Fall 2010

Honors 291

The City as Text--Reading Moiliili

please link to our website


Sophomore Seminar

This seminar will investigate the topic “What is a community?” The seminar will take multiple approaches: a historical approach, architectural and urban planning approach, cultural approach, topographical approach, demographical approach, occupational and industrial approach, leisure time approach, educational approach, among others.


Mo'ili'ili–The Life of a Community–Laura Ruby, editor
(all images on this website come from this book)

and other readings and primary sources

Available resources on the UH campus and in the community:
    * Census schedules
    * Maps (including Sanborn maps, tax maps, and resident maps)
    * Honolulu Almanac and Directories
    * UH Archives (including aerial photos)
    * Waihona Aina database of Land Commission Award claims
    * Alu Like translated collections
    * Newspaper and journal archives

Available resources off campus:
    * Bishop Museum Archives and Library (including the photo and art collections)
    * Bureau of Conveyance documents
    * State Archives (including probate documents)
    * McCully-Moiliili Library

Targeted interviewing relative to the topic of the presentations.

Seminar members will go on location, investigate primary source resources, conduct targeted interviews, lead group presentations and write/present short papers. The seminar will contribute its research to the moiliili.net website.
Learning Outcomes for Honors 291:

By taking HON 291 students will:

• understand interdisciplinary perspectives on a theoretical and/or practical problem: What Is a Community?
•  learn principles of field-based inquiry into social or environmental problems; as well as learn principles of historical inquiry and use of primary sources;
• understand how inquiry is conducted within the specific disciplines of history, sociology, geography, architecture, economics, political science, and urban planning;
•  develop an appreciation of natural and cultural environments;
•  learn how to participate effectively in a seminar class; and
gain a measure of proficiency reading scholarly/research publications, and present a scholarly paper


The course will include of an investigation of a number of theoretical and methodological frameworks that shape the products of research–for example semiotic approaches, geologic approaches, economic approaches, political approaches, historical approaches, Hawaiian Renaissance approaches, geographical/cartographic approaches.

    * 2 short presentations/papers --the equivalent of 3-5 pages -- 30%
    * Class presentations/discussions -- 15%
    * Long presentation investigating a “cultural encounter"-- a "Reading of Moiliili" -- the equivalent of 10-20 pages -- 40%
    * Attendance and seminar participation (what the student brings to each seminar meeting) -- reading the assigned texts and posing a thoughtful discussion question for each seminar meeting [a list will be turned in at mid-semester]) -- 15%


What argument is made and how is it supported (what visual, historical, and theoretical information is examined)? Include your own assessment of these arguments. Your statement should include examples that support your position. Each presentation should include an exploration of new thoughts generated from the readings at hand. You may refer back to earlier readings or discussions or discussion questions and how they bear on your current thoughts.
Since a main focus of the seminar's research will be on "The City as Text--Reading Moiliili--The Moiliili Japanese Cemetery--The City of the Dead" it can naturally be the subject of one or both of your short presentations.


This presentation will be the equivalent of 10-20 pages in length and will investigate one of the questions raised about the geologic, economic, political and cultural fabric of Moiliili. The paper will be a careful comparison and contrast of your topic and all research will be properly cited. Since a main focus of the seminar's research will be on "The City as Text--Reading Moiliili--The Moiliili Japanese Cemetery--The City of the Dead" it can naturally be the subject of your long paper.


The topics of each class discussion will be approached through a selection of readings. Students are expected to come fully prepared for active and informed participation in the discussions. Students will contribute to the discussions from their notes. The short presentations will be 3-5 minutes,
and the long presentation will be shared with the seminar in for approximately. Elaborate on your main thesis/hypothesis, the explanatory/interpretative text, and any supporting contextual examples. Present additional examples for comparison and contrast. Please bring Powerpoint presentations and accompanying handouts as needed.


This includes: attendance, punctuality, class interaction in great debates, emailing, and office visit. This course requires full attendance. Visual concepts are often only understood after sharing, comparing, questioning, revising and synthesizing, as well as LISTENING. A tardy or absent student diminishes the overall quality of the class. Three tardies will equal one unexcused absence. Three unexcused absences will lower the final grade.

Please respect your colleagues--plan to arrive on time and please do not talk at cross-purposes to the class discussion nor leave the classroom during the discussion time.

Please turn off all electronics including cell phones, beepers, pagers and texting devices before entering the classroom.

Laura Ruby
Office – Art 348
Phone – 956-5250 (message only)



youtube--laura ruby "Nancy Drew Series" -- Installations



Brief outline of Hawaiian history—setting the stage

Reading: Hawaiian Almanac--Hawaiian chronology
1. What are the approximate boundaries of Moiliili? Do they remain the same over time?
2. What are the origins of the Moiliili place name?
3. What location was Vancouver writing about on page 35?
4. What are our assumptions about culture?

Field trips around the Moiliili community
--bring camera, notebook and sunscreen

1. The geology of Moiliili--the Manoa Stream, lo'i, Quarry Pond, Humane Society, and Kuhio School

2. The community institutions of Moiliili--Mauoki Heiau, ponds and caverns, Church of the Crossroads, Moiliili businesses, Moiliili Hongwanji, Moiliili Community Center, Hawaii Potters Guild


1 Reading the  Moiliili Landscape --
The Landscape  as Text

Readings: Chapter 1

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 blind fish 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. 

Discussion questions:

1. In what ways does the landscape shape the historical and current community events?
2. In what ways were the early Hawaiian and Japanese American communities shaped by the landscape?
3. What is the significance of Moiliili being a walking community?

