Archive for December, 2012

Saving a sweet craft

December 31st, 2012


Videography and editing by Mr. Tracy Arakaki

Say the word sushi, and most people think of rice and raw fish. Refer to taiko, and many understand that to be Japanese drum performances. But would you know what amezaiku is?

Probably not.

Courtesy: Candy Art Hawaii

Courtesy: Candy Art Hawaii

It’s candy art: melted sugar, shaped into edible sculptures. Even in Japan, where its been practiced for centuries, it’s not at all common. Honolulu residents Chika and Nathan Tanaka hope to change that - starting right here in Hawaii. They are candy artists, and their business is called Candy Art Hawaii.

Nathan and Chika Tanaka at a childrens' party

Nathan and Chika Tanaka at a childrens' party

Chika, a native of Japan, admits it’s a rare art in Japan. "There are not so many artists in Japan; I had never seen it myself in my hometown," she says. Until she met Nathan.

Ironically, it is an American who wants to perpetuate this special Japanese tradition. Nathan is a Japanese-American who grew up in Hawaii. After college, he moved to Japan for six years.

"I went to a festival, saw someone making this and was completely amazed," recalls Nathan. He sought out a teacher, which in itself was a difficult task. Ultimately, most of his skills were self-taught through trial and error.

Courtesy: Candy Art Hawaii

Courtesy: Candy Art Hawaii

When he returned to Hawaii, he decided to continue the craft as a part-time business, bringing joy to parties on the weekends.

He talks to me while shaping a lollipop before my eyes. "I’m working with hot sugar and shaping it into animals, and we have three to four minutes until it hardens as it cools down," he summarizes. But it's much easier said than done.

Courtesy: Candy Art Hawaii

Courtesy: Candy Art Hawaii

The sugar is heated to 190 degrees Fahrenheit - "like freshly cooked rice," Nathan describes. Ouch!

Add some color, work it into the taffy. Then roll, snip, and pinch it into form. A paintbrush brings it to life. Hang it to cool for a few minutes, before handing over a small piece of happiness.

Nathan reflects on the best part of his job: "It’s really fun, and just seeing the reaction of the children as they get the candy."

It's delightful for kids, and kids at heart. An 83-year-old customer watches with as much delight as the littlest children in line.

Kids enjoying amezaiku lollipops by Candy Art Hawaii

Kids enjoying amezaiku lollipops by Candy Art Hawaii

Their hands tell the story of how difficult this really is. To perfect their craft, it took hundreds of hours of practice and pain. "When we started we had blister and first degree burns," he recalls. Today, they have more than 30 shapes to offer.

The Tanakas are part of a shrinking group of candy artists. They believe there are only three amezaiku makers in the United States, and only 20 - 30 in the world!

Party guest Akihiro Okada, who was born and raised in Japan, comments, "It’s a nostalgic feeling to see amezaiku. You don’t get to see it that often, even for Japanese locals. This is completely special.”

It’s hard work, with long hours, so fewer people seem to be taking the time to learn the craft. The Tanakas savor the idea of keeping a dying tradition alive. And, it’s just as sweet to introduce a new generation to the delights of amezaiku.

Candy Art Hawaii

Facebook: Candy Art Hawaii

*With special thanks to Kenny Endo Taiko Ensemble for allowing us to shoot video of them.


Joe Aikala – grip

Chung Siu Chow of Digital Artist Graphic – music

Maile Akita - production assistant

Booster seat

December 31st, 2012

Claus took Olivia skiing in December. I chose to stay home.

The night they were leaving, he put her booster cat seat in the middle of the stairs. I almost tripped on it. "What's this for?" I asked.

"I want to remember to take it," he said. "The rental company wants $40 a day to rent this!"

I knew this. He should know this; we've traveled with her before. If memory serves, he didn't care last time, and said we should just pay the $40 a day rather than struggle with a huge, bulky toddler car seat (as opposed to a small, lightweight booster.) It was ever-practical I who insisted we bring it with us.

I'd learned from my cousin Val - thank you, Val - some of the tricks of traveling with kids, and I knew the airlines did not charge for this item. He just thought it was extra hassle to carry all that luggage, a two year old, and child equipment.

On this trip, Olivia is five and much easier to handle, but he is a single parent for the week, so I figured the level of hassle would be just as unappealing.

"You? Care about saving $40 a day? Who are you? Do I even know you?" I joked.

I should insert here that while Claus is more free with his spending than I am, he's fiscally responsible. I totally trust him with our money and his management skills. He just values convenience and comfort and is willing to pay for it much quicker than I am, a topic which we've always teased each other about. He's too spendy, and I'm too practical.

I shared this story with my parents at lunch the next day. My dad laughed, "He's been married to you too long. You're rubbing off on him."

