About this Event
Paradise Calls: Hawaiian ‘Ukulele and Contemporary Japanese Dreams
Dr. Christine R. Yano
Professor of Anthropology, University of Hawai'i
Thursday, April 15, 6:00 – 7:30 PM CT, via zoom
In contemporary Japan, the small, four-stringed ‘ukulele with origins in the Portuguese island of Madera joins other pieces of associated Hawaiiana, from hula, steel guitar, and slack key guitar, to surfing and (improbably) pancakes, in an ongoing Hawai’i boom that began in the 1990s. Hawai’i and its associated arts represent a site of paradisical iyashi (healing) for practitioners, fans, and the general public. Kiwaya Inc., the major ukulele manufacturer and distributor in Japan, goes beyond healing to more generalized emotional well-being in dubbing the instrument the “sound of happiness.” That “happiness” comes in a small foreign package, prompting some Japanese observers to dub the ‘ukulele as kawaii (cute). By analyzing multiple dimensions involved in the creation of this music-based utopia, Dr. Christine Yano brings to bear the tensions, conflicts, and creative possibilities that constitute ‘ukulele culture in 21st century Japan.
Christine R. Yano, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Hawai’i, has conducted research on Japan and Japanese Americans with a focus on popular culture. In 2020-2021, she served as the President of the Association for Asian Studies. She has written numerous books on a variety of topics from sentimental songs to beauty queens to flight attendants to Hello Kitty. Her latest research is the transnational fandom surrounding Hawaiian ‘ukulele, with a focus on Japan.
Sponsored by the Center for East Asian Studies