Hakone Restaurant at Hawaii Prince for Authentic Japanese Cuisine in Hawaii

There are many restaurants in Hawaii that serve Japanese food and many of them are very good. The young people of Hawaii who seem to be influencing the food trends these days seem to go for three types of Japanese restaurants. They tend to go for the restaurants that offer teishoku (complete meals), buffet or the izakaya style (appetizers and drinks). Many of the new places are very creative and blend the tastes of Japan with other countries, an East meets West creation. I think that all of these restaurants with creative menus are fun. It makes it very difficult to choose a place when dining out.
Having lived in Japan as a child and adult there are times that I miss the flavors of authentic Japanese food, the taste of Japanese white rice and fresh sushi. The key word being "authentic" I must say that the Hakone Restaurant at the Hawaii Prince Hotel in Honolulu is as authentic as you will ever get in Hawaii.

The Sushi Buffet on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings from 5:30-9:30 p.m. is a smorgasbord of all the Japanese delicacies that you have ever dreamed of at one sitting. The price is $44.00 per person. I know there are some who might say that it is on the high side but when you consider the quality and quantity of food that is served, I consider the meal to have value. The best part of the buffet is the all-you-can-eat sushi.

Chef Shimoyama who has been the chef at Hakone since its opening makes the sushi for you. I have tried uni (sea urchin) at other popular sushi bars in town but this is the best. It is sweet and fresh and melts in your mouth. And the rice or "shari" is perfect. Delicious, not too sticky and not too much. You can order the many authentic types of sushi such as tuna, squid and shrimp. And then there's the roll sushi such as negitoro and California maki. You can actually get full just on the sushi...but that is just the beginning. I encourage you to take a thorough glance once around at all the dishes laid out on the buffet table before you start eating so that you can have a game plan. Some of the eye openers include the crab, tempura, steak and sashimi. Then there is the area of Japanese pickles, nimono (stewed items), appetizers, salads and fried foods.

Sukiyaki and Shabu Shabu are also popular items on the buffet. What is very nice is that there are trays, large plates, small plates and bowls to be used for each different dish.

And once you are finished with a dish, the wonderful waitresses are there to clean your table so that you can go up for your next helping. I think the key is to take your time, take only what you can eat and enjoy each dish. And everything tastes better with their draft beer, Kirin Nama!

Chef Shimoyama and Hakone Restaurant have been participating in Honolulu Festival's Friendship Gala for years now. It's a treat to be able to eat his authentic dishes at the gala once a year but that is not enough. I encourage you to taste his Sushi Buffet at Hakone Restaurant the next time you are seriously ono for authentic Japanese food.

Delicious desserts

Pickles and side dishes

Pickles, mozuku and crab


Aloha Festivals Part 3 – Hapa Haole Hula & Music Festival and Competition

Greetings of Aloha! This will be my last report in a series of three about the Aloha Festivals that took place during the weekend of September 12-13, 2008. We hope that you will remember that March is the Honolulu Festival and that September is the Aloha Festivals. Part 3 is about the Hapa Haole Hula & Music Festival that took place September 13th at Kapiolani Park in Waikiki from 10:00 am, during and after the Floral Parade. This was the sixth annual event.

So what is Hapa Haole Hula & Music? In the Hawaiian language “hapa” means “part” or “portion”. It is taken from the English word “half”. In the Hawaiian “pidgin” language, “hapa” has a meaning “of mixed descent”. And often “hapa haole” is a term used for “half white/Caucasian”. Hope that this mini course in Hawaiian Language 101 has helped you to understand a little bit more of the Hawaiian culture as we move on to the topic of Hapa Haole Hula and Music. These are songs and dance that focus on songs that have Hawaiian themes, the tune and styling are typically Hawaiian, but are written in English. The Festival takes place along with the Aloha Festivals and the competition takes place on October 10th. Exciting!

The Floral Parade ended at Kapiolani Park with the Honolulu Police Department’s officers conducting traffic on their bikes.

You’ll hit Kapiolani Park as you follow Kalakaua Avenue to the very end of Waikiki.

Here is a beautiful statue of Queen Kapiolani, wife of King Kalakaua.

And right in back of this area is where the crafts booths set up their tents for the 6th Annual Hapa Haole Hula & Music Festival and Competition.

The booths represented an array of authentic Hawaiian crafts.

The shave ice stands were a hit.

Local food booths…and healthy plate lunches. 

When we think of events at Kapiolani Park, we think of our Bandstand, perfect for performances and competitions.

A representative of Mayor Mufi Hanneman contributes $10,000 on behalf of the Honolulu City and County to the organizer of the event.

