Saturday, May 9, 2009

Honolulu Festival Grand Parade

When 50,000 Japanese visitors arrive in March, 10,000 of them musicians and performers, even Waikiki jumps a notch or two on the fun-o-meter. It’s Honolulu Festival Week, people! Ala Moana Mall (the size of the Titanic) cordons off a 3-story interior plaza, the convention center becomes a six-ring circus, and byways of Waikiki transform into stage sets. Much of the entertainment is the cherry-blossom, low-key dance we Westerners think of as Japanese. But a lot of the show is a more tribal folk-art, and the range is all the way to Asian hip-hop.

All of this (forgot to mention the block-long food fest of battling hibachis) is but a prelude to the closing parade, where the high-stepping, top-end dance troupes and towering inflatables and bombastic floats take the whole deal out on a roaring up-tick. Then throngs on the sidewalk, five-deep along Kalakaua Boulevard, are released into the Waikiki dusk on a quest to begin the evening.

The Grand Parade is culminated with the performance of Honolulu Daijayama. Daijayama is a huge dashi weighing over two tons. You can hear the fire bells ringing from a distance as the dashi is pulled down Kalakaua Avenue. The fireworks from the dragon illuminate the evening sky. The spectators cheer and shout as the majestic image of Daijayama, spitting fire and scattering smoke throughout Waikiki, approaches. This is the tail end of the parade. Until next year.