Category Archives: Hula

What’s Your Ikigai (Reason for Being)?

Wikipedia lends the following definition:

Ikigai (生き甲斐, pronounced [ikiɡai]) is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being.” It is similar to the French phrase Raison d’être. Everyone, according to Japanese culture, has an ikigai. Finding it requires a deep and often lengthy search of self. Such a search is important to the cultural belief that discovering one’s ikigai brings satisfaction and meaning to life.[1] Examples include work, hobbies and raising children.[2]The term ikigai compounds two Japanese words: iki (wikt:生き?) meaning “life; alive” and kai (甲斐) “(an) effect; (a) result; (a) fruit; (a) worth; (a) use; (a) benefit; (no, little) avail” (sequentially voiced as gai) “a reason for living [being alive]; a meaning for [to] life; what [something that] makes life worth living; a raison d’etre”.[3]In the culture of Okinawaikigai is thought of as “a reason to get up in the morning”; that is, a reason to enjoy life. In a TED TalkDan Buettner suggested ikigai as one of the reasons people in the area had such long lives.[4]The word ikigai is usually used to indicate the source of value in one’s life or the things that make one’s life worthwhile. Secondly, the word is used to refer to mental and spiritual circumstances under which individuals feel that their lives are valuable. It’s not necessarily linked to one’s economic status or the present state of society. Even if a person feels that the present is dark, but they have a goal in mind, they may feel ikigai. Behaviours that make us feel ikigai are not actions we are forced to take—these are natural and spontaneous actions.

In the article named Ikigai — jibun no kanosei, kaikasaseru katei (“Ikigai: the process of allowing the self’s possibilities to blossom”) Kobayashi Tsukasa says that “people can feel real ikigai only when, on the basis of personal maturity, the satisfaction of various desires, love and happiness, encounters with others, and a sense of the value of life, they proceed toward self-realization.”[1][5]My Ikigai is to stay active and perpetuate the rich API culture through my hobbies – dancing hula, paddling outriggers, and teaching karate.  Working out in the dojo taught me more about surviving and thriving in Corporate America as a single mom than any self-help seminar or MBA could have.  Recently, I opened a karate dojo as my passion project.  We focus on the values of Respect, Discipline, and Self-Confidence to help our students find their Ikigai.

Ikigai JaeRequiro


#TeamTogisala #togisalashorinryu #fitlife #GirlPower #respect #discipline #focus #selfconfidence #selfdefense #dojoOhana #ikigai

Lei Day 2015 

Most people in the mainland know May 1st as “May Day”. I recall hearing stories of maypole dances and flowers and such during elementary school. However, in Hawaii, Lei Day is a state-wide celebration. The holiday begins in the morning of May 1st every year and continues throughout the entire day and even continues into the next day. Lei day was established as a holiday in 1929 and continues to this day. 

This holiday is a true celebration of Hawaiian culture, or the Aloha spirit. People commonly celebrate by giving gifts of leis to one another. I imagine that Lei Day is even more festive this year in Hawaii because today is a Friday. Just thinking about the fragrance of the pua in the lei makes me smile. 

Today, there are numerous lei making contests, hula performances, and concerts scheduled throughout the weekend. That will happen on top of all the personal tradition of giving a lei to friends and loved ones. Giving lei, in the Hawaiian culture, represents expression of aloha without saying a word. For those of you who travel to Hawaii and your travel agent arranges for a fresh flower lei greeting, you’ve felt the “welcome” Aloha spirit. But lei are also given when someone leaves the island to say, “don’t forget to come back to visit.” Depending on the occasion “aloha” can stand for farewell, greeting, love, hope, or joy. 
In hula, we wear lei as adornments to tell the complete story of our mele or chant. Each island is represented by a different flower or plant. The website has a nice outline and description of each. I also did a quick search for images of the flowers, along with actual lei for examples. 

Each Hawaiian island has its own designated official flower:

Oahu Flower

Oahu’s flower is the yellow ilima (Sida fallax), which is a very popular flower used for leis. Each flower is about an inch across and somewhat resembles a small hibiscus. Early Hawaiians used ilima flowers as a cure for general illnesses. Juice from the pressed flowers was given to children, and pregnant women sometimes ate the flowers until childbirth.

Yellow ilima



Big Island Flower

The official flower of the Big Island is the red ohia, which is the blossom of the native ohia tree. Lehua blossoms can also be orange, yellow or white. The flower is often used for leis. It’s said that the lehua flower is sacred to Pele, Hawaii’s volcano goddess.



Kauai Flower

Kauai’s flower actually isn’t a flower at all: The mokihana (Pelea anisata) is a green berry grown only on the slopes of Mount Waialelae. Strung like beads and woven with strands of maile, these hardy berries have a scent of anise.

Mokihana berry

Mokihana berry lei


Maui Flower

Maui’s flower is the pink lokelani (Rosa damascena), or pink cottage rose. Brought to the Islands in the 1800s, the lokelani is prized by gardeners for its beauty and fragrance. The lokelani is the only non-native plant to be recognized as the official flower of any of the Hawaiian islands.



(Uncle Kuana has recorded CDs filled with songs from specific islands, check him out!)

Molokai Flower

The flower of Molokai is the white kukui blossom (Aleurites moluccana). These tiny white flowers are popular among Island lei makers.



Lanai Flower

Lanai’s flower is the kaunaoa, or yellow and orange air plant. Lei makers take the thin, light orange strands of this vine and twist them together to form leis.



Niihau Flower

Niihau’s designated “flower” is the white pupu shell, found on the shoreline of this rocky island. 



Even uninhabited Kahoolawe has its own official flower, the hinahina (Heliotropium anomalum), a silver-gray plant whose flowers and stems are used in lei making.

hinahina plant on the beach 



Also, gods and goddesses are represented by different foliage or plants. So, we pay close attention to our costume adornments because each lei, flower, seed, and leaf have meaning, literal and kauna. That blog explanation will have to wait. 
Happy Lei Day!