Ani-Mele Kalikimaka from Honolulu Hale

Ahh, Honolulu City Lights. Now in its 29th year, the sights of the city’s annual Christmas display have become familiar to anyone driving through the government district on King and Beretania streets during the holiday season — Shaka Santa and Mrs. Claus dipping their toes into the fountain, the giant Norfolk pine sitting in front of Honolulu Hale, the snowman family, giant blocks spelling out “MELE KALIKIMAKA” (Merry Christmas) on one side and “HAUOLI MAKAHIKI HOU” (Happy New Year) on the other, the Board of Water Supply’s animated light displays hanging between palm trees. If you’re interested in getting a sense of what those look like, we have a whole bunch of pictures shot by Kat Wade over at our sister site, Honolulu Pulse.

Tucked away from the drive-by sightseers, sitting in the courtyard of Honolulu Hale, is a festival of trees, each one decorated by a city agency and following a general theme. That, along with the display of entries in the city’s holiday wreath contest, would be worth the extra effort to walk through every year on its own merits. But there’s something about this year’s theme that makes it particularly appealing to us here at Otaku Ohana. A few weeks ago, tag-team partner in fandom Wilma J. nudged me to read a section of this preview by Stefanie Nakasone:

The annual display, consisting of trees decorated by different city departments, this year has a theme of anime.

WILL WE see some Pokemon, Naruto or maybe even Sailor Moon?

“The departments are pretty hushed about that,” Kaji­wara said of this year’s designs. “We’re excited to see what people put together.”

Now, I have to admit, I was a bit guarded in my enthusiasm about the news. Sure, an “anime” theme is great, but at the same time, if it ended up being a bunch of trees with all 718 Pokemon and generic big-eyed caricatures, I probably would’ve lamented the missed opportunities.

As it turns out, I needn’t have worried. There was a truck with Anpanman, Goku, Hello Kitty, Badtz-Maru, Totoro and Pikachu in the opening night’s electric light parade, after all — if any other American city has ever featured something like that in a parade, I’d love to see a picture of it. There is, indeed, a thrill about stepping inside and having this as one entryway view.


And from another entryway, this view.


And if you go during normal government business working hours, you could also go upstairs and get this view.


Of course, you know what all that meant: I had to go down and get enough shots for the customary embedded Flickr gallery. Before I get to that, though, here are some fun tree display facts:

  • Twenty-two city departments and agencies are represented. Of those, five — Enterprise Services, Information Technology, Design & Construction, the Board of Water Supply and Customer Services — don’t have any direct ties to anime. (Still nice trees, though.) The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit’s display technically isn’t anime-related, either, but their characters do look somewhat sorta anime-ish, so I’ll let that slide.
  • All of the trees are artificial due to city fire codes.
  • Five trees, a giant Pikachu and a firefighting Pikachu sitting next to the Honolulu Fire Department’s firefighting-themed tree testify to the mainstream appeal of Pokemon.
  • Three trees are Totoro-themed — add in Transportation Services’ Ponyo-themed tree, and you have four inspired by the work of Studio Ghibli.
  • Some other anime characters making appearances: Goku, Naruto, Tony Tony Chopper, Doraemon, Hatsune Miku, Astro Boy, Mokona (black and white!) and Asuna from Sword Art Online. There are also a few boxed Gundam model kits.

It’s been a while since I last gave these instructions on viewing Flickr galleries, so here’s a refresher. To start the slideshow, just press the “play” button in the middle of the frame below. Pause and restart using the button on the lower left. If you want a larger view, click on the icon on the lower right; in that full-screen view, you can also see the captions I’ve written for each picture (using the “Show Info” link) or slow down the automatic scrolling (using the “Options” link). Finally, if you’re viewing this blog on an iOS device (iPad/iPod Touch) and can’t view Flash plug-ins, or if you just want to skip all the slideshow fiddling and go straight to the gallery, here’s the direct gallery link: And if you want to see the display in person, the trees will be up at Honolulu Hale through the end of the month. Check it out any time between 7:45 a.m. and 11 p.m. daily.

Enough of my gabbing … here’s the gallery. Merry Christmas!

3 thoughts on “Ani-Mele Kalikimaka from Honolulu Hale”

  1. I always enjoy Honolulu Hale at Christmas time. It was unfortunate that after so many years there a fire hazard concern with real trees.

    I was not enthusiastic about the theme.

    The wreath display is inspiring for us crafters and recyclers. Well done

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