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  • AIRBORNE DREAMS: Japanese American Flight Attendants and the Development of Global Tourism in the Pacific

  • Type: Exhibition
    Date: Friday - 12/15/2006
    Time: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
    Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai'i
    Community Gallery
    2454 South Beretania Street
    Honolulu, Hawai'i 96826

    For more information call (808) 945-7633
    Cost: FREE
Event Name: AIRBORNE DREAMS: Japanese American Flight Attendants and the Development of Global Tourism in the Pacific

Open until Friday, December 15, 2006. Gallery hours: Tuesday – Saturday; 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Description of event: Follow the steps of the first Japanese American flight attendants and their effect on the development of global tourism in the Pacific during the 1950s in this JCCH historical exhibition.

Exhibition curator, Christine R. Yano, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai'i at Ma¯noa (UHM), was first inspired to research this subject after learning about the 50th Anniversary of Pan Am Nisei Stewardesses last year. Yano explained that in 1955, Pan American World Airways (PAA) took the unprecedented move of ordering the largest fleet of commercial jet aircrafts--the 707s--in the world. In that same year, the company embarked on a new program that recruited Japanese American women to serve as stewardesses on PAA's Japan-bound, and eventually, round-the-world flights.

As PAA held a prestigious reputation and image of service, class and cosmopolitanism in the 1950s, the exhibit focuses on the period from 1955 to 1972, when PAA first hired Japanese American women and created its Asian-language base of operations in Honolulu.

"Now remember that in the 50s, the only opportunity, frankly, for a girl was to be a secretary, a nurse or a teacher," said Grace Yamada, a Pan Am stewardess from 1955 to 1958. "There was nothing really beyond that, and so everyone here, my family, at least, were like, 'Wow, it's such a glamorous job! Traveling from country to country, and meeting all these different people.'"

On display will be Pan Am memorabilia from the period 1955 to 1972, such as personal photos and uniforms owned by the former flight attendants. A video that features interviews with the women will also play throughout the run of the exhibit.

"When I contacted some of the women, I was amazed at their stories and their enthusiasm," Yano said. "I decided on the spot, that I had to do this research, in part as a tribute to their role as pioneers in global aviation and in part as a human story of women, work and the staging ground of Hawai'i."

Yano hopes to link these two events as part of a strategy of developing global tourism by an American airline company intent on capturing a burgeoning market of mass, global travel, while also showing how the new jobs affected the lives of these Japanese American women.

"These women were among the first non-white flight attendants in the company's employ," explained Yano. "They broke through the racial barrier of the period not as a matter of civil rights, but for very specific company purposes as part of a business strategy to secure PAA's domination of international travel. Thus, they did not challenge norms so much as extend the concept of gendered service and social class to issues of race and ethnicity."

Yano, who plans to develop her research into a book to be published in the next three years, explained people can gain insight from the experiences of these women who, as the first female flight attendants hired based on their ethnicity, learned hands-on about gendered service as well as worldliness and cosmopolitanism during their travels to a larger world far beyond their Hawai'i-based roots.

"Coming from an insulated place like Hawai'i, and then meeting these businessmen--because in those days it was nothing but businessmen or only the wealthy who traveled--I found that I had to grow up a lot, fast," said Lillian Yoshioka, who was PAA flight attendant from 1968 to 1986. "The conversations with them were not what I expected, being raised in Honolulu. You had to keep up with the news, and then they would talk about economics, they would talk about what's going on in the world, they would talk about their country, and what's happening. It was interesting. It was a learning experience."

Yano received her bachelor's degrees from Stanford University and University of Michigan, and her master's and doctorate's degrees from the University of Hawai'i. She recently wrote the book, Crowning the Nice Girl: Gender, Ethnicity, and Culture in Hawai'i's Cherry Blossom Festival, published by the UH Press this year. Yano is also a member of the JCCH Board of Governors, a volunteer committee that recommends and oversees various JCCH programs and activities.

Gallery open until Friday, December 15, 2006. Gallery hours: Tuesday -- Saturday; 10 a.m. -- 4 p.m.

Name of sponsoring organization: The Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai'i, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, strives to share the history, heritage and culture of the evolving Japanese American experience in Hawai'i. The Center features a Community and Historical Gallery, Resource Center, Kenshikan martial arts do¯jo¯, Seiko¯an Japanese teahouse and Gift Shop.

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