Ramen Hunt part 2: Tenkaippin 天下一品

dsc_3005In our second part of our hunt for the best ramen in Hawaii we headed over to Tenkaippin.  Founded in Kyoto Japan in 1971 and laying claim to having over 200 locations in Japan I had high hopes that I had finally found a place that could compare to authentic Japanese ramen.  On a large poster, written in Japanese, is a history of the restaurant chain which says that it took three years and nine months to finalize their unique broth.  Again, my expectations were raised.  The place was crowded even with a fair number of seats.  Everything screamed “Japanese,” from the bookshelf full of Japanese language Manga to the articles from Japanese newspapers and signatures from Japanese stars posted on the walls.  Once again, I was expecting something great.  We tried out two different types of ramen; Kotteri Ramen, “Our #1 best seller.  Healthy chicken base soup so rich and unique, it’s habit forming.”  As well as Paitan Ramen, a tonkotsu based ramen.  So how did it turn out?

Men (noodles)

Fairly thick, and slightly heavy, it was far too soft and lacked depth of flavor.  The men was definitely the weakest part fo the ramen here.  Somewhere in between fresh and instant ramen noodles it lacked the flavor and texture that seperates restaurant ramen from instant ramen.  Both types of ramen were hurt by the men’s failure.

Kotteri Ramen

Soup

Extremely thick, strong chicken base soup, it has more in common with a white sauce than it does with soup.  I felt like I was eating pasta in a bowl.  I’ve never been to Kyoto so I don’t know if this type of ramen is common there but it didn’t taste like Japanese ramen to me.  I can’t stress enough how thick the soup is, it was like the inside of a chicken pot pie.  I’m sure if you haven’t eaten much Japanese ramen, and there by didn’t have many expectations, you could enjoy it.  It seems to be tailored to an American’s taste, an odd fusion of chicken noodle soup and chowder.  As it stands though, the Kotteri ramen soup is one of the worst I’ve ever had.

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Toppings

Very simple; green onions, menma (bamboo shoots), and a very small piece of char siu that lacked flavor and was gone in a single bite.  Nothing special at all.  Half-way through I added some chili garlic topping that helped a bit (the waitress actually encouraged me to add it), but it was too little, too late.

Verdict

There’s no saving the Kotteri Ramen, it’s one of the worst bowls of ramen that I’ve ever had.  Considering that it’s Tenkaippin’s flagship dish I was expecting something unique and amazing.  It’s unique and amazing only in the sense of “what were they thinking?”

F

Soup    (light)   1   2   3   4   5   (heavy)

Men   (thin)   1   2   3   4   5   (thick)

Paitan Ramen

Soup

Standing in stark contrast to the Kotteri Ramen, the Paintan Ramen’s soup was quite good.  Still fairly heavy, though nothing like the Kotteri, it had a great Tonkotsu flavor.  In fact, the first thing we said was “this is Japanese ramen.”  I’m not saying it’s going to blow your mind or anything, just that it was very good and I have no serious complaints.  It still has the chicken base that is Tenkaippin’s specialty, the difference is that it finds a good balance between the chicken and pork flavor without having one over power the other.  Not having the density of clam chowder helps as well.

Toppings

The toppings were much better than the Kotteri as well.  Roasted sliced garlic, red ginger, and green onions all worked well to enhance the flavor.  Unfortunately the sub par char siu was here as well.  Adding the chili garlic topping was unnecessary and would have detracted from the flavor.

dsc_3017

Verdict

As you can tell, the Paintan was far better than the Kotteri and I found myself pleasantly surprised.  Regretably, even with the great soup base and toppings, the men detracts too much from the overall experience to ignore.  Add to that the pathetic char siu and there’s no choice but to relegate it to the slightly above average category.

C+

Soup    (light)   1   2   3   4   5   (heavy)

Men   (thin)   1   2   3   4   5   (thick)

On a side note, the prices were a little steep considering that the portions were a bit on the small side.  Expect to pay $8 to $10 for the ramen alone or $10 to $12 for a set menu that comes with fried rice, gyoza, or fried chicken.  Gyoza was entirely average, don’t expect much.

