Honors Senior Theses/Projects

Date of Award

Spring 2017

Exit Requirement

Undergraduate Honors Thesis/Project


Honors Program

Faculty Advisor

Darryl Thomas

Honors Program Director

Dr. Gavin Keulks


The purpose of this thesis project will be to investigate Hawaiian culture’s emergence— through hula specifically—in Japanese culture and how Japanese culture has adapted to it. Specifically, this project will focus on whether hula in Japan remains pure and close to its Hawaiian roots rather than transformed. Hawaii and Japan are both island cultures, but differences have developed in how hula is portrayed, whether it be more for the entertainment aspect or the cultural aspect. In hula, numerous performance elements symbolize aspects of Hawaiian culture: from the formation of the dancers (representing working together in a community) to the dancers’ adornments (representing a goddess, an island, or even the subject of the mele, or song, itself). Research on Hawaiian and Japanese cultural similarities, such as similarities in spiritual mythology, will reveal the factors that contribute to the continued popularity of hula in Japan. Similarities and differences in hula being taught in Hawaii versus being taught in Japan, such as commercializing hula into an industry, will also be evaluated. Insight from well-recognized kumu hula, or hula teacher, Shane Kamakaokalani ‘Maka’ Herrod, who teaches both in Hawaii and Japan, will also be used to have an inside perspective on how hula hālau, or hula schools, in Japan differ from those in Hawaii.