Honolulu: A Local's Tour
Musician Jake Shimabukuro has surprising crossover appeal. No “Tiny Bubbles” for him: his concert tours in Hong Kong and Japan are sellouts, and his latest recording, Peace Love Ukulele (Hitchhike Records; $10), made its debut at number one on Billboard’s World Albums chart. In his hands, the traditional two-octave Hawaiian instrument comes alive with rapid-fire licks that slide him closer on the scale to guitar heroes Jimi Hendrix and B. B. King. A Japanese American whose family has lived in Hawaii for five generations, Shimabukuro remains a local at heart. “Honolulu is the perfect blend of city and country,” he says. “I’ve been to some pretty cool places in the last few years, but it will always be my home.”
The Restaurant: Tokkuri Tei
Chef Hideaki “Santa” Miyoshi runs Tokkuri Tei, one of Honolulu’s oldest izakaya bars. Shimabukuro always orders the spicy tuna on tempura-fried nori seaweed chips—“and the negi roll with miso sauce is outstanding.” 449 Kapahulu Ave., suite 201; 808/732-6480; dinner for two $85.
The Music Shop: Ukebox
Owned by Shimabukuro’s brother Bruce, the Ukebox specializes in quality ukuleles whose exquisite wood graining and sweet tone distinguish them from the plastic souvenir models sold on every street corner in downtown Waikiki. Free ukulele lessons daily. 2490 Kalakaua Ave.; 808/922-7823.
The Artisans: Kamaka Hawaii
Shimabukuro has five ukuleles made by Kamaka Hawaii, a local family of luthiers who have been crafting world-class instruments since 1916. “They embossed the initial J on my tenor uke.” 550 South St.; 808/531-3165.
The After-Hours Hangout: Dragon Upstairs
The Dragon Upstairs, a tiny Chinatown jazz lounge, is housed in a former tattoo parlor and has a fiery red-and-gold mural of a dragon snaking up the staircase. 1038 Nuuanu Ave.; 808/526-1411; drinks for two $12.
The Cool Threads: To Kei Boutique
Designer Kei Kinoshita of To Kei Boutique creates tropical dresses and Shimabukuro’s custom shirts—button-downs in eye-catching colors rather than old-school aloha florals. 619 Kapahulu Ave.; 808/735-9827.
The Resort: Halekulani
The 453-room Halekulani is a Waikiki Beach classic. Shimabukuro knows all the musicians at its open-air lounge, House Without a Key; watching him jam with them is a rare treat. Doubles from $435; drinks for two $24.
The Retreat: Puuo Kaimuki Mini Park
On a hill behind the Kaimuki fire station, Puuo Kaimuki Mini Park is a small green oasis. “It’s a steep trek on the back side of Diamond Head, with great views of the city. I’ve written songs up there.” 951 Koko Head Ave.
The Sweet Stuff: Ailana Shave Ice
Known in Japan as kakigori, shave ice was originally introduced to Hawaii by pineapple-plantation workers. Shimabukuro loves the house-made syrups and toppings at Ailana Shave Ice. “My favorite is the uji kintoki, or green tea with adzuki beans.” 1430 Kona St., suite 102; 808/955-8881; shave ice for two $5.