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A Waikiki shopping center recalls Hawaii’s royal past in architecture and action. King’s Village looks like a castle complex lined with shops. Along the walls, plaques tell the story of the kings who once ruled this island nation.
To be honest, I walked past it several times thinking it was the most elaborate Burger King I had ever seen. There are several fast-food outlets along the street side of the complex but it also has higher-end eateries including Tanaka of Tokyo. We ate recently at the Rock Island Cafe because it had caught the eye of a visitor. It’s a diner with all sorts of music memorabilia. The soda fountain offerings are fun, my guest enjoyed her malt, but the sandwiches are pricey. Nine dollars for a BLT without chips or fries is a little on the high side even for Waikiki. I had found online coupons for each of the non-fast food restaurants that helped bring the total tab more in line.
In addition to food, there are many jewelry, clothing, shoe and art stores. It is fun to wander along the pretend cobblestone streets. The most surprising stop is a museum dedicated to the King’s Guard. A drill team performs in uniforms that are exact replicas of those worn by King Kalakaua’s Royal Palace Guards in 1875. Each day at 6:15, they have a “changing of the guard” ceremony that is actually a flag-folding ceremony because the only guard on duty during the day is a statue. It was fun to see and drew quite a crowd of onlookers.
The guard was established with the opening of the shopping center in 1972. The original members were alumni of the McKinley High School JROTC drill team. It was designed as a tourist attraction and is now the longest running daily event in Waikiki, according to the website.
I can’t decide if the shopping center and guard are a tribute to Hawaii’s monarchy, as a proclamation from the mayor says, or an attempt to trade on it to sell stuff to tourists. Either way, it’s certainly a unique experience.