It probably resonated with my dad since that is exactly the dynamic of their marriage, except their fiscal habits are severely opposite, and I think Claus and my habits are just slightly different.

To which my mother added in empathy, "Your father can't save a penny."

What are you and your spouse's spending habits?


December 28th, 2012

Olivia and I have shared some surprisingly deep conversations over folding clothes. One time when I asked for help, she said she didn't want to do it, preferring to watch TV.

"What if I want time off to watch TV, too? Come here and fold your clothes," I scolded.

She came whining. "But why? I don't feel like it."

"I'm not your maid, I'm your mother. That means it's not my job to clean up after you, it's my job to teach you to clean up after yourself," I said. "You need to know how to do these things. Do you know that one day, you're going to grow up and be the mommy and have to do this for your kids?"

This was a shocking revelation. She sat there looking at me like I just told her there was no Santa.

"Will I still live here?" she asked.

"If I'm lucky, you'll be very close to me," I answered.

That seemed to work. She started folding.

Second episode: she came happily to the folding station, and was quite good about selecting all her clothes, folding them nicely, and putting them away properly. I check her work.

We had not one but TWO baskets of clean clothes. Olivia balked when I dumped out the second basket. "TWO? So much!" she commented.

"Yes, but you're my good little helper," I assured.

"I know... you wanted to have a baby because you wanted a helper!" Olivia declared.

She got me. Cat's out of the bag. Yes, I wanted free child labor. Partially and poorly done  simple tasks that require nagging and constant supervision: That's totally worth no free time for myself and some sleepless nights.

"Um, no," I laughed.

"Well, aren't I helpful?" she insisted.

"Mostly. But babies aren't helpful. They take a lot of work and they don't do anything except look cute in return," I smiled.

She looked crestfallen, so I saved it with, "But you're not a baby anymore, so yes, you are very helpful. You still require a lot of work, though."

"I do?" she said. It's funny to hear how they think. Like folding five shirts and feeding the pets in the morning is really going to carry the day.

"Mommy and Daddy do a lot to take care of you every day. But we love having you complete our family," I said. "You are a lot of work, but in return, you give us joy and happiness, and we're glad you're here."

"And love," Olivia reminded.

Yes. And love.

The fence, less ridiculous

December 26th, 2012

The newly enlarged fence is up. It's Claus' Christmas present to me. It did not even require lesbians. (See previous blog to understand that one.)

To my complete surprise, he went out one Sunday and re-did it. Like the last fence, he had prepped the pieces over a series of days, and on this particular Sunday, he assembled it. Unlike the last fence, the gate is actually a useable size.

I made an appropriate fuss over it and complimented him on his carpentry. It was the trending topic of our day. Like, we went out for errands and when we came home, he announced, "We're back at the home of newly widened gates!"

I had actually gotten a lot of mileage out of teasing him on the eight inch gate. It became our little family joke. "What will I tease you about now?" I laughed.


"There is one part I think you'd enjoy hearing about: I used Hello Kitty goggles as safety glasses when I needed to saw the wood. I couldn't find my real ones and I just wanted to get the task done," he admitted.

Oh, I laughed hard at that one.

The Fence of Ridiculousness has become the Gate of Hello Kitty Goggles. Actually, I love Sanrio, so it makes it all the better in my book. I have a great husband.

Posted in dad, family, mom | 5 Comments »

Christmas wishes!

December 24th, 2012

What do you want for Christmas? Every year for many years - and this is how I know I'm either old or Chinese - I tell friends I don't want anything. I feel like that is the kind of response my parents or my grandparents would give me when I asked them as a child: "Nothing, just be a good girl, get good grades."

My husband and I for years have just agreed to put the money towards a vacation fund. I'm a very practical, no-nonsense person and I am fine with that. My husband is a straight man, so he also means what he says and is relieved to not have to fuss with a gift-buying task.

I have everything I need. I don't want more stuff. I want time and energy. I want a great day with my family. I want to enjoy with friends a nice dinner. I want a good night's rest. I want the energy to go for a jog. I want to make my dog happy.

My mother insisted she get me something this year. You will laugh, but I am so simple, I like herbs, succulents, and vegetable plants. That could set her back a whole five dollars.

I asked a couple friends this question and here's what they said:

Paul Drewes, KITV newscaster:

More joy over the holidays. Everyone is stressed about shopping and getting gifts. This should be a time to spend with family and friends. We need more joy!

Olena Heu, KHON newscaster:


Since seeing Wicked live at the Blaisdell I have been mildly obsessed with Broadway tunes. I would love a Glee album or two - they are so fabulous!

Mike Cherry, Hawaii News Now sportscaster:

Does this mean we can get people to send this present, then? If that's the case, $2 million will do! LOL

What's your Christmas wish?

Merry Christmas!!!

Recent Posts

Recent Comments