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From Daiei to Donki


Don Quijote is a quirky Japanese department store chain that’s bringing its distinctly colorful, sometimes chaotic shopping experience to Hawaii. Its flagship store, the first in the U.S., held its grand opening at the former Daiei location on Kaheka Street near Ala Moana today. The carnival atmosphere outside (courtesy lion dancers, live music by Jake Shimabukuro, and wandering balloon artists) was echoed throught the aisles within, the place packed floor to ceiling with just about anything you could imagine, and with psychedelic signs and banners (and the store’s blue penguin mascot Donpen) dominating the view in every direction.


Visiting Donki stores in Japan is apparently even more disorienting, with purposefully cluttered aisles, noisy displays, and products scattered randomly to make shopping more of a treasure hunt. But the whimsical outlook has served it well, the chain growing to over 100 stores with over $2 billion in gross sales last year. And judging by the crowds, long checkout lines and overflowing shopping carts, Donki will probably do quite well in Hawaii.


Daiei will surely be missed, having served Honolulu well since the ’70s. I remember its first store at Pearlridge, and its expansion in the ’80s through the acquisition of Holiday Mart locations. But Donki seems a worthy successor to its place as the destination for Japanese knick knacks.


I’m not sure how long it’ll take before people stop calling the place Daiei, though… since some people still call it Holiday Mart.

See all my cameraphone pictures here.

Ti-Leaf Sliding Down Motorcycle Hill

No ask me why da hill behind my hale stay called “Motorcycle Hill.”

Part of da Koʻolau Mountain Range, and not too far from Waʻahila Ridge, rumor had it dat sometimes da kāne would race dea bikes from da top down to da bottom. Adunno if I believe dat, cuz I wen grow up in Mānoa Valley, wea we wen get over 100” of rain a year. U know wat dat means: choke rain. Choke slippery paths, yeah? How going even get one big motorbike up dea? No can do, I think.

But nemmine dat. Wat stay important is wat us keiki wen do, when da sun stay shining, wen our days stay filled wit laffta an joy, an when we had alla time in da world for have fun.

Most of us wen have ti leaf plants growing all around our hale.  So nani dem, but ho, so kolohe us keiki. Wen our maddas no stay lookin’, we wen kakaroach da biggest clumps of ti leafs from da plants… anden we wen meet up in da designated area. Den, all us keiki wen make da long, slippery climb up Motorcycle Hill.

Steep da path, an da bugga stay choke wet an so hard for climb. We wen grab onto alla bushes alongside da muddy path for geev us kokua goin’ up da hill. Good ting we stay barefoot, cuz oddawise, no can make it alla way up to da top, yeah? We wen get scratched by alla bushes, but nemmine. Oni good fun!

Finally, we wen make it! We wen look all around. We wen feel like kings of da mountain! We could see alla way to Waikīkī Beach and da wide Pacific Ocean beyond. We wen rest litto bit and wen try foa find guava foa grine… anden! “Eh, u stay ready?” one of da keiki wen ask. “‘Ae, we go anden!”

One by one, we wen take take our clump of ti leaves, an put em wit da stalk facing down for one hando on da path, undaneat our ‘ōkole. Den, wit one yell an one beeg push wit our feets, off we wen go, flyin’ down dat slippery path.

Da path stay so slick dat da ti leaves jass wen slide along like eels. Our whoops of laffta wen echo all chru da hillside as we wen bump an slide alla way down da hill. When we wen finally wen reach da bottom, we all stay covered wit mud from head to toe, an our ‘ōkole stay all sore. We wen look at each oddah, an laff foah da sheer joy of it all, seein’ our white teeth shine out from our dirty brown faces.

Wen I tink back to dose days, I say one “mahalo” to ke Akua, for allowing me to grow up in da most nani ‘āina on da face of da earth. For gimme dat kine freedom, an laffta, an beauty. Now, wen I get wai maka cuz I miss my home so much, I tink back to dose days, an how our laffta wen ring out like church bells in dat nani, verdant valley. My tears get mixed up wit my smiyo…an I feeyo blessed, one keiki o Hawai‘i nei.