Japan and the United States had been far from friendly for decades before 1941. Japanese efforts to dominate China throughout the early twentieth century had met with strong pushback from the United States, culminating in Japanese frustration and anger when their desires for expansion were basically ignored in the Treaty of Versailles, which formally ended World War I.
The Japanese felt that they were not taken as seriously in the negotiations of the Treaty as were the "white" colonial powers in Western Europe and North America. Moreover, Japan had long imagined expanding their empire throughout the Pacific (including colonial holdings like Southeast Asia and Pacific islands like Hawaii) and laying claim to what they believed was rightfully theirs.
Furthermore, the Japanese relied heavily on the United States for oil, which fueled its military and thus its imperial ambitions. When the United States stopped shipping oil to Japan due to their alliance with Germany and Italy in World War II, Japan found itself desperate and infuriated.
By late 1941, it seemed almost inevitable that Japan and the United States would go to war, and the American presence on Hawaii was an obvious reason for this. It was seen (and very likely intended) as a threat to the Japanese, and so the Japanese made the decision to strike first, gambling on the hope that the United States would be so shocked and terrified that they would accept defeat on this relatively small American holding, and would think twice about entering the war at all.