Archive for March 16th, 2012


An experiment. Indulge me, a work in progress.

I was waiting in the snack  store while our visitors roamed around and picked up local style snacks.

The little girl held up a package of arare and asked me what it was. She didn’t understand my explanation of salty rice crackers and the different shapes much less the peanut crackers or dried shrimp and cuttlefish (she and her mother don’t live here).

I bought a package of arare for her to taste. She didn’t like the taste at first (she wasn’t used to to it). It was okay, but she preferred the little fish crackers her mom packed in a little container for her.

While waiting for her mom to shop, I told her a story.

It was a Saturday. This meant I was at my aunt’s house with my cousins for the day. I was the youngest of the cousins (on the island). Afternoons were usually at the movies with either no dinner (we were so full from snacking), or something really light (like PB&J or grilled cheese sandwiches).

I dreaded Saturday mornings.

“Mouse!? Where you stay?”

“You bettah hurry up, my muddah looking for you.”


“You can do me one favor?” “Mrs. Nakamura like go store, you can help her?”

This was not a request or a question, it was a statement.

“How come it’s always me?”

“Not true, everyone has their turn.”

Not true, it was always my turn (remember, I was the youngest). Mrs. Nakamura lived on the same lane my auntie lived. She lived alone. Her husband was in the 442nd Regiment during World War II, he went “all in”. There was a banner with a gold star hanging in her living room.

On Saturdays, the Japanese wholesaler would open their warehouse to the public. Mrs. Nakamura did her shopping on Saturdays. I was “voluntold” to help carry her purchases.

We caught the bus to the warehouse (the Kapalama area) and mixed in with all the other Asian (mostly Japanese shoppers). There were open bins and bags of dried fish, rice, flour, beans, etc. Cans of imported foods, most I had no clue of their contents. And fresh vegetables from the walk-in refrigerators. The wholesaler carried vegetables that were not at the non-Asian markets (turnips, watercress, taro leaves, etc.). The grocers used to let me “sample” the dried shrimp used in Japanese stock (like miso soup).

After like forever (which in reality was about half-an-hour). Mrs. Nakamura would emerge with one of the grocers with two full shopping bags of “stuff”. The grocer would ask if she needed help then hand the bags to me. In my mind, the bags must have been as heavy as me. Walking to catch the bus back, Mrs. Nakamura would carry on a running lecture at me “Eh! no drop the bags”, “Be careful!, no break the eggs”, “I know like bent vegetables,” and the like. If I got a penny every time I got lightly cuffed on the back of the head, I could be rich.

After dropping off the bags at her house, and still complaining, she would hand me a small package of arare and enough money for the movies and a soda.


We would mix the arare with popcorn from the theater (local style), sit back and enjoy the latest samurai or kung-fu flick.

After shopping, and dinner, the little girl picked the movie we would be watching for the evening. The popcorn, soda, and wine (for the adults) were made within easy reach. Her mom opened a package of arare she bought earlier that day and threw it in with the popcorn. As she started to explain what “hurricane popcorn” is, the little girl said she knew, “uncle” already told her. The little girl got the package of fish-shaped crackers and mixed it with the popcorn, arare, and furikake concoction.

In retrospect, I don’t think Mrs. Nakamura had a mean personality, I think she just didn’t know how to  handle  kids. She never remarried and never had kids of her own. She passed away a long time ago. I think next Obon season I’ll go and leave a package of arare at her niche.

There is no real “Mrs. Nakamura”. She’s a compilation of relatives, neighbors, and friends I’ve known. This was the story I drafted at a writing class I attended several months ago. Finally took a revisit. 🙂

We will now return to our regular programming.

Enjoy (I hope) and eat well.

The Mouse

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