Maintaining a Japanese Cultural Identity Abroad: ‘Old Japan’ at the Japanese Department Store ‘Shirokiya’ in Honolulu

  • Abstract:

    Finding a huge Japanese department store in a U.S. shopping mall in Hawaii’s capitol Honolulu might be very surprising. But in fact, the Japanese have a long history on Hawaii, which started in 1868. In this year, the first Japanese settled over to Hawaii to work there and in the next decades many others followed and more and more stayed for good. Today, more than 20 percent of Hawaii’s population is Japanese. With this background, the existence of the department store ‘Shirokiya’ finds its reasons. Especially for the elderly Japanese Americans, the children and grandchildren of those immigrants, the department store constitutes a crucial role for dealing with their Japanese identity throughout various spheres. Yet, since the managers changed major parts of the store and today rather concentrates on the financially stronger younger generations and their needs, the elderly feel pushed off. Their disappointment towards the management and the store becomes obvious in the way that they do not visit the store anymore. What this loss means for the elderly Japanese and Japanese Americans of Hawaii and to which extent their processes of identity formation are constrained will be illustrated in this paper.