Forging new friendships and the business of ‘I do’

During last week’s Sister City Signing Agreement Ceremony with Iwaki, Japan, I felt a strong sense of kizuna. This Japanese word translated means bond of friendship.

Throughout the ceremony this feeling transcended the event, from the formal Japanese spoken by visiting officials to the formal bows between residents and visitors to even the “big” hug of aloha by Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. to Director Kazuichi Ishii, representing Mayor Watanabe of Iwaki city, who was unable to attend while tending to his city’s recovery efforts. Mayor Carvalho eloquently described how it’s about aloha and sharing the aloha for our friends in Japan.

This ceremony, which also occurred the day after the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and 19th anniversary of Hurricane Iniki, provided everyone another reminder about how fragile our lives are, that life and the simple things in life really do matter and, most importantly, how fortunate we are to live in Kaua‘i, in whatever “abundance” we define abundance as meaning for ourselves. 

Toward the latter part of the ceremony, representatives from several Kaua‘i non-profit organizations, and people who simply cared about what happened in Japan on March 11, stepped forward to present monetary donations, which collectively amounted to nearly $30,000. These simple, touching and meaningful acts of kindness and aloha once again reminded me about one of Kaua‘i’s greatest values — caring for our community and, in this case, a community defined by friends and ‘ohana in Japan.

Through the one-hour ceremony, the Japanese representatives reaffirmed our historic, cultural and economic ties. 

As a student of East Asian studies (Japan, China, Korea), I have learned the importance of cross-cultural understanding and the contributions of our East Asian neighbors, which today are an even more important part of our global village. 

Another equally important value apparent that morning was kansha (gratitude). As Mayor Carvalho often says “Together We Can.” Our friends from Japan know that they, too, will survive, as did the people of New York, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Penn. Domo arigatoo gozaimashita.

Destination weddings as a tourism sector

At a recent wedding celebration I attended that brought nearly 60 family and friends over from the West Coast, I couldn’t but help but calculate the potential revenue stream and economic impact of a wedding. 

Conservatively, $50 per person multiplied by 60 visitors equals $3,000, multiplied by 10 days equals $30,000. I quickly realized that the wedding business for Kaua‘i is indeed an important contributor to our economy. 

Not including visitor attractions (free and paid) — such as a lu‘au, hike to Kalalau Valley, beach outing at Po‘ipu Beach, kayak tour and movie tour — the impact is far greater thanks to two people deciding to begin their lives as husband and wife on Kaua‘i. 

For this industry — which may include a day at the spa, suit rentals for the men, lei, bakers, photographers, caterers, florists and even event planner and consultants — the impact is even greater. The staff at the Hukilau Lanai exceeded the  expectations of guests and even me, who worked directly with the expansion of the renowned Kapio‘lani Community College Culinary Institute of the Pacific.

Chef-restaurateur Ron Miller customized a dinner menu that provided a true Kaua‘i farm-to-table experience that locavores would be extremely proud of.

Not to be outdone was the dessert, which a pastry chef instructor at Kaua‘i Community College once told me is important as the menu item that concluded a meal and should always be “perfect and memorable.”

The choices of macadamia nut tart, white chocolate cheesecake and lilikoi chiffon pie again reminded me of why the chef always insisted that his students understood the importance of having the perfect dessert to top off any meal — whether “just” a meal or a special occasion. Chef, you were right, and for this couple, thank you for choosing Kaua‘i.

Manager Amanda and her front-of-the-house team provided the much needed assurances for the couple, who were also three hours ahead in their local time zone and 2,500 miles away.

Mahalo to this industry for helping to diversify our Kaua‘i tourism sector and help brides and grooms make their dream weddings come true.

• Randall Francisco is president of the Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce. Visit for more info.


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