Hanai, aterm used in the Hawaiian culture that refers to the informal adoption of a person(s) into your Ohana (family).
Yesterday while enjoying the day off from school and work our Ohana made a quick 10 second video and took a photo of our message in the sand to our hanai girl Miku in Japan who would be using it as part of a surprise video presentation for our hanai girl Natsumi’s wedding reception. Isn’t technology awesome! You can stay in touch with Ohana all over the world at the touch of a button.
Howdid we we come to hanai these young ladies and others? When our daughters were students at VSAS they had the WAVOC program that hosted students from Waseda University who came to teach the students at VSAS about Japanese culture for two weeks. They were looking for host families so we volunteered.
By participating in WAVOC program we learned more about Japanese culture, people, traditions, and especially the food! The students were required to cook one dinner meal for their host family. In exchange our Ohana shared our Hawaiian culture, traditions, how to do the hula, play a simple song on the ukulele, and of course the many ethnic foods we’ve grown up eating.
When it was our family’s turn to travel to Japan we were touched to be greeted at the airport by a few of our hanai kids. Miku came with her father who along with our Teddy Bear Kento drove us to our vacation rental. Miku’s dad was concerned about the location our rental was in and wanted to make sure it was safe. He also checked to make sure that the rental had A/C because it is very hot and humid in Japan in July. During our stay our hanai kids showed us around 6 of the 11 days we were there, and taught us how to get around on the subway and trains on our own. One of the highlight of the trip was attending the “Welcome to Japan” party they threw for us. There were 50 students in attendance some traveling hours to attend. It warmed our hearts to see them all!
The second highlight was being able to spend a day with my long time pen friend (30 years) Chieko and her twin sister Mieko. Chieko was happy to finally show us around, returning our hospitality for the two times she had visited Hawaii.
Since 2008 when we welcomed our first WAVOC student we’ve seen them graduate from University, start careers, and families. We’re called Mom and dad, or Karl san and Stacy san by them. It warms our hearts to hear those words of endearment knowing we have a special place in their hearts. We may not be Ohana by blood, but our shared memories and love make us Ohana.