Iolani Palace, home of the Hawaiian Monarchy in the 19th Century
I’ve been pretty lax this week about updates, so here is one big one to cover my week in Honolulu. I’m sitting at the pool at my hotel room doing last minute stuff for leaving the country and waiting take a cab to the airport.
I’m not that impressed with Waikiki. Not at all really. If you’re idea of a good time is sitting around on a crowded beach and shopping, then this is the place for you. Other than that, there isn’t a whole lot here. Diamond Head is really nothing compared to natural sites you can see on the Big Island.
It’s very expensive, which really comes as no surprise. What is surprising is the price of Hawaiian stuff. I would have thought that macadamia nuts would be cheap, but it costs more to buy them here than it did at the grocery store in Minnesota. I found this to be true on every island I visited.
The number of Japanese tourists here is astounding. I guess the exchange rate actually makes this a much cheaper trip for them than it is for me. Also, its the closest part of the US to them besides Guam or Saipan*. The large Japanese community in Honolulu doesn’t hurt either, I’m sure.
One thing that surprised me were the gun clubs in Waikiki which advertised directly to the Japanese. I guess their image of the US is cultivated from TV and movies, so they think that an American thing to do is to come and shoot guns. The brochure I got on the street even had a Japanese guy in a Kevlar helmet with an AR-15. (It should be noted that most of the packages you could purchase involved shooting nothing more powerful than .22′s or 9mm weapons) I suppose it would be like an American visiting Japan and wanting to buy a Samurai sword or a ninja outfit.
Most of the businesses in the area have signage in Japanese and/or have employees who speak Japanese. There are also a ton of Japanese restaurants. I’m not talking about the Japanese restaurants you see on the mainland: sushi bars and teppanyaki. These are mostly noodle restaurants. The equivalent to American hamburger stands or diners.
I have a very large post on ramen I was going to write, but I’m going to save it for when I’m in Japan.
The one thing you have to see if you’re in Honolulu is Pear Harbor. In particular, the USS Arizona Memorial.
I don’t know why, but the first thing that stuck me was the number of Japanese tourists visiting the USS Arizona memorial. It struck me as odd at first. Then I thought about how odd it would be for me to visit Dresden or Hiroshima, and I thought “not very odd at all”. As my dad pointed out, “it’s part of their history too”. Most Japanese today were born after the war and have no greater particular attachment to anything from that time period than we do.
After I quickly adapted to the idea of Japanese tourists at Pearl Harbor, I realized one of the great strengths of the United States: we don’t hold a grudge. At no point in my life can I remember any politician, veterans group, citizens group, or anyone asking for an apology from the Japanese. Not for Pearl Harbor. Not for the Bataan Death March. Nothing. The war is over. They attacked us. We fought back. We dropped two atomic bombs on them. We won. We’re friends. Its over. Its in the past and neither side really dwells on it.
Compare that to the Koreans and Chinese who are to this day, still demanding apologies for various horrible things done to them over 60 years ago. I don’t think its that they can’t get over it, so much as they don’t want to get over it. There is no argument that the Japanese military did horrible things in Manchuria and Korea during the war. I’m not sure what apologies now will really achiever, however. It seems along the same lines as the University of Virgina who just recently apologized for its role in using slaves to build buildings on campus. Sure it was bad, but the people who apologized weren’t responsible, and the whoever is on the other end of the apology weren’t the ones who were wronged. The time for the apology was 150 years ago. I’m sure the Jews are eagerly awaiting the apology from the Egyptians for the whole pyramid thing.
You can still see the oil dripping out of the USS Arizona. I’m amazed that oil can still be leaking. Even if its only a drip, I’d have to think that after 65 years, it would have exhausted its supply by now.
Unlike most war memorials, the USS Arizona Memorial really hits home. Its not a big empty field with military souvenirs like a Civil War Battlefield. Its not a monument, statue, or a rows of white headstones. The memorial floats on top of the actual ship. Its right there below you rusting away at the very spot it sunk on December 7, 1941. Most of the men on died on the Arizona are still entombed below your feet. I can’t think of any other memorials like this off the top of my head, where they kept the remains on display to view. Its very powerful.
There were only a few things I didn’t get to do in Hawaii. One was getting to the north shore of Oahu and see surfers on the really big waves. The other was visit the island of Molokai.
In a few hours I’m off to French Polynesia’s capital, Papeete on the island of Tahiti. I’ll only be there about a day before I fly off to Easter Island. This will be the real start of my trip. I’ll be finally leaving the US and I’ve gotten all the stuff done here that I wanted to get done.
I’ll be on Easter Island for a week (due to flight times) so I’ll have lots of time to put of video (yeah, I know. I’ve been lax). Expect lots of repetitive shots of big stone heads.
Hawaii also marks the end of my cell phone service. If you had my cell phone number, you can get rid of it. If anyone (and I do mean anyone) would like to leave me a voice mail, you can call my Skype number. It’s available on the contact page.
Till I see you south of the equator, Aloha!