Tenkaippin Hawaii

617 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 732-121 

*note on grading scale*  I choose to assign a letter grade due to the ambiguity that is inherent in a numerical/star system.  An “A” rating is given for the best of the best, “B” for really good, “C” for average, “D” for not very good, and “F” for complete garbage.  I am admittedly harsh in my reviews and as always they are based upon my own personal opinions.  ”Light” and “heavy” refer to how rich the soup is, “thin” and “thick” to the type of men (noodles).     

 

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Final Days of Circuit City

Circuit City will be closing it’s doors for good this Sunday.  They have been in the process of liquidating their entire stock since the announcement of their closing a month ago.  The entire upper floor is closed and the remainder of the stock is on the lower level.  Everything is 50-70% off and that may increase come Sunday.

A few things of note that are remaining:  Guitar Hero World Tour for Wii – $50; Dark Knight, Hancock, Smallville DVDs 50% off; Panasonic Lumix T25 camera $197.99; Canon Powershot A890 $89.99; Guitar Hero guitars for PS3 and 360 $25; Zelda Phantom Hourglass for Nintendo DS 50% off.  There is also a small remaining selection of CDs and DVDs, some DVD-Rs, printers, PC games, and other random computer things.

Good bye Circuit City and to those who lost their jobs I wish you well.

 


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Tantalus – A Breathtaking View Minutes Away

Tantalus has long been a favorite place of mine.  Considering its proximity to Honolulu you might think that it gets swamped with tourists and families going for a picnic but I have rarely encountered more than a half dozen people there at any time.  There are actually two different spots on Tantalus I recommend checking out.  The first is the actual Tantalus lookout in the Puu Ualakaa State Wayside Park, which typically closes right after sunset.  You get a wonderful panoramic view of Diamond Head, Honolulu, the airport and beyond.  There is a well maintained  lawn at the lookout point that is perfect for an afternoon picnic.

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The second spot is perfect for checking out Honolulu’s night skyline.  To get to this spot head up Makiki St. and stay to the right when the road forks.  Turn right on Round Top Drive and follow the road up like you were going to Puu Ualakaa Park.  Before you reach the final hairpin turn that precedes the entrance to the park there’s a spot on the right-hand side where you can park your car.  This is a good spot but lots of Japanese tour buses come here at night and it can get pretty crowded.  Park your car there and walk down the road a little till you reach a demolished house with a chainlink fence blocking the driveway.  It’s far less crowded here and you’re afforded a wider view of Honolulu and beyond.

night-photography2

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Ramen Hunt part 1: Goma Tei

I love ramen.  The first time I had it in Japan I fell in love and that love has only continued to grow.  Luckily, Hawaii is one of the best places in the states and outside of Japan to get this simple, yet surprisingly complex, dish.

A friend of mine in Japan once said, as he was approaching his college graduation, that he was either going to become an Air Traffic Controller or start up a ramen shop.  Lovers of ramen truly love ramen and they accept nothing but the finest.

The Ramen Hunt is my search for the best ramen in Hawaii.  I’m not going to lie, I have not found a single bowl of ramen in Hawaii that even comes close to it’s authentic Japanese counterpart.  That being said, they is still some really great places here and I still have hope that I’ll find something that can compare to the true thing.  So without further adieu… 

In our first episode of our hunt for the best ramen in Hawaii we head on over to Goma Tei.  Located in the Ward Centre next to Borders, Goma Tei has been around for about three years now.  Specializing in Tan Tan, spicy sesame flavored, Ramen it has carved out a strong following in it’s short time here.  Some of you may know Goma Ichi, across the street from Wal-Mart on Ke’eaumoku, which also specializes in Tan Tan Ramen.  Both have very similar tastes and would rate similar reviews from me but I personally prefer Goma Tei.

Men (Noodle)

Goma Tei’s men is average in thickness, leaning slightly to the futoi (fat) side.  Has plenty of flavor and a good texture.  It won’t win any awards for being amazing, it’s just a good, slightly above average men.

Soup

The soup is arguably the most important part of ramen, if it’s not good then the ramen is no good.  A shoyu (soy sauce) base soup is mainly used here, though they also have Tonkotsu ramen.   The shoyu by itself is pretty light and doesn’t have much depth to the flavor.  If you’re looking for something on the simple side you might enjoy it, otherwise don’t bother.  The Tan Tan soup is also shoyu based but it takes on a new life with the addition of the spicy sesame seed flavoring.  It’s more oily and, combined with the lightness of the shoyu base, has a very good balance.  It’s not too spicy, which depending on your tastes may be a good or bad thing.  I found it to be just right.

