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
HIFF 2019 PREMIERE
COMPETITIONS/FILM FESTIVAL OFFICIAL SELECTION & AWARDS
Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival (October 10-17, 2019)
· AM/NESIA: The Forgotten Archipelagos of Oceania
Hawaiʻi International Film Festival (November 7-17, 2019)
· Made in Hawaiʻi Competition
· November 11 & 17 – Honolulu, Regal Dole Cannery Theaters
· November 21 – Kahului, Maui Arts & Cultural Center
· November 24 – Hilo, The Palace Theater
FIFO TAHITI (February 1-9, 2020)
· Festival International du Film Documentaire Ocenaien/Maison de la Culture, Papeʻete
HIFF HANA HOU! – Waimea Film Festival (February 17, 2020)
· Kauaʻi, Waimea Film Festival Screening
DisOrient Asian American Film Festival of Oregon (March 12-15, 2020)
· Preview night: Discover Asian American Indie
Tokyo Lift Off Film Festival (June 8-14, 2020) (online)
· Headliners Feature Documentary Competition highlighted by jury
· Winner, Audience Choice 2020
DocEdge International Documentary Film Festival (June 12-July 5, 2020) (online)
· Official Selection & Competition – New Zealand (Auckland & Wellington)
· Winner Best Moana Whārahi - Films from the Pacific
Wairoa Māori Film Festival (October 2020 - postponed TBD)
· Official Selection – Kahungunu Marae, Nuhaka & Gaiety Theatre, Wairoa, New Zealand
Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (September 24-October 31, 2020) (online)
· Official Selection LAAPFF screening on October 22, 2020
CAAMFEST Forward Film Festival (October 14-18, 2020) (online)
· Official Selection CAAMFEST Pacific Showcase screening on-demand in San Francisco Bay Area
Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival (November 5-15, 2020) (online)
· Official Selection PAAFF
Guam International Film Festival (November 2020 TBA on PBS Guam)
· Official Selection GIFF
· Nominated for Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary Feature
Made in Hawaiʻi Film Festival (January 22-24, 2021 (Hilo) and January 30, 2021 (Kona) (TBD)
· Official Selection MIHFF (Kona/Hilo, Big Island)
· Nominated Best Feature – Winners Selected by Hawaiʻi Film Critics Society
TOKYO HULA is a co-production of Lehua Films, LLC. and Pacific Islanders in Communications (PIC), and was developed with the support of the Independent Television Service (ITVS) with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and the Ford Foundation.
FUNDING PROVIDED BY:
Pacific Islanders in Communications, Media Completion Funding I Pacific Islanders in Communications, Media Production Funding
Jerome Foundation Travel & Study Grant I Pacific Islanders in Communications Research & Development Funding
Independent Television Service (ITVS) Diversity Development Fund
Say hello. Let's work together.
Complete the form or reach out via email at email@example.com, or by phone at
If you are interested in obtaining a copy of a film for use in educational institutions, libraries or other organizations, please contact Lisette Flanary for institutional rates. Purchase orders can be emailed to .
Please note that companion discussion guides and educator's materials are available for films. Mahalo!