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ART IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
San Francisco Bay Area

ART IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY: San Francisco Bay Area

 

See why the San Francisco Bay Area is a magnet for artists who are drawn to its experimental atmosphere, countercultural spirit and history of innovation, and who are united by their steadfastness and persistence in creating. Featuring Katy Grannan, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Stephanie Syjuco and the artists from Creative Growth Art Center.

 

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Alice Inoue

 

Inoue is the founder of Happiness U, an organization with a mission to teach others about achieving life balance and fulfillment. Her childhood in San Francisco and Taiwan left her feeling lonely and out of place. After working several dozen jobs in Japan, she moved to Hawai‘i on a whim. Inoue reflects on how her curiosity and entrepreneurial nature led her on an untraditional path to her current position of helping others find their life’s purpose.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, Feb. 23, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

Alice Inoue Podcast

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

In the 60s, being mixed was not really something that was- that you would be proud of. It’s- I think when I came to Hawai‘i, it seemed to be celebrated almost like, wow, you’re hapa. And it felt like very normal. But it wasn’t, growing up. It wasn’t normal. And living even in San Francisco, it didn’t feel like I was part of a San Francisco culture.

 

She calls herself a T.C.K. Or third culture kid who never fit in anywhere. Yet she says she overcame all the negativity she felt toward herself and the world around her. And today counsels people on how to be happy. Meet this life coach next on Long Story Short.

 

One on one engaging conversations with some of Hawai‘i’s most intriguing people. Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.

 

Aloha mai kākou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Alice Fong Inoue of Kaka‘ako, O‘ahu has had many jobs in her life, including teacher, television show presenter, astrologer and feng shui consultant just to name a few. Currently, she’s an author, a life coach and the founder of Happiness U. That’s an organization whose mission is to teach people how to balance their lives so they can be happy. Alice Inoue always says she was anything but happy when she was growing up. Born to a Chinese mother and German Irish father in San Francisco, she felt out of place, whether she was in America or in her mother’s homeland in Taiwan.

 

First, I just want to ask you used the expression that was the first time I’ve heard it; third culture kid.

 

Oh, T.C.K. Yes, third culture kids. So a third culture kid is someone who was raised not in the country of their origin. And the culture of a T.C.K. Is such that you become- you create your own culture. So if you think about it, I grew up speaking English in Taiwan, which was a Chinese culture, and going to an American school and then later going to Japan. So-

 

And speaking Japanese.

 

And speaking- Yeah. So I never felt like I really fit in anywhere. And so that is a very common thing for T.C.K and T.C.K.’s. I think Hawai’i has a lot of T.C.K.s because Hawai‘i culture is not like mainland culture either. Like Obama’s a T.C.K. There’s a lot of- and now- now we are adult T.C.K.s.

 

Kind of like being between cultures.

 

Yeah. Yeah. So I don’t feel like you belong to any culture. I don’t feel like I belong to any belief system. I don’t feel like I belong anywhere. In fact, I feel that I am-

 

To this day?

 

Yeah. I don’t feel like I belong anywhere. Yes, I feel like I’m me. And either you get me or you e- you- you resonate with what I do and what I talk about or you don’t. That’s kind of it. So I don’t feel like I- like I don’t feel like I belong to Hawai‘i or I don’t feel like I am. I live in Hawai‘i. I love Hawai‘i. It’s supported me. I’ve had amazing learning experiences here. But I- but I’m not from here. So when people say, where are you from? I really feel like there’s no answer to that.

 

So you grew up in San Francisco until you were eight, but you didn’t feel like an American?

 

No, I don’t really remember much of that. And in fact, I somehow got teased as a child because somebody saw my mother being Chinese. And so the words such as Chinese pig, and so I was very much extricated from American people. So I never had a really good childhood in America. Then going to Taiwan, I had brown hair. I was different from them. So I was very much not connected to any culture. And so I never felt like I was one or the other.

 

You said your mother’s from Taiwan. What about your dad?

 

My dad, he was uhh- He was a merchant marine from Rhode Island. And so he was twenty six years older than my mother and met her when she was working at like a bookstore in Taiwan or something. And somehow they connected and brought her to America. So this is in the 60s.

 

So were hapa kids in San Francisco?

 

No…

 

Not really huh?

 

I think back in the 60s, being mixed was not really something that was- that you would be proud of it. I think when I came to Hawai‘i, it seemed to be celebrated almost like, wow, you’re hapa. And it felt like very normal. But it wasn’t. Growing up it wasn’t normal. And living even in San Francisco, it didn’t feel like I was part of a San Francisco culture.

 

And then in Taiwan, it didn’t feel normal either.

 

No, because then again, my father was American and they’re all Chinese and I lived with the whole bunch of my mother’s family, relatives and Chinese cousins. So I was always the odd one because I was part American.

 

Why did you move to Taiwan after-

 

So what it was, was I believe that my mother and I- my father was a merchant marine. So he would be away a lot and left my mother and I in San Francisco. And I think she must have missed home or something. So he thought, well, I travel all over the world on the ship anyway. Why don’t you just go live near your relatives in Taiwan? So that’s why we- I grew up over there. I went to an American school, but I lived with a whole bunch of Chinese relatives.

 

After Taiwan you moved back to the United States to go to-

 

-College.

 

–college?

 

Yes. So at 16, I graduated from high school and I moved back to go to college. And I still didn’t know who I was. I didn’t feel American college scared me with all the Americans. And they were very American. And I didn’t feel American even though I spoke English. And I was very unhappy. I- I was umm… I started eating. I gained a lot of weight. And I was just unhappy. And even though there’s nothing to be unhappy about, it was my reality. And the final… Week of school. Back then, we passed notes. We didn’t have text, right? And some classroom- somebody passed a note. Had my name on it. I didn’t know who it’s from, but I opened it up and the note said, you’re always so unhappy. Do you ever- do you even know what happiness is or something to that effect? And I looked around. I didn’t know who it was. But that, I believe, was sort of the catalyst to me recognizing, huh, is there such a thing as I didn’t know that I was putting out that vibe? I had no idea-

 

It’s how you always were right?

