Valuing and Developing Multiple Perspectives As an Approach to Multicultural Education in a Diverse Society
Jeffrey A.S. Moniz
University of Hawai‘i at Manoa
In this piece, the author specifically focuses on describing an approach to multicultural education grounded in multicultural experiences in Hawai'i. The author also highlights Japanese television programs for children that made a significant contribution to the construction of a "Local" multiculture in Hawai'i. This spotlight on two particular tokusatsu series from Japan that aired in the islands in the 1970s, Rainbow Man and Kikaida, also serves to illustrate the nuances of the Hawai'i concept of multiple perspectives, which is the central focus of the paper.
Valuing and Developing Multiple Perspectives As an Approach to Multicultural Education in a Diverse Society
Brisk mountain breezes chilled the large audience gathered for an outdoor concert at the Maunaloa Civic Park on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. Willie K, a well-known Native Hawaiian guitarist and singer, sat on the stage softly picking his acoustic guitar. The mellow tune he played seemed hauntingly familiar from my childhood. Suddenly, he stopped his gentle playing and launched into an abrupt diatribe, spoken in Japanese, aimed at an invisible villain. Many in the audience realized that Willie K was performing an impersonation of Jiro, the human form of Kikaida, the superhero of a once-popular children’s TV show from Japan. Willie K mimicked a very recognizable scene that recurred in every episode of the program. Jiro would stop his soothing guitar playing to angrily confront the show’s villains. Following his diatribe, Jiro would perform a “change” sequence that signaled his transformation into his android form, the title hero, Kikaida. In each episode, Kikaida would defeat the villains with the TV program’s vigorous theme song playing in the background. Willie K flawlessly performed the sequence and the song on that evening on Molokai. He sang:
- Switch on, 1-2-3. Denryu hibana ga karada o hashiru. Jiro change Kikaida. Dark robot mukae ute. Jinzo ningen Kikaida. Change, change. Go, go, go, go. Go, go, go!
Many in the audience cheered. And, many others in the audience seemed puzzled. Anyone who lived in Hawai‘i, or knew much about Hawai‘i during the time period of the 1970s, understood Willie K’s reference. Tourists, transplants, or those too young to relate, were puzzled until they received an explanation. Based on conversations from that night at the concert, a lot of the Generation X audience members enjoyed that nostalgic visit to memories from their childhood.
Kikaida and other television programs from Japan were immensely popular with children growing up in Hawai‘i in the 1970s. Children religiously followed the exploits of their favorite Japanese superheroes featured in regularly scheduled television serials found on the local TV station dedicated to Japanese language programming. While the shows were entirely in Japanese, they included English subtitles. The popularity of Kikaida, and other Japanese shows of the tokusatsu genre, among Hawai‘i's youth of various ethnic backgrounds, is a phenomenon worthy of investigation. I believe that examining this phenomenon is useful for providing a lens through which to view and understand what I call the Local multiculture in Hawai‘i. This examination is also useful for illustrating some of the nuances of multicultural Hawai‘i's concept of multiple perspectives, which is the ultimate goal of this investigation.
Many in Hawai‘i, including tour guides, government leaders, everyday people, and well-regarded scholars, have all characterized Hawai‘i by highlighting its multicultural diversity. The discourse used to highlight Hawai‘i's multicultural diversity emphasizes how it is a place where “immigrant groups from all over the world appear to peacefully coexist” (Lind, 1938). It has become fashionable to describe the multicultural society of Hawai‘i as a “chop suey nation” (DeLima, 1991) or “mixed-plate culture” (Grant, 2000), a blend of all kinds of ethnic contributions. These diverse contributions coalesced into a common, Local multiculture. This Local culture is also reflected in its creole language, called Pidgin by its native speakers. While a more detailed elaboration of this Pidgin/Local languaculture would undoubtedly be of important historical, cultural, and sociolinguistic value, this particular piece centers on a certain aspect of Hawai‘i’s multiculture - its valuing of multiple perspectives. The remainder of this paper is made up of two main parts. First, I briefly describe the Local multiculture in Hawai‘i and point out how it is a particular example of a universal phenomenon that embodies a useful approach for multicultural education in diverse societies. Then, I discuss two specific examples drawn from Japanese contributions to Local multiculture, Rainbowman and Kikaida. I use the Rainbowman and Kikaida examples to further illustrate the meanings of multiple perspectives in Local multiculure. This discussion includes an analysis of the tokusatsu genre and its significance in Hawai‘i.
