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Much Mahalos

Why You Should Talk to Strangers—Crafting celebrity Joy Shimabukuro says chance ‘em

Joy Shimabukuro, the host of the hit television show Joy of Crafting.

Local people in Hawai‘i might not know her last name, but mostly everybody recognizes her face and her first name that has become synonymous with crafting. When dey see her in public dey go up to her and tell, “Eh, you Joy...Of Crafting, yeah?” First name—Joy. Last name—Of Crafting. Lol.

About for film her 483rd episode, Joy Shimabukuro’s television show Joy of Crafting has been running continuously in Hawai‘i since 2002. Painfully shy as one kid, Joy nevah imagined she would grow up for become so famous and so talkie!

* * * * *

I stay nerjous, brah, for be talking to one famous Local celebrity such as yourself. For make me feel more at ease, you can try tell me one crafting joke?

Crafting joke? I don’t make jokes about crafts. Crafts is serious business, Lee! 

Howz about we go start li'dis den. What school you went, what year you grad?

You know I went McKinley!! Of course I grad the best year, ‘81.

Your last name Shimabukuro, so you pure Okinawan or you get oddah ethnicities too?

I’m also a little bit Japanese regular kind.

So how you identify? Nikkei? Local? Uchinānchu? Local Okinawan? What?

I guess I’m Local. I’m not a very good Local Okinawan though.

In fact, I didn’t even know what Uchinānchu [Okinawan person] meant until after I graduated from college at UH [The University of Hawai‘i] and I was at the post office and then the guy saw my name and said, “Oh, you Uchinānchu?” And I looked at him with a blank face. I said, “I don’t know what you just said” (Laughing). But I have a lot of friends who are very into our culture. And I support the culture by eating lots of andāgī [Okinawan donuts]!!

(Laughing) You seem very poised on top your show and your crafting movements get so much grace and elegance. I pointing dis out cuz I like know if you went Susan Page or John Robert Powers? I know you went modeling school, ah?

Noooo. (Laughing, then admitting) But me and my friend did go to Sears Charm School one year for fun. We were supposed to learn etiquette and all that kind of stuff, but as you can see, it didn’t really work. I still one tita!

You really good at talking story with people on your show. Wuz you always one good conversationalist?

Small kid time Joy Shimabukuro was super shy.

No. So when I was small, because my siblings were older than me, I had to play by myself most of the time. So what I used to do was I used to make a lot of dolls out of toothpicks and beads and I used to cut out magazines and make collages.

As a kid I was really quiet, super quiet. So much so that my older sister, she would take me out with her and her high school friends BECAUSE I was so quiet. I didn’t make any trouble because to them It was like I wasn’t even there.

Yeah, so it’s funny because now my older brother goes, “I don’t know what the hell happened? Cause now we can’t shut you up.”

So how you came not shy?

I grew up in Kapahulu and so I went to Waikīkī Elementary. But then I moved away so I should have gone to a different school. But because I had only fifth and sixth grade left, they let me stay. Then later, I thought I was gonna go to Kaimukī Intermediate, but I didn’t get a district exception.

So when school started in seventh grade, my few friends I had were like, “Where’s Joy?” But I think it was good, it was actually better for me that I went someplace else, because I ended up at Washington Intermediate and so in order for me to have any friends, I had to learn to like... TALK... TO PEOPLE!

(Laughing) I know aftah Intermediate, you went McKinley High School. And it’s funny cuz I notice that whenevah I run into you, seems like you always gotta brag about McKinley somehow. Like when I ran into you at da Pidgin conference one time and you came up to me to say, “Do you know who’s my favorite Pidgin writer?” And I wuz hoping you wuz going say I wuz your favorite, right, but noooooo, you said your favorite wuz DARRELL LUM cuz HE went to McKinley. How come you so hardcore McKinley?

When you ask people in Hawai‘i what school you went to, we’re not talking about college. We’re talking about high school, right? In Hawai‘i, the first biggest thing is your first birthday party, which you’re not really aware of. And then the next biggest thing is high school graduation. Going to the same high school really connects people from so many different [ethnic and socioeconomic] groups.

Now, it’s funny you should ask about why I love my school so much. And especially because this last year, 2023, I really, really reconnected with my classmates. I always hung out with a bunch of them. but this past year I met so many more of them that I didn’t know in high school. And now they’re like my best friends. Seriously.

My McKinley friends and I, this past September, when UH played UNLV, we went to the game in Las Vegas. About fifteen of us went to the game. But the thing is, we never wear UH shirts. We wore McKinley Tigers shirts. It’s funny because everybody who saw us when we were boarding the buses at the Cal recognized our Tigers shirts. They were like, “Hey, McKinley!” But they must’ve thought, Hey, McKinley’s not even playing!

Joy and her classmates show their school spirit. Top L to R : Edwin Ayson, Carl Ishikawa, Derek and Gladys Kaneshiro, Dayton Asato. Bottom - Jon Morikawa, Carol Chung, Joy Shimabukuro, Patty Ann Yukawa.

(Laughing) Try tell how your TV show Joy of Crafting came about.