 

Yeah. I complain and blame and feel sorry for myself and cry. So I didn’t know that- that- that you could search this or I didn’t realize that I was giving that out. So I believe that kind of started the trigger. And then after college, I went to live in Japan and it was just, I think, little- finding little pieces of myself along the way.

 

After graduating from the University of California at Santa Cruz, Alice Inoue spent the next four years living and working in Japan. Then she decided, on a whim, to move to Hawaii.

 

You’ve said that you’ve had 30 to 40 jobs, which is astounding. And I remember you’ve said that when you were in Japan, you had eight jobs simultaneously.

 

I’m kind of entrepreneurial by nature. So I- I didn’t know the word entrepreneur. You don’t know that word when you’re growing up. But it- when I look back so in college, uhh, I just learned how to cut hair. And so I started cutting people’s hair for money. So I used to make money, just cutting people’s hair in the dorm bathrooms. And then going to Japan, it was- I was there to teach English as my first job. But I also know how to play piano. So I started teaching piano. I also spoke Chinese, so I started speaking Chinese. Umm, I also cut hair as I would start cutting people’s hair. So I started to pick up all these different jobs based on the skills that I had. And I really enjoyed that. And my life has just been a series of one thing after another. Not for any other reason other than I really get excited by learning new things and then being able to share them with others. And if I can use that to- as a profession, even better.

 

And did you get tired of what you were doing? Is that why you stopped?

 

New opportunities would come up. And I think that…

 

You don’t have time for everything.

 

Yeah, so it’s just the situations would change. And I just wanted to do something more. I would just- it just kept evolving.

 

You’ve lived in Hawai‘i for- is it 30 years now?

 

30 years, exactly. This year I was living in Japan. And I watched a television show of Konishiki and Konishiki is a sumo wrestler that was very, very popular at that time. And there was a show about him coming to Hawai‘i. And I watched it. And it’s- it’s funny because I didn’t know anything about Destiny or Syncr- I didn’t know any of that. But all I knew was like, Hawai‘i, I want to go to Hawai‘i. And so back in- this is 1989. I call the travel agent and uhh, booked a flight to Hawai‘i. When I got to Hawai‘i, I- I… Had never felt more comfortable in any place in my whole entire life. It was as if I’d come home and that’s the only way I could describe it. And the taxi driver said that if you’re a first time to Hawai‘i, you have to go to Waikīkī. You have to go see Diamond Head. So I remember being in front of the Duke Kahanamoku statue and laying there thinking, gosh, I have an American passport. I would love to live in Hawai‘i because I had already been in Japan for about three years- four years at that time. And at that moment, a newspaper classified ads blew by and basically blanketed my body. And when I looked at it, it had all these help wanted ads. I thought, oh, my gosh, maybe I could work in Hawai‘i. So I took my quarter and it was by that police station on Kalakaua.

 

When pay phones-

 

-Pay phones-

 

–Took a quarter.

 

Yes! And I called and I got an audition. And then I had to go to Liberty House at that time, bought an outfit, auditioned or not auditioned. What is it- interviewed. And then I got the job and I moved to Hawaii within a few weeks.

 

Wow.

 

And not knowing anybody.

 

And many people were between islands, maybe between coastlines in America. But you. That’s a big move.

 

It was huge. And I think just-

 

To do it alone.

 

Yeah, I was alone and I didn’t know anybody. And it was kind of a- I don’t know why.

 

That was a great leap of faith, would you say?

 

Yeah, it was. And it was just right. It just felt right. And it was uhh- it was a rocky start in the beginning. But 30 years later, here I am.

 

Once you got to Hawaii, how did you make a life for yourself besides landing a job first thing?

 

So when I first moved to Hawai‘i, I didn’t know anyone except the person that had hired me. And we didn’t have Internet back then. So you couldn’t really research people so you don’t really know about them. So the first company I worked for… It was during the time of that real estate boom. That was uhh, a lot of Japanese were buying buildings and buying condos here. So it was a kind of a real estate company. And it was it was difficult only in that they weren’t as ethical as uhh- as you would think a company wer- was. And there’s just a lot of complexities that came. So imagine coming to Hawai‘i with beautiful weather, just people that are so welcoming and then working at a company where the only person I knew was the boss. And his idea of work was, you come in at eight o’clock in the morning and you don’t finish until midnight. And I didn’t know any other way. I didn’t know about labor law. I didn’t know anything. So it took me a good year before I kind of got a little bit more entrenched into the community and realized like, oh, this is not how you- how you have to- have to live.

 

You married somebody very well known here.

 

Yes. Yes.

 

Egan Inoue.

 

Yes.

 

Racquetball champ and martial-

 

Martial-

 

Mixed martial arts practitioner.

 

Yes. Yes.

 

And that’s why your last name is Inoue now.

 

Yes. People always ask that. So I don’t have any Japanese blood in me per say. But through Egan, I got to keep his last name. And so I love- I love it. And he’s a- he’s an amazing friend and amazing person. Taught me so much about life and success. And if you want something and you want to be the best at something, you have to put time into it.

 

So you’re born Fong, now what was your-

 

You want me to tell you my real- maiden name?

 

I’ve seen Fong associated with you, but-

 

That’s just my middle name.

 

OK.

 

So my last name is Leary.

 

Leary.

 

L-E- and I never felt like me. I never liked that name.

 

Fong is your mom’s-

 

-Umm, I think-

 

–name?

 

–it was my my grandmother’s name. So Alice Fong Leary is how I was born. But Alice Leary never really had a good life. I’ll just say it just never seemed to go my way. Even when I first came to Hawai‘i and I was starting to do auditions. I never got anything as Alice Leary. I think I did- I counted it, like fifty-two auditions for different commercials and things and I never got it. Then as soon as it became Alice Inoue, everything changed. I did get a- that sort of started- and I think it’s because in Hawai‘i it was a familiar last name and it kind of integrated me a little bit better.

 

And you obviously feel comfortable with it because you- you’re no longer married to Egan, but you keep it.

