Hawaii Travelogue: A Japan away from Japan [Ch.1: Why Hawaii? and First Impressions]

By | July 3, 2017

This article is a part of series of articles about my 2017 trip to Hawaii. Please see the table of contents that contains links to other chapters.

Why Hawaii?

After much discussion we settled on Hawaii not just because of the Japanese culture there, but also because it was significantly closer to us (in Portland, Oregon) and therefore cheaper. Of course, for quite some time Hawaii has been known as a tropical paradise and popular place for vacations and honeymoons, at least in the US, so we were curious to experience this famous place ourselves.

We ended up choosing Alaska Airlines and found a direct flight which was only about 5-6 hours each way, for a total cost of roughly $2600 for 3 people. There is only a timezone difference of 3 hours between Hawaii and the west coast of the US, which makes jet lag significantly less harsh than traveling to Japan.

By scheduling our trip for for the week before the long July 4 weekend I think we saved a good bit of money on the hotel, flight, and avoided much of the crowds.

First Impressions

Our flight landed around 11pm in Hawaii’s timezone, and we departed the plane into a non-air conditioned and mostly deserted airport. I remember the airport felt really tiny and there were several areas that were under construction, overall giving a shabby impression.

It was around 80 degrees that night, and the temperature didn’t seem to vary too much the entire week, save for some occasional wind and rain. Nobody was at the airport to greet us and give us flowery necklaces like you see in the movies, although later I learned that some of the more expensive airlines (like Hawaiian airlines) still do that. We grabbed a local taxi to our hotel that was located around 20-30 minutes away, wanting to avoid waiting for Lyft at that late hour.

It was pretty dark and the route we took didn’t pass by any water, or if we did I completely missed it. Most of the way we were on an interstate with many hills and turns as it passed under a few bridges. Probably because my body was half-asleep (it was around 2am in Oregon time when we landed, and I hadn’t gotten much sleep on the plane) the midnight cityscape had a somewhat surreal feel to it. But overall it somehow reminded me of parts of South Florida, in particular Miami.

While I had a strong sense of being somewhere else, there was really nothing that made me feel I was in Hawaii, the celebrated island paradise.

As we approached the hotel, I remember idly staring out the window, glancing at the signs for several restaurants and stores that whizzed by. In my dazed state, one of them seemed to contain characters from a foreign language. Was is really Japanese? Or just my imagination…

(Next chapter)

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3 thoughts on “Hawaii Travelogue: A Japan away from Japan [Ch.1: Why Hawaii? and First Impressions]

  1. Kurt

    What a shame you landed at night. Flights from Japan almost always land around 6-7am and although the drive from the airport to Waikiki is nothing great (a freeway is a freeway after all), if you don’t take the freeway and go to Waikiki on Nimitz Hwy, you can’t escape the you have arrived on an island.

    Regarding leis, whenever our relatives would visit, we always stopped at a lei shop downtown to buy them a lei on the way to the airport to pick them up — worth it just to see their surprise, not to mention that the smell in the car would instantly improve. 🙂

    1. locksleyu Post author

      Thanks for the comments. Yeah it was hard enough finding a good direct flight, I don’t think there was any (or any cheap ones) that landed at better times.

      We did see some fresh flower-made leis in the airport on our way home (much better than the shell ones we received), but at that point it was a little late.


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