Multiple Perspectives and Locals in Hawai‘i
A dichotomy divided the population in Hawai‘i since its days of a plantation-driven economy. Whites held most of the positions of power as plantation owners, managers, supervisors, financiers, and merchants. Non-Whites did the backbreaking work at meager wages as plantation laborers, service workers, and domestics. The roots of Local identity and culture developed out of this shared class experience. Egalitarian attitudes towards other ethnic groups also grew out of familiarity facilitated by the passage of time and expedited by living and working in close proximity. Most importantly, non-Native and non-White residents took up the prevailing attitude of aloha, from both the authentic Native source and from discourse promoted by powerful Whites, who sought to mask their own racial privilege, establish social control, and attract visitors to the islands. Non-Whites embraced the melting pot ideal promoted by the White elite. Non-Whites readily bought into the myth because it was based on an authentic Hawaiian value, aloha, and because the social conditions of the islands were ripe for panethnic alliances among its working class. The Hawaiian value of aloha, or love, was the glue that facilitated the formation of alliances that crossed ethnic boundaries.
Non-White workers from various ethnic groups forged alliances. Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, and Portuguese workers cooperated with each other. Their solidarity prevented the planters from effectively pitting ethnic groups against each other as strikebreakers, which had been the planters’ prevailing strategy. In 1920, an interethnic strike resulted in the planters eventually meeting the strikers’ demands. The time was marked by a sense of cooperation and unity that transcended ethnic boundaries.
This panethnic unity further solidified during a series of highly publicized events surrounding the Massie Case of 1931-32. The sensationalized case, which made national headlines, concerned a White woman, the wife of a US naval officer, who was allegedly raped by a group of five young men. Two of the men were Native Hawaiian, two were Japanese, and one was Native Hawaiian Chinese. The rape case ended in a mistrial. Angered by the mistrial, the husband and mother of Thalia Massie, the alleged victim, with the help of two Naval midshipman, took matters into their own hands and lynched Joseph Kahahawai, one of the accused five. The White vigilantes were found guilty of manslaughter. They were sentenced to ten years of hard labor, only to have their sentence commuted to one day served in the territorial governor’s office. The case was an insult to non-Whites, who overwhelmingly identified with the “local boys.” Discussions of the Massie Case, whether in print media or on the lips of gossips, are often cited as the first time that the term “Local” was used with any salience (Rosa, 2000; Yamamoto, 1995).
The Local panethnic unity further solidified during World War II, when the distinction between non-Whites and the hordes of White military servicemen stationed in the islands became even more apparent. Solidarity manifested itself once again, in the form of the large-scale sugar strikes of 1946. Workers of all of the various ethnic groups drew on their shared experiences of mistreatment by American Whites and combined together in one labor organization the CIO-ILWU (Rademaker, 1947). This alliance, nurtured by harmonious race relations reinforced by the promotion of aloha, developed into a common identity.
This common identity coalesced over time as a result of social interactions among different ethnic groups at work, school, church, in the community, in leisure activities, and in the home, most notable though intermarriage (Okamura, 1998). Various character traits are associated with Local culture. They include being “easygoing, friendly, open, trusting, humble, generous, loyal to family and friends, and indifferent to achieved status distinctions” (Okamura, 1998, p. 268). These are attributes that characterize the positive perceptions of Native Hawaiians and are in opposition to conventional White American values that emphasize “directness, competition, individualism, achievement of status, and the necessity for impersonal, contractual relationships.” Jonathan Okamura provided this description of Local: “Local has come to represent the common identity of people of Hawai‘i and their appreciation of the inherent value of the land, peoples, and cultures of the islands” (Okamura, 1980).
In Hawai‘i, Local consciousness is split, “sometimes mimicking and other times resisting colonial narratives” (Chang, 1996). Chang’s notion of Local consciousness accurately describes the fluid nature of Local identity that is so dependent on context. Sometimes Hawai‘i Locals reflect more White American values and sometimes they exhibit more Hawaiian values, or the values of their non-White, non-Hawaiian, ethnic ancestry. Due to the range of fluidity between and among value systems, “Localness” can be difficult to pin down. That is, unless multiplicity and fluidity are considered as key descriptors of Local identity.
