Kichinto (Part 2)


Note: This is the final part of a two-part essay. To read the beginning, visit

By James Charisma

Traditionally, neighbor-hoods have inherent personality traits. I grew up in Manhattan, the busy core of the Big Apple, where there’s an unparal-leled speed and energy, but it comes at a price: friendliness, cleanliness. Having to work three jobs to pay rent.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are small towns and quiet communities, where things don’t move so fast and there may be fewer attractions, but it doesn’t matter because you can take your time. The folks are welcoming and friendly.

Honolulu’s not a small town, but we do have a lot of the benefits of one. Everyone sort of knows everyone else, locals are curious about where other locals graduated from high school, and part of Hawaii’s “aloha spirit” means that (generally) there’s a little more courtesy and kindness floating around. Sure, we’ve got some things to work on: traffic, potholes. Having to work three jobs to pay rent. But things are pretty good.

Tokyo, somehow, is the best of both worlds. Which is strange to me; I always assumed there had to be a trade: quality for quantity, the country versus the city. More people hustling together means more stuff gets done, but it also means more graffiti, more ruthlessness, more crime. I thought that was the nature of the game.

Which isn’t to say Tokyo is without crime. Or the usual side effects of having millions of people crammed together, such as loneliness or the occasional creeper. But somehow there’s a balance, and it leans toward having more good than bad.

New York City will always be New York City. But Honolulu’s still discovering itself. And as our city grows and we even develop a rail system of our own, we’d do well to follow in the footsteps of a strong role model, or a hip big sister.

Tokyo isn’t perfect, no city is. But it takes real love and attention to detail and dedication to keep things clean. And I tell you, those subways are pristine.

James Charisma is the director of Charisma Industries, a creative design agency in Honolulu.

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