Tells a story


DiDio's Authentic Italian Ices - Santa Monica

Posted on July 26, 2011 at 10:45 AM Comments comments (0)

My nephew Hayato's arrived from Tokyo today.  He was originally scheduled to go camping by the sea in Chiba but my sister was concerned about the contamination of the Pacific ocean from the March earthquake and tsunami in Northern Japan. So in lieu of sea camp, we invited Hayato to come to Los Angeles. This is his first visit to the US.

On our way home from the airport, I had to do a quick errand in my old neighborhood of Santa Monica. I took Hayato to . Ice cream shops have a universal appeal.  Even though Hayato was jet lagged, he didn't refuse my offer. DiDio's is where my son, Sakae, used to go when he was a boy. It's has a nostalgic ambience. You will find more than 40 varieties of Italian ices and gelatos to choose from. They also sell an array of old fashioned candies, including dots-on-paper (candy buttons), wax bottles, gum cigars, licorice whips, ring suckers, Charleston chews.  So American!  Of course, Didio's  was an instant hit with Hayato.  Some of the ices were strange to a Japanese boy. He'd never heard of blood orange, bubble gum or root beer.  He went for green apple and cherry. His lips turned bright red. It was a good way to start a holiday in America.

Our House - Santa Monica

Posted on April 16, 2011 at 4:04 PM Comments comments (2)

Ana looks in.
I am having moving pains but the time has come.  The escrow agent says it's a common symptom when people sell their homes. On top of that, my mother was hospitalized for pnemonia.  My sister called from Tokyo to explain mother's condition.  We may have to put her on life support because she was having trouble breathing.  But my father did not want to hook mother up on machines again.  Not this time. Mother was too fragile, and has been in a nearly vegetative state for more than 2 years.  "It's time to let nature run its course," my father insisted.  We all agreed.
"You don't need to come back to Japan,"  Father said to me on the phone. He said the same thing when Japan was hit by the earthquake and tsunami less than a month ago.  I am five thousand miles away from Japan. It was difficult to drop everything and be in Tokyo - not in the midst of what's going on at home.   "The best thing you can do is to keep on doing what you are suppose to be doing," Father said, and assured me that my brothers and sister would help him. The next 24 to 48 hours were critical.  I might miss saying goodbye to Mother but I would fly in later for the funeral.  It was a sad decision but I was relieved that my father felt strong enough to come to terms with mother's life. Though, I prayed that mother would somehow bounce back on her own.

The patio

I know mother would be happier if she saw that I didn't interrupt my schedule.  I had to do the final cleaning of the old nest.  There is an old Japanese says,  A bird never leaves a messy nest. behind.  

Clean house, move, and make soba. I am doing a charity soba event in two days. Part of the proceeds go to the sake brewers who suffered damage from the earthquake and tsunami. There are over 200 sake breweries that suffered.  I kept our kitchen active till the very end, though I did most of the prep at Breadbar the day before the event. 

During the final two nights in Santa Monica, we pulled the mattress off the sofa bed and slept on the floor.  I accidently packed the blankets and pillows and moved them to the new house in Pasadena so we had a couple of nights where we were sleeping with nothing but a sheet, and pillows made from rolled up jeans.   

We managed to get everything out in time.  We didn't even need to leave anything in the garage.  It was a miracle we found a nice pet friendly house in Pasadena to move to in such a short amount of time.  We were ready to live in a motel for awhile  if worse came to worse.

An empty house takes on a different feeling.  The rooms echo, and it is not the same as it was when we had all our artwork and furniture.  Even KInchan and Anachan noticed; they followed me around everywhere  to make sure they didn't get left behind.

We were supposed to have a final happy hour from 5-7 on the 11th with our neighbors but we cancelled because the new buyer wanted to move in at 6pm, and the agent said they were going to show up no matter what. We thought we had until midnight, but apparently not. I was upset that she was rushing us out.  She was as anxious as we were to be in her new home.  

As I did the final walk through the house, i got a little emotional.   I thought about our son Sakae when he was younger. All the sleepovers he did with his friends; once I had about a dozen kids over for a slumber party.  I thought about Sakae practicing his oboe in the back room.  Our dog, Stinky.  His ashes are buried under the persimmon tree. I walked through one room to another, recollecting memories.  It was then that I found a little metal pin in the shape of a heart in the closet. I knew it was my mother telling me, "Don't forget your heart." I thanked her for the reminder.

I wrote a note to the buyer and wished her well. To love and enjoy living in this house, as much as we did.

So here is a goodbye to the skies of Santa Monica


to the apricot tree that gave us so much fruit.


Sakai stood in his studio and looked once more at the work of art he created. It was as if he was saluting it goodbye.   If I were to give this art work a title, it would be, "OUR HOUSE".


