The common refrain my friends and family heard while I was visiting is “Hawaii hasn’t really changed that much.”
Things move slowly here, and that also means things don’t change much, which could be a good thing because the islands are exactly how I remembered. But it also means there aren’t as many exciting new things to try if you visit often.
Well, one place that has definitely been evolving over the last few years is the Ala Moana Shopping Center, one of the largest outdoor malls in the United States. Since I last visited three years ago, a whole new “Ewa wing” or West wing of the mall has been developed with fancy new shops and eateries. A major anchor of the new Ewa wing is the Shirokiya Japan Village Walk.
Shirokiya was a longtime store at the mall on the east end, and it was basically a large Japanese department store selling household items from Japan and a food court on the second level serving up Japanese treats that were often made like food served up by street vendors. Shirokiya is no longer around but it has resurrected on the Ewa wing by retaining its food court tradition with an expansive food emporium with vendors serving up ramen, a lot of tempura items (deep-fried everything), bento boxes, and an assortment of sweets.
The array of vendors and “alleyways” is modeled after the Japanese monzen-machi, which are the little merchants that often pop up around a shrine or temple in Japan. Shirokiya has done a nice job to create that vibe indoors, and the crowds have flocked here especially during peak dining hours to check it out since the Japan Village Walk opened almost a year ago.
Along with all the various Japanese eateries, there are also non-Japanese offerings, including burgers, Vietnamese pho, cotton candy, and naan.
I strolled through a few times, but I have to admit that I went on the off-times to avoid the crowds, so I typically wasn’t looking for food. The only thing I really tried is a matcha green tea shaved ice (with ice cream) from Kulu Kulu Honolulu, which serves up a variety of cakes and pastries, including little Hello Kitty waffle cakes.
Here’s a gallery of photos to give you an idea of what it’s like. If you’re ever in Honolulu, this is definitely a unique spot to check out.
The deets: Shirokiya Japan Village Walk, 1450 Ala Moana Blvd. (Ewa end across from Foodland). Open daily 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. www.japanvillagewalk
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