Most Tuesdays at 10am you can find museum docent Sonoko Ota waiting at the front entrance, ready to lead a Japanese language tour.

Originally from Tokyo, Japan, Sonoko has lived in Hawai‘i for the past 37 years. But it wasn’t until the early 1990’s that she first visited the museum. “The closer I got to retirement the more I realized that I wanted to spend more time surrounded by art,” says Ota, “then after retiring in 2002 I began taking art courses at local colleges, and I’ve never looked back.”

Ota proves that it is never too late to find a new passion. “When I came to the museum in 2009, I got to learn so much, not just about Japanese woodblock prints, but also European, American, and contemporary art. I really appreciate the education the museum has given me these past few years.”

While Ota says she owes a lot to the museum, she has also given a lot back. In addition to leading informative tours, Ota is on a mission to engage resident and visiting Japanese by helping to connect the museum with Japanese-language media such as the radio station KZOO and the Hawaii Hochi Newspaper.

And her work is paying off—last year the museum increased the number of Japanese language tours, which are now offered Tuesdays to Saturdays, 10am to noon (as often as our English language tours), to meet the rising demand.

Looking ahead, the museum hopes to expand its foreign-language tour offerings—we just need more foreign language docents like Ota. Click here for more information about becoming a docent.