Oahu Stories and Tips

Worthy Repeats on Oahu-I

Chinese Society Building Photo, Oahu, Hawaii

There are five places we visited that were all new to Marilyn but repeat visits for Bill and MS. They are not on the usual list of tourist spots. I found them by reading magazines and searching the web. I hope this tip will help you find a new treasure on Oahu. They are worthy repeats for us. I will divide this unto three parts.

Hawaiian Plantation Village is off the beaten path. At 94-695 Waipahu Street in the town of Waipahu. It helps to have a GPS system to find it, however they do have good signage once you get off the main highway. This town is on the west side of Pearl Harbor. We drove through industrial areas and some residential areas to get here. You aren’t in Waikiki anymore, that’s for sure! To quote from their mission statement: "its purpose is ensuring that the experiences, lifestyles, struggles, sacrifices, innovations and contributions of our plantation forbearers are known…as the cornerstones of Hawaii’s successful multicultural society". This is a true cultural experience and for a modest $13 admission ($10 for seniors and even lower prices for Military, Kama’aina (HI resident) and children). The village is open Mon-Sat with tours at 10:00, 11:00, 12,:00, 1:00 and 2:00. The tour generally lasts 1.5 hours unless you get lucky and have a lot of good questions asked by your fellow tourists. One time we toured with two school teachers who grew up in plantation towns. That was a choice experience. Our docent on this tour told us he knew we had high IQs because we were there instead of that Plantation place up in the middle of the island. We felt a little smug, because that is the way we feel too.

There were eight major groups of people that were hired to work the sugar plantations. It was hard work and people wore out. As one immigrant group would leave to start their own businesses or work in other areas, the plantation found workers from other countries.

The native Hawaiians were the first ones recruited. The other seven groups came from China, Japan, Okinawa, Portugal, Korea, Puerto Rico and Philippines. Our docent enthusiastically explained the contributions each of these groups brought to the islands. Each group is represented by one or more buildings including homes, cookhouse, communal bath, Forno oven, barbershop, society building and shrine. One building, the Saimin stand highlights how these different cultures blended into a modern Hawaii. Saimin is a rich savory noodle soup with flavors from many of the immigrant cultures…a true melting pot. There are buildings that are representative of the plantation management, too: The Camp Office, the Plantation Store, the Infirmary and the Social/Union Hall. The Plantation owners tried to keep the different cultures from mixing in hopes of discouraging unionization. Different camps were set up for different groups of immigrants. The Hawaiian school system undermined this by insisting that all children attend school and learn English. Just imagine, a little interpreter in almost every house. That soon broke down the power of the plantation owners.

In addition to the buildings we were treated to the trees, bushes and flowering plants throughout the village. Some where imported with the various cultures; some are native to Hawaii and some were brought in from other tropical areas as a potential food source. At the Union Hall our docent turned us over to a hostess who provided us with six samples of foods found in plantation towns. Of course one of them was sugar cane. They had a range of texture and sweet/sour/bland taste. We were told one fruit tastes like mango to one culture, like apricots to another, and another flavor I can’t remember to a third culture. To me it tasted like apricots with a mango texture. That means by their survey that I am probably Japanese. Ok, so this test is not 100% accurate, it was fun to do. The whole tour has a wealth of information and explains a lot about how Hawaii developed to its present state.

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