 

Yes. Yes. Yes. It’s- it’s- it- it really has worked well for me because I got involved in the Japan market working for Japan TV news. So it really match. And I also speak Japanese. So it just sort of matched. And I kept it. And I- I just I feel like Alice Inoue now.

 

You know, there is a time you were known by tens of thousands of people in Hawai‘i, but they weren’t necessarily local people. They were people seeing you in their hotel rooms.

 

Yeah!

 

And you were terrific. I saw you doing news on visitor- Visitor Television.

 

Yes, it was called- it was Japan TV news visitor, it was O‘ahu visitors bureau television. We had these different uhh, shows that would air in twenty-eight thousand hotel rooms to all the visitors that came. So we did these daily newscasts about jellyfish or just different activities going on. So it was known much more to the visitors that came to Hawaii than people that lived here locally.

 

And then you besides being an anchor, then you went off and did a field reporting show where you were doing sports, and surfing.

 

Yeah! So that was our Fuji Television. So we wanted to show the visitors to Hawai‘i that it’s- there’s so much to do. So we did something like 39 or 40 different things. Everything from scuba diving to skydiving to anything that you could do as an activity in Hawaii. I got to do it. So we called this sh- we called the show Do Sports. And that was really helpful to a lot of the businesses locally so that we could showcase the things that could be done in Hawaii that you might not have known about.

 

You’ve said that you’re a- you’re an introvert by nature, but all these things you’re talking about really require the ability-

 

-Yeah.

 

–to present in front of people and bring it and- and depend on others for-

 

Mhmm.

 

–for your success, especially in television.

 

Yeah.

 

How do you-

 

Yeah.

 

How does that correlate?

 

So interesting. Like when I take any sort of test, if you- out of 30 questions, 29 out of 30, I’m more introverted. So I’m- I’m what you would call a learned extrovert. So by understanding that what I need is time alone, then I make sure that I have a lot of time alone. And when I say learned extrovert, it’s Toastmasters. It’s all these different ways to learn how to speak. I mean, people wouldn’t believe it, but in college or all the way through college, I never once raised my hand in class to ask a question because I was shy. And uhh, it’s the only reason that I can get up and do what I do is because I love the information that I’ve learned and I love nurturing people. And so I want to share information so that forces me to get up. And the more people I want to reach, the more confident I have to be in speaking to large groups. So it was- it’s a- it was a learned expanse. And in fact, every single time I have to get up to talk, I go through a complete challenged internally to be able to to present.

 

Alice Inoue’s career in tourist television and as an on camera talent and spokesperson for local businesses was flourishing in Hawai‘i. Then an unexpected turn of events changed all that. And off she went on an entirely new life path.

 

During those years, I felt that I had really become successful in some way. I was busy filming every day. We’re doing these shows and I had sponsorships from different companies, large companies that would pay me money. And it was wonderful. And I thought that this was the- this is who I am. This is what I do. I just introduced Hawai‘i and I try to showcase Hawai‘i to the- to the Japanese market and that I felt really good. And somebody uhhm, gave me a gift certificate for an astrology reading. Now, I wasn’t into it. Not my thing, but some gives you a gift certificate, you go. So I went and this- this man started telling me about myself. But my mind was like, well, you read that in the newspaper. I was on the cover of midweek. You read that there- so your mind doesn’t let you believe it. And so anyway, he pulls out a bunch of data and this is in 1997 and he says in April of 19- of the year 2000 you’re going to have a career change. You’re gonna go on a career change because of this planet. So I was like, mm ok. Do you remember Palm Pilots back in the day?

 

Yes. Palm Pilots.

 

So I was very modern in 1997. I had a Palm Pilot. So I- I clicked forward three years and I wrote in there, astrologer says, Pluto changes my life. And I almost did it facetiously. Wrote it in there April of 2000. And I kind of put it away and forgot about it. Then as we got towards that time period, I started losing sponsors and losing shows and I was doing a variety of contracts and shows. But it was fine. I still had my full time job that Japan TV needs- news. And then they came in on April 1st of the year 2000. And my boss at the time said to me, Alice, we have good news and bad news. The good news is that we sold the company. Now, I didn’t even know the company is for sale. Good news was we sold company. The bad news is they didn’t purchase your- your little newscast. And so we’re going to have to let you go so you can go get an employment. And so without the vehicle of television, nobody is gonna- I- sponsor. There’s- it was pretty much my whole identity. I didn’t- I didn’t know who I was without television.

 

And blindsided-

 

-Yes, I had no idea.

 

–And not to have any warm up on it.

 

Yeah. So I remember going to unemployment. And as clear as day. Glass- you pull out a form and it says, how long did you work that? Right. You have to write down your work. And I turned on my Palm Pilot and the pop up came up that I had written three years ago that said that your life would go through a career change. And I just thought, oh, my God. And it was one of those moments literally where that chicken skin moment, that realization that this was destined. Kind of like it was so foreign to me. But all I knew was I made a commitment in that moment that I wanted to learn it. I want to learn how to calculate somebodies life. I wanted to- because I felt safe in that moment, because I was scared of- what am I gonna do? Who am I?

 

But it felt better to believe that this was preordained.

 

Somehow, yes. So in that moment, I felt very like, wow, how do- how do you do this? And I was curious. I think that was it. I was very curious. So from- and from there unemployment, I went to Borders and I bought like four hundred dollars worth of like astrology. Like- and I was on unemployment. I had no work. So all I did was study. And that- that was like the birth. And that was literally 20- 20 years ago. Yeah, basically 20 years ago. And that started this whole new journey of wanting to understand the divine workings of human beings, of the universe, of life and why things happen. So that began this- this sort of segment of my life that I’m in now.

 

You also did feng shui?