Char Siu (Roast Pork)

The char siu here is easily the best I’ve had in Hawaii so far.  Thick sliced with a good balance of fat and meat and so tender that it falls from your chopsticks and melts in your mouth.  No complaints.

Conclusion

Goma Tei is one of my favorite ramen restaurants in Hawaii and as such I highly recommend it.  It’s not going to change your life or anything (there are ramen restaurants that will do that) but it’s definitely worth checking out.  Give the Tan Tan Ramen a try but don’t expect too much from the other flavors.  On a side note, if you’re planning on getting gyoza be forewarned that it invariablely takes forever to come out and is overpriced and entirely average.

Tan Tan Ramen

B-

(light)   1   2   3  3.5  4   5   (heavy)

(thin)   1   2   3   4   5   (thick)

Shoyu Ramen

D

(light)   1   2   3   4   5   (heavy)

(thin)   1   2   3   4   5   (thick)

Goma Tei

*note on grading scale*

I choose to assign a letter grade due to the ambiguity that is inherent in a numerical/star system.  An “A” rating is given for the best of the best, “B” for really good, “C” for average, “D” for not very good, and “F” for complete garbage.  I am admittedly harsh in my reviews and as always they are based upon my own personal opinions.  “Light” and “heavy” refer to how rich the soup is, “thin” and “thick” to the type of men (noodles).

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Welcome (back) to Hawaii Metroblogs!

It’s been some time since we last saw a post on Hawaii Metblogs and I imagine that it’s fallen off pretty much everyone’s radar.  If you’re finding this site by accident (as I did) only to be disappointed (as I was) after the initial excitement of the prospect of a local news site written by locals for locals, then I hope I can give you reason to be excited again.  For those of you who don’t live here and are perhaps veteran Metrobloggers perusing the different cities, or you’re someone who’s simply interestind in Hawaii, I hope you enjoy seeing my side of the Aloha State.

I have a number of ideas of what I’m going to post.  These are entirely based upon my interests and as such I will make no attempt to cover every news outlet.  Think of me as the Weekend/Arts section of a newspaper.  I plan on covering a lot of restraunts, hikes, local events, clubs and interviewing locals.  For the Hawaii resident I hope that I might share the things I’ve found interesting with an intent that you might enjoy them as well.  For the non-resident I hope you might gain an interest in Hawaii and enjoy some of the things that we far too often take for granted.

So be sure to keep checking the site in the following weeks and I hope you’ll enjoy what I have to share.  If you’re like me and you love the idea of a local-only news outlet written by local people and think you have something to offer then go to the bottom of the page and find out how you can join us!  Once again, welcome to Hawaii Metblogs!


Come Blog With Us

moar.gifWriting for Metblogs has the potential to be the most rewarding experience in your entire life. It’ll make you rich, famous, good looking, will help you lose weight, make your clothes fit better, and get you a super good deal on a new car. It will make you the most well known person on the entire planet. Yes, each and every one of you. Really.

OK maybe not. Actually those are all lies, but it’s fun at least. The truth is Metblogs is the largest network of locally focused blogs on the web, covering almost 60 cities around the world and we’re looking to add a few new bloggers/writters/authors to this fine site. If you wanna know more about us check out this wikipedia entry but it’s kinda boring so I won’t waste time repeating it all here again. If you wanna write for us, here’s the scoop:

  • All author positions are volunteer. That means you don’t get paid.
  • You must live in (or very near) the city you plan to write about.
  • Anything you post must relate to the city somehow. That means you shouldn’t post a movie review, but talking about going to see a movie at a local theater is fine.
  • There’s no requirement for how much you can or should write, but we ask that if we set you up as an author you make about 3 posts a week.
  • You can post about things you love, you can post about things you hate. It’s entirely up to you

Additionally, because of our global network, there’s plenty of options for things you write to be read by people all over the world. Interested? Want more details? Post a comment and we’ll be in touch!


The Best and Worst of 2007

Happy New Year. 2007 has come and gone and now is a good time for a very brief review….

