Makiki Loop Trail, a nice hike very close to Waikiki

Hiking may not be something that comes to mind when planning a vacation in Hawaii. However there are many beautiful trails on all our islands. I will admit that I am not a hiker but recently I had the opportunity to discover Makiki Loop Trail. This trail goes into Makiki Valley which is right in the heart of Honolulu and only about ten minutes by car from Waikiki. It is very close to Tantalus and Round Top Hill. What is so nice about this trail is that it is a perfect work out, about one hour and forty minutes of ups and downs. Good exercise! It is not that difficult although I do recommend good shoes with traction. The trail gets a lot of rain so it can get muddy. Of course I also recommend that you bring water, wear sunscreen and hat, and use mosquito repellent.

This trail is about 2.5 miles and it begins and ends at the Nature Center up Makiki Heights Drive. There is even a gravel parking lot near the entrance of the trail.

We went up there around 8:00 in the morning. Many folks are out there walking the trail for exercise. I noticed that there are many local Korean walkers. They must walk it every day because they all looked fit to me. There was even a gentleman walking the trail with bare feet!

The loop is a combination of three trails: Kanealole, Maunalaha and Makiki Valley. You can walk clockwise from Kanealole or counterclockwise from Maunalaha . Maunalaha is much steeper so I prefer the gradual ascent of Kanealole. I think I will try the other way next time. I guess it’s good to attempt the difficult part first when you have more energy.

There are many beautiful streams to see. Lots of plants including taro, fern, bamboo, banana, guava, kukui. I also saw heleconia and the sweet smelling ginger. There is much shade throughout the trail and it can get quite cool as long as it’s not a muggy day. The view from the top
overlooking the valley and the Honolulu high rise buildings is quite spectacular. It’s very peaceful. You can hear the birds and roosters. It’s a wonderful tropical and lush trail that I recommend for novice hikers. I noticed many people hiking alone but I think that it’s more enjoyable to go with a partner.

Yes, there’s more to Hawaii than beaches. There are many valleys and mountains to explore. Enjoy!

Honolulu Festival

Honolulu Mauka Trail System


Diamond Bakery: Making People Smile since 1921!

I was reading the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper recently about Honolulu-based Diamond Bakery and how they have started to sell their Saloon Pilot and original soda crackers in the Northeastern states of Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Massachusetts through a chain of stores called Hannaford. Apparently Saloon Pilot crackers are traditionally eaten with New England chowder in that area and there was a need for Hawaii’s crackers ever since Nabisco stopped making them in 2008. Very interesting…interesting that Diamond Bakery of Hawaii makes a cracker that is traditionally eaten by the people who live in the Northeast, the original states of USA.

As for me, I am a loyal fan of Diamond Bakery’s original soda cracker. If you have never tried it, you just have to. When I say loyal, I mean that Diamond Bakery’s cracker is the only one that I will buy. I admit that there are times when I buy water crackers (cracked pepper is my favorite) when I need to make some hors d'oeuvres. Those thin crackers are better for making pupu because it’s less filling. But besides that, the hardy and tasty Diamond Bakery soda crackers cannot be beat. Of course, this is strictly my opinion.

As I was researching Diamond Bakery for my blog article I realized that there is so much history and nostalgia in the 80 plus years that this company has been in existence. First of all, did you know that the founders of this company were three friends, Japanese immigrants who worked as a cook, maid and butler who dreamed of opening a bakery of their own? Hidegoro Murai, Kikutaro Hiruya and Natsu Muramoto saw a need for affordable baked goods. They experimented as often as they could to create perfect and affordable crackers that would be a hit with the local people in Hawaii. In 1921, with a loan from one of their employers, Mrs. McIntyre of Manoa, and all the money they had saved, they began their business of baking and selling soda crackers. They named their company Diamond Bakery after Hawaii’s most famous landmark, Diamond Head. It wasn’t easy but business picked up especially after they met master baker Sam Dunphy in 1927 who became the fourth partner in the business. Unfortunately, Murai had passed away unexpectedly never knowing how successful their company will become. It took another ten years for Diamond Bakery to master their recipes but by 1937 they had perfected the quality of their products which included Graham, Salty, Saloon Pilot, Royal Creem and Soda crackers. They also had Ruff ‘n Ready, Coconut, Candy Bead and Animal cookies. In 1970 the owners decided to hire executives out of their family circle to lead Diamond Bakery into the future. I guess it was a very wise decision because they currently employ over 100 employees and continue to expand their distributorship throughout the world.

I could conclude this blog right now and it would have been a very nice story. The story about three immigrants from Japan coming to Hawaii to earn a living, becoming friends because they all worked in domestic service for rich families, and dreaming about owning their own business is truly heartwarming. They went through countless hardships to perfect their products and then had the misfortune of one of the co-founders dying unexpectedly, not ever knowing how their dream turned out and never reaping the rewards of their success. Wow, a nice story with a happy result and more to come in the future!