So let’s talk a little bit about the styles of hula, its form and purpose. Hula kahiko is the traditional form of hula. It is Hawaii’s oral history of the ancestors and genealogy passed down through chants. Chants tell the stories of creation, mythology, royalty, and other significant events and people. They are spiritual, religious and ceremonious.

Hula ‘auana began during the reign of King David Kalakaua. Modern hula arose from the adaptation of traditional hula ideas (dance and song) to Western influences. Hula ‘auana was danced for performances.

And then there’s Hapa Haole hula which is even more modern and heavily influenced by pop music and Hawaiian music. Hula is danced to songs like Blue Hawaii, Hanalei Moon and Waikiki.

So let the performances begin!

There are many groups that participate. I’d say there were about twelve groups in the first half.
Intermission, time to reenergize and nourish ourselves!

This is my Egyptian curry, delicious.

Performers wait in the back of the bandstand for their turn. Reflections of their colorful costumes in the water, neat.

The second half begins.

Solo performance by Kanoe Miller, former Miss Hawaii and entertainer nightly at Halekulani’s House Without a Key.

And the performances continue.

Group performs Hawaiian falsetto. Amazingly wonderful.

The lovely solo dancers, many are former winners of the Hapa Haole Hula & Music Competition.

The Hapa Haole Hula & Music Festival was very exciting to watch. So graceful. It made me feel like taking hula lessons again. I can understand why there are so many ladies and gentleman worldwide who learn hula. I hope that the hula participants of the Honolulu Festival will continue to practice throughout the year and come back to Hawaii to perform next March for the 15th Annual Honolulu Festival.
I hope you enjoyed our series on the Aloha Festivals. Look forward to hearing your comments! Aloha.


Aloha Festivals Part 2 – Floral Parade

Aloha! We talked about the Waikiki Ho’olaule’a as being the kick off celebration of the annual Aloha Festivals in Part 1. Now let’s talk about the Floral Parade that was held on Saturday. With the festival theme being “Hula: The Art of Hawaiian Dance,” the parade featured numerous halau (hula groups) and their floats. The Parade is probably the highlight of the Aloha Festivals celebrations. It beautifully represents the cultures and traditions of Hawaii. The children love the horses, the beautiful princesses and the marching bands.

Once again it was down Waikiki’s Kalakaua Avenue. It started at 9:00 am from Ala Moana Park. It must have been about 10:00 am when the Parade reached the beginning of Waikiki. And the crowds had secured their favorite spots along both sides of Kalakaua Avenue.

Mayor Mufi Hanneman who is seeking his second term in this year’s Honolulu mayoral election lead the Parade. You gotta give credit to Mufi. He always supports our festivals and parades. He always participates in our Honolulu Festival. And he always walks the parade, waving at the crowds and talking story with the spectators. I guess being 6’7” and having long legs help. But I think that the truth is that he loves parades!
Next is the popular Royal Hawaiian Band.
Then the Kamehameha School Marching Band, always a winner at the marching band competitions.

Here is a pa’u (equestrian) rider near the Royal Hawaiian Center and the Waikiki Shopping Plaza.

The VIP stand is located right next to this area. The emcee explains the parade participants from here so it is a good place to be if you want to hear the explanations.
However, for picture taking purposes…

I suggest the areas with the beach and palm trees in the background.

How about this?
Don’t you think that this area is more Hawaiian?

And speaking of Hawaiian, here is Hawaiian Airlines’ float. Just beautiful!

The popular pa’u units representing our islands. The princesses are dressed magnificently in their color (each island has their own color) with matching floral leis. So elegant and so powerful!

Here’s the Big Island. The passionate color, crimson.

Next is Oahu…bright yellow.

The hair decorations of the princesses…so elaborate and gorgeous.

And look at the floral decorations on the horses. So ornate and colorful!

Maui is pink.

Molokai is lime green.

The pooper scooper cart even matches.

Each pa’u unit has its own pooper scooper cart. Right on.

Then there’s Kauai, Niihau, Lanai and Kahoolawe. All the units are so beautiful.

The men and women of our armed forces march.

The Honolulu Boys Choir dressed in their parade best.

Our high school marching bands.
There’s the Farrington High School Band, alma mater of our Honolulu Festival Secretary Nabe-san.

Here comes Miss Hawaii. She danced along with Manoa DNA at the Ho’olaule’a just last night. Busy lady.

Hula, The Art of Hawaiian Dance
The Aloha Festivals theme was well represented by the halau floats.

The hula dancers of each halau performed on the floats.

The Aloha Festivals Floral Parade ended at Kapiolani Park around noon. What a nice way to spend the morning! This is a special event that will remain in my thoughts for a long time.
Mahalo. Stay tuned for Part 3.