GOOD STUFF THAT HAPPENED THIS YEAR

Hawaii Superferry 12-13-07

The Hawaii Superferry arrived in the islands and finally set sail on a close to regular schedule on December 13 after an aborted start in late August. I was so luck y as to be on that “return to commercial service” trip as a freelance photographer for a media outlet. The bumpy ride going over to Maui was memorable and the return nearly as smooth as silk.

The voyage was the culmination of my personal documentation of the Superferry as it plowed through a sea of controversy from the time it was built, arrived in the islands and subjected to court orders and a special legislative session, which in the end, cleared it for service. Today despite bad weather, the Superferry is making regular trips between Honolulu and Maui in what hopefully will be a success story for the new year.

Another highlight of 2007 was the spectacular air shows offered by the United States Air Force Thunderbirds and U.S. Navy Blue Angels. Thousands of island residents turned out to watch the government sponsored aviation aerobatics as talented fighter pilots from these elite squadrons entertained the public in their own unique way to get young people interested in a military career. I was lucky enough to snap off several hundred photos at the Thunderbirds show from Magic Island Beach Park in Honolulu.

The University of Hawaii Warrior football team was certainly made big news for islanders as they went through their football season relatively unscathed while compiling an impressive and record setting 12 – 0 win-loss regular season…. the first for the U.H., and the best and only unbeaten regular college football team in the country. The U.H. Warriors put their unblemished record to the final test today as they play for the BCS Sugar Bowl title in New Orleans against Georgia.

I Flew Go!

The local inter-island airfare war continued throughout 2007. Mesa Airlines’ Go! set the agenda for low inter-island fares that came tumbling down to $1 on one occasion. I was lucky enough to make trips to the Big Island at fare levels of $9 and $19 each way this year. The big 2 airlines, Hawaiian and Aloha hated the fare war enough to take Go to court. Hawaiian won their case and Aloha’s set for trial in April 2008. Feisty Go! is still around, selling discount fares for $39. The fare war is good for consumers and the local traveling public.

The design for the Hawaii Quarter was unveiled. In late 2008 the last in the 50 states series will be minted and feature a design of the 8 Hawaiian islands and King Kamehameha on the reverse side. While Hawaii’s quarter was to have been the last in the series, another half dozen or so new designs will also be forthcoming to commemorate the territories and the District of Columbia quite possibly in 2009 and continuing to 2010.

In late August Hawaii sky observers were treated to a clearly seen and highly visible total eclipse of the moon. I was lucky enough to capture a series of photos of this heavenly phenomenon without pesky clouds blocking my view.

Apple introduced the iPhone, iPod Touch and new iMacs. Mac OSX version 5 was also released. Apple stock ended the year at $198 per share as they became the 3rd most popular selling computer maker in America.

Amazon.com joined the digital music fray by offering DRM-free, downloadable tracks to compete with Apple’s iTunes, which this year also offered selected DRM-free tracks from mainly Capitol/EMI. Music downloads without DRM is a good thing. Let’s hope this trend continues into 2008 and beyond.

THE DOWNSIDE OF 2007

For those who are concerned about their pocketbook, 2007 certainly got off to a very bad start. On January 1 the State’s General Excise Tax climbed from 4% to 4.5% , hitting nearly every consumer in the wallet as the cost of final goods and services are rendered. What do the public get out of the .5% (more properly read 12.5%) tax increase?

2007 Small Business Hawaii Conference

Funding for a choo-choo train line to be built by the City and County of Honolulu to the tune of at least $6.4 billion dollars. This will be a rail line that will travel from West Oahu’s Kapolei community and finishing off somewhere in Honolulu near or at Ala Moana Shopping Center. The tax train to nowhere will become an even bigger headache in the years to come as more and more of our money are taken away to build a railroad that is supposed to alleviate traffic congestion but really won’t. The government knows that but they keep on moving with this choo-choo train fantasy.

Thanks Governor Linda Lingle for letting the tax increase bill get by without a veto in 2005. Thanks Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who has gone against his mantra of “do we need it” “can we afford it” and “can we maintain it”…. Our “mess-transit” nightmare will continue unless the Mayor and current council members up for reelection in 2008 are tossed out and replaced. It is my hope that groups such as Let Honolulu Vote and HonoluluTraffic.com prevail in the ongoing issue of mass transit, the rail tax and the Mufi train to hell.

