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New KZOO Shirokiya studio to host stars and live music

By Erika Engle

LAST UPDATED: 8:39 a.m. HST, Sep 9, 2011

The KZOO Radio Shirokiya Studio will mark its grand opening on Sept. 26 with a media event and on-air interviews.

The studio is being built as part of the store’s preparation for the Japan-founded retailer’s 350th anniversary next year, said Shirokiya Inc. President Toshiyuki Okumura, through interpreter Robyn Furuya. Furuya is vice president of Polynesian Broadcasting Inc., parent company of KZOO-AM 1210.

The studio will be inaugurated with interviews of VIPs and others gathered for the grand opening. Otherwise, the first-floor, glass-walled studio and its adjoining green room will be used for special occasions and events, and for interviews of celebrities and other VIPs from Japan who are visiting Hawaii, Furuya said. The KZOO studios and offices at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii will continue to serve as the main studios and base of operations. However, this gets a KZOO studio, its broadcasters and celebrity guests right into a welcoming community audience — with lots of free parking.

“Japanese people really love Hawaii,” Okumura said. Shirokiya’s hope is that stars from Japan will be interviewed in the KZOO-Shirokiya studio “and have a good, warm experience,” and that “the customers can also enjoy seeing the celebrities.”

KZOO’s mission always has been to perpetuate the Japanese culture to the people of Hawaii, but the new studio also will be a showcase in which local musicians can perform live. “We’re planning to do it every evening,” Furuya said.

The KZOO signal is heard on Oahu via AM radio, as well as statewide via Oceanic Time Warner Cable digital channel 888 — and it will go worldwide once the station commences streaming via the Internet, which will be soon, Furuya said.

Customer enjoyment is the driving force behind the Shirokiya renovation, which began with the Yataimura dining area on the second floor and extends to the Meika Plaza area on the first floor.

Shirokiya always has been closely tied to the Japanese-American community, but going forward through the renovations, a goal is to “share the culture with everyone in Hawaii,” said Takafumi Gomyo, Shirokiya senior vice president, through Furuya. The desire is to make Shirokiya a fun place for all to come, to bring family or meet friends and enjoy something of their choice. He noted the beer garden’s $1, $2 and $3 beer offerings (Budweiser, Kirin and Asahi, respectively), with pitchers offered at $4, $8 and $12. A wine cellar will follow.

Whether the new studio is the only radio station built in a store within a major shopping center is unclear, but Okumura, Furuya and Gomyo were unaware of any similar arrangement in the United States or Japan.

Shirokiya is a charter tenant of Ala Moana Center that has operated in Hawaii for 52 years, since 1959, while KZOO has been on the air for 48 years.

While each has done its own business in the intervening years, intertwining has occurred all along the way.

The late Noboru Furuya, founder of the old Nippon Theater and KZOO, also was the businessman who introduced Shiseido cosmetics to Hawaii, partly through Shirokiya, in about 1960. Shiseido later established a beauty salon in Shirokiya as well.

Robyn Furuya worked at Shirokiya during her high school years and also worked on the air at KZOO long before she married David Furuya, now KZOO president. Shirokiya also has been a longtime sponsor on KZOO, and KZOO has regularly drawn throngs of shoppers to Shirokiya for promotions and events.

Both companies are part of the community and while “we were on our own paths, it was meant to be that we end up together as we go into the future,” Okumura said.

Reach Erika Engle at

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