Five Miles Up with … Jake Shimabukuro

Deborah Hopewell

Ukulele master Jake Shimabukuro first grabbed the world's attention when a video of him playing George Harrison's While My Guitar Gently Weeps was posted on YouTube. The video went viral and Shimabukuro was soon stunning audiences on shows like Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The Late Show with Conan O'Brien with the atypical sounds he created with his uke. Luckily, fans can get a chance to see him perform live during his current 30-city, U.S tour to promote his latest album, Grand Ukulele. What the Hawaiian native's extensive travels have shown him — when it comes to destinations, there's no place like home.

What's something you never fail to pack in your suitcase?
A down jacket.  It doesn't matter where I'm going; I'm deathly afraid of cold weather.  I love hot, sunny weather.  Guess growing up in Hawaii really spoils you. Oh, and my 'ukulele, too!

Carry-on or check-in?
Carry-on because I get cold on planes.

Window or aisle?
I love the window seat.  It's always nice to have something to lean on, especially for the longer flights, but I always dread having to wake up my neighbor to use the lavatory.

Do you bring food with you on plane?
Gluten-free protein bars or something healthy.  I rarely eat the served meal because I'm usually in deep sleep before the plane even takes off.

What's your idea of the perfect vacation?
Being on the beach snorkeling in crystal-blue water with my family.  Throw in a couple of fishing poles and a pole spear (three-prong) and I may never leave.

Tell us about a vacation you've taken that's come close so far.
For our honeymoon, my wife and I visited Lānai (Hawaii) and stayed at the Four Seasons Resort Lāna'i at Manele Bay.  We ventured out a bit and found a great little snorkeling spot.  The water was absolutely stunning — clear and full of life.  I still have dreams about that experience.  My wife had a great time, too, and that's why it was perfect.

What's the worst vacation you've ever been on?
Maybe I'm just lucky, but I don't think I ever had a terrible vacation.  The airline did lose my luggage once, but that just gave me an excuse to buy new clothes.

Where is the favorite venue you've played and why?
Two years ago I performed a duet with Bette Midler at the Blackpool Opera House (Blackpool Lancashire, England) for Queen Elizabeth.  We even got to meet her and shake her hand after the performance.  That was epic.

What's the most unusual souvenir you ever came back with?
I bought a painting about five years ago that's huge; it probably stands about six feet tall.  I had it shipped to Hawaii and kept it in my office.  A couple of years ago, after my wife and I got married and we bought our first home together, I asked her if she wanted me to bring the painting home and hang it at the entrance.  She replied, "Which painting?  Not the scary one in your office?"  It's a painting of zombies holding antique musical instruments.  The painting is still in my office.

Favorite resort you've ever stayed in?
I love the Four Seasons Resort Hualālai on the Big Island.  It's absolutely gorgeous.

What's the biggest regret you've ever had while on vacation?
Once, I packed a weight set for a two-week vacation because I thought I was going to workout and get in shape.  I never picked it up for the entire trip, and my vacation ended with a sore back and about $50 in fees for having overweight luggage.

What's the one thing you're willing to splurge on above all else?
My wife and music gear.

Three songs (or artists) on your travel playlist?
Bob Dylan, Alan Parsons and the Beatles.

Where would you take someone visiting your hometown for the first time so they could see what you love about it so much?
I would drive them out to the North Shore of Oahu, especially during the winter months to see the huge waves.

You only get one more trip in your lifetime. Where will it be?
I always pray that the last trip of my life will be the one home — to Hawaii.

To learn more about Jake and the Grand Ukulele Tour visit To purchase Grand Ukulele visit

Here's an extra portion I cut out, but wanted you to see it in case you need more content:

Ever try a food that you wished you hadn't?

When I was four, I loved those soft, green mint candies that my grandma always had in her purse.  But one night, we went out to dinner at a nice sushi restaurant.  When the first plate of sushi arrived, I saw a ball of green stuff that looked just like my grandma's mint candy on the corner of the plate.  So, when no one was looking, I grabbed it and popped the whole thing in my mouth.  I started screaming my head off!  What I thought was mint candy, turned out to be wasabi - the hot, Japanese mustard that you mix into the soy sauce when eating sushi.  I don't even eat mints anymore.