|Commentary is provided in boldface throughout the main text.|
Immortalized in Darrell Lum's short story, "The Moiliili Bag Man,"
the transient main character is constantly "looking, looking,
looking" (Lum 72). The narrator of the story wonders if "da Bag
Man is happy or sad or piss off or anyting l' dat cause he get one
moosetash and skinny kine beard wit only little bit strands, stay
hide his mout" (72). Despite the Bag Man's itinerant way of life,
inscrutable facial expressions, and somewhat weathered personal
appearance, the narrator eventually learns how to fashion a bird
out of a coconut leaf, under the patient tutelage of his homeless
|I start with an introduction that doesn't begin with a simple overview of my place. I chose to begin with a literary work that has direct relevance; in this case, Darrell Lum's "Moiliili Bag Man." The story has a direct theme of how the younger generation begins to understand and appreciate the older generation; in the story, the young narrator is taught to appreciate the simple lessons that the Moiliili Bag man teaches him.|
appreciation for the past is transmitted across the generational
divide between the Bag Man and his student; ultimately, we might
take the next step and conclude that like the Mo'ili'ili Bag Man,
Mo'ili'ili itself may inform future generations of the complex
interpersonal bonds of aloha, diverse religious and cultural
traditions, and vast history that living in Hawai'i entails.
(THESIS and INTRODUCTION)
|I make sure that my introduction and thesis are bridged together with the lines, "Traditional arts, a deeper sense of place, and a richer appreciation for the past is transmitted across the generational divide between the Bag Man and his student"; I follow by connecting this thought to my thesis, demonstrating how, despite its "aged" ethos, Moiliili retains a special charm that teaches the future generations of our Islands about the past. Notice that the thesis has a strong Subject-Verb Structure: "Moililii (S) may inform (V) future generations ____"|
Located roughly between McCully Street to Kapahulu Avenue, an area
stretching from the Ala Wai Canal up to the University of Hawai'i,
Mo'ili'ili was part of the ahupua'a, or ancient land division of
Manoa and Waikiki. The area was formally known as Kamo'ili'ili and
was owned by King William Lunalilo in the 19th century; in
addition, Queen Kamamalu's summer cottages "stood near the present
site of the Willow's restaurant on Hausten Street" ("Mysteries"
01). Many scholars have documented that the Queen and her court
revelled in the balmy summer water of the Kapaakea Springs.
Mo'ili'ili's etymology is derived from an ancient legend about
Hi'iakaikapolio Pele (younger sister of the volcano goddess),
Lohiau, a "handsome young chief from the island of Kaua'i," and
Wahineomao, a friend of Hi'iaka's. A large gust of wind blew past
the trio, just as they arrived at the "place where the old
Kamo'ili'ili Church once stood (now the grounds of the Kuhio
Elementary School" (Grant, Tastes 01). In the tale, Wahineomao and
Lohiau feel invisible hands tugging on their ears and cry
fervently for the assistance of Hi'iaka. Hi'iaka knows that a mo'o
is behind this mischief, for the mo'o are powerful lizard aumakua
(spiritual/familial totem gods) who possess potent magic. Hi'iaka
boldly tells Wahinemao and Lohiau to stand beside her and finally
she orders the horrible lizard, who had previously bullied
Hi'iaka's traveling companions, to appear. Whipping off her
outside skirt (which I assume was made out of a supernatural
tapa), bolts of lighting leap out from the cloth and fillet the
dastardly lizard; as his body is sliced apart, the pieces become a
rock hewn "hill in the neighborhood of the old Hawaiian Church"
(Grant Tastes 01). As a result, Kamo'ili'ili, which, when
literally translated, means "pebble lizard" or "place of the
lizard pebbles," was eventually abridged to Mo'ili'ili.
|I engage into geographic and cultural commentary here, discussing where Moiliili was located and the origins of Moiliili's name; in addition, I provide a fable to add a sense of mystique to my place.|
Considered a "flat wet area where the Hawaiians grew taro until
the 1800s," Mo'ili'ili's population had a keen sense of being
connected to the land (Choy et al. 18). With a dependence on
Chinese taro, rice, and lotus root, many Chinese immigrants came
to Mo'ili'ili from the 1870s, and continued settling the land
there for a duration of thirty years. Few can forget Lum Yip Kee,
the "Taro King," who along with his fellow Hawaiian and Chinese
counterparts, worked hard to "develop the well-watered region into
a productive agricultural district" ("Mysteries" 01).
