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Miki Wakai Joins Hawaii Tourism Authority as Tourism Brand Manager

The Hawai‘i Tourism Authority (HTA), the state’s tourism agency, has hired Miki Wakai as a tourism brand manager.

Miki Wakai

Miki Wakai

Wakai will be overseeing Hawai‘i’s largest international market, Japan. She will work collaboratively with the HTA’s contractor, Hawai‘i Tourism Japan (HTJ), to ensure that marketing efforts are in line with the HTA’s strategic plan and drive demand and revenue for the state of Hawai‘i.

“Miki will be a tremendous asset in working with the Japan market and we are pleased to have her join our team,” said Mike McCartney, president and CEO of the HTA. “Her experience will be valuable as we look at innovative ways to grow this mature market and reach two million Japanese visitors by 2016.”

Prior to joining the HTA, Wakai worked at the Hilton Grand Vacation Club overseeing the marketing and sales office in Hawai‘i while reestablishing its presence in Seoul, Korea. She was also responsible for identifying and marketing to potential customers visiting from Japan, Korea and the U.S. mainland for time share opportunities. Wakai received a Bachelor of Arts degree in international studies from Hawai‘i Pacific University.

Established in 1998, the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, the state’s tourism agency, is responsible for strategically managing tourism to optimize benefits for Hawai‘i that integrates the interest of visitors, the community and visitor industry. Tourism is our state’s leading economic driver and largest employer and the HTA continually works to ensure its sustainability well into the future. For more information on the HTA, please visit www.hawaiitourismauthority.org, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter (@HawaiiHTA).

Fukushima Friends Benefit Concert – Japan Kids to Come to the Big Island for Respite, Rest and Fun

Please help the children and young adults that desire to come to the Big Island from the disaster area of Fukushima, Japan, in July and August, 2013 by attending the Fukushima Friends Relief Concert on May 26th at the East Hawaii Center for Spiritual Living.

Fukushima Benefit Concert

About 20 young people with chaperones from 5th grade up are coming to the Big Island to receive respite, rest, and fun from July 15-Aug 26.

A group will be providing food, shelter, and transportation for one month which is costly.  In addition, some of you may not know, but, these children and young adults have suffered the earthquake, tsunami, family suicides, survival camps, and high radiation exposure for 2 years.  They are in need of fresh air, ocean swimming, and rest for their physical and mental health.  They have been living inside locations without being able to play outside, touch the ground, or eat Fukushima food because of the radiation dangers.  Please help us provide for these young people.  Please come to the concert or you may donate any amount to the fund.


CNN Special – Hawaii Deals with Japan’s Tsunami Debris

Here is the video that aired on CNN – “Hawaii Deals with Japan’s Tsunami Debris


While CNN was setting up shop, HWF and volunteers quickly removed over 200 pounds of marine debris from the coastline with an hour’s effort. And until there is a better solution, HWF and volunteers will continue to pick up the pieces here in Hawaiʻi nei.

FYI another follow-up story that focuses on marine debris problems in general, NOAA’s Nets-to-Energy Program, and recycled “ocean plastic” bottled cleaning products by SF-based company, Method, will air on CNN national and international broadcasting programs in April.

Japan Approves First Shipment of Genetically Modified Rainbow Papayas

After 13 years of negotiations, Japan has approved its first shipment of genetically-modified Rainbow papayas from Hawaii.

“The fact that the Japanese have tested it to the nth degree and evaluated its food and environmental safety proves it’s a good product,” said Rod Yonemura, consultant to the 160-member Hawaii Papaya Industry Association based in Hilo, capital of Hawaii’s Big Island…

…To introduce the Rainbow to Japanese traders, Yonemura said HPIA is planning a booth at the Super Market Trade Show in Tokyo Feb. 1-3, and another at Foodex Japan in Chiba March 8-9…

Full Article here: Japan Receives Hawaiian Rainbow Papayas

USDA Expands Export Opportunities for Hawaiian Rainbow Papaya – Japan Approves

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that on Dec. 1, the Government of Japan approved Rainbow papaya for commercial shipment to Japan. The Rainbow papaya is genetically engineered to be resistant to the papaya ringspot virus. This announcement marks the beginning of a new chapter for Hawaiian papaya growers.

“The market opening in Japan is great news for Hawaii’s papaya producers and even better news for American agricultural exports,” said Michael Scuse, Acting Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services. “Under the Obama Administration, USDA has continued to expand markets for American goods abroad, worked aggressively to break down barriers to trade, and assisted U.S. businesses with the resources needed to reach consumers around the world. This announcement will ensure that Hawaii’s papaya producers help to drive our agricultural economy by expanding exports, creating jobs, and strengthening our nation’s competitiveness.”

In the 1990s, an outbreak of the papaya ringspot virus decimated Hawaii’s papaya crop. Scientists from Cornell University, the University of Hawaii, The Upjohn Company and USDA’s Agricultural Research Service used biotechnology to develop the Rainbow papaya, which is resistant to the virus. After receiving full clearance from the U.S. government, the Rainbow papaya was commercialized in 1998. Now, the majority of Hawaii’s papaya crop is resistant to ringspot virus through genetic engineering.

Japan was once the major market for Hawaiian papayas, with annual sales reaching $15 million in 1996. These sales dropped to $1 million by 2010 while U.S. exporters awaited Japan’s approval of Rainbow papaya. With Japan’s approval for import of Rainbow papaya, U.S. papaya producers are set to regain access to this important market, supporting jobs through increased exports.

Currently, the American brand of agriculture is surging in popularity worldwide. Farm exports in fiscal year 2011 reached a record high of $137.4 billion—exceeding past highs by $22.5 billion—and supported 1.15 million jobs here at home. The agricultural trade surplus stands at a record $42.7 billion. Horticultural product exports are forecast to reach a record of $28 billion, based on steady demand and high prices. Exports of fresh fruits and vegetables are expected to be strong to Japan, Canada and the European Union. Strong agricultural exports contribute to the positive U.S. trade balance, create jobs, boost economic growth and support President Obama’s National Export Initiative goal of doubling all U.S. exports by the end of 2014.

Governor Abercrombie Welcomes Baseball Players from Ehime Prefecture

Governor Neil Abercrombie welcomed players, coaches, and government officials from Ehime Prefecture at Washington Place for the 10thAnniversary of the Ehime-Hawaii Baseball Tournament and Youth Exchange.

“Events can separate us but events – even tragic events – can also bring us together” said Governor Abercrombie in his welcome remarks.  “The Ehime-Hawaii Goodwill Youth Baseball Tournament that started after the tragic events surrounding the sinking of the Ehime Maru off Kakaako in February 2001 has brought the people of Ehime Prefecture and Hawaii together”.

The tournament and exchange is held in Hawaii and Japan on alternating years.  In 2012, Hawaii coaches and players will travel to Ehime, Japan to play a series of games and participate in the home stay.

“This baseball and youth exchange gives the young people from Ehime and Hawaii a chance to experience a different culture as well as compete in the game of baseball” said Mark Anderson, President of the Asia Pacific Exchange and Development, the non-profit organization that organizes the exchange. “This year we have three teams: a 17 and under, a 15 and under, and a 12 and under team.  However, the 17 and under team will play their first game under this exchange next year in Ehime prefecture.”

“We expect some exciting and competitive games from the Ehime Players”, said Benny Agbayani, Director of Baseball for the Tournament and Exchange.

The Ehime-Hawaii Baseball Tournament and Exchange will run from November 17th to the 24.th. Over 100 participants are visiting from Ehime Prefecture consisting of coaches, players, parents and government officials. The tournament and exchange will include a memorial service, a visit to Ewa Makai Middle School, a home-stay visit for the Ehime players, participation in cultural activities, and two days of baseball to be played on Saturday and Sunday at Hans L’Orange Park in Waipahu and Central Oahu Regional Park in Waipio.

Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Noda of Japan Before Bilateral Meeting

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, I just want to welcome Prime Minister Noda to Hawaii, to the United States, for this APEC meeting.  I had the opportunity to have my first extensive discussions with the Prime Minister recently, and I have been extremely impressed already with the boldness of his vision.  And we confirmed, once again, the importance for both of our countries — the alliance between the United States and Japan is the cornerstone of our relationship but also for security in the Asia-Pacific region for a very long time.  And I’m confident that working together we can continue to build on that relationship in the areas of commerce, the areas of security, in not only the Asia-Pacific region but around the world.


And Prime Minister Noda, welcome to Honolulu, where I’m sure that we’ll have another round of productive discussions.  And I want to thank you and the people of Japan for your friendship.  We continue also, by the way, to be concerned about the rebuilding process in the wake of the terrible earthquake and tsunami.  And I want to assure you that the American people continue to stand beside you and ready to help in any way they can.

PRIME MINISTER NODA:  (As translated.)  Well, this is my first visit to Honolulu after 34 years, and this very morning I went to the Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific and laid a wreath there, and I got to see the panoramic view of Honolulu, and I renewed my recognition of how beautiful and great this city is.  And I would like to express my deep appreciation for hosting us in — here in Honolulu as the chair of APEC.

I’m very much encouraged by the fact that America is increasing its presence in the Asia-Pacific region, and I do believe that Japan and the United States must work closely together to establish economic goals and also establish security order in this region.  And I hope that in this meeting today I can discuss with you these issues.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you, everybody.

Tomorrow the County of Hawaii Will Enter Into a Sister City Relationship with the Island of Kumejima, Okinawa, Japan

Seal of Hawaii County, Hawaii

Image via Wikipedia

The County of Hawaii will enter into a Sister City Relationship with the island of Kumejima, Okinawa, Japan on Sunday during a Ocean Thermal Energy Workshop (OTEC) at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii (NELHA).

The signing ceremony will take place at noon. The Mayor of Kumejima, Choukou Taira, and County of Hawaii Mayor Billy Kenoi will enter into the agreement, which will stress economic ties rather than the traditional cultural bonds of sister city relationships.

Kumejima is an island about 50 miles east of Naha, Okinawa. Much like Hawaii Island of about 20 years ago, Kumejima’s economy is based on the visitor industry and sugar cane, known as sato kibi in Japan.

Kumejima, which has a climate and appearance similar to Kauai, also shares another similarity with Hawaii Island, a deep sea pipeline which has allowed aquaculture to blossom on the island, which is about the same size as Molokai.

In November, public and private officials visited Kumejima to take part in an OTEC Workshop, where the possibility of a partnership between Kumejima and Hawaii Island was discussed. This pact, which could result in the establishment of a demonstration plant at NELHA using the 55-inch pipelines already installed at the facility on Keahole Point, will be further discussed at the workshop by Japanese and American officials.

It was during this visit in November that the governments of Kumejima and Hawaii County realized that a sister city relationship would be a natural extension of the proposed natural energy partnership taking place at the time.

“We are honored to enter into this agreement with Kumejima,” said Mayor Kenoi. “The similarities between our islands are striking, including the fact that we are both outlying islands of island groups far away from their mainland countries. I think we can learn many things from each other as we both strive to break our dependence on fossil fuels.”

OTEC technology, which was successfully tested off Keahole Point in the 1970s, uses the temperature difference of deep sea and surface water to make a working fluid — in this case ammonia — to “boil.”

The boiling fluid releases “steam” which is used to drive a turbine.

Intensive OTEC research is now taking place in a number of places in the world, including NELHA, where Lockheed-Martin recently blessed a facility, and at Saga University in Saga, Japan, where scientists are generating electricity using a small demonstration unit.

