15th Annual Honolulu Festival (2009)

The 15th Annual Honolulu Festival (2009)

Interview with the Executive Director of Toba City Tourist Association, Kenji Komiyama

The members of Toba City Tourist Association participated at the Honolulu Festival, which will be their sixth time this year. Today, we interviewed the Executive Director, Kenji Komiyama.

Kenji Komiyama

Kenji Komiyama

toba_qCan you tell us how Toba City Tourist Association began participating at the Honolulu Festival?
toba_aThere is what we call Japan Association of Travel Agents in Toba, where I first heard about the Honolulu Festival. We knew that this festival is gaining popularity every year and our members said they want to participate again. Ever since our first appearance, we’ve been participating at the festival which will be the sixth time this year.

Also, I used to work for the travel agency, so I often made a visit to Hawaii. We are busy with the Honolulu Festival but the great thing about Hawaii is that it is a refreshing place, where the air is fresh and you can relax.

toba_qThis is your sixth time at the Honolulu Festival. Is there any particular incident you remember from the previous festivals?
toba_aThere are a total of 30 members that participate in the parade. Every year, I get impressed by the fact that they are dripping their sweats and dancing for Toba. Also, our performers are from Toba which I feel very thankful. In addition, 30 members were from Japan and 15 members were from Honolulu.

The dancers at the Grand Parade on March 15th. The result of all the practices was displayed magnificently.

This is a scene from the Grand Parade. It is time to make their practice pay off.

The Ama lady shell divers of Toba-City pass out packets of pearls to the spectators at the parade to promote their port city. The crowds love it!

The participant from Toba is dressed up as a woman diver and handing out pearls to promote their city.

toba_qHow do you recruit your volunteers in Hawaii?
toba_aI ask my friend who currently lives in Hawaii to recruit our local volunteers that can dance with us. I met him when I was working for the travel agency. Our previous volunteers will be participating in the parade this year as well.

The majority of the volunteers are Japanese that live in Hawaii. On the other hand, our volunteers from last year consisted of people from Hawaii and other countries. Also, everybody will be able to dance by practicing one or two times since the the dance itself is not that difficult to learn. We brought the Toba’s happi for our volunteers to wear as well.

Practices are held for "Toba Monogatari" at the hotel. The dancers are in unison since many of the local volunteers participated last year.

The members of Toba City Tourist Association practiced dancing to the song “Toba Monogatari” with their volunteers in the room of a hotel. There were many volunteers from last year which they hit it off really well.

The teacher explains about happi and the head decoration to the volunteers.  They are all having a great time.

The instructor of Toba Monogatari is explaining about the happi and hair ornament to the volunteer in a friendly atmosphere.

toba_qCan you explain about the song “Toba Monogatari”? 

Tobamonogatari Song

The lyrics of Toba Monogatari

toba_aThis song was written and composed by the Toba citizens so that they can enjoy dancing for Toba City. The lyrics express the feeling of a wife who waits for her husband’s arrival during the Sengoku period. Also, there is an annual festival called “Toba Minato Matsuri” which is held on July, where people of Toba enjoy dancing to it.

toba_qWhat international activities are Toba involved in?
toba_aToba is a city of international tourism and culture which is also a Sister city with Santa Barbara in the U.S. The people from Santa Barbara come to visit Japan and we visit their city in vice versa every year. We are spreading our tradition of Toba by dancing Toba Monogatari and performing the taiko drumming through cultural exchange program.Unlike Santa Barbara, the Japanese culture is very much apparent in Hawaii, so I don’t think we will feel the cultural barriers. Also, we sometimes perform Toba Monogatari in China and Korea.

Pictures of the Cultural Exchange Program in Toba



toba_qIn what way do you encourage interaction and also promote Toba City at the Honolulu Festival?
toba_aWe encourage the locals to participate in the parade and dance with us. Also, our members will be dressed as a woman diver and hand out pearls to the audience. The woman diver is a woman who dives into the sea to catch abalone and lively shrimps. We get good reaction from the audiences, because I think that the majority understands the Japanese culture, since there are many Japanese people in Hawaii. I can see the differences of cultures within the U.S. because I often visit to Santa Barbara.

Last year, we appeared on the local 101 FM radio program to promote our city Toba, which was hosted by the DJ Ikko Tomita. I would like to meet with her again and give our picture from last year to her.

toba_qWhat do you think about community building in Honolulu?
toba_aI think Honolulu is a great place for community building from a perspective of the Tourism Association. This is because Hawaii is very tender or filled with hospitality, where it naturally accepts tourists with open arms.

We have something to learn from the tourism in Hawaii. Currently, Toba has an annual tourists arrival of 5 million and those that stay in the city is about 2.1 million. Approximately, 90 thousands of them are from overseas. Hawaii is a place that people stay at least for 4 nights but those who visit to Toba mostly stay for one night. Similarly to Hawaii, we would like to expand Toba to increase repeat guests.

toba_qPlease tell us about the attractions of Toba. 
toba02toba_aToba is a port city which is famous for Pearls. Kokichi Mikimoto is credited with creating the world’s first cultured pearl in 1893. There is an island called Mikimoto Pearl Island, where you can visit the Pearl Museum and also, you can watch the demonstration of a woman diver.

Also, Toba is a pleasant city throughout the whole season but especially, I think the spring season is great for enjoying cherry blossom. You can also enjoy marine sports during summer. Also, there is a variety of seasonal seafood such as Ise-lobster, abalone and others.

In addition, Toba’s annual festival called “Minato Matsuri” will be held during the fourth week of July. The fireworks will be launched and the locals will be dancing Toba Monogatari with excitement.
【Toba-City Tourist Association】

The Ama dive into the water for pearls.

They are woman divers that dive into the sea to catch pearls.

Such delicious delicacies from the sea.

Variety of seafood.

Sightseeing tour boat from Toba's port.

“Ryugujo”, a sightseeing ship that cruises around the Toba Bay.

I received pearls when I went to see the Honolulu Festival as a guest. I had a great opportunity to participate in the performance this year!
Suzy- volunteer staff 
toba13I’ve went to see the Honolulu Festival prior to participating as a volunteer. At that time, I received pearls during the parade, which I was aware that the people from Toba are participating at the festival. I was coincidentally invited to participate in their performance by my friend and made me think as if it was a fate. Also, I asked if t is possible for me to join next year as well since I enjoyed last year very much. I was glad when I heard that they are coming to this year’s festival. My daughter will be participating with me for the first time as well. The dance was unexpectedly difficult when I first started learning it last year. This will be my second time so my body had well-memorized the steps. The movement is more drastic than the appearance which is very much complicated.
I want those who moved from Toba to urban cities to return and develop our city.
Karachi- performing member from Toba
toba14I’m working in a hotel called “Todaya” in Toba. I’m usually wearing a kimono and open a shoji door to greet “irrashaimase (welcome)” to welcome our guests. Also, I’m bringing in the tea to the guest room. Unlike hotels in Hawaii, it is common for the host to chat with guests or pour them alcohol beverages in a banquet hall.
Our workers from Todaya will be participating in an orderly manner at the Honolulu Festival. The song Toba Monogatari is upbeat and delightful music. On the other hand, the lyrics itself is sorrowful which goes “My beloved one moved to an urban city without me, but please come back to Toba after your study.” Indeed, I want those who moved from Toba to urban cities to return and develop our city.

【Hotel Todaya Website】

[ The members of the Toba-City Tourist Association with the local volunteers]

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