Kinchan said goodbye to the vegetable garden.

I said goodbye to the happy sun, which made me smile each time I looked at it.  It was a souvenir  I brought back from Sicily.

Thank you House for sixteen great years.  We leave as Shirley Temple and Morrie did before us.  With love and hope.

Cat and Corrugated Paper - Santa Monica

Posted on April 3, 2011 at 1:45 PM Comments comments (1)

There is one member in our family that is rather oblivious to the madness of moving.  It's Kinchan. She has been hanging out on the kitchen floor a lot because the corrugated paper that is covering the newly polished hardwood floors feels good on her tummy. She gets her nails done, too. She can do all the scratching she wants until the end of next week.  In times like this, I rather be the pet cat than the owner.

Squid Tile - Santa Monica

Posted on March 30, 2011 at 8:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Sometimes you take things for granted because it's there.  Until of course it is time to part with it.  It's then that you wish you could carve it out and take it with you to the next place.  This squid tile belongs to this category. 

The squid in the middle  is a chopstick holder that Sakai brought back from Japan.  I thought it was a humorous ugly piece, and a little too big as a chopstick holder.  It sat in our kitchen drawer for sometime until Sakai used it when he retiled the bathroom.  This tile is made of many things Sakai, Sakae and I collected. There is an antique porcelain chip and green glass that I found at the beach in Kamakura.  There are stones from our garden.   Sorry I can't take this tile with us but then Bina said a good thing the other day. Whenever she can't have something, she photographs it and remembers it.  There are many things in this house that I will always remember.

Today, I packed most of the kitchen. I am leaving the kitchen barebone... just a pot and a pan to cook in.  Some plates and bowls. The essential condiments.  Everything else is in boxes.  Count down is starting.  We have to move out by April 11.  Still no house to move to. We are looking.   It's tight but we will make it.

Cat Nap - Santa Monica

Posted on March 30, 2011 at 8:29 PM Comments comments (0)

Kinchan found the perfect spot to take a nap - under the drying sheet.  The patio is my favorite place to dry laundry. It gets a lot of sun. My clothes and sheets smell sweet like spring.  I wonder how Kinchan will adjust to the next place.

Kinchan is on the wild side. Loves to hunt, bring back live souvenirs and drops them in the blue tub. Hummingbirds were her favorite.  The old neighbors - Sandy and Maxine would get so mad at Kinchan whenever she went into their yard to snatch away a bird that was feeding from the bird feeder.  Sandy would often call animal control.  We were fined three times and were told to keep Kinchan on a leash or indoors.  I tried bells around her neck- at one time Kinchan wore about 4 or 5 around her neck.  She jingled like a Christmas sleigh. One year, no matter how many collars (with a bell) I put on Kinchan, she kept loosing them. I thought it was Sandy pulling them off from Kinchan's neck so animal control would take her away. There was some bad feelings between us over our cat. We couldn't resolve it.  Time eventually took care of the problem though. Kinchan got older and slowed down. She is 9 years old and not as wild as she used to be. She still hunts on occasion and surprises me but would rather nap run after a bird.  

Sandy passed away about 4 years ago.  Then yesterday, I heard that Maxine passed away.  I didn't know this until my neighbor Ellen told me. I liked Maxine.  I am sorry our cat made trouble. I hope Maxine and Sandy are both in a peaceful place.  

A Birthday Wish-Santa Monica Pier

Posted on March 29, 2011 at 12:39 AM Comments comments (0)

Bina and Sakae went out to the Santa Monica Pier and took this picture.  They made it into a birthday card and e mailed it to me this morning.  I like the idea of shining like the Santa Monica Pier, however cheesy it may sound. The pier at night is one of my favorite images of Santa Monica.  I rode on this Ferris Wheel with Sakae when he was a little. I remember the view of the city from the top.  I want to ride on it again soon. Maybe before we leave this city.

Sakae and Bina also took me out to a nice birthday breakfast at the Farm Shop up the street. I got to pick the place. After breakfast,  I drove them to LAX and we said goodbye.   Sakai and i will go up to see them in Portland for graduation.  

We are still looking for a rental.  We are still moving rocks, stones, and more. I help unload about fifty stones today. The thought of having to move them again from the rented parking lot in Frogtown is mind boggling but I am not going to think about it right now.    

I got 50 lbs of soba four from Anson Mills today!  It made me happy.   I made soba and yakitori for my birthday. 

