​​​The Kamoiliili Hawaiian Community -- The Late 18th–Early 19th Century--The Recorded Layering of Human Occupation in Moiliili
Chapter 2 Overview

 A visitor to Moiliili would notice the vibrant ethnic diversity of its population but overlook the imprint of its original caretakers, the native Hawaiians. The larger area of Kamoiliili first attracted Hawaiian settlement due to its elevation and access to water—ideal conditions for the cultivation of their staple crop, taro. The geological formation of Moiliili is responsible for its fertility, along with the current organization of its buildings and roads. Floods carry silt from the mountains, rejuvenating the area with frequent alluvial deposits. Historic maps of the area show the overwhelming extent of loi (taro pond fields), and some of the first European visitors to the area remarked on the organized and flourishing state of taro cultivation. Hawaiians viewed stewardship of the land as a sacred duty. Some plots were tended by individuals or families, but the rigid hierarchy of powerful alii rulers demanded a share of the land’s yield. Although taro was the main food staple of the time, other produce included coconuts, bananas, and breadfruit.

As time passed and the foreign impact on Hawaiian affairs increased, the area experienced a shift of ownership. Taxing systems changed and cultural and spiritual practices were impacted by American, European, and Asian influences, the most noteworthy being the widespread conversion to Christianity. Kamoiliili was home to what Hawaiians considered to be sacred sites, including natural objects like geological formations, stones, and plants. With the deposition of Queen Liliuokalani and the issue of annexation to the United States, the Hawaiian political climate became complicated by conflicting interests. Hawaiian sovereignty was at stake, and communal ties were more vital than ever before.

Structures like the Kamoiliili Church were vital contributors to community stability and unity during the era’s turmoil. Religious involvement became ingrained in the culture of the community. Soon after, Chinese workers moved to Hawaii and introduced rice and their own agricultural and cultural practices to the area. With a fresh influx of ethnicity and tradition, a strong step was made in the direction of ethnic integration. Moiliili moved toward what we know it as today.





The loi (taro pondfields) at the University of Hawaii Center for Hawaiian Studies


The auwai (ditch) diverting Manoa Stream water to the loi (taro pondfields) 

 The Kamoiliili Church—Rice Memorial Chapel 

Rice fields in Moiliili

Leisure Time Transformations in the Community
Chapter 6 Overview

In the rural Moiliili community, busy immigrant settlers still found time to play. Sports were an integral part of the community, ranging from local games such as alavia—played with bags filled with sand—to professional sports such as sumo wrestling. Childhood games established what in many cases became life-long friendships, and the formal rituals and strategies of sumo were a rewarding source of exercise, pride and even income for the men of Moiliili. Other popular sports included baseball and barefoot football, two forms of recreation readily available since they required little equipment.

Moiliili Field served as the setting for many sports, including races performed by pau riders, women on horseback who were named for their long flowing skirts. As Moiliili grew and matured, so did its taste for sports. Moiliili Field was the center for all competitive sports in Honolulu. College and professional athletes once played in this field, which is now known for hosting local little league and senior teams.

A key factor in Honolulu’s transition from adolescence to maturity was the Old Honolulu Stadium. Situated at the corner of South King Street and Isenberg, this facility united and shaped Moiliili by attracting visits from sports giants (Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio) and acclaimed celebrities (Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe). Fans flocked to these events, but whether as fans or participants, Moiliili locals thoroughly enjoyed their sports. Schools, clubs, and churches offered sports that shaped the identity of the inhabitants of Moiliili. Baseball was perhaps the most popular sport, but other favorites included barefoot football, boxing, and basketball. There was something for everyone: stock car and motorcycle races for those mechanically bent, polo for the horse-lovers, and even a hidden world of sports gambling. Other means of recreation could be found at the nearby Stadium Bowl-O-Drome, where bowling offered an alternative to local carnivals and circuses.

