Category Archives: culture



The colorful flower cards are thicker than Western-style cards and players enjoy the “smacking” sound they make when slapped together.

In the 18th year of Tenmon (A.D. 1549) when Francisco Xavier landed in Japan from Europe the crew of his ship had carried a set of Hombre, 48-card Portuguese playing cards, which became extremely popular with the Japanese. Through a colorful history of being banned and declared illegal (which did not diminish cardplaying and gambling by the populace) the game of Hanafuda, which combined traditional Japanese games with Western-style playing cards, was developed in the late 1800s.

Entertaining and highly addictive the Hanafuda cards contain no numbers. Instead the 48 cards in the deck use pictures of flowers and plants. The deck is organized into 12 suites, one for each month of the year, and the types of plants represent the months in which they bloom. Hanafuda is commonly played in Hawaii and South Korea, though under different names. In Hawaii it is called Sakura, Hanafura, and Higobana.

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Just ask any local or longtime resident about this card game and you will likely invoke wonderful memories of fun that could go on for hours, and hours, and hours!


Celebrating Kamehameha the Great

“He wishes to increase the happiness and not the wants of his people.”

~Captain Otto Von Kotzebue (1787-1846) Russian Navigator

Although there is some debate as to the precise year of his birth, Hawaiian legends claimed that a great king would one day unite the islands, and that the sign of his birth would be a comet. Halley’s comet was visible from Hawai`i in 1758.

The name Kamehameha means “the one set apart.” For 13 years, from 1782 to 1795, he waged numerous battles to conquer the islands, ultimately uniting the Hawaiian Islands in 1810, becoming the first king, and establishing a dynasty that endured for over a century.

As a leader in restoring the islands, he urged his people to work and to grow food. They said of him,

“He is a farmer, a fisherman, a maker of cloth, a provider for the needy, and a father to the fatherless.”

As king, Kamehameha took several steps to ensure that the islands remained a united realm even after his death. He unified the legal system and traded shrewdly with the foreigners that followed Captain Cook. He did not allow non-Hawaiians to own land and this edict ensured the islands’ independence during a time when other Pacific island nations were succumbed to colonization. When Kamehameha died in 1819 his body was hidden by his trusted friend Hoapili, and his wife Keopuolani. It is said that only the stars know Kamehameha’s final resting place.

Each year on June 11th a state holiday honors Hawaii’s first monarch.  In addition to the traditional draping of lei on his statues, floral parades take place throughout the islands. With hundreds of riders on horseback, the parades showcase pa‘u equestrian units, marching bands, private mounted units, hula halau, floats, and more.




Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, commemorates men and women who died while in military service. Originally to honor Union soldiers of the Civil War, the name Memorial Day wasn’t used for the annual May 30th holiday until 1882. In 1968, to create a convenient three-day weekend, the U.S. Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill , moving the celebration to the last Monday of May. Hawaii’s Senator Daniel Inouye, a World War II veteran, has repeatedly introduced measures to return Memorial Day to its traditional date.

More than 2,335 veterans and survivors are buried in Maui Nui veteran’s cemeteries on Lanai, Maui, and Molokai.




Armed Forces Day is celebrated on the third Saturday in May. President Harry S. Truman led the effort to establish a single holiday for citizens to come together and thank our military members for their patriotic service. The day was created to honor Americans serving in the five U.S. military branches — the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard — following the consolidation of the military services in the Department of Defense. On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of  Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Days.


Hawaii is home to 118,000 civilian veterans (those who have served, but are not now on active duty).



More than 2,100 veterans returning to Hawaii from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan received post-conflict care in at five Vet Centers, including one in Wailuku, Maui.

 General Information – Hawaii

Number of veterans: 117,254

VA expenditures in Hawaii: $384 million  

Compensation and pensions: $217 million

Readjustment benefits: $20 million

Medical and construction programs: $160 million

Insurance and indemnities: $10 million

 Number of veterans receiving disability compensation or pension payments in Hawaii: 17,435

Number of Hawaii veterans using GI Bill education benefits: 2,521

Number of home loans in Hawaii backed by VA guarantees: 2,242

Value of Hawaii home loans guaranteed by VA: $964 million

Number of VA life policies held by Hawaii residents: 9,454

Value of VA life insurance insurance policies held by Hawaii residents: $132 million

Number of Hawaii participants in vocational rehabilitation: 586

HINAMATSURI Celebrating Girls Japanese Style

Grandmother to mother, mother to daughter ~ the wish for a daughter’s happiness is both valued and treasured, and still celebrated in this spirit.

The 3rd of March is called Hinamatsuri (Doll’s Festival) and has existed in Japan since the Edo Period (17 – 19 centuries). On this day families pray for the happiness and prosperity of their girls, to ward off evil spirits, and to help ensure that they grow up healthy and beautiful.  

A girl’s first “Girls’ Day” is called her Hatzu-Zekku and it is very popular for her to receive a Hina-Ningyo (doll) display. This display can have up to seven tiers with dolls and small furniture. At the top are the dolls of the emperor and empress, with a miniature gilded screen placed behind them, very much like the imperial court.

The dolls are ceremonial dolls, a heritage of the household, many of them handed down from generation to generation. They are displayed for a few days in the best room of the house at this festival time then carefully boxed and put away until the next year.  There is a superstition that says that families slow to put away the dolls will have trouble marrying off their daughters!

