Holehole bushi

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  • Japanese: ホレホレ節 (horehore bushi)

Holehole bushi were work songs sung by Japanese workers on Hawaiian sugar plantations. They take their name from the Hawaiian word for sugarcane leaves, holehole, a word which could also refer to the arduous process of removing the leaves from the stalks. These were not traditional folk songs people brought with them from Japan, but rather ones they invented in Hawaii, with lyrics speaking specifically of the grueling work and life on the plantations.

Some examples of these songs include:

  • "My husband cuts the cane stalks / And I trim their leaves / With sweat and tears we both work / for our means."[1]
  • Hawaii koku de wa yo / Jikan ga tayori / Uchi e kaereba / Omae ga tayori
  • In this country, Hawaii / Our lives are counted out by the clock / But when I come home / It's you alone I can count on.
  • Dekasegi wa kurukuru / Hawaii wa tsumaru / Ai no Nakayama / Kane ga furu
  • The workers keep on coming / Hawaii overflows / But it's only middleman Nakayama / Who rakes in the dough.[2]


  • Franklin Odo and Kazuko Sinoto, A Pictorial History of the Japanese in Hawaii 1885-1924, Bishop Museum (1985), 54-55.
  1. Matt Matsuda, Pacific Worlds, Cambridge University Press (2012), 247.
  2. Slightly modified from lyrics and translation from Odo and Sinoto, 54-55.