Multiplicity. The valuing of multiplicity is essential to being Local. Multiplicity, whether it be a multiplicity of racial backgrounds, possessing a syncretic worldview, or owning a worldview different than the one usually associated with one’s racialized identity, is an essential characteristic of being Local.
The valuing of multiplicity is also a central tenet of multiculturalism and multicultural education. Multiculturalism is a skill that needs to be acquired in order for our children to function and thrive in today’s world. If educators are truly interested in contributing to a just and humane society, we need to build a democracy that is inclusive of all groups and often-conflicting worldviews. An approach that is grounded in the experiences of individuals raised in a multiculture and their multicultural, multigenerational families offers that promise. Specifically, this approach entails a model of instruction, positioned in a sort of middle space, which draws from the varied backgrounds of students and develops the skills necessary to view phenomena from multiple points of view.
Fluidity. The other essential characteristic of the multiple perspectives approach inherent in being Local is the fluidity that accounts for the perception of Locals possessing split consciousnesses that vary depending on context. The performance of one’s identity can shift dramatically between contexts. The recognition of the contextual nature of identity allows the potential for one’s identity to broaden beyond just one dimension.
Rainbowman and Kikaida as Representatives of Local Multiculture
In the 1970s, beginning in 1974, live action children’s television shows from Japan exploded in popularity in Hawai‘i. KIKU, the television station in Honolulu that aired the programs, offered Hawai‘i Japanese superheroes and people in Hawai‘i embraced them. They included the tokusatsu characters, Rainbowman, Kikaida, Kikaida 01, Kamen Rider V3, Zaboga, Diamond Eye, and the predecessors of today’s Power Rangers, the Go Rangers. While all of these tokusatsu series, in general, were popular in Hawai‘i, Rainbowman and Kikaida had the strongest appeal. Kikaida, in particular, captured the imagination of children, their parents, and their grandparents. At the height of its popularity, in 1975, Kikaida garnered a whopping 26% share of the Nielson ratings for its prime time slot. This was very unusual for KIKU, which was a small, obscure station that previously only had the reputation of being the channel of old Japanese people.
While the general manager of KIKU then, Joanne Ninomiya, deserves the credit for having the vision to select shows that would have broad appeal, what, exactly, about these shows made them so appealing to people in Hawai‘i? Explanations abound, especially from the enduring fan base, but I propose that the characters of two of the superheroes presented early on, in 1974, especially resonated with Locals of various ethnic backgrounds in Hawai‘i because characteristics of the superheroes exemplified the Local multiculture. The representation of important characteristics of the Local culture made it natural for Locals to want to identify with these particular superheroes. The characteristics being exemplified are important aspects of the concept of multiple perspectives. And, the valuing of these aspects, namely, multiplicity and fluidity, is not only integral to Local multiculture in Hawai‘i, but is also a vital feature of multiculturalism and multicultural education in all diverse contexts.
In the cases of Rainbowman and Kikaida, both superheroes externally represented multiplicity and fluidity. Both possessed multiple identities and the ability to transform between these identities, depending on the situation. The Japanese term for the superhero transformation that the characters would undergo is
henshin. Henshin tokusatsu characters emerged in Japan, at that time in the 1970s, and they continue to be popular today, most notably in the form of the Power Rangers. The two most significant henshin tokusatsu characters, who first captured imaginations in Hawai‘i, were Rainbowman and Kikaida.
Rainbowman was the first of the two superheroes who appeared on KIKU. The hero, who had a human form, could henshin/change, basically, into seven different superhero forms. He could also transform into a combination of several of the seven forms, depending on what the situation commanded. Each form had a different appearance, with a particular color theme, and a specific skill. So, while each superhero form differed, they all were incarnations of the same being. Rainbowman would undergo transformations by unlocking this ability through Buddhist teachings and deep meditation.
Rainbowman exemplifies multiplicity in his being, much like how a multicultural person possesses multiple perspectives from which to draw upon, depending on the situation. For example, someone who is ethnically Native Hawaiian, raised in the Local multiculture, may also possess profound knowledge and understanding of, both, Japanese cultural conventions and American business attitudes. At home, he may operate, primarily, under both Native Hawaiian cultural practices and additional Local multicultural practices. At work, in a business context, he might operate according to White American business practices. And, in a Japanese setting, like a Japanese restaurant or a business visit to Japan, he may operate using his knowledge of Japanese culture. The same person is able to draw from multiple perspectives a multiplicity of resources, instead of remaining one-dimensional in every setting. He is able to transform, like Rainbowman, depending on the situation.
