Saturday, July 22, 2017

Oasis Club, Honolulu, Hawaii

Today I have some interesting photos from Hawaii, undated but probably from the mid-1950's. The pictures were taken inside the Oasis restaurant and nightclub, which was on Waialea Road in Honolulu. As you know, post-war Hawaii was occupied by lots of servicemen, and it was also a hot tourist destination for folks from the Mainland. Hawaii had (and still has) a large population of people of Japanese descent, which is why visitors could see traditional Kabuki theater.

According to Mr. Wikipedia, "Kabuki is a classical Japanese dance-drama. Kabuki theatre is known for the stylization of its drama and for the elaborate make-up worn by some of its performers. Kabuki is sometimes translated as 'the art of singing and dancing'", though it is largely dramatic rather than comic.  If you need more information about Kabuki, go to your local liberry!

While Kabuki originated with all-female performers, it changed to all-male performers in the 1600's, and that tradition has held since then. The person in the next photo is a comic musician, which might mean that he is more of a Kyōgen performer, whose goal is to make the audience laugh. Or maybe he is just a weisenheimer. 

Wikipedia sez: "The three main categories of kabuki play are jidai-mono (historical, or pre-Sengoku period stories), sewa-mono (domestic, or post-Sengoku stories) and shosagoto (dance pieces)". 

This one appears to be historic or domestic. The elaborate costumes are pretty amazing. 

I was curious about the makeup, and learned that: "Keshō, kabuki makeup, provides an element of style easily recognizable even by those unfamiliar with the art form. Rice powder is used to create the white oshiroi base for the characteristic stage makeup, and kumadori enhances or exaggerates facial lines to produce dramatic animal or supernatural masks. The color of the kumadori is an expression of the character's nature: red lines are used to indicate passion, heroism, righteousness, and other positive traits; blue or black, villainy, jealousy, and other negative traits; green, the supernatural; and purple, nobility".

This appears to be an example of shosagoto, a dance piece. I can't help wondering what western audience members thought of this very foreign form of theater. Men dressed as women?!

I found a jpeg of a postcard (probably from the 1960's); it looks like the show has evolved away from traditional Kabuki to something with a more "Las Vegas" style, with plenty of women.

From what I have gleaned online, the Oasis closed, though I could not find a specific date. A person on one message board mentioned working there in 1975. Apparently the location is now a self-storage facility.


Nanook said...


What an interesting set of images. And I notice with the passage of time, the "stage sets" had hardly 'upped their game' - looking almost as tacky as they were in their 1950's iteration. In spite of the rather colorful costuming and makeup, I couldn't get my eyes off of the suspended tubular object hanging above the apron of the stage. Perhaps it's a motorized projection screen; but I would think it's more-likely a fluorescent blacklight fixture. And are those 1950's images from the Xmas season, as it appears icicles and ornaments are on-display-?

Also - thanks for providing those helpful 'makeup tips'-! I can't wait to try some of them out the next time I'm called to testify in a capital crime case.

Thanks, Major.

walterworld said...

Wow. When the Oasis closed I'm sure there was another place to take up the slack..?

The main thing I'd like to see in Japan would be the Torii Gate in Miyajima. Those old National Geographic magazines showed that a lot whenever Japan was featured.

Thanks Major

TokyoMagic! said...

I wonder how many women there actually are in that last pic? The performer on the far right (in green) reminds me of a young Violet Chachki. And I hope that sign was saved after the club closed down. I love the depiction of both the Torii gate and Mt. Fuji in neon!

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I have the feeling that those minimal sets were probably fairly typical of that type of show. I thought that the tubular object above the stage was a movie screen, but a blacklight is a good guess too. At first I thought that the icicles indicated a dramatic wintery scene, but there definitely seems to be Christmas ornaments as well.

walterworld, while looking up “Oasis Club”, I kept finding discos and similar places. I have no idea if one can see Kabuki theater in Hawaii anymore. Man, look at all that blank space after your comment!

TokyoMagic!, I think that most of the women are women! Except for those four in the front row, center, of course. But one never knows. I would rather see neon versions of world landmarks than the real things!

K. Martinez said...

This is an awesome post. My grandparents were born and raised in Hawaii and I still have family there, so I've always felt that connection to Hawaii and it's cultural happenings and entertainment. I also remember seeing shows like this while there in the early 1970's. There was no shortage of it.

That's some great information you shared on the kabuki makeup and color of the kumadori and meanings of each color. It's funny, but I don't know a Waialae Road, but I am familiar with Waialae Avenue. Perhaps it's the same street. Thanks, Major.

Anonymous said...

Wow, thanks Major. I only knew one thing about Kabuki before this post, and that was the sets were changed by men in black costumes who were traditionally regarded as invisible. The sets are sometimes changed even during the action of the play, since the black suited workers are "invisible" to everyone by mutual agreement.

You have quadrupled my knowledge at least.

Also, a similarity to traditional Greek theater, where all the women's roles were filled by men, but the conventional makeup was handled by masks. This tradition extended in Europe down to at least Shakespeare's time, without the masks. Interesting to hear that Kabuki did the same thing.


Lori Anne said...

Hi! My daughter has been doing my family's genealogy and I was wondering if anyone knows of the past owners? My step grandmother, Helen Motoyama was either a owner/part-owner/entertainer or just frequented there. It was probably in the 70's-80's? Not quite sure. Any info would be greatly appreciated!
Pls email me @
My google acct is not active

Never Compromise said...

That’s Interesting because my dad fell head over heels for an entertainer named Helena back in the early 1960s? Could it be the same person? Wonder what my old man would say if we found her...

Never Compromise said...

Miyajima is one of my favorite places in the world. You should go see it. Japan is wonderful. Kyoto is also so beautiful. I hope u go! You’ll love it.

Anonymous said...

The sign for this restaurant appears in the Season 1 Episode 12 of The Bob Newhart Show (1972) (about 8 min 35 sec in). I saw the neon and thought "I've got to find out if there are more images of this place and came across your blog post. The show is based in Chicago and it is alluded to that this is a local Chicago restaurant so you can imagine how many search variations were wasted on that! HA. Anyway, thought you might like to know that it's exterior shot lives forever in Bob Newhart show reruns.