Japanese immigrants, discouraged and disgruntled by the wage
slavery and exploitation of the plantations, left the frustrating
morass of the luna, whip, and cane behind and settled in
Mo'ili'ili, hoping to create better lives for themselves and their
families. Some depended on their own labor, working long hours to
tend to their pig farms and rice fields. The stone quarry (circa
1900), now home to the wonderfully banal Lower Campus parking
structure and mazelike U.H. athletic complex, created jobs for
many of these newly transplanted residents. Most scholars conclude
that "Mo'ili'ili residents [during these early years] considered
their existence a step up the social ladder and that the economy
of Mo'ili'ili was primarily agricultural" (Choy et al. 19).
|The section above is dedicated to a more historical and socio-cultural focus; I identify the place's origins in terms of who used to live there and why they lived there. I identify Moiliili as a place where people began to migrate after their work on plantations. As such, in its heydey, I suggest that Moiliili was a haven for the recently enfranchised Japanese and Chinese ethnic groups.|
Mo'ili'ili is today stereotypically thought of as an old and
"entrenched" Japanese community, one in which the major social
institutions, the Mo'ili'ili Community Center and Mo'ili'ili
Hongwanji, reign supreme in the social scheme of this community.
While part of this stereotype is true, it is important to discover
exactly what factors made these social institutions so important
in the lives of Mo'ili'ili residents.
Andrew Lind asserts that Mo'ili'ili's heavy concentration of
Japanese perpetuated "traditional Japanese institutions and
patterns of homeland" (qtd. in Choy et al. 20). Hoping to move
several steps ahead of (or perhaps to distinguish themselves from)
their country cousins trapped beneath the suffocating hegemony of
the plantations, the newly arrived issei endured their "Tiny camp
houses and dirt roads"--small sacrifices to pay for personal
freedom and relative financial independence (Choy et al. 18).
Numerous business ventures ensued: meat, vegetable, and produce
markets (along King Street) were the norm. If you were to stroll
up and down King in the 50s, 60s, and even today, you might notice
the many flower shops along the way; indeed, by most estimates,
Mo'ili'ili quickly became "the floral capital of Honolulu" (Choy
et al. 19). Despite these various business ventures and movements
towards greater socioeconomic viability, Mo'ili'ili's Japanese
residents had a justifiable reason to rally around their Community
Association and Hongwanji; after all, World War II intensified
efforts towards Americanization and Americanism.
In 1945, the Mo'ili'ili Community Association (M.C.A.) replaced
the Ka Moiliili Community Council, the latter of which "had served
as the coordinating body and clearing house for all community
activities during the war" (Higa 11). While the M.C.A. continued
to educate the younger students in the Japanese language and
elements of Japanese culture, the M.C.A.'s role in promoting
solidarity amongst community members as well as transmitting
common traditions must not be forgotten.
|Continuing with the historical approach, I begin to focus more intently on the roles of Moiliili's more prominent associations, and try to explain how Japanese-American culture began to take root in this community.|
Folklore again entered the consciousness of Mo'ili'ili's residents
in the 1950s. Cave-ins caused severe damage to a home and a local
department store. Research into these cave-ins demonstrated that
"extensive coral formations had [created] underground water
passages in the Moiliili area" (Higa 12). One of the main water
passages in this system is said to run from the top of the quarry
down to an outlet at the Willows Restaurant. Traditionally, the
formation of these coral caverns and water channels are attributed
to Kamapua'a, the rascal Hawaiian pig demi-god.