“OTEC has the potential to provide virtually inexhaustible, clean energy in the equatorial regions of the earth,” said Kenoi. “This is an opportunity for Hawaii Island to play a role in furthering a technology that could have worldwide implications.”

Radiation Test Results From Roof Catchment Water on the Big Island of Hawaii

I noticed this video uploaded to youtube today that is basically a radiation test of water taken from the roof of a catchment system here in the Ainaloa area of the Big Island:


Here is what the person said about the video:

…So far, all samples have returned “low” levels.. or basically NO levels of radioactive contamination.

This sample.. recored at 32.1 CPM … falls FAR below the even basic “alert level”… which is 100CPM according to the “radiation network”… http://www.radiationnetwork.com

Unless we get readings OVER 100 CPM.. we really have no cause for worry… right now.. this establishes a ‘baseline’ for us to make future measurements, and compare.

The good news also, is that these levels.. VERY CLOSE to fukushima japan, are LOWER than we see in the Midwest USA .. where I live!…

Burger King Looking to Fatten Up Japanese Ladies with SPAM Burgers

Well this is just too strange for me.  I know folks in Hawaii like SPAM a lot but I didn’t know the Japanese liked it so much.

Burger King is banking on an iconic wartime staple– Spam — to bring in female customers in Japan.The fast food giant announced plans to offer mini Spam sliders beginning June 20, targeting Japanese women with the slogan: “What women want, what women get…

I wonder if this will ever make it to Hawaii?

Spam Burger Sliders

Councilman Hoffman on Tsunami Sirens and Effective Leadership

Commentary by Councilman Pete Hoffman:

There are times when one wonders whether anyone listens.  Part of the problem may be a lack of communication, or perhaps a lack of understanding of perhaps a lack of leadership.  You decide which of these applies in the recent tsunami siren debacle.

In December 2009, my office initiated discussions with County Civil Defense to address obvious shortfalls in tsunami siren coverage in our resort areas in West Hawaii, brought to my attention by a Puna resident.  A little research also noted that our County code had no requirements for such an early warning system.  The first “tsunami drill” of 26 Feb 2010 highlighted these deficiencies in an actual evacuation, and shortly thereafter, my office prepared a draft amendment to our code to address this issue.

The proposed legislation was referred to both the Planning Commissions, where last November and December, it was met with less than an enthusiastic reception.  The Planning Director criticized the draft proposal on several counts:  this effort shouldn’t be part of the plan approval process, State and County Civil Defense should administer the program, and maybe we shouldn’t inconvenience a developer with the associated costs of installing such a system. Both Planning Commissions gave my proposal a negative recommendation and sent it back to Council for further action.

Now I’ve been a Council member long enough to appreciate that there are many possibilities to address issues of this nature.  I have no difficulty if the Planning Director and the Commissions didn’t agree with my suggestions for resolving the issue, but someone please offer alternatives.  However, none were provided.  When the draft returned to the Council’s Planning Committee in January, I urged the administration to work on some viable options.  Several coastal communities were without an obvious public safety mechanism, our County code included no such requirements, and we already had one tsunami evacuation to prove that my concern was not science fiction.  My pleas fell on deaf ears.  I received ‘thunderous silence’ from the administration.  The only response noted was to suggest that the State should pay for the sirens, and that my proposal did not work with the Planning Department’s plan review process.

Personally, I really didn’t care who pays for the installation of the sirens.  The real questions remained: when will the sirens be installed and when will a requirement be established?  Surely I couldn’t be the only one who saw this issue.  Where was the administration’s initiative?  Where was effective leadership demonstrated?  And please, let’s stop the bureaucratic double-talk and concentrate on the shortfall.

In mid-February, after continuing to plead for the administration’s assistance in crafting a bill that would meet its criticisms, the Council’s Planning Committee, frustrated with the administration’s lack of action, approved my proposal sending it to full Council by a vote of 6-3.   Finally, we heard voices from the administration that the Council’s concerns would now be considered.

