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Food & Dining // Table Talk
Jo McGarry

Food, Fun: Ohana Sundays At Shirokiya

A 'maid cafe' in Akihabara, Tokyo. A staple of Japanese popular culture, the cafes offer a distinctive atmosphere where subservient maids in Victorian outfits role-play to please customers, who are treated and greeted as 'Master'. Photo from Jo McGarry

I saw an advertisement for a book that offered instructions on “how to build a blanket fort.” It struck me as odd, because I’d always assumed that building forts out of blankets, shields out of cardboard boxes, and bows and arrows from string and tree branches were all part of a normal childhood.

But I had forgotten for a moment that children are growing up in a world where they really don’t have to stretch their imaginations too much or get creative about their play nowadays.

And that got me thinking that if kids (and parents!) need manuals to make blanket hideouts, then they need a tome to know how to behave in restaurants, because every night in restaurants around the country, thousands of children are dumped in chairs by their parents, and as they wait for ubiquitous, uninspired plates of pizza or chicken nuggets, they watch movies on iPads or play games on phones.

It’s almost more common to see children engaged in computer games over dinner than conversation with their parents.

So it begs the question: If there is a generation of children being brought up to believe that the proper way to behave in a restaurant is to put your order in and your iPad on, what will happen when they leave home and venture out alone?

I imagine an entire generation of silent restaurant customers, unable to start a conversation or ask intelligent questions about the menu or wine list.

Mealtimes are so important, especially as our lives become ever busier and more stressed. They should offer an opportunity to catch up with what’s happening at work and school and provide at least a little time to check in with our family members.

Without the distraction of cooking and cleaning up, a restaurant offers a kind of haven to relax and share what’s going on in your life.

I’d like to challenge Honolulu to a “Restaurant Unplugged” day.

No phone photographs of food, no movies at the table, no computer games on phones, just food, conversation and an appreciation of what’s actually going on in the restaurant – I’m not holding my breath for that one, though.

But if you do need entertainment as part of your dining experience, then Shirokiya has more than enough to offer as part of its new “Ohana Sundays at Shirokiya.”

As you might expect from the store that re-creates Japanese markets within its Ala Moana environs, Ohana Sundays will mimic the kind of anime costume events, mini masquerade theatre, games, prizes and mini food festivals found Sundays in places like Harajuku.

Designed as interactive, family events, Ohana Sundays will occur twice a month, with an upcoming Halloween Celebration scheduled for Oct. 27. Go dressed as your favorite anime character and prepare to be amazed as the store previews its upcoming Oni-Con event, or play board games and be served in the “pop-up” maid café. Between the opening of famous German bakery BRUG just last month and some of the least-expensive happy hour offerings in town, Shirokiya continues to reign supreme as the most eclectic food-centric store in Honolulu.

Anyone who hasn’t taken a walk around Yataimura recently should prepare to be amazed by the number of vendors sharing their unique food offerings. It’s definitely worth a visit, whether on Ohana Sunday or any other day of the week. Your children will be amazed by the variety of foods, the noise, the color and the general energy of the market.

You might even try leaving the iPads at home.

Happy eating!

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