Discover Nikkei

Was it Written in the Stars?—Pali Ka‘aihue: Discovering Life’s Nonstop Adventures — Part 1

Delicious taraba (king crab) awaits you at Kita no Gurume, a popular seafood specialty shop. 

At the age of five, Pali Ka‘aihue was introduced to music and KIKU-TV, two key elements that would later become huge influences in his life. Fast forward to today, Pali wears many hats. He is a recording artist, songwriter, entrepreneur, director, producer, and creator/host of TV programs. Multitalented and successful, he has been sharing his love of music and Japan for the past 15 years.

Switch on KIKU!

Like many local kids growing up in the ’70s, Pali watched Kikaidā, Kikaidā 01, and other Japanese superhero programs shown on KIKU. His dad loved samurai shows while his mom enjoyed family dramas, which meant that the only program they all watched together was Soko ga Shiritai. This program was one of KIKU’s most popular shows as it introduced viewers to people who had intriguing stories to share and featured fascinating places in Japan. Soko ga Shiritai left a lasting impression on Pali; one that would have special significance for his future.

Music, the Universal Language

Thanks to his parents and older brother, Pali was exposed to a wide range of music, including songs by Elvis, the Doobie Brothers, and the Brothers Johnson to name a few. It is quite amazing that he can still remember these “firsts:” DJ Sound City, the first music store he went to originally located at Ala Moana Center; “Stars on 45,” the first 45 rpm record he bought; and Queen’s Flash Gordon movie soundtrack, the first cassette he owned. He also remembers he had fun doing air guitar and air drum back then, although the thought of actually playing music as a career never crossed his mind.

That all changed in eighth grade. Pali said his mind was blown when he heard his brother’s friend play “Linus and Lucy” and the theme from Cheers on the piano. Then, during his sophomore year, his interest in drums and guitar was inspired by Van Halen’s Live Without a Net concert video.

Determined to learn those songs and techniques, Pali taught himself how to play the piano, drums, and bass guitar. After graduating from high school, he accepted a two-year contract to perform music for a variety show in Nagoya. Working on various projects as a studio musician, he ended up staying an additional year in Japan.

The Sweet Sound of Success

At his parents’ request, he returned to Hawai‘i to attend college, but his passion for music couldn’t be denied. In 2000, he released his first CD, PALI, consisting of nine original songs and three cover songs. He won his first Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award in 2007 for Contemporary Album of the Year, Pali Presents a Tribute. He subsequently won four more Nā Hōkū Awards: the 2009 …with Aloha, Album of the Year; “Island Days,” Song of the Year; ...with Aloha (double CD), Island Music Album of the Year; and the 2015 Instrumental Composition of the Year for “1,000 Crystals.”

Performing at the 40th Annual Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards, May 2017

A Link to the Past

The year 2007 continued to be an eventful year for Pali. After winning his first Hōkū, Hawai‘i Tourism Japan invited him to play music in Tōkyō, Hokkaidō, and Ōsaka. Being back in Japan after 14 years made him realize how much he had missed the people and culture.

Reminiscing about the shows he had watched on KIKU, Pali came up with the idea of doing a modern-day version of Soko ga Shiritai. His idea became a reality with the creation of a weekly TV show called Doko Ga TV: JapanMania. Pali’s program was a hit and led to a joint production on a second show, Love Hokkaidō, which features must-see attractions, cuisine, history, and other interesting topics.

Back to the Present

While on the Doko Ga TV & Non-Stop Travel New Year's 2020 Tour, Pali poses with Gene Miyake and Colleen Miyaki in front of the Kamakura Daibutsu (Great Buddha), a National Treasure of Japan.

Before the pandemic, Pali traveled to Japan on a monthly basis to film his programs and attend meetings. Although the pandemic halted his travel schedule, he worked on other projects such as the Oishii 808 series, a show that features local restaurants. Recently, he graciously chatted with me for almost three hours! He is incredibly down-to-earth, which made the time pass by too quickly. Read on to find out more about Pali and his journey!

* * * * *

LK: How did you get involved with the Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts (HARA)? Which accomplishments are you most proud of?

