For a younger generation, they will know this spot in Kaimuki as Kaimuki Saimin & Delicatessen. For me and my family, we knew it as Tanoue’s. I loved this place for its great saimin, and since my mom is a “Kaimuki girl”, this was her spot during her youth, and through adulthood. We would always pay a visit whenever we got back home. They sold other types of Japanese food, but I wasn’t into it at the time. I always had saimin with a beef stick on the side. According to this article, Tanoue’s started out as a lunch wagon in the late 50’s/early 60’s. As you can see, lunch wagons/food trucks/food carts were always near, and I’ll have to ask my mom if she remembers the wagon at all. But as a kid, going to Tanoue’s was something we would do every few months. Sometimes, my grandfather would invite us because living in Kaimuki for years, he would always return to his favorite spots, and Tanoue’s was one of them.
What I also loved about Taonue’s was the jukebox. No rock’n’roll, it was dominated by Japanese music. While I knew the themes to Kikaida, Kikaida 01 and Kamen Rider, this time of passionate Japanese music was very foreign to me. I used to laugh at it, because it was strange to me. I clearly remember one day when I asked my mom for a quarter, and I played a random song. When I got back to the table, my grandfather, mom, and dad each sang a line from the song. I could understand my grandfather, since outside of his job, he also played music as a guitarist/singer to make ends meet, and singing Japanese songs was part of his repertoire. If someone requested something, he would do it on the spot. But my mom and dad? Some of those songs: when I would see the conviction, I thought “this isn’t just a song.”
One could find parking at Tanoue’s by parking in the garage, but the garage barely could fit more than 10 cars at any given time. Fortunately, we were always lucky. The building was also the home of a barber shop and a taxi service, all Japanese owned. I never walked into the barber shop, but there would always be a papasan or ojiisan in there, talking story, reading a paper, getting their hair cut. In fact, if you look at the photo below, you can see the striped barber shop pole on the right.
What’s upstairs? I was always told to never go up there, and why? It may have been the headquarters for the taxi, it may have been a business office, but I never knew because I was always told “no go up dea. None of your business.” I’m sure at one point I was told the boogie man lived up there, but if it was none of my business, I never bothered to go up.
The taxi service almost seemed like the drivers (or driver, I never really saw more than one car there) catered to a Japanese clientele, because I honestly never saw anyone else in there. It was always the oldest cars too, or “old cars for old people”, big American luxury cars that was kinda pimped to be honest. I honestly don’t know if someone called, and the request was “take me to the doctor” or “I got to go get my prescription”, I don’t know. There were worlds that I sometimes felt left out of, and being a kid, I never wanted to interfere. I’m much more maha’oe, inquisitive, and curious these days. When I get back, I would love to be able to “talk story” with someone to find out.
These are my mom’s roots, and very much a part of my grandfather’s roots too. Each section of Honolulu is very much like people in New York City honoring their love of different sections of boroughs. They may have been mere eating spots for me and my family, but they are all parts of a puzzle that I would one day like to investigate even further. I know Kaimuki has changed a bit too, where there are some sections on Waialae Avenue that are becoming hip, while others hold true to its old school charm. For a lot of people, Waialae Avenue was very much that section’s downtown, so there was no need to get “into town”.