But there’s another angle to this story. It’s about their ever popular Saloon Pilot crackers. Many folks in the local community have fond childhood memories about eating the crackers. Diamond Bakery organized a contest called “Search for the Ultimate Diamond” a few years ago so that people can share their memories about eating Saloon Pilot crackers, their family recipes and nostalgic stories. Diamond Bakery President Brent Kunimoto is quoted as saying, “Saloon Pilot crackers are such an important part of our local culture, and in many ways tell the history of Hawaii.” I missed out on these memories being a military brat and not growing up in Hawaii. Shucks. You can read some of the stories on their website www.diamondbakery.com. This got me wondering about what this Saloon Pilot cracker tastes like, why did the original founders of Diamond Bakery decide to bake them and why is it that the New Englanders like it so much. Well, I believe that I found my answers. First of all, they taste like an unleavened bread or biscuit. It’s even heartier than the soda crackers. I tried them with some cheese and tuna salad. It was onolicious. Sweeter toppings like peanut butter hit the spot too.

So how did the Diamond Bakery founders come about baking these Saloon Pilot crackers? The three friends needed to make a product that would serve as a solid foundation to their business, something tasty and reasonable. They decided on “sea biscuits” aka “pilot crackers” (ration for bush pilots) and used a recipe from seamen who traveled to the islands from Maine. These large, round and hard sea biscuits were originally introduced to the Hawaiian Islands by the traders, whalers and missionaries who ate them as a staple during their long journeys from New England to Hawaii. These crackers were great for long sea voyages because they didn’t break easily and had a long shelf life. So that is how Diamond Bakery’s Saloon Pilot crackers became a typical snack for the people of Hawaii through the years.

On the other side of the ocean in the New England states these crackers were first introduced by the British sailors as “hard tack” in the late 1700’s. “Tack” was a slang used by British sailors for “food.” The New Englanders had to have these pilot crackers when eating their clam chowder. They were also used to thicken their soups and stews and to make stuffing. So when Nabisco decided to stop making these crackers in 2008 it was only inevitable for Diamond Bakery’s Saloon Pilot crackers to make its way back to New England. Full circle! Isn’t that wonderful? So now, after almost 90 years of making Hawaii folks smile, Diamond Bakery is making more people smile all over the world! Lucky we live in Hawaii, you can buy their crackers at most supermarkets and at Long's.

P.S. There’s another cultural angle to this story. If you look back into the history of the people of Canada, Alaska, Japan, China and Korea, they have similar crackers that were used during times of war and other hardships. A little bit of trivia...it is known as “kanpan” in Japan which literally means “dry bread.”

Honolulu Festival

Diamond Bakery


The Emperor and Empress of Japan to Visit Oahu and Island of Hawaii

Big news for the State of Hawaii. The Emperor and Empress of Japan will be stopping over in Hawaii for a few days. This will be the last leg of their Canadian trip. This is a big deal for many local people in Hawaii because there are so many Japanese Americans who live here. Many of our grandparents and great grandparents immigrated from Japan to work on the sugar and pineapple plantations in the late 1800's. There is a strong connection between Japan and Hawaii because of this. The royal family has made periodic visits to Hawaii in the past. It is an honor to have them return once again. Like many other states, Hawaii has been deeply affected by the downturn in the economy. Our state relies heavily on tourism and the economy has decreased our visitor count. The number of Japanese visitors has also decreased sharply due to the global frenzy caused by the H1N1 virus. Hawaii is hoping that the royal visit from Japan's Emperor and Empress will encourage the Japanese visitors to come back to Hawaii.
The younger generation in Japan and Hawaii may not understand the reverance that is bestowed upon the Imperial Couple but according to Japanese law they were at one time considered gods. I remember seeing an old footage of the Japanese people with their heads bowed very low, avoiding direct eye contact with the royal family during a procession prior to World War II. Things have certainly changed since then but the Imperial Family continues to arouse the curiosity of many people. My mom used to tell me about how it was a big deal when the current Emperor married a commoner, the first time ever. I was told that Empress Michiko was so popular that many Japanese families named their daughters Michiko in the 1960's. You gotta give credit to the Japanese and their trends!
Let's hope that the Imperial Couple has a great time in Hawaii. I doubt that they will have time to walk on the beach and enjoy our beautiful sunset...but you never know. Aloha!

Honolulu Festival


See Halema'uma'u Crater at Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park on the Island of Hawai'i

I had a wonderful opportunity to visit the island of Hawai'i recently. Many of you may know it as the Big Island and rightfully so, it is vast and the landscape comprised of mountains, lava and lush greenery go on and on. I am ashamed to admit that I have only been to the Hilo side a couple of times in the past thirty years that I have lived in Hawai'i. But more embarrassing, this was the first time for me to visit the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. Better late than never.