Like Rainbowman, Kikaida exemplifies both multiplicity and fluidity. Kikaida is a super android, who has both a human form and a robot-looking cyborg form. In his human form, he is Jiro. As Jiro, Kikaida is able to successfully battle lesser henchman. But, in order to fight the main “Destructoid” villain in each episode, Jiro must transform into his Kikaida superhero form. His transformation is marked by the performance of a sequence of motions and declarations that signal his transformation. This henshin sequence is a staple of tokusatsu characters produced by Toei studios. So, like Rainbowman, Kikaida is able to transform his form, based on his situation.
Kikaida’s multiplicity is also marked externally in how he is visually represented. His head and body are demarcated by a line of meridian that bisects him symmetrically. Half of his body appears as mostly red and the other half appears as mostly blue. Visually, Kikaida is marked as being made up of two different halves. The Kikaida character embodies multiplicity.
Tokusatsu’s Appeal to Locals in Hawai‘i
Kikaida, more than any other superhero, embodies diversity. This is significant in a place where between 25-30% of the population is of mixed ancestry. In my opinion, Kikaida’s appeal extended beyond just those who were ethnically Japanese because many children, by the 1970s in Hawai‘i, were either culturally blended or of mixed ancestry. For the first time, there was a superhero to relate to who embodied the multiplicity which people in Hawai‘i, more than any other place, lived in their daily lives. I believe that this is a major reason why Kikaida’s popularity in Hawai‘i even surpassed its popularity in Japan. The action, special effects, and universal themes of tokusatsu programs combined with other elements, like exceptionally good music composed just for each program, and stunning visuals that emphasized the use of primary colors (Ninomiya, 2007). These ingredients contributed greatly to its appeal, even in Hawai‘i. Still, other important factors of shows like Kikaida also tapped into unique aspects of Hawai‘i’s makeup.
Asian representations and Local culture. First, a largely non-White population of children in Hawai’i was provided access to non-White protagonists. While samurai dramas and kung fu films also provided this access to strong Asian role models, these programs, aimed at children, directly provided these role models for children. Many non-White children in Hawai‘i could relate more to Rainbowman and Kikaida, in their human forms, than Superman or Aquaman, who were White. If anything, at least the range of resources that children could draw from for their heroes was broadened by these imported Japanese programs.
Herein lies one of the differences between the tokusatsu offered in Hawai‘i, then, when contrasted with the tokusatsu available on broadcast television in Hawai‘i and the US, now. Take the example of Power Rangers. Today, the versions released to American audiences by the Disney corporation have two main differences. First, tokusatsu offerings in the US are now dubbed into English. Second, the human forms of the superheroes are no longer only Japanese. They are, primarily, white and English-speaking. So, while shows like the Power Rangers still appeal to American children, today it may be due more to the action, special effects and universal themes. The major difference between the Power Rangers of today and their predecessors, the Go Rangers shown in Hawai‘i, by KIKU in the 1970s, is in how they were represented in their human form. The rangers shown in Hawai‘i back then were Asian. The rangers broadcast on television today are, for the most part, White. This, particularly for the largely non-White population in Hawai‘i, is a significant difference.
Intergenerational interest. Another factor that contributed to the popularity of tokusatsu children shows in Hawai‘i was that the interest crossed generational lines. In a household of Japanese ancestry in the 1970s, it was not unusual for Issei, Nisei, and Sansei, three generations of family members to be tuned into KIKU for Kikaida. According to an interview that Joanne Ninomiya conducted with Ban Daisuke and Ikeda Shunsuke, the actors who portrayed Jiro and Ichiro, the human forms of Kikaida and Kikaida 01, respectively, they agreed that the intergenerational interest in Hawai‘i differed from the interest in Japan. In Japan, adults looked down on children’s programs. Parents in Japan did not want their children watching action hero shows.
Parents and grandparents in Japan were not as interested in tokusatsu as the adults in Hawai‘i. In Hawai‘i, it would not have been unusual for Isei and Nisei to be interested in programming produced by Toei studios, the same producers who provided the samurai dramas popular amongst grandparents and parents. The tokusatsu broadcast on the same familiar TV station had similar themes and the same martial arts action as their favorite samurai shows. Tokusatsu shows, like the samurai dramas, were subtitled in English. This familiarity, combined with an interest and love for Japanese culture to draw the approval and interest of parents and grandparents.