PK: Recording artists, composers, and people in related industries can join HARA, so I joined in 2000. After my group and I won our first Nā Hōkū Award, Board Member Lea Uehara asked if I wanted to join the HARA Board of Directors. I was voted in and became a volunteer board member in 2007. I became president in 2011 and served until terming out in 2019.

I’m not sure I’d call them accomplishments, but I’m happy that the board and I were able to establish relationships and help with opportunities that brought hundreds of artists, hālau (schools), and kumu (teachers) from Hawai‘i to perform at high profile concert venues in Japan. In addition, we noticed that there were as many as 400 to 500 more attendees from Japan at the annual Hōkū Awards Show.

LK: The season premiere of Doko Ga TV, which is currently in its 14th year of production, aired on July 24 (2022). What are your thoughts on the past 13 years?

PK: The show was a sweat equity project and hobby that later became a career for me. It has provided some of the most memorable and life-changing events that I’ve documented. Filming Doko Ga TV has also led to other production, directing, and editing opportunities.

Initially, the show was only about Japan and Japan-related stories in Hawai‘i. Thanks to a partnership with Non-Stop Travel, we’ve expanded to documenting travels to Korea, across Asia, Alaska and recently, Europe. It’s awesome to be able to share my wonderment and passion for Japan with other people and make new friends along the way.

Dining with Doko Ga TV co-host Olena Heu on board the Norwegian Cruise Line Bliss to Alaska, September 2019.

I count the seconds before they react to some superbly oishii dish, like their first taste of Hokkaidō king crab, Japan soft-serve ice cream, or gyūkatsu (beef cutlet). It's equally magical for me to be there to witness their initial reactions and to document those experiences on the show.

LK: How did you become a co-producer of Love Hokkaidō?

PK: On my second visit to Hokkaidō, while filming Doko Ga TV during the annual snow festival, my guide Johannes mentioned that his wife Isis worked at Hokkaidō Television Broadcasting on a show called Love Hokkaidō. Isis and Li Qiang, the show’s co-hosts, were very interested in broadcasting in Hawai‘i/US, so I met with them to discuss ways we could work together.

Filming the Sapporo Snow Festival in Ōdōri Park with Doko Ga TV co-host Yucchi, February 2018.

I presented the idea to John Fink, then KFVE general manager, and the show found a home here on KFVE and KHNL. Li Qiang, Isis, and I started filming together, and the rest is history.

LK: Where is your favorite place to visit in Japan?

PK: Since my first visit in 2007, I have always felt connected with Hokkaidō. I love ALL of Japan, but Hokkaidō has several charms that I immediately fell in love with. The people there are extremely friendly and warm. While Sapporo features great shopping, eateries, and nightlife, it’s still mellow compared to other metropolitan areas like Ōsaka or Tōkyō.

Hakodate and Otaru are charming port towns. Breaking through glacial ice in Abashiri or walking through Furano's gorgeous lavender fields are unforgettable experiences. Anywhere you go in Hokkaidō, you’ll be able to enjoy a very different experience.

Being named a Hokkaidō Smile (Goodwill) Ambassador is definitely another reason why Hokkaidō holds a special place in my heart. I received this official title during a ceremony here at the Japanese Consulate with Hokkaidō senior government representatives in attendance on October 21, 2016.

Part 2 >>

All photos are courtesy of Pali Ka‘aihue.


*This article was originally published in The Hawai‘i Herald on August 5, 2022. 


© 2024 Lois Kajiwara

Hawaii Hokkaido Prefecture Japan music musicians Pali Ka‘aihue producers TV shows United States
About the Author

Lois Kajiwara’s interest in Japan started with J-pop and martial arts shows. Her decision to study Japanese led to teaching English in Hamamatsu. She enjoys singing and doing creative projects.

Updated October 2023

Explore more stories! Learn more about Nikkei around the world by searching our vast archive. Explore the Journal
We’re looking for stories like yours! Submit your article, essay, fiction, or poetry to be included in our archive of global Nikkei stories. Learn More
New Site Design See exciting new changes to Discover Nikkei. Find out what’s new and what’s coming soon! Learn More