Out of all getaways, Hawaii exceeded all of my expectations. Matt, my senpai from when I worked for Itoya in Tokyo, invited me to his and Akina’s destination wedding: Waikiki, Hawaii, conveniently in the middle of Tokyo and Los Angeles. I visited from 07/14-07/17 to attend this wedding, reunite with my USC arch mentor, Yulee, splurge on shaved ice in the hot sun, and explore some of the moonlit breezes and dreamy skyscape.
After Oly and I waited 1 1/2 hours for a rental car we reserved for and couldn’t get because of Hawaii’s peak season, Yulee picked us up and lei’d us with a warm, welcoming greeting of Hawaii’s radio for the full-on tourist experience. She quickly took us on a food run including Piggy Smalls (a restaurant that her friend is head chef of) and Organic Shaved Ice Ha’aha’s. Just after building a “sand-man” with the picture-perfect sunset on Magic Island, we ended our night at Leonard’s Bakery (as if we weren’t full enough). I was so overwhelmed with excitement of being in Hawaii and spending time with two people I love, that I didn’t take pictures of these eateries… I was also over-fulfilled with Hawaii’s warm, genuine love, certainly no comparison to Los Angeles. No destination had ever convinced me that I could ever fully relax, until I met Hawaii.
After we ktfo-ed from hauling all over the place on our first day, Yulee picked us up by 5:30 A.M. to catch the sunrise with a sweet morning hike up to Makapu’u point lighthouse trail. I used to regularly go on 6AM hikes with my kickass archi-girlfriend Claudia, and I was compelled that I (and Oly) should do some more good for our bodies. On the way, we found this shore lookout where I felt that I HAD to do a few yoga poses to stretch before we hiked. Yes, I felt like a goddess statue.
Prior to Feb 2017, I thought yoga was an overrated, hipster trend of skinny chic women showing off their moves and calling it a hardcore workout, but fast-forward, I’ve become a passionate, happy yogi after learning how yoga slows me down, alleviates my anxiety, and tones my figure aside from my cardio workouts. I began practicing yoga with my archi-girlfriend, Claudia, once Claudia invited me to join her at Los Feliz’s 6AM classes at Yoga Works… now, I’ve been practicing it regularly at 7 AM and lunch breaks to help me focus before/during work.
I found Yoga Floats through Google maps while I was searching for things to do around our Airbnb location in Waikiki and made it a mission to enroll in one of the classes. But first, I’ll tell you that I did this without even knowing ho to swim. Because of childhood trauma, I hadn’t been able to step into water deeper than 5′ without shrieking in fear. But my +1 / USC archi-friend Oly patiently and effectively taught me the basics of swimming by day 2 in the warm, smooth ocean while I eagerly wanted to snorkel. (What better place is there to learn how to swim than in Hawaii?)
I was so eager to challenge myself and overcome my fear of swimming that I reserved my own 9 AM reservation for Yoga Floats since nothing else fit in my schedule. Yoga itself is already a difficult physical/mental practice, and yoga on a paddleboard when you can barely swim…. is…. insanely difficult, but not impossible. “Warrior two” has always been a favorite pose, but my other favorite, tree pose (below) was hands down, the most challenging pose to do on the paddleboard. I highly recommend any yoga floats class for any yogi and/or someone who wants to try something challenging and good for the body and soul, especially while you’re in Hawaii.
As for Up at North Shore, this shavery had one hell of a line of at least 30 minutes, but worth it because I had such a terrible sweet tooth. I selfishly wanted two fat ass shaved ice bowls so I ordered (1) ichiban special of 1 flavor (strawberry), condensed milk, topped with azuki beans and a scoop of vanilla ice cream in an edible waffle boat/tray and (1) lilikoi after Yulee asked for it. Embarrassingly, I loved Yulee’s lilikoi so much that I devoured it without even giving Yulee a bite. Lilikoi has definitely become my new favorite fruit of the year.
Oly’s friend specifically suggested this shavery on her list; and we were pathetically but hilariously fooled en route before because our Uber driver suggested that instead of going directly, we stop by Bubby’s for mochi ice cream. After we quickly finished the 3 small pieces of mochi ice cream (that I didn’t think were that impressive), we waited a painful 35 minutes for the next Uber to bring us to the infamous Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha. The line here compared to Matsumoto’s was much more tolerable; with only 2 people ahead of us, we were able to order this Uji Kintoki: Shaved ice with green tea syrup, Tahitian Vanilla ice cream, homemade mochi balls, and adzuki beans. The size compared to Matsumoto’s? Colossal.
Just before we returned to the airport and departed back to Los Angeles, we were so determined to stop by another shavery, even after getting lost and missing every turn for 20 minutes. This humble shavery was incredibly difficult to hunt for because of its challenging intersection/quiet location, but it was the simplest and favorite above all; it revealed a different experience that topped the end of our vacation.
The owner was incredibly serene, sweet, personal, and honest. She prepared our shaved ice with strawberries so intimately with fine, quality ingredients by using fresh sugar cane syrup. As Oly and I cooled down from all of that walk confusion, we were instantly refreshed while we ate the slightly sweetened, soft snow….pure perfection, sweet bliss. The presentation of clean snow topped with fresh strawberries on a gold plate and tiny personal table was excellent. The owner’s genuine care for customers by coming out to share her process of preparation in every bowl and concerns and hopes for the future … was the perfect way for us to end our trip to Hawaii, and another reason to come back.
MATT AND AKINA’S WEDDING
After attending 10+ weddings so far, ranging from 50 to 300 guests, this wedding was the most intimate and inspiring wedding I’ve ever attended. Throughout our Monday late afternoon to evening, we celebrated the union of Matt and Akina at the infamous Halekulani, an oceanfront 5-star hotel with dreamy views to not only the beach, but also Diamond Head.
Surrounded by 38 attendees gathering from various countries on a Monday evening, I was able to catch up with some Japanese friends and make some new, sweet friends from all over the world, including Marcel, an inspiring industrial artist who lives in Finland. I’m so proud of my two friends Matt and Akina for maintaining a strong cultural relationship, while always being so loving to me throughout my time of working abroad in Japan. Matt had always helped me culturally and professionally. And Akina has always been an inspiration to me for her similar pursuits in social media.
It was an incredible honor to not only attend Matt’s intimate wedding (a sweet ceremony that celebrates the coming of two entirely different cultures) but to also be asked to take photos of the table arrangements. After the ceremony and reception, I was assigned to sit in the table with 4 Japanese girls, and although my Japanese has worsened, I feel inclined that we should try to communicate with each other despite cultural/language barriers; we had so much fun bonding through Japanese (and some silly Jenglish) that they asked me to take selfies and exchange contact information. I love how love and confidence can break any language barrier, trigger new relationships… and consequentially I have old/new friends all over the world to exchange creative ideas and gifts. Perhaps a collaborative project?
Coming back to LA with wedding favors and memorable gifts have been so great; I’d love to reunite with you all in Hawaii agai, or another place in the world, halfway between us someday.