William Westervelt describes in his Legends of Hawaii the
unsuccessful advances (possibly sexual advances) of Kamapua'a
towards two beautiful women he met while walking down a stream
which flows from the top of Manoa Valley. Kamapua'a calls to the
two women, but after they discern his numerous tattoos and
uncouth, pigskin-clothed exterior, they immediately decide to run
away from the demi-god (in an oddly analogous manner to Daphne's
flight from the amorous Apollo). Kamapua'a runs after the women,
but he fails to realize that both women are goddesses in their own
right, and that they possess powers which prove more than a match
for the pig god's own prowess in the arcane arts. Just as he is
about to seize the maidens with his porcine hands, the wily ladies
disappear beneath the surface of the earth. Perhaps "disappear" in
this case is not as effective a word as "dissipate"; suffice it to
say, the two maidens seep through the large beds of petrified
coral beneath the surface. Kamapua'a changes his form into a giant
pig's (a form which has been popularized in several children's
novels) and begins to dig up the stones, soil, and coral beneath
which his "intended lovelies" have dissipated. In both cases, the
maiden goddesses are able to control several floods of water and
set the infuriated pig-god awash in a torrent of water. Nearly
drowning in the floods the goddesses create, Kamapua'a gives up
the chase; to this day, the wells at which the goddesses foiled
Kamapua'a's assumedly amorous plans are known as "The Wells, or
Fountains, of Kamapua'a" (Grant 07).
|In the passage above, I attempt to swirl fact with fiction, combining the myth of Kamapua'a with the factual information about the waterways underneath Moiliili. I hope that the passage tells the reader something "brand-new" about my place, something that they had never heard before.|
As the Japanese community grew economically in the 60s, 70s, and
80s, Mo'ili'ili began to shed its reputation of being primarily
"the last Japanese community of its kind left in Honolulu" (Higa
14). While the phrase "of its kind" is nebulous, one might venture
that the term may refer to the relatively high degree upon which
traditional (Buddhist--Jodo Shinshu sect) mores of the "Japanese"
community are shared and esteemed. These values may include filial
piety (and ancestor worship), cooperation with other members of
the group, selflessness, and the requisite patterns of enryo and
gaman. Several Japanese, successful in their business ventures
both B.D.P.E. (Before and During Plantation Era) and A.P.E. (After
the Plantation Era), moved out of Moi'ili'ili and into upwardly
mobile communities such as Hawaii Kai and Kahala.
|In the passage above, I try to demonstrate how Moiliili gradually changed. It began to shed its skin as solely a "Japanese-American" haven; to me, this serves as a good segue into an analysis of how Moiliili continues to change.|
There are certain places in Mo'ili'ili which hold a special place
in the hearts of my parents and grandparents' generation. Few
today can actively recall old Honolulu Stadium and Chunky's
Drive-In; nevertheless, the sights and sounds of these places
continue to resonate deeply in the social and cultinary
consciousness of Oahu's residents. Kuni's Dry Goods still has the
"ol' time feel," the fabrics prominently displayed within the
tightly packed cubby holes, while the Hongwanji continues with
efforts to educate its predominantly Japanese-American membership
in the study of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism (I was a member of the
Hongwanji for 4 years and served as Young Buddhist Association
president for a short time there).
|Here, I begin delving into specific places in Moiliili that will be likely to stir up some sense of nostalgia in the reader, were they familiar with my place. I try to identify locations that the reader can readily identify with, were they to visit that town.|
Despite the nostalgia that we may have for the past, and despite
the longing for juicy hamburgers from Chunky's, cool drinks from
Kuhio Grill, and the roar of the stadium, Mo'ili'ili has a new and
exciting culture, one that continues to fascinate. If the
deliciously aromatic world of "Local Kine Grinds" (a television
program dedicated to the Island's restaurants) can teach us
anything, it teaches us that local people like to "grind." On King
Street alone, you have Chan's Gourmet Buffet, Golden Dynasty
Restaurant, India House, Sushi King, Blimpy's, Subway, and
numerous other restaurants from different ethnic and culinary
traditions. While the mochi store has disappeared and Revolution
Books has oddly departed to the staid confines of the increasingly
capitalist-in-tone Puck's Alley (Cheapo Books, Coco Ichiban-ya
Curry House, etc.), certain things remain the same: basking
beneath the liquid sunshine of Manoa Valley on the corner of King
and University, you can hear Mo'ili'ili whispering. The whisper
often says, "Remember what I was like. Remember how much fun you
had with your friends at University and at last summer's o-bon.