In the sunshine of the outdoors, children entertained themselves with jump ropes and water sports such as fishing and swimming. Some of them invented games of their own: soap box derby and totan (corrugated iron roofing) boat racing. Many children participated in the Boy Scouts of Moiliili, an active and educational outlet for the community’s growing youth. The community gardens of Moiliili offered a peaceful form of leisure, while more-active pleasure seekers could explore the bicycle paths.

Movies offered drama and visual entertainment for members of Moiliili. The first Moiliili Theater was the Miyazono Open-Air Theater, later joined by the Varsity Theatre.

Whatever the context of Moiliili recreation—through children’s games, local sport, professional competition, or weekend entertainment—it served as a means of knitting the Moiliili community closer together and easing its growing pains.


A sumo tournament                        

Fishing on "horses" on the Ala Wai Canal

The old Honolulu Stadium–the "Termite Palace"        


A baseball game honoring Yoshinao Omiya, who lost his sight in World War II



The Dreier Manor fire--home to Kumulae Ukuleles and later the St. Louis Alumni Association

The Varsity Theatre

Stadium Bowl-O-Drome

Ala Wai Community Garden

Moiliili and Its National Interface
Chapter 8 Overview

World War Two changed the face of the world forever. The United States in particular dealt with the possibility of foreign spies amongst the populace. Unfortunately for many, acts of national security turned into racial profiling, targeting Japanese citizens all over the country. Moiliili, with its dominant Japanese majority, was put on the defensive. Community leaders and other citizens were taken to relocation camps. To avoid this fate, many Japanese families destroyed priceless family heirlooms, cancelled ceremonies, and limited or eliminated contact with family members in Japan. Families that had once taken great pride in their Japanese heritage were forced to abandon tradition and over-Americanize themselves. As a result, it was common for Japanese citizens to know more about the United States of America than those administering the citizenship tests.

Despite the racial prejudice, Moiliili community as a whole had no malice toward the government after the war. The Japanese population accepted an apology, and continued to go about their daily lives, which were now busier than before. People of Japanese and Hawaiian descent alike turned to their roots and celebrated their indigenous cultures. Ceremonies and traditions resumed with gusto, and the population of the town skyrocketed thanks to an increase in UH attendance. In a way, the WWII was only a slight interruption in the history of Moiliili; an unpleasant few years that were drastically different than those immediately preceding and following them. It was a time that none like to recall, a time of fear in a happy place, a time that ended as abruptly as it began.



President Kennedy in Moiliili, 1960

The Multi-faceted Business Community
Chapters 4, 8, 9, and 10 Overviews



Kuhio Grill

The Willows


Anna Bannanas

Puck's Alley

Maple Garden

Education in Moiliili Town
Chapter 5 Overview

Education in Hawaii was introduced by American Protestant missionaries who felt that the Hawaiian language needed a written form. Because mathematics and science were so limited, the educational emphasis was placed on industry and manual training. When the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown the missionaries became the public school administrators and teachers. Value was placed on education at an early age, and schools like Mother Rice Kindergarten and Pre-school were established.

Other schools met different needs of the community, such as the Girls Industrial School, which was designed to provide a practical education for destitute girls and reform for juvenile offenders. The curriculum was highly utilitarian, teaching its students cleaning, gardening, lauhala weaving, and other useful housekeeping skills. Little emphasis was placed on academics that could not be directly applied in daily life. For example, mathematics was applied to pursuits like grocery shopping.

Kuhio School expanded its services and added more buildings in 1884. In 1902 Moiliili Japanese Language School was created to fill an expanding niche in the community. Ala Wai School, where today’s Kaimuki High School now stands, was forced to relocate in order to accommodate its growing student population. Today, other important schools in and around Moiliili are Hokulani School, Iolani School, and Tokai University, the most recent educational addition to the area. Each of these schools has become an integral part of the Moiliili community, training and serving the people of the area to this day.




