Andie Nakahira, “to be a kid (in Mitsuwa)”

Andie Nakahira
Torrance, California

to be a kid (in Mitsuwa)
4.75″ x 0.875″ x 5.125″

Artist Statement

Due to the pandemic, I’ve spent more time at home with my parents than I most likely would have—returning halfway through my junior year, and after graduation. This return at what was supposed to be a big milestone has incited feelings of displacement—seeing what I used to be every day made me feel like nothing had changed at all.

Yet, being home has led me to find joy in things that used to—specifically Asian supermarkets I frequented when younger. The most familiar sections in those stores being the candy and snack
aisles as those were the places I used to contemplate, trying to find the perfect snack.

The joy of being in the candy aisle in Mitsuwa—one of the largest Japanese supermarket chains in America—as a kid was not overpowered by the understanding that there were some candies that we weren’t allowed to get. It was a fine line to walk, yet a game to play—”no” to the chocolate Peko lollipops but “yes” to the box of Apollo strawberry chocolates. When we got the large bag of individually wrapped takenoko no sato and kinoko no yama, it’d be a fight with my older sister to see who would get the bamboo shoots in their lunch (as I have grown older I realize that the mushrooms are far superior, and all that fighting was for nothing).

This is a love letter to my childhood, a book made out of candy wrappers and snack boxes that holds depictions of candies that permeated my childhood.

Individual bags of salad Pretz my mom packed in my lunch box.

Lemon C.C. candies my sisters and I had to eat during flu season. 

Cans of lilikoi juice that we’d only get at grandma’s house because we weren’t allowed to drink juice at home.

A box of half-melted strawberry Meltyblends my dad hid in his car.

These snacks in the book are not limited to the Japanese supermarket; there are bags of li hing
mui gummy bears and sour watermelon gummies. There is the famous Maui Kitch’n Cook’d, a
local Maui-only potato chip company that may soon close down.

This book was created to celebrate shared experiences and differences between people in my
community. Every single snack in this book is not meant to be recognized by every single person who views it. The joy of this book is for people like me to find something familiar–even if it’s only one page.