By Jason S. Yadao
It was Jan. 20 -- around when word was just starting to trickle out about "Meet Doraemon: Japan's Time-Traveling Cat" opening at Bishop Museum a little less than a month away -- when MidWeek cartoonist/Aiea Intermediate art teacher Roy Chang posted this picture to his Facebook timeline.
Random life-size Doraemon statue at Ward Warehouse was truly random! And there was nothing around at the time to indicate what it was for, who put it there, or why Doraemon was hanging around with a determined-looking dog under the escalators to and from The Old Spaghetti Factory. Since I was working on the museum exhibit preview with tag-team partner in fandom Wilma J., I asked my contact at the museum whether they had anything to do with it; she replied that they did not.
A few days passed before a picture of a second Doraemon statue popped up on my Facebook timeline, this one at Kahala Mall … along with a sign explaining that it was part of something called the "Doraemon Wakuwaku Stamp Rally." I knew right then that I had to pay that statue, along with the Ward statue, a visit.
What I learned on that trip was twofold. First, that Kahala statue was really tucked away in a corner.
That's the stairwell in the theater wing of the mall, next to Kuru Kuru Sushi. You'll note that to the right of the statue, there's a black table with something on it. Here's what it looks like close up:
It turned out that this statue, along with the Ward statue, were both part of the aforementioned "Doraemon Wakuwaku Stamp Rally," a promotion hosted by HIS Hawaii's Lea Lea Trolley. As I understand it -- sadly, I haven't been able to get anyone from HIS to formally comment on what's going on -- Japanese visitors who sign up for a certain tour package get a stamp card and go around town collecting seven stamps at various locations. (That's one of the stamp pads on the table.) Here's what some of those stamps look like.
They can turn in the stamp card for some cool Doraemon-themed prizes, as seen on a table at the HIS Hawaii office at the Waikiki Beach Marriott. (For the record, I REALLY wish I could have a box of Doradamia Nuts. I know they're just regular Hawaiian Host chocolates, but still! That box!)
Sadly, I don't think we regular folk are eligible to win these prizes, but HIS is currently running a contest via social media: Through April 30, you can post pictures of the statues around town to Instagram and use the hashtag "#doraemonhi" to be eligible to win gift certificates to Ruth's Chris Steak House, the Prince Court Restaurant at Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki, and the Magic of Polynesia.
It took me a few months (and repeat visits; you can't imagine how I felt when I learned that (a) some of the statues later had informational placards added to them and (b) three more statues had appeared when I thought I had found all of them), but I've managed to track down the locations of at least 13 statues that are part of this promotion, placed between downtown and Kahala Mall. They really are all over the place, next to information booths ...
...tucked away in shopping malls ...
... and, of course, in HIS Hawaii offices.
Add in the 10 that will be on the Bishop Museum campus through Sunday, and the number of Doraemon statues on the island rises to 23. Without further ado, here are the Doraemon 23; while each Doraemon is holding a different gadget, they aren't always identified or explained fully. I've tried to include whatever information was available nearby in the captions.
So where are all these statues coming from? A quick Internet search found a handful of posts about "100 Years Before the Birth of Doraemon," an exhibition that showed up in Hong Kong in 2012 and Taiwan in 2013 that featured 100 Doraemon statues. It's very likely our visiting friends came from that exhibit; see if you can find some of them in this Alvinology II post.
A few other notes and pictures I picked up while I was running around finding all of these statues:
>> The trickiest ones for the general public to get to are #3 and #12. #3 is in the Lea Lea Lounge, which is technically open only to visitors using HIS Hawaii's services, but ask someone at the counter really nicely, and they'll probably let you in. #12, meanwhile, is actually located inside an HIS Hawaii staff office; if you were to walk past, you can see its feet behind a frosted "STAFF ONLY" door. Again, I asked nicely and was allowed to take a few pictures, but I really don't feel comfortable about sending a bunch of people who read this post to do the same, which is why I left the exact location intentionally vague.
>> The most abused statue easily has to be Leaftector Doraemon at Market City Shopping Center. Shopping center patrons, you should be ashamed of yourselves for doing this to poor Doraemon. Fortunately, it's been cleaned up before, and it'll be cleaned up again, but this is just embarrassing:
>> Photo ops with the statues abound, as it did when a family with a baby was taking pictures with Honest Thomas Doraemon and a group of Japanese tourists showed up. Much cooing and cuteness ensued.
>> There was also a bit of photo traffic over at Pass Loop Doraemon when I visited.
As I mentioned earlier, the Doraemon exhibit at Bishop Museum closes on Sunday, but the remaining 13 statues will be around through the end of the HIS Hawaii promotion on Nov. 30, so you'll have plenty of time to visit those.