Oahu's Mokoli'i Island, a.k.a. 'Chinaman's Hat'
Oahu’s Mokoli’i Island, a.k.a. ‘Chinaman’s Hat’

San Francisco, California (The Adobo Chronicles) –  The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), a national membership organization composed of Asian Americans working in mainstream media, has sent a strongly-worded letter to the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) demanding that the name ‘Chinaman’ be erased from all literature and references to Chinaman’s Hat, a famed attraction on the island of Oahu.

Located in Kāne’ohe Bay, Chinaman’s Hat, also known as Mokoli’i Island, is a scenic wonder resembling that of a cone-shaped straw hat often seen worn in several countries in Southeast Asia.

But the term ‘Chinaman’ is considered derogatory, according to AAJA and other Asian American groups. MediaWatch, AAJA’s watchdog arm, has been calling out news organizations  that have printed or broadcast terms, phrases or statements that are considered racist, discriminatory or offensive to the Asian American community in the U.S.

In its stylebook distributed to newsrooms, AAJA has this to say about the term:




The Adobo Chronicles learned that HTC has yet to receive the letter which was supposedly sent by registered mail from AAJA’s headquarters in San Francisco. Nevertheless, HTC questioned why it has taken this long for AAJA to demand this change, when Chinaman’s Hat has been the name of this tourist attraction for many decades, perhaps even predating the journalist organization.

“Besides,” HTC said, “it will cost the state tourism body millions of dollars to make the change, having to update all tourism videos, brochures, and web sites, not to mention the cost of re-educating both Hawaii residents and tourists about a new name.”

What could that new name be?  Perhaps, the island could be renamed after Hawaii’s state fish,  humuhumunukunukuapua’a ? That would seem appropriate.





  1. I know this was posted almost three years ago, but I just saw your article and decided to respond. I think it’s silly that the AAJA was/is all upset over this most innocuous haole name for Mokoliʻi Island. The name is just referring to the fact that the island is shaped like type of hat that Chinese and other Asian men and women wore during the Plantation Era here in Hawaiʻi when the name was coined; in fact, it is still a common type of outdoors hat in Hawaiʻi and you can buy them right down at the local hardware store. They are great for working in the outdoors. Lots of people wear that kind of hat still yet. The name of the hat honors Asians who came up with the design! Far from “derogatory”! The AAJA has this one backwards.

    The island could be called “Englishman’s Hat” or “Pirate’s Hat” or “Ukranianman’s Hat” if it looked like some sort of hat common to those people or places. And would English folk or those from Ukraine cry out that it is “racist”? Would pirate’s say it’s “derogatory”? I think not. I agree that there may indeed be times when names may be used in a racist manner, but of course it is the context in which the name is used which supplies the feeling. In this case, it is simply a name based on the shape of the island. Nothing more.

    At the end of your article, you ask the rhetorical question, “What could that new name be? Perhaps, the island could be renamed after Hawaii’s state fish, humuhumunukunukuapua’a? That would seem appropriate.” No. The name was Mokoliʻi, and it’s still Mokoliʻi, and there’s no need for another name if you are not wont to call it Chinaman’s Hat, which still totally fine, despite what the AAJA is all upset about. /kaliko trapp in hilo


    1. Jeez white people…”Chinaman” is considered offensive especially in the U.S. due to the virulent anti-Asian racism of the period in which the term came into popular usage (mid-1800s) and tends to generate objections in contemporary usage. It can be comparable to referring to a Black person as “a Negro”. The island can be called “Nigga’s Hat” or “Chinaman’s hat” but we have a choice not to call it that. If you are not Chinese, we don’t give a damn about your opinion on this…


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.