The Moiliili karst

A Moiliili sinkhole

The Quarry Pond

The Quarry face of the Moiliili Flow

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

Readings: Chapter 2
Kirch -- Feathered Gods --"Approaches to Hawaiian Prehistory" -- pp.7-15
Thrum--Thrum's Annual (opt.)

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 owned 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. 

Discussion Questions

1.  How should we regard artifacts and cultural remnants in today's cultural climate--from an an art historian, archeologist, cultural practicioner, other (?) points of view?
2. Why did the mahi'ai (farmers) settle in the Moiliili Waikiki Waena?
3. What evidence of Hawaiian culture remains today? How do today's commiunity residents use or understand the Hawaiian agricultural or other cultural practices?
4. What was the importance of the Kamoiliili Church to the Hawaiian community?
5. What were the burial practices in the Kamoiliili Cemetery? Who was buried there? What were the ceremonies associated with it?

The lo'i (taro pondfields) at the University of Hawaii Center for Hawaiian Studies

The auwai (ditch) diverting Manoa Stream water to the lo'i (taro pondfields)

The Kamoiliili Church--Rice Memorial Chapel

Rice fields in Moiliili

for reference--Architecture in Hawaii Times--Hawaiian Hale:Port of Honolulu, 1816--Choris; Houses of the Governor of Kaiakekua, 1819--Alphonse Pelllion; Lahina, West Maui, Sandwich Islands, 1851--James Gay Sawkins; Interior of a House of a Chief, 1816--Choris; Interior of a House, Honolulu, Oahu, 1838--Auguste Borget


Chapter 3 Overview

 Industry Comes to Kamoiliili

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.  Although the workforce consisted mostly of Japanese workers, there   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. 

3 Reading the Earliest Japanese American Kamoiliili  

Readings: Chapter 4

Discussion questions:
1. How did the Japanese Issei come to settle in Moiliili?
2. What were the reasons for the Japanese Issei settlement?
3. Why did the Japanese American community thrive in Moiliili--consider sociology, economics, political science, cultural dimensions?

The Kashiwabara Family--the first Japanese Issei Family in Moiliili

The Omuro Blacksmith Shop

Early view of Kahuna Lane and Nakookoo Street area of Moiliili

A Moiliili yard

4. Reading the Beginnings of the 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 the demand for mathematics and science was so scarce, the emphasis was 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.

Readings: Chapter 4 and 5
Harriet Natsuyama--"Carved in Stone"
Moiliili Japanese Cemetery materials

Discussion question:
1. What did these three institutions--the Japanese School, the Moiliili Hongwanji Mission, and the Japanese Cemetery-- mean to the Issei--and Nisei?

Discussion questions:
Sophomore Seminar Focus: TheMoiliili Japanese Cemetery--The City of the Dead"
1. How did the cemetery come about?
2. Why was the cemetery built in this location?
3. Who started it?
4. What are the cultural religious practices associated with the cemetery?
5. Who takes care of it? What is the economic upkeep or cost?
6. What was the impact on the cemetery when the City and County created Kapiolani Boulevard
in 1933-34?

The seminar field research--The Moiliili Japanese Cemetery--The City of the Dead." We will spend several class periods recording the grave markers in the Japanese Cemetery. We will compile GPS data (if possible), photographs, written notations, maps, oral histories, census and directory data. The seminar members will contribute significant primary source resources on the cemetery and its inhabitants.

The first Moiliili Hongwanji Mission

The presentday Moiliili Hongwanji Mission

The Japanese School with girls performing naginata

The Moiliili Japanese Cemetery

5 Reading Moiliili as a Part of the Larger Honolulu Community--Educating the Community

Readings: Chapter 5

Discussion questions:
1. How did/do these educational institutions serve the community?

Moiliili School

The new Moiliili School was renamed Kuhio School in 1923

Gardening at Mother Rice Kindergarten

The Girls Industrial School

6 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 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 Theater. 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.

Readings: Chapter 6

Discussion questions:
1. Why were/are leisure time activities a large part of Moiliili life?

A sumo tournament

Fishing on "horses" on the Ala Wai Canal

The old Honolulu Stadium

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 Theater

Stadium Bowl-o-Drome

Ala Wai Community Garden

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

Readings: Chapter 7 and Chapter 9

Discussion questions:
1. Why are these institutions sanctuaries?
2. What role do they fill in the Moiliili community? In the larger Honolulu community?

The Moiliili Community Center today

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

Manapua man at Discover Moiliili Festival

The Humane Society

Church of the Crossroads

Buddhist stone at a former sanctuary

8 The Multi-faceted Business Community

Readings: Chapters 4, 8, 9, and 10

Discussion questions:
1. Charcoal making and pig raising were important businesses in the early Japanese American Moiliili--what changed?
2. What is the present business climate for community residents--and for University of Hawaii students?
3. What is the concept of "town and gown"?

Kuhio Grill

The Willows


Anna Bannanas

Puck's Alley

Maple Garden

9 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.

Readings: Chapter 8

Discussion questions:

1. How were Statehood and President Kennedy's visit transformative events for Moiliili?
2. What other national events transformed the community?

Statehood in Moiliili

President Kennedy in Moiliili, 1960

10 Moiliili Now

Readings: Chapters 3, 8, and 10

Discussion questions:
1. What is Moiliili's "sense of place"?
2. How will the transit oriented development affect Moiliili?
3. How will the closings of the Post Office and Star Market affect the community?
4. What is the night life in Moiliili? How is it different from the daytime activities?
5. How do the homeless affect the community?
6. How can we be a part of proactive change in Moiliili?

King Street false-front stores

The Moiliili Post Office

The Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii

The torii at Triangle Park

Laura Ruby
Department of Art and Art History, Office 348
2535 McCarthy Mall
University of Hawaii
Honolulu, Hawaii 96822
(808) 956-5250


In progress: August 2010