 

OK, so the- the- the way it goes is like I started and I said, wow, how do you figure this out? So I started learning the- the- the- the- about astrology and cy- life cycles that say it’s more about timing. When did- when do you move? When do you change jobs? When- when do you transition? So learning about life cycles. And then, well, the next thing, if the planets have something governing us, then what about your environment? So then I got into Feng shui. So I went to learn about feng shui. And once that- whenever I learn something, I delve so, so deep into it that I learn it and I embody it. And then I- I was- I was a astrology and feng shui consultant for a while. Then people would say, you know, I can’t help it because I’m a Scorpio, or oh, I talk too much because I’m a Gemini. So people would give these excuses or they would say things like, I don’t have money because my bathroom is in the wrong place. That kind of thing. And I started thinking, you know, no, it’s not. You can’t blame the planet, can’t blame your environment. It’s you. So then I got into life guidance, meaning how do we create our life? So, yes, the planets are there. There’s a sun in the morning, the moon at night. Yes, our environment is there. If it’s uncluttered, we probably feel better. But it’s really up to you. And so that’s how I moved into life guidance. And that’s where I started discovering that we have so much more… Power over our lives than we think. Things don’t just happen to us, they happen for us. And how do we look for the good in situations and how do we train ourselves to be able to kind of live a life that we want.

 

And you found answers for all of those things?

 

Kind of. I found answers that satisfied me. Yes. And then uhh- then I used whatever I’ve researched, whatever I’ve learned. I’ve read hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of books and spent thousands of hours studying. And I’ve come to understand that we- there- things do happen for a reason, if we can find that reason, because then we can move forward. So, yes, I feel like in my case, I found answers.

 

You know, I notice you’re really keying in on, you know, why do things happen? When do they happen? How do we know?

 

Mhmm.

 

I’m just kind of looking back at your childhood, because so often what we do, we don’t even realize that at the time. But umm, something happens in our childhood and-

 

Yeah.

 

–we- It really- it influences what we do later.

 

I’m living in places that didn’t accept me. So if you’re not accepted socially, what do you want to do? You want to be alone, right? So when you’re alone, there’s a lot of time and a lot of umm, things that you start to discover about yourself. And so what I- what I- what I tell people too, is a lot of your purpose lies in what you used to love as a child, because sometimes as adults, we get into just doing what we have to do to make money, pay the mortgage. We kind of get into life and we do things because we have to. Not necessarily because we love it. And when we- when we’re trapped into it, our life kind of gets a little bit dimmer. It’s not as- it’s not as fun. But if you go back to when you were a child, what are the things that you love to do. Uhh, I used to love solving puzzles. I used to love dissecting animals. Uhh, so I- all the things that I love to do as a child. I feel that I’m doing them now as an adult. So it- its-

 

But you did them as a child for a sense of escape or to make yourself happy.

 

Yeah. Because I just enjoy doing these things. I loved magic tricks. I loved- I just loved anything that I could do on my own. And I- I remember umm, wanting to, to help people. But if nobody likes you, nobody wants you to help them. Right? So I would put these uhh, kind of stuffed animals or figurines and I would pretend like I was their counselors or their- their- their guide. So I would premake these questions that they had for me and I’d put questions out of the hat and I would pretend like I was helping them in life. I wanted to be like a Dear Abby. I loved Dear Abby. I used to read that all the time. Living in Taiwan, we used to get some sort of American newspaper and she was in there. And used to love- And I always thought like, I want to be a Dear Abby.

 

And so interesting, so by feeling unaccepted, you resorted to your own devices to find out what cheered you up and-

 

Yes.

 

-satisfied you.

 

Yeah.

 

And that- that- that’s a theme that remains to this day.

 

Yes. Because everything that I find and I do alone. And I- and I find it to be valuable to me. Or I want to come out and share it with you. So I feel like I’ve been interested in many, many different things. And because of that, I’ve learned a lot. In 2013, I uhh- and then I started writing books. I wanted to share what I learned at the end of the year with people. So I started writing books. So I- I had a plan. I wanted to do a book a year- book a year. And I got to my sixth year. I was going to write my sixth book. I couldn’t seem to figure out what I was going to do and I couldn’t move forward. And I asked myself, what do you really want to do? Because everything was going well. Many clients- I was speaking. I was- I had- I was doing fine in that business. And the answer came back. I just want to teach people to be happy. I just want to teach people to be happy. And in that moment of recognizing that, I had the idea, what if I could have a school, a school where didn’t you learn- Where you learned all the things that you didn’t learn in school.

 

Which you wish somebody would- So many things you wish somebody had told-

 

-Yes!

 

–you a long time ago. Someone, please.

 

Yes!

 

But you do find out by hard knocks later.

 

Later. So what if we could learn how to move through betrayal? What if we could learn resentment and guilt? And why am I feeling guilt? All of these emotional things that- and what is my purpose and why am I here? And how can this happen? What if we had a school that we could teach those thing? So immediately I decided physical, mental, emotional and spiritual classes. Spiritual classes like what’s my purpose? Umm, mental stress, overwhelm- emotional guilt, like all of these things. These are teachable. These are things that I’ve- I’ve learned that I can share. So that was my breakthrough. And I opened Happiness U in September of 2013. And so we have a location where people come and they learn these things. There are hidden blessings in everything, hidden benefits and everything. And if you can find the benefits and find the blessing, that’s where you thrive. We find that silver lining. That’s where we recognize that life is about growing.

 

At the time of this conversation, in the fall of 2019, Happiness U was still teaching its life lessons after seven years at its Kaka‘ako classroom in Honolulu as well as online, mahalo to Inoue of Kaka‘ako, O‘ahu for sharing her life story with us. And thank you for joining us. For PBS Hawai‘i. And Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha Nui.

 

You have a longtime relationship with another well-known person who is Alan Wong, the restaurant tour.

 

Yes.

 

So, of course, I want to ask you immediately-

 

Yes.

 

–what everyone must ask you. Who cooks at your house?

 

That is the number one question. I cook. I’m in charge in-

 

-You cook for Alan Wong?

 

–the kitchen. I do. I do. And he is one of the best people to cook for because he appreciates it. And in the 20 years that we have been together, he has never once said, why did you cook this this way, or this is overcooked. He’s never done that. He’s- he’s a- he’s just so appreciative. And so I get to keep the kitchen. That was the one thing we got together. I like cooking. I love cooking. I love nurturing people. And I thought, oh, my god, you’re a chef. The only problem is like, what am I going to do? Like, I need a kitchen. He’s like, you can have the kitchen.