Other bad news for 2007:

Hawaii was still rattled by earthquakes long after the big one in 2006 shook us statewide on an early Sunday morning.

Big storms and heavy seas delayed the launch of the Hawaii Superferry. Humans bent on seeing the service not happen made worst storm waves by using the legal system to shut down operations in August before the legislature and governor intervened with a new law to exempt the service while a required Environmental Impact Study (EIS) is done.

Airline prices may climb in 2008 as Mesa Airlines lost its case against Hawaiian Airlines to the tune of $90 million in federal court. Should Mesa’s Go! leave the Hawaii market, island travelers and consumers will be whacked with severely increased costs to travel to another island.

Lastly property taxes continue to rise as we all get assessed for higher values as scores of developers and speculators push the cost of owning a home beyond what our dwellings are actually worth. Go figure.

Let’s hope that 2008 can be a better year where cost can be reigned in and more free market principles take root. Remember it’s an election year and it is another chance for the public to throw out the old cronies of the “tax and spend” generation.

Have a Happy New Year!

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Comp USA Closing Soon

Comp USA Honolulu

The Comp USA chain of stores were sold off to Gordon Brothers Group LLC, a liquidator that specializes in business closures and sales. The entire chain will be closed with some of the stores sold off to other retailers. Speculation is that this Honolulu location will be one of the stores sold instead of totally shutting down.

Nevertheless, there will be “Going Out of Business” sales at all stores, though at my visit yesterday, prices were more or less the same as they always were. I expect deep discounts to start showing up as we get closer to the Christmas holiday and most definitely after that if the stores are still open. The consumer vultures have already started to circle the dying carcass of this once thriving retailer.

Will I miss Comp USA? Probably not. I prefer to go to BestBuy these days and being a Macintosh owner and user, I usually end up at the Apple Store or local retailer MacMouse Club which is located just up the street from Comp USA.

Photo: Comp USA Honolulu taken on Dec. 10, 2007. More photos at this link.

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Hawaii Superferry Resumes Service December 1

Hawaii Superferry

Hawaii Superferry will relaunch its commercial service on December 1. It was announced on Friday afternoon by Hawaii Superferry as discount tickets went on sale at their website for $29 per person, each way during a promotional period from Dec. 1 to Dec. 20. After that Superferry will be pricing their fares at $39 each way to March 12. The fare structure only covers passengers but does not include the fuel surcharge which is being waived during the promotional period.

Superferry service will only be available between the islands of Oahu and Maui. Hawaii Superferry is not sailing to Kauai until potential secuirty problems can be worked out with the community there.

I hope it is smooth sailing for Superferry as they resume their interisland service to Maui and Oahu. The fare structure for now is good, right in line with the interisland airlines. I can understand them continuing to charge at least $55 for a standard vehicle since cars, vans and SUVs are fairly large.

Superferry service resumes after a long legal battle which included a convening of a special legislative session and a new law signed by the Governor in order to get the vessel running while an environmental study is conducted. The Superferry issue has been a galvanizing topic in Hawaii for several months with most of the public overwhelmingly supporting the service.


Sony Expo Showcases Latest Tech

Sony OLED

The annual Sony Hawaii Expo was held this week at the Ala Moana Hotel Hibiscus Ballroom. Highlight of this year’s Sony Expo was the desktop Sony OLED flatscreen TV (shown above). The hallmark of this high tech wonder is its small size and crystal clear high definition picture. The screen itself is thinner than a compact disc jewel case.

Another hyped product at the Sony Hawaii Expo is the new Sony Rolly MP3 player. It is a new portable device that is shaped like a little barrel and moves to the beat of the music. The speakers on this device are positioned at both ends and open up with winglike flaps on each end. The device will not be marketed in the U.S. and is aimed only at consumers in Japan. If it were sold in the U.S. the price would be at around $400.

Face recognition “smile” technology for Sony Cybershot cameras were also a new this year. The new Cybershots can sense when a person smiles and fires only at that time. People were happily smiling for the demo at the Sony Cybershot booth. There were many other Cybershot digital still and video cameras that were also on display for consumers to play with.

