Various Japanese and Hawaiian leaders attended the inaugural Japan-Hawai‘i Economic Summit. [Image: US-Japan Council]

Hawai‘i Hosts Japan Economic Summit


The inaugural Japan-Hawai‘i Economic Summit was held in Kona on May 9-11. The summit, sponsored by the Hawai‘i Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) and the US-Japan Council (USJC), sought to accelerate exchanges with prefectures in Japan that have interests in Hawai‘i. More than 200 delegates participated, discussing opportunities for collaboration in business, tourism, and energy. Many political, business, and academic leaders attended, including Hawai‘i Governor David Ige, Hiroshima Prefecture Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki, and University of Hawai‘i President David Lassner.

The summit featured several panels on enhancing exchanges between the two regions, including expanding food trade and bridging geographical and cultural gaps commonly found in Trans-Pacific business. Panelists also discussed implementing globalized education programs in Hawai‘i and Japan classrooms to stimulate interest and knowledge of the two regions.

Additionally, participants exchanged ideas about how Japanese technology can help Hawai‘i achieve its goal of being powered by 100% renewable resources by 2045. Hawai‘i and Japan currently collaborate through the Hawai‘i-Okinawa Clean Energy Cooperation, which was signed in 2010. The partnership outlines the plan between the two regions to develop and deploy renewable energy sources. An annual energy summit is held each year in accordance with the initiative.

The summit also highlighted tourism, an integral part of the Hawaiian economy. Panelists shared insights into opportunities for innovation and bilateral growth in the industry. Japanese tourism in Hawai‘i soared in 2017 as a result of increased services to Honolulu and the launch of direct flights from Haneda to Kona by Hawaiian Airlines in 2016. The number of monthly Japanese tourists increased 9% from March 2016 to more than 136,000 in March 2017. Each Japanese tourist spends $228 per day on average, and total monthly visitor spending increased 20.8% to $187 million.

Many of the political leaders and businesses invited to the summit were from Hawai‘i’s sister states or are members of USJC’s Governors Circle, including Hiroshima, Fukuoka, and Okinawa. The state recently gained another sister state as Governor Ige and Hokkaido Governor Harumi Takahashi officially linked Hawai‘i and Hokkaido as sister states shortly before the summit.

Genna Liu is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a government and economics student at Dartmouth College.