O‘ahu Museums Ideas: Dance in Front of Homes at Hawai‘i’s Plantation Village
Photo: olivier koning
Hawai‘i’s Plantation Village has faced its share of challenges. It’s been without an executive director since 2014; it struggles, like many nonprofits, to collect enough donations and grants; and it’s sometimes home to squatters.
Deanna Espinas, acting executive director and board president of the Friends of Waipahu Cultural Garden Park, admits that times have been tough. But despite the challenges, a trip to the plantation village proves that it remains a gathering place for those who want to learn more about plantation life and the history of many of our ancestors. The village is home to 25 structures that depict what life was like for the ethnic groups that lived and worked on Hawai‘i’s plantations. Each structure (all but one is a replica) features artifacts, pictures, clothing, décor and toys donated by local families, many of whom lived on the plantations, as well as plants typically grown by each ethnic group.
The Japanese house shows what it would’ve looked like for a formal meeting, with cushions on the ground and a teapot and cups on the low table. In the Korean house are dolls and colorful décor set up for a first birthday party.
Espinas says they plan to set up an oral history station, where they can record the stories of former plantation workers and their families. They are also working on providing recorded devices and phone apps so tours don’t always need to be led by a docent.
“[Plantation workers] tried to come together to do the best they could. We want to celebrate that but also acknowledge that there must have been a lot of suffering. I think we sometimes forget that,” she says. “We capture the stories of the lives of people. Some of them are still alive and some are already gone. We will never have that opportunity again. That’s what this village does.”
Photo: courtesy of hawai‘i’s plantation village
Join the bon dance. The plantation village hosts local food, crafts and Japanese dances in June.
Watch for food festivals. Cooking demonstrations, food booths and cultural demonstrations highlight the importance of items—such as bread, noodles, taro and rice—for each ethnic group. Look for details at facebook.com/plantationvillage.
Walk Through A Haunted Plantation. Scary stories and 60 spooky actors star in this creepy October event.
Info 94-695 Waipahu St., Waipahu, (808) 677-0110, hawaiiplantationvillage.org
Hours Guided 1.5-hour tours Monday through Saturday (closed on Sunday) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., offered in English and Japanese (must book in advance)
Admission $15 for adults; other discounted rates for kids, kama‘āina, seniors and military
Size 53 acres
Annual visitors 15,000
Run by The nonprofit Friends of Waipahu Cultural Garden Park
Fun fact Chef Alan Wong built the Hawaiian hale on site from pili grass. A plaque next to the structure is engraved with his name.