|Story by Deborah Boehm
Photos by Ben Simmons
It’s a clear, balmy evening in Tokyo’s lively Daikanyama district, an upscale area known for posh boutiques, glamorous bistros and quirky architecture. The air is alive with all the usual ambient urban noise, but there’s something else, too, something exotic, unexpected and thrilling: the sweet, pure sound of Hawaiian falsetto.
"These days I seem to be meeting more and more Japanese people who appreciate the music of the Islands," says Seiji Omotani, 'uke player for E Komo Mai, one of Japan's busiest Hawaiian music bands.
“Aia i Kona kai ‘opua i ka la‘i …” Hearing the sublime recorded voice of Ledward Ka‘apana floating out over one of Daikanyama’s broad, bustling avenues is a surprise, and it creates a nice frisson of metaphor as well, because Hawaiian music has been in the air in Japan (off and on) for almost exactly a dozen decades now, give or take thirty days.