We got used to appreciating expressions of the unbreakable Japanese group spirit, on trips through Japan and other places where we came across its people on vacation.
Still, the one we discover when we reach the beach in front of the Royal Hawaian Hotel leaves us awestruck.
On a stretch of the Pacific Ocean that looks more like a swimming pool, hundreds of Japanese bathers have fun floating and splashing around.
Oahu: The Japanese Gathering Island in Waikiki
Several wear wet white t-shirts, but even more strange is the splash of sea on their mattresses and buoys, all green or pink.
We walked along the beach. We almost only see faces and bodies from the Far East, too white to fit the bathing and semi-tropical scenery.
They do everything possible to forget the 355 days a year of social submission, of rules and regulations that straddle the Emperor's land.
A couple imitates the teachings of a native instructor and balance on boards parked a few feet from the water.
In the opposite direction, closer to the road, others feed the cult of photography vice versa and line up next to the bronze statue of Duke Kahanamoku, king of surf teachers and sportsmen in the archipelago.
We're on Oahu, the island that Hawaiian mythology called the reunion, and despite their somewhat alien presence, these tourists seem to do the gods' will.
By 1885, Japan was a rural nation and part of its population faced extreme poverty. For some time now, the prospect of emigration has enticed families from various regions and Hawaii, full of sugar cane and pineapple plantations to which the first workers – many, Madeirans and Azoreans – did not give an answer, was revealed to be the preferred destination. .
The "Infamous" Nippon Aggression of Hawaii
Even against the will of the Emperor – who was concerned about the degeneration of their race – the Japanese continued to leave and, in 1920, they already constituted about 43% of the population of the territory, which had since been annexed by the United States. But Japan industrialized.
It became heavily militaristic with expansionist ambitions that spanned the dominance of Asia and began with the infamous surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, one of the largest US naval bases, also located on Oahu.
As time left behind the painful Japanese capitulation in World War II, resentment toward the Americans faded and Japan resumed the family and ethnic ties that linked it to the middle of the Pacific. Shortly thereafter, the advent of jet aviation boosted tourism in the Hawaiian archipelago.
Now, already enriched, many Japanese once again could not resist the journey of their lives.
Some still let themselves be seduced by the climate and the freedom felt in Hawaii and, despite the different reasons, they moved there trying to unburden their existence. Even if only partially.
We returned from the center of Honolulu tired and decided to replenish energy in a greedy way in an eccentric frozen yogurt shop. The establishment is sophisticated and creative.
Japanese Presence, Japanese Mentality
For this reason, as we fill the glasses with flavors and extras with which we compose the meal, we can't resist photographing part of the crazy design, something that makes the almond-eyed cashier run from her post anxiously and warn us with as much diplomacy as possible. : “Stop, stop. You can't take photos in here!”.
Our commercial interest in the place is below zero as the frozen yogurts that we devoured but still aroused fears of industrial espionage inherent in the lady's high-tech motherland that neither the sun nor the incredible landscapes and Hawaiian culture had relaxed.
If Japanese emigrants find it difficult to divorce their habits, those who land on the island for just a few days feel even more so. Waikiki offers them the beach and exoticism that arrives but saves them from too sudden changes.
After walking around it over and over, we confirm that the long Kalakaua avenue is more than the favorite haven of Japanese visitors. It is also a symbol of the close collaboration between Japan and the United States in the 80s that allowed Hawaii in 2010 alone to have 1885 million Japanese visitors (six times more than all immigrants between 1941 and XNUMX) .
Most of the boutiques, hotels and other businesses that delimit that main artery belong to Japanese corporations and even the Yakuza mafia.
Accordingly, a considerable part of passersby reveal themselves as Japanese consumers who rejoice at being able to buy with the refinement of Ginza or Omotesando (Tokyo's high-profile commercial zones) locked in by the rising value of the yen against the dollar.
They are honeymoon couples who are just as passionate about the couple as they are about the luxurious windows. And families of salarymen with enviable incomes.
We see them enter stores in a disciplined manner, often greeted in Japanese with the heightened delicacy and reverence one appreciates across lands of Hokkaido, Honshu and Kyushu: “irasshaimaseeee!”, the necessary greeting is repeated over and over again by the thoughtful maids.
But the “Nipponizing” of Waikiki and Hawaii in general is far from everyone's satisfaction. Once we return to the beach, we get into conversation with native surf instructors who are resting in the shade of coconut trees and one of them ends up venting indignantly: “These islands belong to us but we are increasingly forced to leave.
The real estate speculation in Honolulu and Waikiki is such that normal Hawaiians can only live many tens of kilometers from the city center, which forces us to spend a lot of money traveling. But the worst thing is that we also find ourselves cut off from jobs.
After bringing the business here, the Japanese started sending employees. What's left for many of our families is moving to the mainland. Las Vegas, for example, is overflowing with Hawaiians.”
As far as we can see, it didn't happen that the local community had imposed itself in numerical terms. The number of Nikkei Hawaiians has even declined, and immigrants from the remaining 49 US and Philippine states have arrived for decades.
But the Japanese presence gained great relevance and opened the doors to massive investment. Non-Japanese Hawaiians are more aware than ever of the Japanese invasion.
And, in beach and coffee conversations, they play with the situation and repeat, between uncomplexed laughter, that the Rising Sun has returned to finish in peace what it had started to do in Pearl Harbor.