 

[END]

 

 

 

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The New Indian

LUCKY CHOW: The New Indian

 

LUCKY CHOW returns for a second season with host Danielle Chang, who explores Asian cuisine’s impact on American food culture, while discovering how deeply Asian culture is rooted in our everyday lives.

 

Preview

 

The New Indian
Danielle Chang interviews a former financier who offers a light, healthy take on Indian classics; and a Silicon Valley engineer who got her start in the food business selling homemade chai by bicycle in the hills of San Francisco.

 

 

 

LUCKY CHOW
Made in China

LUCKY CHOW: Made in China

 

LUCKY CHOW returns for a second season with host Danielle Chang, who explores Asian cuisine’s impact on American food culture, while discovering how deeply Asian culture is rooted in our everyday lives.

 

Preview

 

Made In China
Danielle checks out some Chinese culinary traditions in America. She visits an industrial kitchen where traditional “confinement meals” are made for new mothers across the country; a Manhattan cocktail den whose main ingredient is the fiery liquor baijiu; and a wedding in the heart of San Francisco’s Chinatown where old world and new meet at the banquet table and on the dance floor.

 

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
David Kuraoka

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX: David Kuraoka

 

Growing up barefoot and carefree in the wild outdoors of Kaua‘i, no one predicted David Kuraoka would find his calling in the confines of a ceramics studio.

 

 

Even after becoming a widely celebrated ceramics artist, he managed to straddle two very different worlds: his job as an art professor at San Francisco State University and summers spent in the vast wilderness of Kalalau Valley on Kaua‘i’s Nā Pali Coast.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, Feb. 24, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

David Kuraoka Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

What’s the biggest piece?

 

You know, I have large pieces, but they’re made in sections.  I worked in a ceramic factory that made industrial ceramic; bricks, sewer pipes.  One of my student’s family owned the factory, so he gave me the privilege.  He gave me a studio in the back, and I could work on these large two-ton sewer pipes.  You know, machines pick ‘em all up.  But I couldn’t cross the bridges in Hā‘ena and Hanalei, so …

 

Two-ton?

 

I couldn’t pick ‘em up; right?

 

That’s the weight of a car; right?

 

Yes.

 

Two tons.

 

Yeah; these are big pieces.  So, they’re big, like that.

 

He’s known for creating larger-than-like sculptures. But what shaped the life of this Kauai-born artist?  David Kuraoka, next, on Long Story Short.

 

One-on-one engaging conversations with some of Hawai‘i’s most intriguing people: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.

 

Aloha mai kākou.  I’m Leslie Wilcox.  David Kuraoka grew up in Hanamā‘ulu and Līhu‘e, Kaua‘i, far from the art scene in San Francisco, where he found his calling. He is a celebrated artist, known for both his large-scale abstract sculptures cast out of bronze that sometimes weigh more than a ton, handmade ceramic clay slabs, and glazed porcelain works created on a potter’s wheel.  For more than forty years, he’s shaped works of art, and artists, as a professor and former head of the San Francisco State University Ceramics Department.  You can find Kuraoka’s sculptures in places like the Hawaii Convention Center, the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, and the White House art collection.  David Kuraoka knows his way around posh city buildings and art galleries, and he has remained comfortable in an environment without walls: the outdoors in his native Kaua‘i.

 

My dad worked for the plantation.  I think my grandparents worked for the plantation.  This was my grandmother’s house, and she had raised six daughters and my father in the camp.  And as they got married, my aunts moved away, but my dad stayed there with my mom.  And so, we were there until we bought our house in Līhu‘e, in the city.  It was primarily a Filipino labor camp.  And it was like a Filipino camp with three or four Japanese families.  They were primarily Filipino bachelors, so I was raised by all these bachelors who took care of me until I was about ten, maybe.

 

Never felt lonely, I bet.

 

No, no. They were really, really nice.  I got used to their food, and they taught me some language.  I was raised around cockfighting and chickens.  It was very plantation.  I was lucky; in Hanamā‘ulu there was a beach, nice beach, Hanamā‘ulu Beach.  And there was a mountain, Kalepa Heights, right behind the camp.  So, I got to run in the mountains a lot, and I got to swim a lot.  So, it was kind of a great place for a young guy to grow up.

 

Your dad seems like he might have been kind of a larger-than-life personality.  What was his column about?

 

Sidelines Kuraoka; it was a social column, three-dot journalism kinda.  And him and my mom would type out.  On Sundays, they would work in the yard, because that was kinda the thing they did.  They had a really nice yard.  But they would come in Sundays and type out the column with this old manual typewriter; whack out the column.  Because it was published only every Wednesday, once a week.

 

When you’re the three-dot columnist, the only three-dot columnist in the area, you’re kind of a celeb yourself.

 

Kinda; yeah.

 

So, that was your dad; right?

 

Yeah; that was my dad.  Yeah.

 

Very connected.

 

Connected; yeah.  He met a lot of celebrities; right?  Because he was like the reporter on Kauai.  So, if Frank Sinatra, Mitzi Gaynor, you know, like they made movies there and stuff, so he was right there with the stars and celebrities.  The princess from Japan, you know.

 

M-hm.

 

So, he had an interesting life.

 

He was active politically.  What did exactly did he do?

 

Yes, he was active politically.  And he would support Republicans and Democrats.  But he was at one point, Kauai’s Republican chairman or representative, I believe.  He was Hiram Fong’s campaign manager and Hiram Fong’s representative.  I know that, because I was kinda high school by then. In fact, he had stacks of Hiram Fong tee-shirts that said: Fong, Man of the Pacific.  And I ended up with ten of ‘em, and that’s all I wore at the community college, and people used to call me Fong.

 

Because I had this Fong on.  And my dad was also campaign manager for Richard Nixon on Kauai.  And he had passed away, my dad passed away right before Watergate, so he never experienced Watergate.  So, lucky for him, because his hero, you know.

