Whether you were born and raised in the Rainbow State or are a visitor who loves Hawaiʻi’s unique local culture and pidgin—local Hawaiʻi slang that takes its vocabulary from an amalgamation of cultures and languages that found their home in the Islands during the plantation era—you need to check out Ulus 2 Ulus.
Ulus 2 Ulus is the brainchild of Jolie Takazono and her eight friends from college, who tried to get into the hit card game Apples to Apples—where one player lays down an adjective or question card that is then completed by the other players’ noun cards, with the funniest or best winning the round. Takazono and her friends found the cards included in Apples to Apples boring and a tad outdated, and decided they’d take it upon themselves to make their own deck, one with cards that would appeal more to their sense of humor and local culture.
“We were bored, so we got our own index cards and kind of handcrafted our own deck,” says Takazono. “Everything was hand-drawn and hand-written. It was just our little deck for us, an inside joke that we made this game. We’d have little writing sessions in Starbucks and just be laughing about the cards.”
Unlike Apples to Apples, which might reference the Battle of the Alamo or televangelists, Ulus 2 Ulus cracks wise about things that’ll really hit home for Hawaiʻi locals. Cards like “Zippy’s,” “Jeans Warehouse,” “Hammajang” and “Linda Lingle” are all great comedic ammunition for kamaʻāina (locals). And as long as you have a local or two in your group, even non-residents and visitors can get in on the fun—and learn a lot of pidgin along the way. And don’t worry, the game isn’t mature or raunchy, and can be played comfortably with the entire ʻohana (family).
After a while, the game caught on amongst Takezono’s social circle, which created an unexpected problem. “People were asking to borrow the deck for a weekend or barbecue, but I’d have to tell them that someone already has it so they have to ask them!” says Takezono, “and there was only one deck, which sucked because if somebody wanted to use it, it was already being used …” To remedy this issue, Takezono began looking into printing more decks for her friends to use, but after crunching numbers and calculating costs, realized she’d be losing a fair bit of money unless she produced a mass number of decks and sold them.
After running a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2019, which amassed just over $26,000, the card game was brought into full production and is sold online and in small retail businesses across the state, such as MORI by Art+Flea, Nā Mea Hawaiʻi and Homegrown. “I want to partner with locally run shops because I am a small local business and want to support other small local businesses. I’d like to keep the money here on Island.”
Since its retail launch in 2019, Ulus 2 Ulus has since released an expansion pack of over 100 cards, as well as a special COVID-19 mini pack with cards written specifically about the pandemic—yes, “drive-by baby showers” is a card. Takezono is currently working on island-specific expansion packs, because every major Hawaiian Island has its own unique flavor of local culture. “With Ulus 2 Ulus, we want to release stuff that highlights and celebrates local culture,” says Takezono, “and expansions and cards that highlight the people who make Hawaiʻi what it is.”
For more information or to get a pack for yourself, head over to Ulus 2 Ulus’s website.