Monday, January 26, 2009

Honolulu Chinese New Year

click on photos to enlarge!

This Tong (Association)building was open for Chinese New Year. Note the (practical) store on the ground level. Many altars were upstairs, but the top floor was closed to the public (me).

Even the little markets have Altars. Note the fruit, plants, and Chinese Buddhas next to Japanese "Lucky Cats" of gold and white with their raised paws beckoning customers and good business. Only in Hawaii do Japanese & Chinese cultures mix this way.

Narcissus is a symbol of purity for the New Year.
"There is not enough darkness in all the world to put out the light of even one small candle."

Robert Alden

Above: Barack Obama's favorite meal at Zippy's, Won Ton Min. Notice the one shrimp tempura, the yellow scrambled egg, the noodles, won tons, char siu (red pork), greens, chopsticks & Asian spoon, plus condiments Chinese mustard and shoyu (soy sauce). The metal lid is laid to the side. It is topped by a little receptacle for chopped green onions that you add yourself. The inauguration special this week!

"Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful." Buddha

The main altar inside the tong building shown above. Kwan Yin, the Goddess of Compassion, is wearing her holiday best! Great Headdress. See the floral, fruit, and monetary offerings?

Rambutan Fruit

Japanese Shinto priest conducting service. Note hangings, and the sake bottles offered by parishioners representing agricultural abundance and joy.

Good Luck Lions dancing. The winner will get to eat the child in the stroller. (Just kidding!!) People feed them dollar bills to bring luck for the new year.

Making Jin Dui, "Chinese donuts." The dark stuff is sweet bean paste for the center of the round pastry.
The whole family helps!

Line waiting to EAT the Jin Dui boiling in the big woks!

A cool Pomeranian and companion.

Chinatown is a commercial district. Immigrants from ALL over Asia live and make their living here. You can enjoy food from many nations.

Dragon rests between performances. One person holds each pole; the beast undulates beguilingly as it chases the ball seen here resting on it. The ball represents the "power essence" that the Dragon wants to eat. The guy holding that pole conducts the dragon wherever he wants to!
Below, a beckoning sign offers a late beer in the "Secret Alley."

Zippys (a local chain) is the place that returning Hawaii folks go to directly from the airport. Local comfort food! Usually, I'll have dim sum at my favorite place, but I was "ono" (Hawaiian, means 'hungry' and also 'delicious') for Won Ton Min at Zippys and so began my Chinatown New Year Celebration on Saturday at Maunakea Street & Vineyard Boulevard. The server told me that it's Brack's favourite! This Zippys is right across the boulevard from the beautiful Kwan Yin Temple, and also the site of the original Hawaiian Village of "Kou" which pre-dated our Honolulu Town. A great place to start, I'd say. Walking towards the Chinese Cultural Center, sort of a mall of Chinese businesses and organizations, I passed the Lum Sai Ho Tong (1899-1953). For the first time in my 20+ years in town I found it open for New Years visitors! It was amazing with multiple altars upstairs and a cool, usually inaccessible view across the canal (Nu`uanu Stream). I really need to post more of the pictures I took tomorrow! At the Cultural Center I bought some lucky calligraphy on red paper from the Nu`uanu Chinese Christian Church booth, as well as a lucky "Gau," a round rice "pudding" cake that celebrates family cohesion. Streets were closed, crowds were thick, and dancing lions with their gong/drum/crashing cymbal bands roamed the district to the sounds of firecrackers. I went into a hole-in-the-wall noodle factory and bought some. "Nihau" (Hello) Shi Shi (Thank You) and "Gung Hee Fat Choy" (Happy Lucky New Year!). A bit of patient gesturing along with the linguistic niceties above will take you far, especially at this time of year when merchants make a good part of their annual profit. Walking back to my car with my noodles, lucky amulets, and new red t-shirt, I noticed that the Shinto Shrine on Kukui Street was open too. Inside a Shinto Priest was conducting services for two young Japanese folks. I thought that they were discharging a family obligation, or interested in their roots. The priest took the pole with the hanging white papers off of the altar and blessed the two with it. Then he kindly blessed me as well. Finally, he brought a wooden tray with porcelain cups on it and served each of us a sip of good Sake. Bracing! I had been afraid that I was trespassing so I thanked the Priest sincerely. "Thank you for coming." he generously said. Then I went home and rested for a while so I could return in the evening with the Favourite Husband, the Cholos, and the Cattermoles whom I had promised to guide through all the wonderment. We ended the night (after the boys rejoined us from their interlude in "Secret Alley") with a social libation at one of Hotel Street's best hole-in-the-wall bars, Ke Kai. . .