By Deems Tsutakawa
For The North American Post
During the early years of my music career, I went through a plethora of different endeavors to make ends meet. Besides cooking fish cakes by the ton, I sold grand pianos for Sherman Clay, painted houses, cut and ground bronze for dad’s sculptures and was a box boy at Uwajimaya along with Tommie Oiye and Randy Furuta. All of these jobs were actually really great at the time as I forged friendships, developed trade skills and learned an appreciation for hard work. It seems that I was better suited for the “Blue Collar” type jobs as opposed to retail sales of pianos and organs. I never really minded getting my “hands dirty,” as the saying goes.
Although I am not great at sales per say, I do enjoy marketing and promotion when it comes to records and musical engagements. My office skills have become sufficient for the invoicing, contracting, scheduling and coordinating of the various nightclubs, concerts, parties and fundraisers that come my way. I have apparently learned to be task oriented in order to stay on top of having some 175 plus gigs per year. This amount
of work used to stress me out but over time I have come to now view it much more as a blessing and an honor and I am thankful to be able to make a living in my chosen field.
Another seasonal job that I held for about eight years each December was making mochi at the old Sagamiya on Main street in the International District. It was a retail and wholesale Japanese confectionary store that sold handmade goods–very labor intensive. Mochi is a must on New Year’s Day for all the Japanese people here and abroad and the demand was enormous.
During the two weeks leading up to Jan. 1, I had the task of washing and cooking over five thousand pounds of sweet rice, or mochigome, per week. Sagamiya had a machine to pound and then cut the vast quantities of rice into individual sized “cakes.” We then manually put the mochi on small pallets for cooling. Sometimes it was best to round off the numbers as counting could get arduous and I would always toss in the quip “it’s about 6 ½ on one pallet or half of a Baker’s Dozen.” BTW-a Baker’s dozen is famously 13 units.
[Editor’s Note] Deems Tsutakawa is a local Sansei musician. He can be reached at deemst@ deemsmusic.com.