 

Now, to be a Republican on Kaua‘i, that was swimming against the tide, wasn’t it?

 

Yes; yes and no.  Like he explained to me later, as I questioned him about, because I was kinda on the opposite side, he said that, you know, he worked in the plantation office, and all his bosses were Republicans.  And he said: I don’t want to work in the fields, you know.

 

I see.

 

It makes more sense for me to be Republican and work in the office.  Which made sense, you know.  And I’m like: Mm, okay.

 

Did you have to switch schools when you went to Lihue?

 

No; no, they were close enough.  My mom taught school, so I would go to school with her.  And fortunately, when I moved to Līhue, we lived on the edge of a valley, a very big valley, Kapaia Valley.  And I had a whole valley to play with there, too.  And there was a big river in the bottom of the valley.  So, I ran around carefree, barefooted.  Until I went to the ninth grade, I never wore shoes.  I rebelled; I didn’t want to wear shoes. And in the ninth grade, they sent me home for not wearing shoes.  So then, I had to get shoes.

 

What kind of shoes did you get?

 

Oh really ugly, big bulldog shoes.

 

Not very fashion conscious.

 

With your mom a teacher, did that compel you to be a good student?

 

Actually, I was never a very good student.

 

Did you have art classes in school, in public school?

 

No; no. Actually, I wanted to take some classes, but it wasn’t really emphasized much.  They really forced me into chemistry, into physics, and you know, I really kinda wasn’t interested.  You know, I’m more interested now, because I understand it now, but while I was a local kid, I wasn’t that interested.  I was more interested in surfing and running around the jungles.  I was more a outdoor kid, and I almost resented having to be forced to take chemistry and stuff.  Because it didn’t make sense to me, or it didn’t make sense to my life or how it was gonna help my life, you know.

 

David Kuraoka says he did not apply himself in high school, nor did he have the grades to go to a four-year university. So, at the urging of his parents, he enrolled in San Jose City College to study architecture.  His first few semesters in a strange new place did not go so well.

 

Okay; so you arrive in San Jose at your new college. What are you wearing?

 

Um, pretty much Hawai‘i cl—uh, Kauai clothes.  I graduated in 1964 from Kauai High School, and uh,

There’s not much TV on Kauai in 1964.  Uh, and what’s there is very blurry.  An—and our—our house didn’t have TV.  So, I go to San Jose, and I don’t have a car, I don’t have many friends. But who I—whoever I speak to in the cafeteria or any friends I make, they’re cracking jokes or they’re talking about things that I don’t understand.  And they’re picking it up from television culture; I Love Lucy, um … uh, you know, I don’t know, Hogan Heroes, or The Fugitive, or—you know, an—and I—I don’t know these things, because I don’t have a TV.  And it’s common to everyone except me.  So, I—I but a twenty-five-dollar TV, and I sit there for almost six weeks, day and night.  And still watch TV, but six—day and night, to try to catch up on culture,

 

Oh, like the worst time in my life.  You know, there was that adjustment.  I used to wear slippers and bright shirts.  I still wear bright shirts.  But I used to wear bright shirts, and tee-shirts.  Just culturally, I was not in tune to the rest of the world, I felt. I mean, I tried to be, because I didn’t want to be lonesome.  I had no car, and so I would look for other Hawaii kids, you know.  So, us Hawai‘i kids would all just hang together, so it would make it more comfortable or make it more, you know, okay.  But every time there was a summer break and kids went home, only half the kids would come back.  And so, the next summer, then the other half.  So pretty soon, I was pretty much alone again.  And then, until I found art, I didn’t really have much friends, or much social contact.

 

So, how did you find art?  How did you find ceramics?  I mean, did you pass by the room, or …

 

Yeah, really by accident.  I had to take a couple basic art classes to fulfill my architect degree, and so, took drawing.  And in my drawing class, my friends were taking ceramics.  So, I would go over during the break and watch them.  And I thought: Gee, I want to make some cups for my friends, my classmates back in Hawai‘i; I could do that, you know.  And once I did it, it felt so …something was very compelling and drew me to it.  And the things were very ugly, the stuff I made in the beginning.

 

You know, it wasn’t accomplished at all.  And by the time I got good enough, or good enough to give away, I was kinda hooked.  Somehow, ceramics made sense to me, and it was something I could do.  You know, I wonder sometimes when I watch television and stuff about people with dyslexia and stuff.  And I think: Oh, I think that looks like me.  You know, like just one part of my brain or something, and another part wasn’t working as well as another part.  You know.  I’m much more visual.

 

Now, when you started taking ceramics classes, and then all your art classes for your major, I mean, you were with a different subculture of students.

 

Yes.

 

Was that different, to be with all the art students?

 

Yes and no.  Because I tried really hard.  When they went out drinking beer, I wouldn’t go out drinking beer; I was still working. When they went to lunch, I was still working.  And I wanted it so badly that whenever the professor was gone—because I didn’t take classes in the beginning, I didn’t know about it—I would sneak in at lunchtime. Then I would wait for him to leave, and when he would leave for the evening, I would sneak in at night.  I lived right next to the college, so I could stay there as late as possible.  And any time he wasn’t there, I would sneak in and work.  And then one day, he called my name, so then I knew … oh. I mean, I sweated, because like, oh, no, I’m busted.  You know. But then, he accepted me, so then I was so glad.  And you know, the next semester, I enrolled, so I was okay.  It changed me a lot in the first couple years.  I think eighteen to twenty, I really grew up there.  I had one set of mind, one kind of cultured mind when I was in Hawaii, which I’m really, really happy I grew up here.  And then, suddenly out of loneliness, out lack of focus or focus, I’m not sure, but I went through a metamorphosis kind of the first two years, for two or three years.   And then I started a metamorphosis realizing that the rest of my life, I had to seek and look.  And I was quite comfortable on Kauai; I wasn’t really looking, because I was happy. You know.  And then, it almost takes an unhappy to then try to find the rest of your way.

