By Jason S. Yadao
Stamp rallies featuring statues of pop-culture icons seem to be a popular way of promoting our island home to visitors from Japan as of late. Regular readers of this blog already know about the "Doraemon Wakuwaku Stamp Rally," a promotion hosted by HIS Hawaii's Lea Lea Trolley that placed 13 statues of everyone's favorite blue gadget cat from the future at various locations between downtown and Kahala. Since April, though, Doraemon's had company on Oahu, with four 2.5-meter-tall (or a little over 8 feet tall, if you're metric-averse) statues of Ultraman placed at various locations.
It's part of "Ultra Hawaii," a campaign hosted by Hawaii Tourism Japan in conjunction with Tsuburaya Productions, and it's a pretty big deal. So big, in fact, that, as the official campaign canon goes, not only have Ultraman Taro and his parents come to visit the islands, so have two of Ultraman's enemies, Alien Baltan and Pigmon. And they're all happily taking pictures at Waimea Canyon together, lounging poolside, renewing wedding vows, taking surf lessons and doing pretty much all the fun touristy things that fun touristy types do.
Need proof of this harmonious alliance? Here's the official promo video.
There are more videos where that came from. A lot more, shot on Oahu, Maui, Kauai and Hawaii island — 24 in total. Among the media outlets that have covered this so far: RocketNews 24, Crunchyroll, Huffington Post, Comics Alliance, Japanator and the National Park Service's Pacific island parks blog. Going forward, Erika Engle reported in today's paper (subscription required; do read that article if you can, Ultraman fans) that Ultramen Leo, Tiga, Zero and Ginga will be part of the entertainment during the Pan-Pacific Festival June 13-15.
Of course, you know your friendly neighborhood anime/manga blogger had to get in on the coverage sometime. Coming off hunting down 23 Doraemon statues, finding four Ultraman statues — and perhaps learning more about the promotion in the process — should've been a snap. And it was ... for the most part, anyway.
Statue #1: Ultraman Ginga
Kualoa Ranch gift shop
Figuring I could pick up pictures of the two town-side statues later, I chose to begin my statue quest at the most far-flung location first, Kualoa Ranch, before going to the Polynesian Cultural Center. If you look at these statues close-up, you can really appreciate the detailed work it took to craft them.
It was here that I discovered that the Ultra Hawaii campaign seems more friendly in documenting what's going on to us English speakers than the Doraemon campaign. Along the Koolau-side wall toward the rear of the gift shop, I got my first glimpse of what would become a standard setup nearby: a stamp pad for rally participants ...
... a sign noting the locations of the other statues and a description of the campaign itself ...
... and several signs at the base, of which I'll provide close-up photos down the line.
In case you're wondering: No, you can't participate in the stamp rally. It's limited to visitors from Japan who purchased Ultra Hawaii packages from one of 12 tour companies. (Pity; I hear there are limited-edition figures that are being given away as part of the promo.) That doesn't mean you can't collect the stamps just for fun, though. Here's the Kualoa Ranch stamp.
Side note: The ranch restaurant is adjacent to the gift shop. Thanks to the smell wafting over, I ended up picking up one of their burger sampler packs, three slider-sized burgers, each one with different toppings. They're all quite tasty.
Statue #2: Ultraman Zero
Polynesian Cultural Center
The most picturesque statue in the series is also the only one that's located outdoors, in front of Mahinalani Gifts. Go in through the main entrance and turn right, and boom, it'll be right in front of you. On a nice day (which it certainly was the day I visited), you can get a really good shot of the statue with the blue sky, the sign and the tikis surrounding it.
The stamp pad was trickier to find, located on the side of an information booth that's closer to the main entrance. But here's the stamp, which is disappointing in that it's the same design as the Kualoa stamp, except with "Polynesian Cultural Center" across the top. Don't worry, though ... it gets better from here.
If you're going to be like me and visit every statue, I should note that you're going to have to pay $8 to get into the parking lot. If you leave within an hour, though, you can get a refund. Mahinalani Gifts is juuuuuust outside where you have to pay to get into the park itself, so your statue pilgrimage can be free if you'd prefer. Considering the last time I visited the park proper was probably in elementary school, and anything else I remember about it is contained in a yellowing copy of Dennis the Menace Big Bonus Series issue 192, I should probably swing by again to visit that when I have more free time. (Heh. "More free time." I wish.)
Statue #3: Ultraman Mebius
Hilo Hattie flagship store, Iwilei
The ceiling light effect in this picture? Totally unintentional. But it looks pretty darn cool, now that I'm looking at it again.
Anyway. here's the close-up view.
Mebius here stands watch around the middle of the store, surrounded by a bunch of Hilo Hattie's trademark aloha wear. Its location gave me my first real opportunity to get up close and shoot those aforementioned signs at the base -- on the base's left side, a statement in English; on the right, the same statement in Japanese.
And here's the Hilo Hattie stamp. It's chibi Pigmon!
Statue #4: Ultraman Tiga
DFS Galleria, 2nd floor, iQ Hawaii
Not gonna lie — this statue was by far the most difficult one for me to find. It took several circuits of all three floors of the Galleria — feeling incredibly poor in the process; you try walking among sterile, manicured displays of luxury designer products, the names of which I won't mention here to avoid summoning a pile of spambot comments, sometime — before I finally caved in and asked someone at an information booth if she knew where it was.
Fortunately, she did. It's up this escalator. That little black sign in front, with an iQ Hawaii logo, is the key.
So what is iQ Hawaii? Looking it up using the power of the Intarwebz now, it's apparently "an interactive iQ game experience" hosted by Hilton Grand Vacations Club, where visitors can play one of three touchscreen games and win small prizes and Galleria gift certificates. You can see some of those screens in this shot.
And unless you work for Hilton, Clarence Lee Designs Associates, Inc., the Galleria or any of their affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, you're eligible to play and win something, too! Yay!
... of course, your friendly neighborhood anime/manga blogger was too fixated on getting a shot of this stamp pad station, with a second sign with a picture of the stamp card that I hadn't seen before, to notice. (The iQ people are more than happy to let you just take pictures of the statue if you wish.)
Had to get the stamp, too, featuring ... umm ... any of you hard-core Ultraman fans out there want to help me out on identifying this one? I feel a bit like tag-team partner in fandom Wilma J., who, after watching that promo video I embedded earlier in this post, referred to Pigmon as "that red hedgehog dude." So until I hear otherwise, here's "bug-eyed anthropomorphic frog-type creature."
And that's it! Another successful statue hunt in the books. With two statue stamp rallies this year, I'm kinda crossing my fingers hoping some other company casts statues and brings them down here for a tourism promotion in the future. It would be neat to hunt down, say, random Pokemon statues. (Just as long as they aren't statues of all 718 Pokemon that exist now. That would be overkill ... and it would probably kill me trying to find all of them, too.)