On 1 March, State Civil Defense went out on bid to install a number of new civil defense sirens on the Big Island not merely in tsunami evacuation zones.  These would include sirens in areas along the coast where none previously existed: among others, two at Mauna Lani, two in the Waikoloa resort area and one at Kona Village.   On 2 March, we were told that an alternative proposal would be drafted to address the deficiency in our code regarding siren requirements.  This flurry of activity did precede the second ‘tsunami drill’ on March 11, and generated a renewed urgency regarding this topic.  The new administration proposal has already been placed on both Planning Commission agendas in April and May, and it can be anticipated that the long-sought alternative will be brought to Council sometime in early June.

The route taken in the effort has been torturous. Would that all tsunamis react with the same ‘glacial speed’ as this legislative process, but at least it is moving forward.  We pride ourselves, with good reason, on the effectiveness of the County’s response to both of the tsunami evacuations and how all assisted.  However, the fact remains that we had thirteen hours and five and a half hours warning respectively.  Would we have been so fortunate if we only had one or two hours notice??  While this issue is finally being addressed and sirens will eventually be installed, after some 15 months of discussion the situation today is: there are significant shortfalls in siren coverage in our resort areas, and no requirement has yet been established for new developments in our code.  Let’s hope for better leadership and let’s pray we don’t have a “third tsunami drill” in which our reaction time would be dramatically reduced as it was in Japan.

Ten Big Island Credit Unions Join in Japan Tsunami Relief Effort

From the Mayors Office:

Ten credit unions in the County of Hawai ‘i have agreed to serve as collection points for the “Aloha for Japan ” relief effort, joining in a statewide campaign by the largest banks in Hawai‘i to assist victims of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan , Mayor Billy Kenoi announced today.

“All of us have been saddened by the loss of life and terrible damage in Japan, and we all want to help,” Mayor Kenoi said. “I want to thank the credit unions in our community for stepping forward to join in this effort to assist the victims of this tragedy.”

Participating credit unions in the County of Hawai ‘i include HFS Federal Credit Union; Hawai‘i Community Federal Credit Union; CU Hawaii Federal Credit Union; Hawai‘i County Employees Federal Credit Union; and Hawai‘i First Federal Credit Union.

Also joining in the relief effort are the Independent Employers Group Federal Credit Union; North Hawai ‘i Community Federal Credit Union; Ka‘u Federal Credit Union; Big Island Federal Credit Union; and Onomea Federal Credit Union.

“With such close ties between Hawai‘i and Japan, we are very happy to join in this collaborative effort of credit unions across the island to support our family, friends and all those in Japan suffering during this traumatic time,” said Bernard Balsis, president of the Independent Employers Group Federal Credit Union.

The credit unions are joining Hawai‘i business leaders, members of the Japanese community, Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz and Japan Consul General Yoshihiko Kamo in a coordinated effort to collect monetary donations.

Banks that are volunteering as collection points for the relief effort include American Savings Bank, Bank of Hawaii, Central Pacific Bank, Finance Factors, First Hawaiian Bank, Hawaii National Bank, HomeStreet Bank, Pacific Rim Bank and Territorial Savings Bank. Those banks are providing almost 275 collection points statewide.

Checks should be made payable to “Aloha for Japan .” Donation checks can also be mailed to: Aloha for Japan , 2454 South Beretania Street, Suite 201 , Honolulu , HI 96826

Japan’s Hawaii Tourism Office Closes

Citing market conditions and budgetary concerns, Hawaii Tourism Japan on Monday said it will close its Honolulu office.

Takashi Ichikura, HTJ’s executive director, said in an e-mail statement, “We have decided to downsize our Hawaii office, and are currently reviewing our operations. Therefore, we unfortunately will not have any representation in Honolulu as of the end of this month, and until further notice…”

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