A Rainy Day's Drive to Yokohama Bay

A Rainy Day’s Drive to Yokohama Bay

Hawaii is best known for its sunny skies and warm balmy breezes, but today it’s raining. And you know what? It’s not so bad. The rain is warm. The breeze is still warm. And when you step in the sand, that’s warm too. Visitors from the mainland, where the snow is falling in areas that haven’t had it for years, are thrilled to be here. Those of us who live here have got to stop taking our paradise for granted.

Do you know that there are people who live on Oahu who have never been to the West side? Or taken a drive to see the treasures of Wahiawa in the center of the island, or even Hau`ula on the windward side? Unbelievable! Such a relatively small island begs us to discover every corner.

Yokohama Bay is at the end of the road, the farthest you can go on Oahu’s west coast. And it’s spectacular. I don’t know how long it is, but it looks like it stretches for miles. Hardly anyone is on the white sands today, possibly because of the weather, but we’ve been here on fair days and it’s the same. Unspoiled, vast, beautiful, unpopulated. The locals would rather keep it to themselves, but if the occasional visitor shows up, they’re willing to share.

For the adventurous among us, from Keawaula Beach (Yokohama Bay’s other name) is a great hiking trail to Kaena Point State Park, the island’s northwestern tip. Bring your hiking boots or at least running shoes—you don’t want to walk it in slippers. It’s pretty rocky. Bring water, too, and a sandwich, because you’ll want to stay awhile to see the monk seals that are protected here. Turtles, dolphins and sea birds also hang around, and in whale season, like today, you’re in for a treat. You can see for miles, and whales are bound to show up.

In the winter months this beach is no place for a novice. High, powerful surf pounds in, and the pros are the only ones allowed in the water by the lifeguards. In the summer, though, swimming, snorkeling and diving are dazzling in the clear, flat conditions. Don’t go out alone, as sometimes the swells can take you a little further out than you expect!

What’s its name mean? Known originally as Keawalua Beach (red harbor), large schools of squid used to gather near shore in mating season. Normally transparent, muhe’e change color to bright red during this time. The more common name of Yokohama refers to the home town of the Japanese workers who immigrated to Hawaii to work in the cane fields and often came here to fish.

Oahu has many sacred locations, and Kaena Point is one of them. In Hawaiian legend, the point is a "jumping off" point where souls join the spiritual world. Also nearby is Makua Cave, also known as Kaneana Cave, another sacred spot. Named after Kane, the Hawaiian god of creation, legend says that mankind emerged from here. The cave is 100 feet high and 450 feet deep, although most of us stay near the entrance since it’s kind of spooky. If you’re one of the brave ones, bring a flashlight and wear covered shoes.

Rain or shine, Yokohama Bay is a treasure you’ll want to discover. Take a drive! It’s less than a couple of hours no matter where you are on the island.


The 17th Honolulu Festival

The Experience

Underlying the celebrations of this year’s Honolulu Festival was the sorrow and uncertainty generated by the earthquake and tsunami off Japan on March 11th. (Why do these major events seem to happen on the 11th?) But in spite of that, organizers decided to carry on with festival events, and I’m glad. This year’s theme, “We are all neighbors, around the world,” has never been more true.

I’m not Japanese. I’ve been around for most of the 17 years of The Honolulu Festival, but this is the first year that I really paid attention. The 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami kind of woke me up, you might say, and made me want to find out more about the island of Japan and its people, where so many people in Hawaii have ties. I had family members in the Tokyo area at the time of the earthquake, which made the disaster hit home all the more. Anxiously waiting to hear from them, glued to the TV for hours on end, I realized more than ever that we are all connected. So I went to Hawaii Convention Center, and to Waikiki Beachwalk. I went to Waikiki Shopping Plaza, Ala Moana Shopping Center, and to the Grand Parade.

At all these venues, groups of people from many Pacific regions shared their colorful heritage on stage or in displays and demonstrations. I enjoyed the photography exhibit “peace gallery” at HCC. Many locals tried their hand at calligraphy, or origami. At one popular exhibit a visitor laughingly struggled to remain upright as portions of a heavy samurai costume were placed on his head and shoulders.

Suga-Ren was a huge crowd favorite with their beautiful costumes and tremendous enthusiasm. The Alaska Heritage dancers were a boisterous group, not to be outdone by the Aborigines from Australia, Descendance. Several of Japan’s many Hula Halau participated, paying tribute to Hawaii’s own traditional dance, and further cementing the Japan-Hawaii bond. Singers from many different genres from traditional all the way to modern wailing rock entertained both locals and visitors.