What happened was this lady, her name was Jude Dady, she was very active at ‘Ōlelo [public access television station]. She created a show called Hey Jude!, What About... and so her idea was to have guests who did crafts. She kept having a hard time finding new guests every month so I got asked back again and again.

We did that for a couple of years and then 9-11 happened so she stopped the show. Then she decided that she wanted to be closer to her family in Oregon so she told us she was moving. So then never have the show anymore.

But people kept calling and asking about the show. So a couple months later, my bosses and I, we decided to do a crafting show, but we didn’t want to do ours on ‘Ōlelo because with ‘Ōlelo, you can’t commercialize the show too much. You can’t really say product names. But since we decided to take the show to OC16, we could.

For da people who nevah saw your show before, try explain da format.

What we try to do is have three different crafts at least. So I usually have employees from our Ben Franklin stores or our Daiso stores. And then I have other crafters, whether they are vendors or just people who love crafting.

But another thing is I also like to offer the show up as a community service. So I like to have different nonprofits come on and I create a craft for them if they don’t have one. And then it gives them time to either talk about an upcoming event for fundraising, or to give people information on how to be volunteers if they need some. Because I think anybody can come on the show. Anybody can craft. We can always come up with something for a craft and it gives them a platform that they might otherwise not have.

Who you grateful to for helping you on dis journey to becoming Hawai‘i’s crafting icon?

Okay, so our company is HouseMart - Ace Hardware, but our parent company is Maui Varieties Limited and they’re run by the fourth generation of the Kamitaki family. The whole Kamitaki family has been very supportive of the show. Wayne Kamitaki and then we have his younger sister, Lynn Ushijima, and then we have Guy, and then we have their cousin, Paul Mizoguchi. Our Director of Imports, Milton Fujii and my current boss Cory Chagami, they’ve also been super supportive.

You kinda naming uku planny people. You can try single out maybe ONE person?

Well, I have to really probably thank Guy Kamitaki because when I first started with the company I was just working in the Ben Franklin Crafts store and I had actually applied to be a postal worker thinking I would make that my career. But Guy Kamitaki talked to me and he explained the opportunities at our company. Thirty-two years later, I’m still here.

Joy Shimabukuro and the man who encouraged her, Guy Kamitaki.

That wuz quite one long list.

Wait! I have a couple more names for my Emmy speech. I would also like to thank [our station] OC16 for believing in our show. Because at the time if you looked at all the people who hosted shows on OC16, they were all famous. They were like Miss Hawai‘i’s or famous radio personalities. No one knew who I was, but they took a chance on us and on me. Finally I have to thank the crafters who make up our viewing audience, because if the crafters weren’t watching the show, then we wouldn’t have caught the station’s eye in the ratings. 

Besides your show, you also get one crafting column in da Mid-Week paper das geared towards keiki. And you go around doing science crafts in da schools. Try explain that program.

Hardware Science coach Melanie Ho teaching students with assist from Joy Shimabukuro.

Our CEO, Wayne Kamitaki, he’s the one who came up with it and encouraged us to start this Hardware Science program where we work with students and we take everyday objects that you can find, supplies from the hardware store, from the craft store, grocery store, wherever, and we use them to create science projects that help the kids learn different science concepts. And by making it interesting and fun like that, it makes it more memorable.

An'den I know you do crafts with senior clubs too. Is there any crafts that kids and seniors can do togeddahs?

Seniors like origami. I know kids like origami. So origami is a craft that kind of transcends generations. Last year was our first time at the Honolulu Festival and we did a make and take. We did a family folding project where we added a little origami kokeshi head to a little mini origami happi coat. I always try to find origami that is pretty, and maybe even looks hard, but really is not. Then I practice it so that I can do it by memory and I can look like an expert. That’s my secret.

Seems like you found your life’s calling. What advice you get for people who still trying for figgah out what dey like do?

I think you have to be open to doing new things. I do a lot of things now that I never thought I would do and that opened doors to do other things. Because for me, if I had just stayed quiet and not started talking to strangers, I wouldn’t be on the show that I do now. I wouldn’t have the best friends that I have now.

I really do talk to strangers all the time at the airport or at Zippy’s. My co-workers think I’m crazy, but I think it’s one of the things about being Local. You can go into a room full of strangers and you can start talking to somebody and somehow you can find some kind of connection, whether you both know somebody or a place or a school or something, you’re going to find something you have in common.

So my advice is you could be an introvert, but sometimes you just gotta pretend to be an extrovert and then see what happens.


© 2024 Lee A. Tonouchi

crafting Hawaii residents Joy of Crafting (TV) Joy Shimabukuro Uchinanchu

About this series

In this series, acclaimed author "Da Pidgin Guerrilla" Lee A. Tonouchi uses the language of Hawai‘i Creole, a.k.a. Pidgin, to talk story with accomplished and up-and coming Japanese/Okinawan Americans from Hawai‘i. Interviewees discuss their passions, their triumphs, as well as their struggles as they reflect and express their gratitude to those who have helped them on their journeys to success.