Local firm to meet new year’s
dawn in the air

A tradition that sparked a trend is coming to Hawaii. "There is a belief that if you look upon the first sunrise you'll be more prosperous and lucky," said Mike Sewell, special projects coordinator for travel agency HIS Hawaii.

In the pre-dawn hours of Jan. 1 the company will charter a plane to fly the faithful and hopeful toward the east in order to get an aerial glimpse of the first sunrise of 2004. Upon returning to Honolulu passengers will be bused to the Izumo Taishakyo Mission on N. Kukui Street to pray.

Years ago a bus would transport people to Makapuu for the same purpose "but we're doing it from the air," Sewell said. "It's never been done in Honolulu."

All Nippon Airways started a similar service from Tokyo's Narita airport about three years ago, Sewell said, and later it expanded the program to Osaka and Nagoya.

HIS Hawaii is an 11-year-old offshoot of a nearly 25-year-old company based in Japan. It started serving in-bound Japanese visitors to Hawaii in 1991 and started outbound ticketing in 2000, Sewell said.

Tickets for the special sunrise flight aboard a Boeing 737/700 became available yesterday to Japanese travelers who will be in Hawaii for the New Year celebration. If not sold out, remaining seats will eventually be offered to the general public at $149 per person.

A new crop of choice

Christmas tree farmers in the Pacific Northwest are shifting their focus in growing numbers, every pun intended.

Area farmers are increasingly getting into the grape-farming business, notably in the Hillsboro area of Oregon, said Hawaii ex-pat Richard Tajiri.

"All the little Christmas tree farms are now grape farms," he said. "Red wines are real popular."

Not a tree farmer himself, Tajiri said smaller growers are turning their agrarian affections elsewhere because trees take so long.

A six-foot-tall tree has to be in the ground for 10 years to reach that height; a seven-foot-tree can take 12 years, he said.

Tajiri said many farms in Oregon got very little rain and were forced to harvest in late October. "Most of us waited until they had a really good drenching," around Nov. 10, he said, "but it still was not good enough."

Tree shippers interviewed by TheBuzz last week all emphasized the importance of constant watering to keep the trees green and safe.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin.
Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle,
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached

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