 

At San Jose City College, and later at San Jose State University, David Kuraoka reveled in his newfound passion for art. Although he was discouraged by family and college counselors from going into fine arts, he pursued ceramics and quickly became a rising star in the art world.  In 1976, he became a professor at San Francisco State University, where he could practice his ceramic arts while helping to shape aspiring artists.

 

Yes; I was fortunate enough to be paid for what I like doing.  And I learned a lot from my students.  I mean, everybody’s so different; right?  They bring so much life into it.  I mean, I was just fortunate to be in that position.

 

So, is it more than forty years as a professor at San Francisco State University?

 

Yes; just a little bit more than forty years.  I started when I was young.  I got my MA about twenty-four, twenty-five, and I won a number of awards, and I got recognized, so they hired me right away, which I was fortunate.  And then, I was there until I retired.  One thing I realized when I was teaching, that many students came from many small towns across America, like Lihue.  You know, once realized that, I thought: Oh, I’m just like everybody else.  You know, it’s not like: Oh, I’m just this small town kid that forever, my whole life, I’m always gonna be small town, and everybody else knows everything, and I’m not going know.  You know. Then I found out that they’re not from San Francisco, they’re from Missouri, and Oklahoma, and you know, Nebraska, and all these small towns.  And you ask them, their towns are smaller than Līhu‘e.  And you’re here, you know, and there’s one or two of ‘em that would leave the town. Most of them would stay in the small town, but these are the brave ones, and then they would come to college, and seeking their fortune, you know.  Lot of the times, my life revolved around my work, and I would teach Tuesday, Thursday, Friday.  But I had the other four days to do my own work.  So, that was rather fortunate.  Also, when I became head of the department, I could buy all the equipment I wanted, I could set up the whole studio, and do my work along with the students.  That was very fortunate.

 

Did people on Kauai get surprised when they saw what happened to you?  Like what you did on the mainland.

 

My mom laughs sometimes, you know.

 

She laughs?

 

Yeah; she didn’t expect it, you know.  Because she taught her whole life, and she goes: Oh, yeah, that person was a good student.  She judges them, knowing them from teaching, you know.  And she was always a good student.  I could always tell she was gonna succeed, or he was gonna succeed. And I turned to her and go: You thought I would ever be a professor?  And she laughed.  She goes: No. So … you know.

 

So, the hallmarks of your work are abstract?

 

Abstract, pretty much.

 

And I’ve heard the word bulbous described.

 

Bulbous; yeah.

 

Like, is that the art term for …

 

No.  But yes, it has life.  I mean, I think it’s round.  I look at my more round full things as like feminine, more feminine.  And the more cylindrical stiffer things as male.  I mean, sometimes, when I look back, I’m not doing it on purpose, but I can see more female in some, and more male in—

 

That’s interesting.  And then very clean lines, too.

 

Yes. I called it California slick.

 

California slick.

 

I kinda made it up, but it’s kinda true.  When I went through my education at that particular time, it was minimalism, and abstract expressionism.  And so, I’m kinda some place in there.  And then, so my work is pretty slick.  It’s not rough.  I don’t do rough textures, I don’t do … it’s organically vital, but it’s clean.

 

You know, it sounds like when you sit down to throw, do you know what you’re gonna make?

 

Many times, yes.  Many times, I conceive it all the way to the end.

 

Oh, you do.

 

I do. When I’m sitting there to throw, I already know how I’m gonna finish it.

 

Okay.  ‘Cause I’m thinking of third grade, I’m making an ashtray.  You know, that kind.  So, you have an idea.  But sometimes, it sounds like the pieces go organic on you.

 

Yes. Yeah; there’s a range.  There’s a range in there that I have freedom to do. But I know I’m gonna finish it in a particular way.  Because the clay body or how I’m beginning dictates the end, so I already figured it out.

 

In 1987, at the young age of thirty-five, David Kuraoka was recognized by the Honpa Hongwanji of Hawaii as a living treasure of Hawai‘i for his art.  Kuraoka remained connected to Kauai, and would return during his summer breaks to embrace his childhood love of nature and a slower pace of life.  He would often spend months roughing it in the wilderness of Kalalau on Kauai’s NāPali Coast.

 

I always lived on Kauai four months out of the year, sometimes more.  You know, so I would do an academic year, then I’d move back to Kauai.  Sometimes I thought I was commuting from Kauai to California, because that was my base on Kauai.  But I would spend my summers on the NāPali Coast.  And sometimes one month and up to three months.  I would sometimes pack my bags in California, and then come in, say hello to my parents or my mom, and then off to Kalalau.  And I’d buy all my food, everything would be packed, and I would just go off to Kalalau.

 

And were you doing art in Kalalau?

 

Lot of it.  And some sketches, but also mostly to slow it all down, to understand humanity.  You know, you want fire, you get wood.  You want water, you go to the waterfall.  I mean, it was like very basic, and it kind of brought reality, a different reality, made me feel like I understood the person living in a grass shack in Africa, or or taking me back in time a hundred years or two hundred, you know, like how humanity lived, you know, most of humankind lived, the way I lived, I felt.

 

How did you get to Kalalau?  Did you paddle or get dropped off?

 

No, no. In the beginning, yes, I would take a helicopter, boat, walk.  I mean, I did everything.  I walked, I hiked a lot.  Sometimes, some summers, I’d hike.  I’d run out and go to the dentist, and he would take a mold, and run back in, run out, then next week put the false tooth in, and come back the next week put the permanent.  You know, like I’d go back and forth; run back and forth.

 

So, I’ve spent time in Kalalau too, and I mean, it’s just stupendously beautiful.  And isn’t it illegal to live in Kalalau?

 

You know, for a while it was in litigation between the State and the Robinsons. You know, so for about seven or eight years, nobody owned it.  So, it was pretty free for all.  So, that was a great time, was no law; right?  It’s kinda scary.  But then I wasn’t scared at all.  Was just open.  And so, at the end of that period, the State parks and the law came.  But I was the only local kid in there.  So, they were anxious to be friends, and they knew my dad, they knew my family.  And I knew all the trails, I knew all the fishing spots.