Moiliili School                                               

The new Moiliili School was renamed Kuhio School in 1923

Gardening at Mother Rice Kindergarten           

The Girls Industrial School

Moiliili Institutional Sanctuaries--The Moiliili Community Center, Churches and Temples, Humane Society, and McCully-Moiliili Library
Chapter 7 and Chapter 9 Overviews

The Moiliili Community Center today


The remaining original Moiliili Japanese School building now housing the Silent Dance Studio

Manapua man at Discover Moiliili Festival

Humane Society


Church of the Crossroads

Buddhist stone at a former sanctuary




Industry in Kamoiliili
Chapter 3 Overview

The Quarry operated by the Honolulu Construction and Draying Company, and later the U.S. Government, was such a major part of Moiliili that the stillness that came with the end of operations in the Quarry in 1947 bothered residents. It was a major source of employment for Moiliili residents, providing opportunities for both skilled and unskilled labor. The Quarry workforce consisted mostly of Japanese workers. Stones from the Quarry were used in construction around the island, and can still be seen today on curbsides and other projects. Residents were accustomed to the constant blasting of rocks, and battling clouds of dust was routine chore. In addition to bringing employment to Moiliili, the Quarry’s transportation requirements pushed development of rail, and later roads, throughout the community.

Students often rode streetcars, and later electric trolleys, to school, and many taxi drivers were like extended family members to the Moiliili community. As automobiles became increasingly popular, so too did automobile-related services, many of which were family businesses. In 1953, the extension of the H-1 Freeway into Moiliili would, for better or for worse, forever change Moiliili.

Another major feature of the Moiliili area is the Ala Wai Canal. As Waikiki developed into a residential and tourist area, a need for an artificial waterway to keep water flowing became an increasingly important. When the Ala Wai canal was finally completed in 1924, however, water quality remained poor, and not all residents welcomed it. Not long after the construction of the Ala Wai Canal, another canal, the Manoa-Palolo Drainage Canal, was constructed in order to alleviate flooding from the Manoa Stream. 

The Moiliili Quarry

Moiliili--The Life of a Community

The Moiliili Landscape 
Chapter 1 Overview

To those familiar with the area, Moiliili conjures images of recreational parks, quaint shops, and friendly neighbors. Today, one of the distinguishing marks of Moiliili is the invigorating presence of the adjacent University of Hawaii Manoa campus. But Moiliili as we know it today is the result of a kaleidoscopic diversity of geographic and ethnic history. Its landscape has been shaped by the paths of lava, wind, and water, in addition to waves of regional settlement. Koolau lava flows, the erosive paths of Manoa stream, and the enduring interaction between the ocean and land explain the features of Moiliili. Previously below sea level, the land of Moiliili was layered with coral and other mineral deposits. The special geology of Moiliili boasts a series of underground caverns, sinkholes, and springs. Ponds formed from sinkholes are important features of the Moiliili landscape, focal points of wildlife and human settlement. Underneath Moiliili, otherworldly creatures such as blindfish and troglodytes haunt the caverns. But there is also danger to be feared from above. The sloping elevation above Moiliili has caused raging floods that linger in the memories of the area’s inhabitants. Despite these natural dangers Moiliili has been mined for limestone and sand, settled for agriculture, and lived in by those who appreciate the benefits and beauty of its location.


The Moiliili Karst                                   

A Moiliili sinkhole



 The Quarry Pond                                    

The Quarry face of the Moiliili flow

The Earliest Japanese American Kamoiliili
Chapter 4 Overview

to come: this will include:

written notations and summary, 

maps, oral histories, census and directory data. 


The first Moiliili Hongwanji Mission                                    

The present day Moiliili Hongwanji Mission

The Japanese School with girls performing naginata    


The Moiliili Japanese Cemetery

Cemetery gateway



The Kashiwabara Family—the first Japanese Issei Family in Moiliili

  The Omuro Blacksmith Shop

Early view of Kahuna Land and Nakookoo Street neighborhoods of Moiliili

A Moiliili Yard

Moiliili Just the Other Day
Chapters 3, 8, and 10 Overview



King Street false-front stores

The Moiliili Post Office

The Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii

The torii at Triangle Park

These overviews of the book Moiliili--The Life of a Community  were created by the seminar members of Honors 291 "The City as Text--Reading Moiliili."


         and the Moiliili Japanese Cemetery Beautification Project