The role the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival plays in the process of forming ethnic identity among the Japanese community in Hawai'i will be addressed in this presentation. Light will be shed on efforts of Japanese descendants to secure their status as ‘old Japanese coffee farmers’ and to distinguish themselves from ‘new-comers’ in this business, be they of Japanese or other descent. The ‘old-comers’ strive to retain dominance of the local cultural and historical landscape, despite their waning influence in the community. This phenomenon is seen widely in Kona society: Rather than creating a collective multiethnic culture and history, each ethnic group presents their own culture and their own version of history.
I argue that the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival in Hawai'i, as is the Nikkei Week Festival in Los Angeles, is an expression of fear within the Japanese-American community, a fear of ultimately fading away. This case study of ethnic separation within Kona society will show that identity is made up of not only 'ethnicity', but is also based on shared history and experience of a community.
Mariko Iijima is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Oxford. A historian by training, she is now applying sociological and anthropological research approaches to her work.