Earthquake in Japan - Talking to my sister in Tokyo

Posted on March 16, 2011 at 6:14 PM Comments comments (1)

Japanese Wisteria in my garden

One of the busiest intersections in Shibuya is half empty.  "People are staying indoors," my sister Fuyuko said when I talked to her on Skyped this morning. It's spooky to imagine a dead Shibuya.  The city is short of gasoline, toilet paper, cup noodles, heating pads, water - everyone is making emergency kits to prepare for a nuclear fall out.  It sounds fictional but it is true and it is heart breaking.  

Fuyuko says you can still buy fresh produce but she is worried it's not going to last.  The government has scheduled black outs in the city to save energy.  Some companies have shut down because they cannot operate without electricity.  Fuyuko is a pastry chef who has a shop at home.  She is worried that she will soon run out of flour, butter, eggs, sugar.  Orders will stop.  Students will cancel classes.  

A friend who is married to a French person  called Fuyuko to say  that she was going to leave Tokyo and stay with her in-laws in France.  I told my sister to pack up and come to LA. I will find a place for everyone.  She can open a bakery here.  You have to think of the worst case scenario.   

Cicadas - Santa Monica

Posted on March 14, 2011 at 2:36 AM Comments comments (1)

It takes time to build a house.  This corner of our garden took years.   I used to go to the south of France every year on business and bring back these cicadas. One for each visit. They are suppose to bring good luck to a house. Each cicada is hand painted. I have one that sings.  I could have collected a couple dozen of these figurines over the years  but some years I didn't buy any.  i gave away a few. I have ten on the wall. That's plenty. 

I grew up listening to cicadas sing in the summer time in Kamakura.  Most of them sing so loud, they can be a nuisance. But there are small cicadas that sings a melancholy song. Whenever I heard them sing, I would pause to listen.

Hoh shih tsuku tsuku tsuku 
Hoh shih tsuku tsuku tsuku 

Cicadas spend most of their lives underground as larvae; then they come out of the earth to mate .  The songs we hear are their mating songs.   

On this wall, there is also a rusty chain. It belonged to our dog Stinky.  He died about 8 years ago. His ashes are buried in the garden.  

When we leave this house, this corner of the garden will disappear and someone else will fill it up with new memories.

Earthquake in Japan - Santa Monica

Posted on March 12, 2011 at 2:14 PM Comments comments (1)

Ana, wisteria, and stone sculpture

I am feeling numb from the earthquake in Japan. 9.0 in the rector scale.  It took me the whole day to reach my family. My family in Tokyo was fine but I have distant relatives in Iwaki, Fukushima where the nuclear power plant exploded.  I am concerned for their lives.   I've been in touch with family and friends from all over the world who have called or e mailed me to find out if my family was okay. In times of crisis of this scale, we feel helpless.  Someone in Japan described the shaking buildings like a trembling leaf,  and the earth like a quivering jello.  A friend in Niigata is trying to create a special ribbon that ties people together - not just the Japanese but everyone in the world. 

I've been through two major earthquakes in LA.  The first one happened when we lived in Monterey Park. My old soba cups fell from the shelves and I broke many. But we were okay.  My friends from Japan helped replace some of my broken china. In the second earthquake, the house shook so hard, I thought I was going to die.  I was scared for a long time.  My assistant left LA and moved back to Georgia. But again, we were lucky. Some people were not.

The Japanese wisteria tree  and Sakai's sculpture in the patio make me connected to Japan.  We are all tied ot  Japan in one way or another - by land, by sea, by blood, by spirit.  Today, I prayed a lot.

Cherry Blossoms on Roof Top - Santa Monica

Posted on March 9, 2011 at 10:18 AM Comments comments (0)

Blossoms on the Isuzu

The cherry tree in the driveway is the first cherry that blooms in our front yard.  We have three cherries.  The one that blooms first is the smallest.  Small, because it doesn't get as much sun as the other trees. Still, it gives gorgeous blooms.

The bees and the birds love the blooms.  This is the time of the year that I have rare bird visitors.  They come to pick the cherry blooms.  I don' t know if they are sucking the honey or  are just having fun.  I like bird watching but sometimes it is annoying to watch a bird pick one blossom after another.   I tap on the window and shoo it away.  

Patient Dog - Santa Monica

Posted on March 9, 2011 at 2:33 AM Comments comments (0)

Studio - Santa Monica

For Ana and Sakai, the day starts with a walk down to 12th Street and back.   Sometimes, they go on a walk before the sun rises.   Sakai has his cup of coffee and a little time in the studio before the walk.  Ana knows the routine. Sometimes, Ana doesn't  want to go for a walk. She starts the walk but then turns around and tries to head home.  This morning, she sits quietly and waits. Decision is hers. 

