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Field Guide: Maunakea Marketplace

The year of the water dragon kicks off on January 23. To get into the festive spirit, head down to one of Chinatown’s busiest marketplaces. Kung hee fat choy!


Maunakea Marketplace Food Court and Market

Need bok choy plus a live bullfrog to serve with it? You’re in luck. Get to the marketplace early and you’ll find mountains of fresh produce, seafood and who knows what else. If you get hungry, just about every Asian nation is represented in the food court. It’s elbow-to-elbow inside, but there’s usually room outside in the courtyard. Don’t count on the courtyard’s clock tower for the time though. The hands have been stuck at 8:17 for the last eight years. Nobody seems to mind. The clock’s obnoxious hourly chime used to drive the tenants and neighbors crazy.

Bullfrogs, flounders and lions, oh my! Above, Au’s Shaolin Arts Society student Qamdon Josue learns to keep the beat.


Kimi’s can literally be your one-stop shop. Row after row of varying sizes of Buddha, 24-karat gold plated Chinese zodiac animals, neko cats and jade and ceramic figurines line the shelves. Long faux Swarovski crystal necklaces in every color of the rainbow hang off hooks above mini boxes of glass, glow-in-the-dark beads and earrings. Racks of women’s clothing fill the middle of the store. But the most popular are the feng shui items, says manager Sabrina Stephens. “Because of the economy, everyone needs something to believe in,” she says. 1120 Maunakea Marketplace, Suite 189, 524-6698.

Did you know?

Chinatown’s annual Lunar New Year block party is January 14, and that means lion dancing. We spoke with lion dance choreographer Seng Au, of Au’s Shaolin Arts Society, to learn more:

1) The proper way to interact with a lion is to feed it. As mythical, heavenly creatures, lions are vegetarian, subsisting on cabbage heads fortified with cash. You can just feed them straight cash.

2) Old-school lions chase away evil spirits. New-Agey lions do energy exchanges. “We dispel static, stagnant energy and replace it with renewed, vibrant energy,” Au says. “It’s a more positive message.”

Hawaiian Chinese Multicultural Museum

James Ho knows history. This World War II veteran began his teaching career in 1953, helping oversee the Territory of Hawaii’s Hawaiian education program. For the past 14 years, Ho has been giving Hawaiian and Chinese history lessons upstairs in the Maunakea Marketplace. Pews line the middle of the room, giving it an old classroom feeling. “People learn real Hawaiian history,” says Ho. “I grew up in Hawaii on a sugar plantation under the Big Five.” 1120 Maunakea Street, second level.  

At Maunakea Market's Tea Hut, money does grow on trees.

Tea Hut Chinese Gifts

Are you in serious financial straits? Are your relationships in shambles? Do you just have bad luck? Michael Wu, a yang feng shui consultant who trained in Taiwan, says he can help. “I provide professional information and recommendations for customers,” he says. “I try to help people improve luck and prevent misfortune.” Wu’s store specializes in lucky charms, beads, crystals and feng shui figures, such as the Chinese zodiac animals, but also carries a variety of other figures, and wall hangings that make great housewarming gifts. 1120 Maunakea Street, Suite 181, 387-8173.  


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Honolulu Magazine July 2020
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