Tokyo Hula

Tokyo Hula explores the personal stories of Japanese teachers and students of the hula to reveal the challenges and ways in which the hula dance has been transplanted Show more and translated into a Japanese context and setting. Show less

Funding Initiative
Diversity Development Fund
Flanary lisette marie filmmaker bio
Director/Producer

Lisette Marie Flanary

Co-founder of bluestocking films and hula dancer Lisette Marie Flanary creates documentary films that celebrate a modern renaissance of the hula and Hawaiian culture. She is the writer, producer, and director of Lehua Films and her award-winning documentaries America Aloha: Hula Beyond Hawaii, Nā Kamalei: The Men of Hula, and One Voice have broadcast Show more nationally on public television and shown in film festivals around the world. Her film Tokyo Hula examines the explosive popularity of hula in Japan.

Flanary is a graduate of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts in Film and Television Production and received her M.F.A. in creative writing at the New School University. Show less

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The Film

Today, an estimated 400,000 people in Japan are involved with the hula dance. What first began with small cultural centers advertising hula as a low-stress form of exercise to middle-aged housewives in the 1980’s has blossomed as a younger generation of Japanese students decided to seriously study the ancient hula traditions. Many moved to Hawai’i to study the dance under kumu hula (hula masters) and then returned to Japan to open their own schools. Fueled by economics, the hula has experienced an explosion in popularity in the last ten years in Japan. Tokyo Hula explores the personal stories of Japanese teachers and students of the hula to reveal the challenges and ways in which the hula dance has been transplanted and translated into a Japanese context and setting.

Many if not most of the Japanese schools are affiliated with Hawaiian hula hālau (schools) and kumu hula who also travel to Japan to teach and perform. With Japanese hula students learning the Hawaiian language, taking up the ‘ukulele, and seriously studying the ancient and modern traditions of the dance, they have also begun to participate in hula competitions in Hawai’i and started their own competitions in Japan as closer relationships with Hawaiian hula masters have developed. Tokyo Hula celebrates the bonds between the two island cultures of Hawai’i and Japan by examining over a hundred years of intercultural exchange and historical connections through Hawaiian music and dance.

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