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Name: Kalani Po’omaihealani
Age: 66
Nationality: American (but Hawaiian at heart)
Occupation: Kumu hula (master teacher), singer, dancer
Likes: Music, people, culture, the Lord
Dislikes: Arrogance, bullies, rudeness, untruth, nattō (fermented soybeans)


1. What first brought you to Japan? I first came in 1973 to promote Hawaiian products through song and dance.

2. What’s keeping you here? Sharing Hawaiian music and dance with Japanese people.

3. When you think of Japan you think of … many wonderful things but also many disturbing things, especially the Japanese people losing sight of their culture.

4. Where do you go to escape Tokyo? I don’t have to escape Tokyo because I like living here. I like to travel but I don’t travel to escape Tokyo.

5. What’s your favorite Japanese word or phrase? Hora! Nani sore! (“Look! What’s that!”). My friends all find it very amusing when I use it and it loosens them up.

6. What’s your favorite phrase in any language? “Onipa’a Kulia Ka Nu’u” (Hawaiian for “Stand firm and strive for the summit”). It motivates me.

7. Describe your most embarrassing moment. Once I was late for a show and forgot to put my loin cloth on. When I got on stage I noticed my jock strap was glowing brightly under my cloak because of the black lights.

8. What’s the strangest request you’ve ever been asked in your line of work? Being asked by a female student who had been studying for several years how many centimeters a kaholo (hula sidestep) should be.

9. What did you like best about hula dancing? It keeps you in touch with your kupuna (ancestors), the form of poetry is remarkable and the poetry has so much kaona (hidden meaning).

10. What is the most difficult aspect of hula dancing? The most difficult thing in my job as a hula teacher is getting my Japanese students to emote.

11. What was the hardest thing about starting your dance studio? It wasn’t hard because I took over an existing studio that had been started by Hawaiian-born former sumo wrestler Konishiki.

12. Any memorable hula moments? Performing for the queen of Tonga in a beautifully decorated home in Hawaii.

13. If you could share a bottle of wine with anyone from history, who would

it be? I don’t drink but I would like to share a glass of orange juice with Omar Sharif. I’m interested in the mystic of how he came into his own.

14. What song best describes your work ethic? Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” I love the lyrics. It’s not a song about me, it’s a song about when push comes to shove you’ve got to be true to yourself.

15. How would you find a needle in a haystack? I probably wouldn’t try but if I had to I would use a big horseshoe magnet.

16. How would you get an elephant into a refrigerator? Through the front door. Hopefully it would be a walk-in refrigerator.

17. What do you think about while standing on the train? People watching. One of my favorite pastimes is watching Japanese people on trains.

18. Who would win a fight between a lion and tiger? I think a tiger could outdo a lion 3 to 1 because it is stronger.

19. What do you want to be when you grow up? I just want to grow up! I want to grow up to be kind and wise.

20. Do you have any words of advice for young people? Don’t grow up.

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