Joanne Ninomiya, who was the station’s general manager at the time, recalls that the non-Japanese parents were also very tolerant, allowing their children to watch these Japanese language programs in their homes. She found this to be remarkable and attributed this to the openness of Hawai‘i’s multicultural society. In fact, many of those non-Japanese children in Hawai‘i from the 1970s are today parents and grandparents who also continue to share their love for shows like Kikaida with their children.
The love affair between Hawai‘i and tokusatsu continues today. Rainbowman and Kikaida have been valuable contributions from Japan to Hawai‘i’s Local multiculture. These superheroes personified the Local experience in Hawai‘i - an experience that values multiple perspectives, multiplicity, and fluidity. These notions are also vital aspects of multiculturalism and multicultural education. The valuing of diverse perspectives, whether the differences are racial, socioeconomic, or generational, is a way to honor the integrity of our individual backgrounds while forging a future built on our connections, including our common experiences.
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Generation Kikaida website. Retrieved August 2007, from http://www.generationkikaida.com
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Ninomiya, J. (Interviewee). JN Productions, Inc. (Producer). (2007). Kikaida 01 [Promotional DVD, Disc 6]. (Available from JN Productions, Inc., 2153 N. King Street, Suite 316, Honolulu: HI 96819; www.generationkikaida.com)
Ninomiya, J. (Interviewer) with Daisuke, B. & Shunsuki, I. (Interviewees). JN Productions, Inc. (Producer). (2007). Kikaida 01 [Promotional DVD, Disc 6]. (Available from JN Productions, Inc., 2153 N. King Street, Suite 316, Honolulu: HI 96819; www.generationkikaida.com)
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Tonouchi, L. (2006). Diff’rent stations. boundary 2, 33(2), 27-30. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
Yamamoto, Eric. (1979). The significance of local. Social process in Hawai`i, 27: pp. 101-15. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai‘i Press.
Willie K. is the stage name for Willie Kahaiali‘i, a highly-respected musician, popular in Hawai‘i. He is known for his versatile guitar artistry and his vocal range. The concert at Maunaloa Civic Park, on Molokai, Hawai‘i, took place in 1997.
Lyrics were found on the Generation Kikaida website, http://www.generationkikaida.com. The site, created by fans in Hawai‘i, is devoted to Kikaida and several other related characters from Japanese children shows that aired in Hawai‘i during the 1970s. Generation X refers, roughly, to those born in the 1960s and seventies.
Tokusatsu refers to the genre of Japanese children’s television and film entertainment that includes live-action and special effects to tell the stories of superheroes.
The author wishes to acknowledge the previous work of those who have also analyzed Kikaida’s influence, especially the presenters of “Kikaidology 605,” an event from the Kikaida 30th Anniversary Festival, Honolulu, Hawai‘i, on October 30, 2004. Chance Gusukuma served as moderator for the panel discussion, which included Greg Chang, Lee Tonouchi, and Aaron Yamasato as panelists. Pomai Souza moderates an on-line discussion called Tokusatsu Planet. August Ragone, founder of Henshin! Online, and John Cassidy wrote a definitive guide to Kikaida that is included as a special feature in Volumes 8 and 9 of the Kikaida DVD box set produced by JN Productions, Inc.
The term languaculture comes from Michael Agar who drew from Paul Friedrich’s notion of linguaculture. The concept emphasizes the inextricable link between a culture and its language. See Language Shock: Understanding the Culture of Conversation (1994). New York: Quill.
The information presented in this section was provided by Joanne Ninomiya, who was the station manager and eventually president of KIKU. She provided this information in a meeting on August 22, 2007 and via an interview, conducted in 2002, that was included with the release of Kikaida 01 DVDs in 2007.
Jon Shigaki, in a personal communication, also stressed the importance of Kikaida’s colors in his appeal. Shigaki theorized that Kikaida’s largely red and blue color scheme (like Superman’s and Spiderman’s) reflect American patriotic colors making the Japanese superhero more palatable, even desirable, in the US.
See Lee Tonouchi’s piece titled “Diff’rent Stations” in the Summer 2006 issue of boundary 2 for a poem concerning Asian role models in Hawai‘i.