Located only 45 minutes southwest of Hilo, it gets quite cool as the elevation goes from sea level to about 4,000 feet. This National Park is one of Hawaii’s most popular visitor attractions. It is open 24/7 so that visitors may explore the volcano sights day and night. You can even camp there.

I visited the Halema’uma’u Crater of the Kilauea Caldera. This crater has been active this time since 2008. There is a hiking trail that visitors can adventure through if you have a few hours. But even looking at the plume of emissions from the crater vent from a distance is a sight to be seen. The glow from the lava can be seen at night depending on conditions that change frequently. The overlook at Jaggar Museum is close enough that you can actually see activity and not just the steam and smoke. The smoke coming out is concentrated sulfur fumes so those with respiratory
problems should beware.

It is very cool up at the summit of Kilauea. The summit is also known for the abundance of rainfall. Very nice and refreshing. I suggest that you bring a jacket, raincoat or sweatshirt, or all three just in case. Please be prepared for a range of weather if you intend to visit for a long period of time.

Halema’uma’u Crater is the sacred home of Pele, Hawai'i’s volcano goddess. There are many Hawaiian legends that have been passed down from generation to generation about Pele and her powers. It is very important that we honor her. It is common for hula halau to visit the crater year round to honor Pele by performing their dances at the crater. It is a tradition for the halau that participate at the annual Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo to pay their respects to Pele before their competition.

There is much to see at the Volcano Art Center located next to the crater. The Center includes a gallery of Hawaiian art work that can be viewed and purchased. The Center is part of the 1877 Volcano House which provided lodging for guests, so the art work is displayed in small rooms that I believe were once hotel rooms. You must also visit the Volcano House. Not only do they offer a place to stay and dine but it’s a great spot to view the Halema’uma’u Crater. Spectacular views. Quaint d├ęcor and a lobby fireplace!

Many events are happening throughout the year at the cultural site overlooking Halema’uma’u Crater . There is a hula stage (Hula Pa) that is used by Hawaiian entertainers for their performances. And right next to the Hula Pa is the Hula House or Hale Hula Lauhala. This Hale is in the process of being rebuilt using lauhala (pandanus) instead of grass for thatching of the roof and walls. It will be exciting to see the Hale Hula once it is completed.

I have only touched the tip of the iceberg in regards to what you can see and do at Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. It is definitely a “must” on your next visit to Hawai'i Island. Aloha.

Honolulu Festival

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park

Volcano Art Center

Volcano House


Saleva’a Atisanoe aka KONISHIKI continues to give back to the community

Lots of things happening this 4th of July weekend. There are fireworks scheduled in many places on the island of Oahu on July 3rd and 4th. Families and friends will have their barbecue picnics at the beaches and parks. Ala Moana Beach Park will be available for campers on the evening of July 3rd so that they can stake out their spots for the spectacular fireworks that are regularly held there on the evening of the 4th.

I wanted to talk about another event that is happening called Ohana Day on the 4th of July on the Leeward Coast in Kapolei. This will the second consecutive year for the event to be held at Wet ’n Wild Hawaii (the former Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park). The fun-filled day will include water rides, eating contests, a dance contest, relay races and a concert of popular local artists. The full day of excitement ends with a spectacular fireworks presentation. It’s wonderful that the people on the Leeward side won’t have to come into town for the fireworks! For details check out their website www.konishikikids.com.

Ohana Day is a charity event for the Konishiki Kids Foundation, a non-profit organization that was created in 1996 to help the children of the Leeward Coast through cultural and educational experiences so that they may be successful and make a difference in their community. The founder of Konishiki Kids is none other than the Hawaii born Saleva’a Atisanoe aka KONISHIKI. He is the first foreigner to reach the rank of “ozeki” in Japan’s sport of sumo. Konishiki was raised in Nanakuli on the Leeward Coast of Oahu. He graduated from the University Laboratory School in Honolulu and had a very successful career from 1982 to 1997 in Japan’s sumo world.

Konishiki continues to flourish in his second career as an entertainer in Japan and Hawaii. He is a producer of Lost Coast Sound putting together concerts such as THROW DA SHAKA Concert 2009. He also hosts his own television program on our local network. He’s a very busy man, but his heart belongs to the Konishiki Kids Foundation and his projects benefit the Foundation so that the children of the Leeward Coast will have opportunities to explore the world, such as through their Japan Trip Program.

Exciting news! Konishiki will be promoting Hawaii in Japan this fall. He will lead Marriott’s Spirit of Aloha Tour. This bus tour will travel through Nagoya, Osaka and Tokyo to promote Hawaii as a great vacation destination. Enjoy Hawaii and stay at a Marriott! I am sure that Konishiki will attract a huge crowd where ever he goes. He is very popular in Japan. I recall seeing one of his Suntory TV commercials a while back and just being in awe of his many talents as an entertainer.

Let’s look forward to seeing Konishiki in action as he continues to give back to his community. Aloha and Happy 4th of July!

Honolulu Festival

Konishiki Kids Foundation

Lost Coast Sound