At age 14, James Young and his family moved to Hawaii. It was then that he developed an interest in other cultures and began to study Japanese archery.
Inspired, he decided to capture his experiences on film.
“I did a little documentary about Japanese archery using my dad’s old home movie camera,” he recalls. “It’s kind of been an interest of mine ever since then.”
It’s an interest that held and one he channeled for a time in his professional life, devoting 13 years to KHET (PBS Hawaii) as executive director and general manager. Though, oddly enough, it also was during this period of his life that Young had the least amount of time to create his own films.
“A lot of the time, I was the guy who made the deals, raised the money and then somebody else got to have all the fun,” he explains with a laugh.
So it should come as no surprise that since retiring in 2004 from Hawaiian Electric Co. as its lead engineer, technical services, Young has returned to his erstwhile passion.
At least once a year, he travels and has visited places like Thailand, Burma, Cambodia and Madagascar. During these trips, Young shoots his own footage, then edits, narrates and produces videos entirely on his own. Made available on his YouTube channel, Young’s videos capture everything from the Intha people in Burma to Mongolian wrestling and beach musicians in Madagascar.
While technology has enabled Young to singlehandedly produce these videos, the Internet has played an even bigger role in gaining an audience. One video of a Japanese archery demonstration at Kapiolani Community College has garnered more than 2 million views.
“When I was head of the public television station, it was kind of like being a gatekeeper,” says Young, explaining that there were any number of things that prevented projects from airing.
“The beauty of YouTube and Vimeo is that there are no gatekeepers.”
This year, Young has no sojourns planned, instead devoting his time to completing a film about Balinese Hinduism. And when he isn’t documenting his travels, Young keeps the camera rolling on his grandchildren, pictured above with wife Lisa, (counterclockwise, from left) Ava, Cael and Akio.
In addition to his film projects, Young also regularly audits courses in the University of Hawaii system. Along with classes in religion, Young has studied world music and languages in an effort to enhance his travels.
All of that and tap-dancing — a form of exercise he has committed to for almost 20 years — keep Young, who last appeared on MidWeek‘s April 26, 1989, cover, quite busy. It’s a lifestyle he enjoys, though that wasn’t always the case. After retiring, he felt at loose ends and began exploring different areas of interest. This included a 14-month stint at the Apple store in Ala Moana Center, where Young says he had fun working with younger employees. Despite his Ph.D. in computer information and control engineering, his co-workers “left me in the dust.”
His interests may be varied, but it seems to be exactly what Young desires. “There’s not enough time in the day to learn everything I want to learn,” he says. “At age 71, I’m having the time of my life.”