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Where The Lights Are Brightest

Two Waikele streets go all out with Christmas lights and displays that also help bring neighbors together

Nothing quite ushers in the holiday season like the smell of freshly cut Christmas trees adorned with garland, ornaments, tinsel and sparkling lights that bring joy and smiles to all who pass by.

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The Nagata residence on Hopoe Place Photo by Lawrence Tabudlo

We’re all familiar with big holiday productions, such as Honolulu City Lights and the wonderful display the Board of Water Supply puts on its front lawn, but there are other, more private and secluded light displays that truly are works of art.

If you’re making the trek to the Leeward side, there are two streets in Waikele that take exterior Christmas decorating to a whole new level.

Off Lumiauau Street sits Hopoe Place, a quaint cul-de-sac that transforms into a whole block of festive lights and décor.

All the homes, about 30 in total, welcome spectators with an inviting sign that reads “Welcome to Hopoe Place,” and many of the homeowners will stand outside to talk story with all who take in the sights.

“It started with just a few people putting up decorations,” says Hopoe Place resident Francis Nagata. “As the years went by, more and more people were joining in and started putting up decorations.

“All of us (homeowners on the street) try to come out to greet people, talk to them and see how they like it.”

Plans for Hopoe Place’s transformation start during the cul-de-sac’s annual neighborhood security potluck party, normally around Labor Day, and decorations start going up the first week of December after Thanksgiving events have died down.

Lights come down about a week after New Year’s Day.

“My (light display) is a little more intricate,” Nagata continues. He started with garland and icicle lights, but wife Betty articulated that she wanted a Nativity scene. Nagata went to work searching for the perfect pieces, which he found online at Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland’s website.

Over a period of two years, he was able to purchase all Nativity scene pieces. He planned to put the biblical scene on the ground, but found that cars often blocked any view spectators had.

“I opted to put it on the roof,” he says. “But when I did that, I had to build all the platforms and plan where and how to put everything.

“It takes me about a good two weeks to put it up.”

Nagata’s granddaughter Lexi Matsuyama gets especially excited when the holidays roll around.

“She’s the one who wants to help me decorate,” he says.

While Nagata puts great thought into his Christmas décor, he credits neighbor Greg Yoshida for starting the tradition.

“He started slowly adding more things, probably for the last 12 to 13 years,” Nagata notes.

Upon leaving the sparkling street, a sign bids viewers farewell on a happy note.

“It’s gotten to be quite a festive and enjoyable thing that many people enjoy,” Nagata adds. “I like seeing all their faces and how people get so excited to see the lights.”

Right down the road (the next street over, in fact) is another cul-de-sac that takes Christmas decorating just as seriously.

This year, nine homes on Anapau Place synchronize their light displays with music.

“We control the synchronization from our home from a computer,” explains Anapau Place resident Keith Yoshida, often referred to as the “conductor” of the street’s display.

Lights go up the day after Halloween, but homeowners work on the project much earlier than that.

“We ordered the hardware from a Mainland company, and we ordered it all the way back in February,” Yoshida adds. “It’s kind of an ongoing thing, and we’re already talking to three or four more neighbors who expressed interest in joining in the fun next year.”

Yoshida’s family, including wife Nalani, son Nevin and daughter Kaylin, help with putting up the display.

Anapau Place lights run Sunday through Thursday from 6 to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 6-11 p.m., and those interested in seeing the beautiful synchronization have until the second week of January to head over.

Many residents enjoy hanging out in the streets to hand out candy canes and sometimes hot chocolate and cookies to passersby.

“Just seeing the joy that it brings to the people who come to watch the show, the smiles, and the kids laughing and dancing is very gratifying for us,” Yoshida says.