Traveling Angel: A taste of Japan in Hawaii
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It doesn’t take long for a traveler to the island to see that Hawaii’s Japanese roots run deep. You can order a mochi sampler platter at any local 7-11 convenient store for goodness sake – and it isn’t half bad either. Though I know the Japanese contribution to Hawaii’s cultural identity is so much more than that – I’m not complaining about the delicious mochi to be found almost everywhere you go. Just sayin. Mahalo Japan.
This isn’t the last time you’ll read about Shirokiya in the course of this blog. Its one of my favorite spots downtown. While I hardly advise travelers to frequent a mall of all places when traveling to some place new – especially in Hawaii, with no shortage of natural scenic beauty, Shirokiya and the Yataimura Food court are the rare exceptions.
Hawaii’s a melting pot if you didn’t already know. Don’t let the leis and chocolate macadamia nuts fool you. Just ask any local what some of their favorite local food fare is and most likely you’ll get responses that vary from Filipino lumpias, Korean barbecue and kimchee, and of course, one of Japan’s gifts to the world – Sushi, in all its wonderful forms, can be found in Hawaii among all the other international offerings.
Shirokiya offers visitors to the island a chance to take two trips in one so to speak, letting you stroll through a little piece of Japan without leaving Honolulu. With Shirokiya’s convenient central location within the Ala Moana shopping center why not check it out?
While I frequent Shirokiya Village walk for my favorite takoyaki (octopus fritters mmmm) bento lunch and katsu chicken curry – almost on a weekly basis – I decided to head down this first week of January to check out the Takasaki Daruma Doll Festival.
Daruma Dolls are a symbol for perseverance and good fortune within the Japanese Culture.
While these little guys are produced in every region of Japan the city of Takasaki has become the headquarters for this New Year Tradition. Takasaki Daruma dolls are unique because of the artful details in the doll’s eyebrows and mustache. If you look closely you might even see that the eyebrows resemble the graceful Japanese crane and the mustache is painted in the motif of the turtle. Each of these animals are symbolic of longevity.
Daruma are sold without the pupils of the eyes drawn in. The right eye of the doll is filled in by the patron once they set a goal or make a wish for the upcoming new year. Only when the goal is achieved is the left eye drawn in!
The dolls come in a variety of colors with different meanings for each hue. Red Daruma emphasize the well being of a family, an increase of luck, good health, safety and success. Yellow dolls bring luck in financial affairs, and protection from disaster – who doesn’t hope for that in a new year right? Pink Daruma are popular among couples and newlyweds for their blessings in love, marriages, and giving birth. White bring promises for relaxation, while Black Daruma are said to ward off evil. Starting a new semester? Learning something new? Try a blue Daruma doll for success in educational pursuits and increased talent. Pretty cool right?
Last years Daruma, representative of goals achieved and blessings given through out the year are collected and taken to the local shrine in the traditional New Year “Expression of Gratitude” Ceremony.
It was nice to visit the different stalls, talk with the vendors and be reminded to make my own new year goals. but planning for the future can work up an appetite!
Shirokiya is home to a couple of bakeries and a number food stalls that offer everything from fluffy chocolate cream puffs, dense Japanese style cheesecakes, handmade gyoza, jelly lattes and colorful fresh sushi bentos. Vendors also sell unique Japanese food items and beautifully packaged gift sets of Japanese treats.
I decided to sample a few offerings from the KuluKulu Bakery. Japan is known for their impeccable presentation, attention to detail and use of color, as is evident in different aspects of the culture like delicate, balanced flower arranging, precise tea ceremonies with calculated, graceful dance like movements – food is no exception to the Japanese aesthetic. Everywhere I went, something as simple as dikon radishes and ginger were color coordinated packaged in perfect symmetry alongside each other. There was golden brown squid grilled in a light savory sake teriyaki sauce nestled near deep purple octopus and pillowy tempura vegetables …. any takers? no? just me? Shirokiya also has a tasty selection of sandwiches and fresh made smoothies and juices too if you aren’t feeling that adventurous. Its a new year – baby steps.
At KuluKulu Bakery I tried their popular diamond head custard cream puff which was – well … perfection. Airy cream puff pastry full of a delectable cream cheese, whipped cream wonderful vanilla hybrid. Be carefeul. They’re addictive and I can tell might be something of a problem for me in the future. I also had a dainty little blueberry cheesecake tart – fresh and not overly sweet to say nothing of the simple lovely presentation. I also tried mini kulukulu waffles … mini bear and heart shaped waffles individually poured, and filled with a variety of fillings that range from macha green tea, strawberry, and sweet red bean paste. Of course – only for the sake of the cause – I tried every flavor …. man. The things we do for the sake our jobs …. am I right?
Everyone will tell you there’s a lot to do in Oahu – and that’s true. What places like Shirokiya offer are a chance to have an adventure that you might not have thought to have while visiting downtown Honolulu. Hula dancing? Snorkeling? – of course those things are one on your Hawaii “to do” list – as well they should be – but cmon … Sampling Japanese barbecue squid, chit chatting with aunties and uncles from the community, and checking out a New Year Daruma Festival? It doesn’t get much cooler than that. Not without catching another flight I mean!
Happy New Year Travelers! Get out there – Do something new – and All the best wherever it is that 2016 takes you!
Angel for Sit Vacations