – and pay the bills.
In TOKYO HULA, an examination of tourism, economics, and a love for all things Hawaiian fueling this cultural phenomenon is revealed by focusing on the personal stories of Japanese sensei who have started their own schools and Hawaiian kumu hula who are now living and teaching in Japan. Guided by curiosity and infused with humor, the documentary follows teachers and students both in and outside of hula classes and competitions to better understand their daily lives, struggles, and challenges in practicing a cultural art form in a foreign host country.
By juxtaposing the two main subjects – Japanese sensei Seiko Okamoto who is from Japan but trained by the late revered Hawaiian Kumu Hula Aloha Dalire and Hawaiian Kumu Hula Lōpaka Igarta-DeVera who was entrusted by Kumu Hula Sonny Ching to move to Japan to open a branch of their school, the film illuminates how the hula has become both big business as well as an evolving global tradition that continues to flourish in Japan.
KUMU HULA LŌPAKA
and the dancers of
Hālau Nā Mamo O Pu'uanahulu 'Iapana
and the dancers of
Nā Mamo O Kaleinani