 

 

So, I can remember there used to be like young people living naked in the back, with a wood-burning pizza maker.  I mean, were you there for all that stuff?

 

Yeah, yeah, kind of; yeah.  They were all my friends; yeah.

 

During David Kuraoka’s return trips to Kaua‘i, he had a business relationship with a contemporary art dealer who made the Garden Isle her home.  As time went on, that relationship grew into a romantic one.

 

Carol had owned the Contemporary Gallery, really one of the better ones in Hawai‘i, and very successful.  And she had been my dealer for fifteen years.  But I never spent much time in Līhu‘e; I would uh, go to Kalalau.  So I knew her, and she helped me, and she had shows for me, but I wasn’t around town.  Then we met, and it was just right.  After so many years, we got together.  And just when we got together, Hurricane Iniki happened and destroyed all the buildings, pretty much destroyed all the buildings, destroyed the galleries.  And it was okay, because we then got married and moved to San Francisco.

 

Because we couldn’t rebuild the galleries, because there was no houses to put art in on Kauai anyway.

 

Oh, that’s right.  Yeah; it was just terrible.

 

Yeah, it was over; that area was over.

 

You sort of knew her and did business with her for many years.  What was the difference when you got together?

 

I think it was just timing.  I mean, on both of our parts.  I mean, I wonder too, sometimes.  But I’m just lucky I got together with her, because we’ve been together and happy ever since.  So …

 

That’s wonderful.  And that turned out to be the end of her art gallery era in Līhue.

 

Yes.

 

But off you went to San Francisco.

 

Yes; yes.  And then, I’m her art interest now, so lucky for me.  I mean, I was doing art, so she’s very interested in art.  So, she knows more artists than me.  She’s much more well-read than I am.  She would do things by reading.  I was trying to teach her ceramics, we were doing little craft projects together, and she would tell me what to do.  And I said: How do you know?  You know, I teach ceramics.  She goes: I read it in a book.  So, she would read all the books and had the answers, you know, and I do it through experience.  But that was kinda funny.

 

After more than forty years at San Francisco State University, David Kuraoka retired and now spends the majority of his time in Hā‘ena, Kauai, just down the road from the trailhead that leads to his beautiful beloved Kalalau. He’s still active in ceramics, and has also turned his attention to designing houses.

 

Every artist should build a house.  It’s so sculptural, so you’re conceiving so much, you know.  And so visual, and it makes sense, you know.  And then, you look at any building, you go: Hm.  You know, it helps you visualize the whole process, and appreciate it from the inside out more

 

Are the houses you design like the art you do? Is it … California Slick?

 

Kind of.  All dark green.  All the houses are the same color, including my mother’s.

 

All dark green.

 

All dark green, and white inside.  No white for the outside, because the mold.  You know, and black roof, because the mold will turn it black anyway.  Just all this practical stuff.

 

And then, what else besides white inside?

 

White inside; yeah.  Hardwood floors, high ceilings, and nice windows and doors.  I mean, I have little set things that I do.  Yeah.

 

Yeah.

 

Well, Carol and I too.  Carol likes building too, so we have those projects we could do together, you know.

 

Right.  You go back and forth between San Francisco and Kauai.  And I know Kauai is your home.  But do you have a preference down deep?

 

I always preferred Kaua‘i.  And now that I’m on Kaua‘i fulltime, I like go back San Francisco and eat and stuff. So, you know, I like both sides. But we’ll spend a month out of the year maybe, if we’re lucky, in San Francisco.  But that’s it, that’s about it.  Yeah.  Our life is pretty much on Kauai now.  It’s getting harder, you know.  I had a two and a quarter acre farm, flower farm, fruit trees, and so I used to like working in the yard.  But now, I’m just pretty much in the studio.  I’m not so physical anymore.  So, it’s just different.  As you get older, I just kinda adapt, you know.

 

You really did kinda make your own way.  You were able to do what you wanted to do for so much of your life.

 

M-hm; kind of.  You kinda gotta find the spot; right?  I mean, I think starting with education.  You gotta be educated.  Stay in school and find something that you want.

 

Acclaimed artist David Kuraoka says he has plans to create a ceramics art center for the Kauai community, so that he can continue to teach and inspire others on his home island.  And he continues to challenge himself by finding new ways to express himself through his art.  Mahalo to David Kuraoka of Hā‘ena, Kauai. And thank you for joining us for this edition of Long Story Short on PBS Hawai‘i.  I’m Leslie Wilcox.  Aloha nui.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org.  To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

The challenges for me is never ending.  If I master a particular part of ceramics, then I look for another part of ceramics. In other words, I keep searching within the field.  There’s so much to do.  My work chases my work.  In other words, whatever I do, then I see and I learn from it, and then I move on.

 

 

 

Kaneko’s Monumental Risk

Kaneko’s Monumental Risk

 

This documentary explores the life and work of Japanese-American sculptor and artist Jun Kaneko. Kaneko is known for building the largest ceramic art pieces in the world, with some towering more than 13 feet without any interior support. Over the course of his 50-year career, Kaneko has created massive public art installations in plazas, gardens, airports, city parks and convention centers. The film follows Kaneko working around the world in places like San Francisco, Kyoto, New York, Nagoya, Chicago, Puerto Vallarta and his adopted hometown of Omaha. It also looks at the evolution of his work from painting in a realistic style to his abstract sculptures to his risky opera design with the San Francisco Opera’s production of The Magic Flute. The profile culminates with a look at the multi-million dollar creativity center he built in Omaha to encourage people to unleash our risk-taking and creative sides.

 

Preview

 

 

 

MOVEABLE FEAST WITH FINE COOKING
French Flavors from San Francisco

MOVEABLE FEAST WITH FINE COOKING

 

Take the scenic route to San Francisco as Moveable Feast with Fine Cooking trails through the Presidio, a national park at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge. Host Pete Evans travels to the National Historic Landmark to join Michelin star chef Dominique Crenn and rising star Traci des Jardins for a feast featuring the West Coast’s freshest local produce and seafood-bass with artichokes barigoule, salmon with sorrell beurre blanc, and tarte tatin.

 

 

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