Cypress needles glisten in the cold morning sun. In Kyoto, the bustle of early morning traffic and street vendors beckons our curiosity and intrigue.

For some of my students this trip was their first to Japan, but for everyone our debut international huakaʻi was one sure to remember.

The greatest highlight of our trip was a visit to Fushimi Inari-taishi Shrine in the Kyoto Prefacture. We had arrived for the Setsuban (節分), literally the "season division," marking the last day before the first day of spring according to the lunar calendar.

Through the gracious coordination of our friend Ayako and exceptional circumstance, we were able to witness the entire ʻaha from a privileged vantage point by which I'm humbled and forever grateful to our esteemed host.

We were drawn by the parallels to our own Hawaiian culture. The Setsuban is an elaborate ritual to exorcise old demons and welcome the new Spring season much in the same way that Hiʻiaka overcomes her struggles to promote new growth.

All of us were impressed with the orderliness and deep sense of respect and honor everywhere and from everyone we encountered. This trip marks only the beginning of our presence and collaboration in Japan.