Kawaii Kon 2017

When thousands of people with elaborate, colorful costumes, funky hair and intense makeup pour into the Hawaii Convention Center, it can only mean one thing: Kawaii Kon is here. Kawaii Kon is an annual 3-day celebration of Japanese culture, anime, and pop culture held in at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu. This year’s Kawaii Kon’s 13th anniversary took place on April 7-9 and had over 10,000 attendees.
The rise of anime in the United States is seen through the popularity of mainstream children’s TV cartoons such as “Sailor Moon,” “Dragon Ball Z” and “Pokémon.” There are anime-influenced movies, too, most notably the recent Disney animated feature Big Hero 6.
For many attendees, Anime Expo is a time to show off costumes celebrating their favorite characters and each costume takes several months to complete. The cosplay environment at Kawaii Kon might be fun and lighthearted, but there’s a competitive aspect with the annual cosplay contest.
Cosplay is just one of the many activities that attendees can engage in. Kawaii Kon offers shopping for collectibles, independent art vendors, speaking panels and autograph sessions from anime voice actors, videogames testing, tabletop games, theaters for new movie releases and music concerts.
One of this year’s biggest attractions was the Sword Art Online movie screening, which recently debuted in select theaters across North America. What made it even more special was that the Sword Art Online movie screening was hosted by the North American debut of Kannae Ito, Japanese voice of Yui from “Sword Art Online”. Also in attendance were Zach Callison and Deedee Magno Hall, both voice actors in the “Steven Universe” cartoon.
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Take time to visit Maui lavender farm

Halfway down Haleakala’s side on the island of Maui, nestled along the ridge of the mountain around 4,000 ft. above sea level, is Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm. Ahead in the distance, as you enter the farm, is a view of the turquoise and white-capped waves crashing on the sandy shores. A large, dark stone statue of a meditating Buddha sits on the olive tree-lined hill to the left. A fine mist gently breezes across the side of the mountain and meets the sun’s rays, and a rainbow forms out over the deep, darkest blue part of the water. Near the entrance to the quaint gift shop is a tiny walking path through several types of blooming lavender. Scurrying about and hiding in the lavender flora are field mice, bees, and three-horned lizards.

The farm offers private or large group guided tours of its flowered grounds, both walking as well as cart tours for anyone hoping to learn about the different types of lavender, including its properties, benefits, and uses. Anyone is welcome to walk the path and tour the grounds on their own as well, which takes about an hour. On any of the tours one will also learn about the farm’s history and efforts to be sustainable. The path snakes through the unique flowering plants in the garden and ends back at the gift shop. “We did a treasure hunt at the farm. We had to find different places on the farm, like the gazebo, the big stone Buddha statue, and private lavender garden. When we brought back our stamps from each spot, we won lavender shortbread cookies,” Darrel Agno said.

Dozens of varieties of succulents line the beginning of the pathway, along with curvy, sculptured trees. One large tree to the right welcomes visitors with giant, yellow and orange hanging blooms that look like golden paper bells blowing in the breeze. “I really liked the big yellow flowers hanging in one of the trees; someone said it was very poisonous,” said Edlynne Harrel-Sanchez. There are flowers that look like sponges with spikes, ones that look like giant red, pink and purple artichokes. The colors and textures one can find in this garden are endless, and some plant species are only found on this small patch of land, on the side of a mountain, on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

While on the path one can hear the light patter of footsteps, bees buzzing, and the whisper of cool rain lightly tapping the brightly colored leaves and petals all around. The atmosphere is relaxing and invigorating at the same time. After the tour, one can venture past a few gently flowing fountains and carefully groomed plants and back into the gift shop.

Inside the gift shop there are samples of lavender honey and jams, lavender brownies, shortbread cookies, and other sweet treats. “I sampled the lavender-strawberry jelly. It was really yummy. I bought some to take home to my relatives, but I liked it so much I ate it all,” admitted Harrel-Sanchez. There are essential oils, soaps, satchels, balms, and salves. There is an outdoor seating and eating area where everyone can enjoy warm treats like lavender coffee and tea, or snacks like lavender lemonade and scones. “The lady at the gift store was really nice, and gave us extra cookies for our group,” said Agno. The ride back down the mountain from the sunrise viewing area at Haleakala is filled with stunning vistas, but it won’t be complete without a trip to Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm.