Japan’s disaster, which has left so much tragedy in its wake, certainly will have an economic impact on Hawaii, one that leaders of this recession-weary, tourism-dependent state is dreading.
But in the first week — while isle residents watched video images of wreckage, mourning, heroism and fear — dread was not the dominant emotion here. It was sorrow for such massive human suffering, genuine sympathy for a country with whom Hawaii has such deep historical and cultural bonds.
Among the Japanese-American community, many families have visited the ancestral prefectures and solidified or forged new ties with relatives there. Those who have no Japanese roots certainly have embraced much of the culture, cherishing their own memories of trips to Japan in connection with school, church or simply vacation plans.
It’s a country that is anything but distant to many in the arts world, with hula halau exchanges, concert tours and various festivals and exhibitions part of the entertainment calendars.
Some of that is evident in a range of fundraiser events planned in the coming weeks. Individual banks are helping to collect and transmit financial donations. There are sales of special T-shirts, restaurant extravaganzas, photos, a wide range of merchandise and services.
Of course, there are benefit concerts and performances on tap, including the "Kokua for Japan" fest, involving the Star-Advertiser and other media and sponsors, set for April 10 at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
Readers should watch the paper’s listings for the still-growing roster of opportunities for people to pitch in with the charity effort.
It’s certainly encouraging to see Hawaii stepping up to fulfill its traditional aloha mission.
During the early post-tsunami period, the stream of donations has been dishearteningly thin, despite unending video imagery of survivors suffering in the cold and fearing a calamity at the damaged northeastern Japan nuclear plant. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reported individual American donations amounting to $23 million in the first four days, compared to the $150 million they gave at this point in Haiti relief efforts. U.S. companies have kept pace better, with $67 million in cash raised in the first week.
Some have speculated that Japan’s recognition as the third-largest economy and its relative wealth may have suppressed the giving instinct. But by now everyone must acknowledge that the scope of this disaster may be unprecedented.
No nation can snap back from the triple-whammy of quake, surge and nuclear radiation threats. America must do better.
From Hawaii, the response already seems to be personal, as it should. The islands of Hawaii and Honshu are separated by thousands of miles but united in every other way that counts.
Japan is part of Hawaii’s extended family, and it’s Hawaii’s duty to respond in a family member’s time of great need.