The Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii estimates that 10,000 people filled the streets last weekend in celebration of the Lunar New Year of the Snake, but it’s hard to be sure. There were so many red shirts you’d think you were at a Target employee convention protected by Teamsters. Above the parade and festivities in the streets, some of Honolulu’s most historic landmarks still stand. Buildings in the Merchant Street and Chinatown historic districts have lived through as many as 14 Years of the Snake. Now, as a result of a $150,000 grant from the National Park Service, Ed Korybski and the city’s Office of Economic Development installed 15 plaques around town. These signs, written by Korybski and (in some cases) rewritten by the landowners, offer brief, if superficial, descriptions of each location.
Over the years, the area between Bethel and River Streets has been lauded and disrespected, avoided and adopted, but just as it did after the disastrous fire of 1900, Chinatown is remaking itself again. We’re in the midst of a renaissance–the successful Lunar New Year Festival is a testament to what the neighborhood can accomplish–if only the dysfunctional groups that organize it can come to see that, ultimately, they want the same thing: a Chinatown restored.
Let this page guide you around a storied city, or find an informational kiosk within the ARTS at Marks Garage for the first leg in a self-guided tour.