Hole Hole Bushi

Center for Labor Education & Research
University of Hawai‘i - West O‘ahu

91-1001 Farrington Highway, Kapolei, HI 96707
(808) 689-2760 - FAX (808) 689-2761

History of Labor in Hawai‘i: Hole Hole Bushi *

These lyrics were sung by Japanese plantation workers to a standard folk melody that accompanied their laborious cane stripping work. "Bushi" is the Japanese workd for melody and "hole hole" is Hawaiian for the dried sugarcane leaves that had to be manually stripped from the stalks at harvest. Most of these verses are preserved thanks to Professor Franklin Odo in the Ethnic Studies program at the University of Hawai'i in the early 80s:

  Hawaii Hawaii to
  Kite mirya Jiyoku
  Boshi ga Emma de
  Runa ga oni

Wonderful Hawaii, or so I heard.
One look and it seems like Hell.
The manager's the Devil and
His luna* are demons.

      (Hawaii Herald, 8-7-81)
  Dekasegi wa kuru kuru
  Hawaii wa tsumaru
  Ai no Nakayama
  Kane ga furu

The laborers keep on coming
Overflowing these Islands
But it's only Inspector Nakayama
Who rakes in the profits.

      (Hawaii Herald, 8-7-81)
  Kane wa kachiken
  Washa horehoreyo
  Ase to namida no

My husband cuts the cane stalks,
And I trim the leaves,
With sweat and tears we both work,
For our means.
      (Takaki, Pau Hana, 1983)

* Luna is the Hawaiian word for a plantation overseer.

** Franklin Odo and Harry Minoru Urata, "Hole Hole Bushi," Humanities News (Feb-March 1984) Vol. 5, No. 1, p. 4.


graphic line

Back to link button Home Page