Crowds of fans wait outside the Japanese American National Museum to view the Hello Kitty exhibition on Sunday. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)


If you were in Little Tokyo this past weekend, you couldn’t miss the Hello Kitty jam. All through the streets, parking lots and sidewalks of J-Town, there were Sanrio fans waiting in line for the first-ever Hello Kitty Con at MOCA.

At local restaurants like Daikokuya and XLIXE, English section’s favorite pizza haunt, the lines were outside the door for the Hello Kitty-themed food, part of a scavenger hunt called (what else?) the Hello Kitty Hungry Hunt.

Pop superstar Katy Perry visited JANM to check out the exhibition on Thursday. When she turned 30 over the weekend, Perry did what any fangirl would do: she got a Hello Kitty tattoo on her middle finger. Here at Rafu we have our own Hello Kitty tattoos, but they are strictly the temporary kind: freebies handed out by MOCA for the convention.

Now that the party is over, there must be a lot of red-bowed, nerd girls surrounded by piles of supercute Sanrio merchandise going through serious Hello Kitty hangovers. Is that much Hello Kitty just a little too much? There must be some boyfriends and husbands who are glad it’s over so they can get back to their fantasy football leagues.

Despite JANM’s best attempt to put a scholarly spin on the Sanrio superstar, I wonder if that message came across to the 25,000 fans here in J-Town or if it wasn’t more a celebration of stuff: coveting, buying, collecting and selling on Ebay.

As I get older I find stuff is the last thing I need. It’s more about time and experiences, and sharing those moments with others. I’m not sure if that’s a sign of maturity (i.e., I’m getting old) or that my place is just too small and my wallet too thin.

Hopefully some of those Hello Kitty fans stuck around to check out what Little Tokyo is really like: browse at Rafu Bussan and Bunka-do, get a coffee at Cafe Dulce, eat some manju at Fugetsu-do, maybe stop to read the names at the Go For Broke monument. Maybe some of those Sanrio geeks will come back and see a show at the Aratani or volunteer at Nisei Week.

While Little Tokyo is having a moment now as a trendy destination, there will always be this deep, layered history that makes it a soulful place, and not just a place to grab a good bowl of ramen and gawk at a certain red-bowed cat.

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Fuyu persimmons on sale for $3 a pound at Dean and DeLuca in Napa. (GWEN MURANAKA/Rafu Shimpo)

Actually I think I probably am the only one who missed Hello Kitty madness. Eric and I spent the better part of last week up in Napa. The pace is wonderfully slower amid the vineyards and wineries of Napa Valley.

I got to take an early morning jog and saw workers tending grapevines with the autumnal sun rising over the hillside. It was beautiful. Harvest was mostly finished and much seemed timeless and serene, as it always has been. Although scaffolding on some older buildings in downtown Napa shows the region is still recovering from the Aug. 24 earthquake.

Our happy group was led by Dennis Igarashi, who took us to some fantastic wineries and cute hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Of course, Eric, ever the eager cook, prepared bacon-and-egg burritos with homemade tomatillo sauce to fill our bellies one morning.

For lunch one day we stopped at Dean and DeLuca, an upscale market, and picked up little snacks. I had to laugh a little at the basket of shiny fuyu persimmons for sale amid the gourmet cheeses and extra virgin olive oils.

Over the weekend, my stepmom Chris Uriu dropped off a bag of beautiful fuyus that she had received from a friend. Doing a quick calculation in my head, it was a little under $30 worth, at the Dean and DeLuca price. Here at Rafu we probably receive at least several bags every year.

I think Japanese American generosity and the bountiful harvest of kaki is something we shouldn’t take for granted. Especially at three bucks a pound!

Gwen Muranaka is the English editor-in-chief of The Rafu Shimpo and can be reached at Ochazuke is a staff-written column. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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