In addition to displaying Hina dolls, special foods are included in the celebration. Hina arare (pastel-colored light rice crackers) and hishimochi (diamond- shaped rice cakes with pink, green, and white layers) are placed in front of the Hina dolls as an offering.

Shirozake, a sweet drink made from fermented rice, is also served. Similar to sake, but without alcohol, it is safe for children to enjoy as well.

The celebration of Hinamatsuri, brought to Hawaii in the 1800s by Japanese immigrants who settled here to work on plantations, is one of so many diverse cultural traditions that have become part of life here in Maui Nui.




KARESANSUI ~ Rocks Into Water

It is estimated that the typical suburban lawn consumes 10,000 gallons of water above and beyond rainwater each year.     ~U.S. Geological Survey

There are a variety of water-efficient gardening and landscape designs.  One of the oldest is the Japanese rock garden or dry landscape garden, often called a Zen garden, that dates back to the 11th century.  Karesansui suggests mountains and water using only stones, sand or gravel and, occasionally, plants. 

The name translates literally as dry mountain water. Influenced by Zen Buddhism, the term indicates a stone arrangement in a part of the garden without water. A karesansui garden is a living work of art in which the plants and trees are ever-changing with the seasons.

Unlike other traditional gardens, there is no water present in karesansui gardens. Using neither ponds nor streams, it makes symbolic representations of natural landscapes using stone arrangements, white sand, moss and pruned trees. There is gravel or sand, raked or not raked, that symbolizes sea, ocean, rivers or lakes. Water is symbolized both by the arrangements of rock forms to create a dry waterfall and by patterns raked into sand to create a dry stream. Though each garden is different in its composition, they mostly use rock groupings and shrubs to represent a classic scene of mountains, valleys and waterfalls inspired originally from Chinese, and later Japanese, landscape paintings.

These gardens require careful maintenance from those skilled in the art of training and pruning. Part of that art is to keep the garden almost still, like a painting…and like paintings, the gardens are meant to be viewed from a single, seated perspective.

In addition to water conservation in gardens and landscaped areas, karesansui adds artistic and spiritual elements that evoke nature, balance, peace, and serenity.

IT’S ABOUT TIME ~ Maui Slows the Sun

“Oh Maui, Sun is a great god!  No one has gone near him and lived,” Hina warned.  “Then I shall be the first!” Maui boasted. “I shall make him promise to go more slowly.” ~Maui speaking with his mother, the goddess Hina

The young demigod Maui  listened to the fishermen and farmers who complained that the days were too short for working.  He heard his mother, the goddess Hina,  protest that there wasn’t enough time to dry her tapa cloths.

Disturbed that the days were too short and wondering why the Sun god crossed the sky so quickly,  Maui planned his quest.  One night he hid on the high slope.  He anchored his rope to a wili-wili tree and stood strong among hinahina plants (found only at mount Haleakala on the island of Maui) until the Sun god rose up. Lasooing Sun’s legs (rays) he asked him to promise to slow down. When Sun refused Maui began to break his legs, one at a time.

This confrontation continued until Sun finally relented.

From then on, for part of the year Sun traveled at his usual speed. The days were short and night came quickly.  It was the season of Ho’oiloThe time to catch akule.

The rest of the year, Sun slowed down as he had promised. The days were long and filled with sunshine.  It was the season of Kau.  The time to catch opelu.

March of the Ancestral Warrior Spirits

“The first thing you will hear is drums in the distance, then you will smell a foul and musky odor, and you will hear a conch shell being blown as fair warning to get out of the way.  You will see torches getting brighter and brighter as they get closer.  Your best chance is to have an ancestor that recognizes you as they will call out Na’u!, which means mine!  And if you are in the night marchers’ bloodline no one in the procession can harm you.  No matter what you build in their path they go straight through it.  The night marchers are the vanguard for sacred chiefs or chiefesses who have a high station in life.” – Po Kane. Haunted Hawaiian Nights, by Lopaka Kapanui

According to the Kaulana Mahina or Hawaiian Moon Calendar, there are certain dates on which the Huaka’i po —  the nightmarchers or ancestral spirits — make these ghostly marches.  Po Kane, the 27th day of the moon cycle, is a favorite. 

Between sunset and sunrise they march in rows to drum beats and repeat oli – chants.  Usually, there is heavy wind and rain accompanied by mist, high surf, thunder and lightening when the nightmarchers are sighted.  Often they appear to float a few inches above the ground, but some witnesses say they have seen mysterious footprints on the marchers’ path.

The ghostly procession  must never be interrupted.  Legend says that resting your eyes upon them could signal a very grim fate.  It’s believed that the marchers can detect humans by their scent.  People are urged to keep the wind to their backs,  crouch low to the ground, be quiet and still, and not look at them.  Huaka’i po are set upon their destination and not considered spirits that will deviate from their path to haunt humans.  

On Maui Huaka’i po have been sighted in La Perouse Bay, part of the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Preserve, Kahakuloa, and Kekaa, as well as on the other islands.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!…Be very careful where you celebrate this year because Po Kane falls on December 31, 2010.  Remember that it is prescribed as a day of prayer to the god Kane, the first of the gods, who is said to have created the universe.