Remember where you come from, where you grew up. Never forget."
Then the streetlights change, and the cars roar by, and perhaps a
forlorn businessman curses the morning Dow Jones Industrial
Average and you hear a different whisper: "Remember where you are
going . . . by remembering from where you came." It is only when
we hear both of these seemingly imperceptible whispers that we may
truly appreciate the savory foods of international origin to
be found in every nook and cranny, the sweet smells of the
numberous flower shops and the laughter of the new generation
of Mo'ili'ili children, forming their own "places of the heart."
Grant Tastes 03)
|In the concluding paragraph, I begin to branch out of the historical mode, and suggest more of a sense of where Moiliili is headed as a college town and a location known for its great eateries. I also try to reiterate my theme of being able to learn about one's culture through a stricter and more meaningful appreciation for the past. I try to end on a positive, if not overly nostalgic note in the final sentence.|
Places in Mo'ili'ili: adapted from "Mo'ili'ili Mysteries"; original source is Mary Kawena Pukui et al.'s Names of Hawaii.
Ala Wai Canal. The canal was created between 1919-1928, part of the Waikiki Reclamation Project started "to reclaim a most unsanitary and unsightly protion of the city" (03). Literally, and to many Hawai'i residents, the polluted canal (replete with angry tilapia) means "freshwater way" (03).
Isenberg Street. The street is named for Daniel Paul Rice Isenberg, the son of Paul and Hanna Rice Isenberg. Daniel Isenberg was owner of Wai'alae Ranch; the Wai'alae Golf Course stands on this property. Isenberg was also president of the Mo'ili'ili baseball league, "when the street, leading to the old baseball park, was opened" (03). Isenberg passed away in 1919.
Kamo'ili'ili Church. Under the guidance of Father William Harrison Rice, the church was completed in 1852 and demolished in the late 60s.
Kapa'akea. This area, which once held the Old Honolulu Stadium Park, and which now contains a family park was named for "white coral."
Kuhio School. The school was named after Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole (1871-1922). The prince was a delegate to Congress and created the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (03).
Opuka'aloha. On the Waikiki side of the St. Louis High School Alumni Clubhouse, this 2.5 acre fishpond held mullet, goldfish, and a bearded type of Chinese fish. According to Pukui and others, "There was a cave-like opening in the solid coral, now filled in, in which there was a large spring" (03).
McCully Street. Appointed associate justice of the Supreme Court of the Kingdom of Hawaii by King Kalakaua, Lawrence McCully "opened the Punahou tract as a subdivision" (03). There are different public facilities which bear his name; most notably, the McCully Public Library.
Mo'ili'ili From upper Manoa, Kamapua'a was said to have chased two beautiful women to this area. Pele's sister Hi'iaka was said to have obliterated a mo'o (a supernatrual lizard) with lightning bolts. With the abridged Mo (from mo'o) and the 'ili'ili (pebbles/small stones), we get the common meaning, "pebble lizard" (03).
Waiaka. This is land upon which the Kamo'ili'ili Church was located.
Choy, Ellen, et al. Moiliili: A Historical Analysis,
1900-1945 Part II. M.A. Research
Project. School of Social Work. University of Hawai'i. 1977.
Higa, Brian K. Moiliili: An Historical Analysis, 1945-1976 Part III. M.A. Research Project. School of Social Work. University of Hawai'i. 1977.
Honolulu Time Walks. "Mo'ili'ili Mysteries: A TimeWalk
through the Ancient Legends, Urban History and Modern Lore of
a Honolulu Ethnic Neiborhood." Honolulu: Honolulu Time Walks,
Kaminaka, Muriel Miura, ed. The Tastes and Tales of Moiliili.
Moiliili Community Center, 1997.