Last Friday, while driving through Kahului, I was dismayed to see, in my rear view mirror, a dark gray sedan approaching much too fast and far too close for comfort. It rode my bumper for about a block and a half before I could safely pull over. As the tailgater roared past, I spotted a lone bumper sticker beneath its trunk: “Practice aloha.”
I will admit, the words that popped out of my mouth had nothing to do with aloha. Perhaps I overreacted, but disappointment and disbelief — indignation, even — washed over me as I considered the irony of the moment.
The next morning, spurred by an entirely different and unrelated event, those feelings returned tenfold. My mother, my cousin Betty and I were enjoying our weekly ritual of breakfast at Sheik’s when Betty dropped the bombshell. “Auntie, pretty soon you won’t be able to watch Kita no Kuni Kara on KIKU. No more Japanese shows after the end of the month.”
“What?! Cannot be!”
I pulled out my phone and searched Facebook for the KIKU TV page. Sure enough, the post by KIKU Vice President and General Manager Phyllis Kihara read, “You may have heard a rumor that KIKU will stop airing Japanese and Filipino programming soon. Unfortunately, the rumor is true. Starting Monday, June 28, 2021, KIKU and other stations owned by RNN National LLC will air ShopHQ 24/7.”
Disappointment, disbelief, indignation. No more Red and White Song Festival at New Year’s? No Abarenbo Shogun revivals or cute commercials for Gyotaku restaurants? In favor of another 24-hour shopping network?!
Viewer reactions on social media echoed our feelings. “NOOOOOOOOOO!” Many, like my family and me, recalled their favorite shows over the decades. From Kikaida (Jiro! Change-ee! Ki-ka-i-daaa!) and Crayon Shin-chan to Soko ga Shiritai and, now, for mom, Platinum Age and Partners 14.
I Googled RNN National LLC and learned that KIKU is one of 11 stations owned by the company. They claim to reach more than 86 million viewers in major markets including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston and Dallas. Their website states, “RNN produces and delivers award-winning hyperlocal news, public affairs and entertainment programming.” But as we’ve seen in the radio and newspaper industries, local, even hyper-local, programming is quickly becoming obsolete.
KIKU’s LinkedIn profile, which I guess is now obsolete as well, reads, “Hawaii is the only Asian-majority state in the nation. Filipino and Japanese comprise the two largest segments of Hawaii’s population. KIKU provides news and entertainment that keeps generations of Hawaii’s people connected with their culture and background.”
Over the weekend, I turned on KIKU at various times and caught the videotaped announcement by Ms. Kihara. I was struck by the class and dignity with which she thanked KIKU’s viewers for their loyal support.
On Facebook, she posted her email address and direct phone line, inviting folks to contact her if they had any questions. So I did. She was as gracious and pleasant on the phone as she had been on TV. She talked about how heartwarming the flood of reactions had been, and how privileged she felt to have been a part of this station that meant so much to the local community.
Over the next few weeks, KIKU’s serial programs will be aired at a more intense clip so that viewers may catch the final episodes of their favorite shows. The programming calendar may be found at https://kikutv.com/programs/june-show-schedule/. While most of the local staff will work their last day on June 25, Ms. Kihara will remain, at least for the near future, to assist the owners through the transition.
Now, as they have for more than 40 years, the folks at KIKU are not just practicing aloha, they are living it. Even through their (and our) tears.
* Kathy Collins is a radio personality (The Buzz 107.5 FM), storyteller, actress, emcee and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every other Wednesday. Her email address is email@example.com.