I was most interested in the small super zoom, SLR-like cameras that I may want to get in an effort to find a capable SLR-like digital camera without all of the weight and bulk.

Last year’s hot product, the Sony Playstation 3 was almost like a has-been this year. Yes, there were displays of the venerable Playstation 3 for people to use, but the crowds around those stations were not very big. Sony is still marketing the Playstation 2 which is still the most popular game console of all time, despite Nintendo running away with the market lead on their new generation Wii product.

I am still interested in perhaps getting a Sony PSP, mainly for the fact that it can surf the web with its wireless internet feature. Another wifi device that was touted last year, the Sony Mylo, was nowhere to be seen this year. Sony still sells the device.

HDTV are the big products Sony is pushing this year as the Expo was dominated by flatscreen high definition sets all over the place. Going hand in hand with that were several Sony Blu-Ray HDTV DVD players. the pictures on the sets and from the players are incredibly clear.

Don’t know if I am ready to sink money in either of these technologies, especially Blu-Ray since it is locked in a format war with the rival HD-DVD. Beta vs. VHS all over again. I’ll wait for the dust to settle on this one.

Overall the Sony Expo was a great little venue to check the latest technology from one of the most popular electronic companies on the face of the earth.

Sony Rolly
The Sony Rolly MP3 player. Sold only in Japan.

Honolulu Sony Expo
People clamor around the latest Sony digital cameras.

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Another Hawaiian Sunset

Today's Ala Moana Sunset

Another beautiful Hawaii sunset taken last week at Ala Moana Beach Park. With the advent of the fall season and high clouds rolling in, sunset photographers have been getting some spectacularly wonderful pictures. Check this link out for more Hawaii sunsets by various photographers.


Free Wireless In Honolulu

It seems the City & County of Honolulu is leading the way in offering free wireless internet through Honolulu. It is announced today that all Satellite City Halls will get free WiFi access points installed by next month. The service is being offered by vendor Skywave. The service for the Satellite City Halls will cost the taxpayers $8,400 a year.

There are several places in Honolulu that feature free wireless hotspots. Several are run by the City including many areas in Honolulu’s Chinatown district, selected city parks, sections of Waikiki (it is funny to see people at the beach with their computers), the Blaisdell Center and on the city’s metro commuter ferry, The Boat.

Other free hotspots that I know of include many of the common areas and legislator offices of the Hawaii State Capitol, the Hawaii Medical Library, Comp USA, the Apple Store, MacMouse Club, and the Kahala Mall center court.

Subscribers of Oceanic Cable’s Roadrunner Service and Hawaiian Telcom’s DSL service also get free wireless at several other places in Honolulu.

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Today’s Ala Moana Sunset

Today's Ala Moana Sunset

We had a beautiful sunset on this one of the more cloudy days of the week as we transition away from summer and into fall. I shot about 200 photos at Ala Moana Beach Park this afternoon and this is one of them. It’s wonderful to live in Hawaii where the access to the sky and sea is readily available.

Today's Ala Moana Sunset


Aloha Festivals Parade

Aloha Parade

Aloha Parade

Aloha Parade

Hawaii celebrates Aloha Festivals this month with a flurry of activities happening throughout the state. One of the major highlights is the annual Aloha Festivals floral parade held in Honolulu this past weekend. Colorful floats, marching units and bands paraded through Honolulu and Waikiki in celebration of the event…. “A good time was had by all!”


Thunderbirds in Hawaii

Thunderbirds 1430

Thunderbirds 1430

The United States Air Force Thunderbirds are in Hawaii in observance of the Air Force’s 60th anniversary. The Thunderbirds gave Honolulu residents a real treat today during their two “practice” shows held at 9:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. off the shores of Waikiki. While all the action was in the Waikiki area, everyone in Honolulu were aware of the Thunderbirds’ presence as their F16s streaked across the Hawaiian skies. It was a great show that attracted thousands of residents to the beaches and the tops of buildings to get the best view. Supposedly an even bigger show is scheduled for Saturday, September 15 at 2:30 p.m.

Thunderbirds 1430

Thunderbirds Crowd

Some of the crowd at Magic Island who turned out for the fantastic Thunderbirds show.

More photos at this link.


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