Our home in Santa Monica

Posted on March 7, 2011 at 11:09 AM Comments comments (0)

We sold our house in Santa Monica yesterday.  Maybe the white rabbit I saw in Whittier brought us luck.  I can still remember the first time we saw the house, walked into this living room and felt the light of the space. I  knew instinctively that we could make this house our home.  The year was 1994, the year of the Northridge earthquake. The house was damaged from the earthquake, and yellow tagged. If you put a marble on the floor, it would roll from one end to the other end of the house.   It took us a year to fix the house and make it liveable.  Our son Sakae grew up in this house. Walked to Lincoln.  Took a bus to Samo.  Then he left to go to college.  Now he is grown up and ready to take flight. 

I have until Aprill 15 to enjoy this house.  Everyday, I will share what I loved about this house.  
Sakai made - the sculptures, the stone vase, most of the furniture.  Our old  funky couch is from Ikea. The slipcovers have gone through the washer countless times.  Some of the wine stains just won't bleach out.  But it's okay.  Ana, our dog loves this couch.  She curls up on it every night but with the preparation of the sale, she has been told to sleep outdoors. She is such a good dog, she didn't cause any trouble.  Maybe she will get to sleep on the couch one more time before we move out of the house.

Spring Garden - Santa Monica

Posted on February 27, 2011 at 11:04 PM Comments comments (0)

Home Life - First Cherries - Santa Monica

Posted on February 16, 2011 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (0)


The cherry trees are beginning to bloom.  I don't want them to bloom too fast.  Their blooms are known to come at once and fall at once.  Our house of 18 years is going up for sale in a couple of weeks.  It is a sad but positive transition in my life.  I have never been more attached to a house than this house.  Our house was our art.  We fixed it up nicely. Then lived in it.  We never finished the restoration work like the fireplace or the kitchen walls but for many years, it served us well.  Before I start looking back, I still want to enjoy the beauty of this house, especially the trees we planted in the garden.  The cherry trees were the first to plant.  They came from Washington State.  These trees remind us of the cherries in Japan when they bloom.  Now I am thinking of moving to Washington or Japan or both. But for the moment, I would like to enjoy my trees in Santa Monica.




Almond Blossoms - Santa Monica

Posted on February 14, 2011 at 11:23 AM Comments comments (1)


Almonds are blooming in Santa Monica. My tree is young but gives me plenty of bloom and fresh almonds to nibble on.  There is a neighbor who lives across Douglas Park, which is just a couple of blocks from my house.  He has the most gorgeous almond tree, and I didn't know this until this spring. I don't know how I missed it all these years.   There were hundreds of blossoms on this tree. The neighbor offered me a branch.  I asked him if i could take a picture of the tree.  Of course, he said, but hurry because the blooms will disappear quickly.  Sure enough, when I got there two days later, they didn't look the same.  I missed that decisive moment but I still remember it.  Here is a shot of the blooms on my little almond tree.


First Plum Blossom - Santa Monica

Posted on January 8, 2011 at 7:26 PM Comments comments (0)



New Years Rain

Posted on January 3, 2011 at 2:09 PM Comments comments (0)

View from my office window





Rocky Heart - Santa Monica Mountains

Posted on October 4, 2010 at 1:19 AM Comments comments (2)

One rocky heart, stuffed with love.

Folding Origami to Remember

Posted on October 2, 2010 at 2:13 AM Comments comments (2)

A gift of origami from Obachama.  Nine lucky cranes.

Folding origami is calming, says my friend, Agnes. The closest activity I can think of is quilting.  Agnes' mother folds origami everyday. I call her Obachama.  She just turned ninety years old but she looks younger.  She can fold many things, some are very complex like the diamond sculpture we folded together.      

Obachama folding origami.

Agnes folding origami.

You always start with a square piece of paper, and the paper is never cut or glued.  It's all about how you fold the square. That's what I like about Origami.  Obachama folds really well.  She uses the corner of a pencil sharpener to crease the edges clean.

We talk stories while we fold.  Obachama has good memory, mostly of good things like when she talks about her grandson Ben. She calls him, "Watshino Takaramono," which means my treasure.  But sometimes, there are things she cannot forget because they are sad memories. Like what happened to her family in Hiroshima during the war. On the day the atomic bomb was dropped in , Obachama was not in the city.  When she returned home, everything was gone. Her brother was severely burnt and one of her sisters died in the bombing. They never found her.  Obachama regrets she couldn't help her sister.   "War is a terrible thing," she says and the sadness fills her face, but she continues folding, remembering.  

After the origami lesson, Obachama takes me upstairs to show me her room. Her origami collection is in a glass case and also in boxes.  She opens one of the boxes.  "Take whatever you like," she say, smiling.  I pick the gold and silver cranes.  They shine like jewels.

We folded diamonds today.  Each diamond takes 30 origami.

Obachama's elegant hands.