And everywhere you looked at the various venues were yellow-shirted volunteers and workers. I spoke to several people, some who were helping out for the first time, and others who make it a point to volunteer every year. They enjoy the connection of this international high-spirited coming-together of cultures that seems to grow exponentially.

The Grand Parade kicked off at 4:30 in the afternoon, and as daylight gave way to evening, the crowds lining Kalakaua Avenue seemed to grow ever larger. The groups’ performances along the way were varied and colorfully exuberant. The sound of taiko and shamisen lifted spirits as participants, many of whom had performed on the other stages over the weekend, paraded down the street.

Traditional and modern dancers entertained viewers. Authentic hand-made Samurai costumes took us back into Japan’s history. It’s a good thing the parade route isn’t that long—those costumes are super heavy. Imagine how difficult for them as they fought hundreds of years ago, toiling under the weight! Several mikoshi (portable shrines), Honolulu Daijayama and Neputa floats were carried or pushed by volunteers, many of them students, dressed in traditional happi coats.

Unfortunately the planned Nagaoka City fireworks demonstration scheduled as the finale had to be cancelled, but most people understood.

All in all, it was a terrific display of culture and pageantry. What a great opportunity to share with people you may not interact with on a daily basis. Don’t miss it next year!


Escape to Kaua'i

Escape to Kaua`i

There’s no other place on earth like the beautiful Garden Isle, Kaua`i. About 20 minutes by air from Honolulu, it’s Hawaii’s fourth largest island, and the oldest. Time has created tropical rainforests, lush green valleys, spiky mountain cliffs, tumbling waterfalls and a large number of rivers. The northernmost of the Hawaii chain of islands boasts seven distinct microclimates—all in about 550 square miles.

From lush tropical forests and spectacular beaches (what you expect when you think of paradise) to dry desert-like areas on the west side, Kauai is different from the other Hawaiian islands. Much of the interior is uninhabited, including Waimea Canyon and the famous Mount Waialeale (elev 5,148 ft) where over 400 inches of rain fall per year. Any time of year Kauai will embrace you from the moment you step off the plane into its 80-degree warmth. Balmy trade winds will keep you comfortable as you explore, or just kick back and do nothing!

Laid-back Kauai is smaller and less populated than Oahu, Maui or the Big Island, and it’s the preferred destination for many visitors to Hawaii for that reason. This secluded getaway is also a favorite for celebrities, some of whom have homes here. Because of a local rule that nothing can be built taller than a coconut tree (about 40 feet), Kauai will remain without the huge developments that dominate some areas of the other islands.

Beyond its undeniable beauty, visitors to Kauai can enjoy many outdoor activities. Try kayaking on the Wailua River, snorkeling off Poipu Beach, hiking on the trails of Kokee State Park. The dramatic Napali Coast is accessible only by sea or air—but if you take the time and can afford the expense to check it out, you won’t be sorry. You’ve never seen views like these anywhere else on earth. Sheer cliffs drop thousands of feet onto perfect white sand beaches. Hidden caves can only be accessed by boat.

Kauai’s rich culture makes it truly timeless. Old Koloa Town is the site of its first sugar mill. Take some time to follow the Koloa Heritage Trail in Old Koloa Town and learn about Kauai’s plantation past. On the North Shore, the Waioli Mission House provides a peek at missionary life in the 19th century. Kauai Museum holds exhibits, artifacts and murals portraying the history of Kauai and its people.

Because it’s the oldest of the islands, Kauai’s history is filled with colorful legends. You’ve heard about the Menehune, a mythical race of forest-dwelling little people who were famous for their construction and engineering abilities. Legend has it they used their talents to create aqueducts and fishponds. Outside Lihue you can see Alekoko (Menehune Fishpond), supposedly built by them nearly 1,000 years ago.

Many varieties of crops are grown in Kauai’s fertile soil, including guava, papaya, mango, avocado, star fruit, kava and pineapple, as well as coffee. Visitors are always surprised at the familiar sight in Kauaʻi alongside the roads (or anywhere!) of the thousands of wild chickens! Brought in by the original Polynesian settlers as a food source, they roam freely, and since they have few natural predators, their numbers continue to increase.

Kauaʻi over the years has been a featured spot for movie-making and television shows. South Pacific, Blue Hawaii, Jurassic Park, Lilo and Stitch, Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark and many more were filmed here.

Take a trip over and experience the wonders of Kaua`i for yourself!