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A Farewell Bento

The bento I’ve made today is not something I’ve ever done before and not something I plan on eating. I realize this might make some people feel awkward, especially if they don’t read my blog or know what I do here every day. Bear with me though, as I’ve found that over the last year and a half or so, making pretty food has become a way for me to deal with the various things that come up in life.

This morning was an emotional one for my family. We lost someone very special, my uncle, Mike Sakamoto. People from Hawaii and around the world know him from his popular fishing show ‘Fishing Tales with Mike Sakamoto’. As a little kid, people would do double takes when they heard he was my uncle. My boyfriend in high school, who loved fishing, practically shrieked like a little girl when he found out. He was a local celebrity and a household name.

To me, he was just Uncle Mike. My mom is the baby in the family and so he was her big brother. She’d tell me and my brother the same stories about “Uncle Mikey” all the time. Like the time he told her he’d push her around on her tricycle but then proceeded to roll her into the bushes. As rascal as she portrayed him, she was just as eager to tell us how quick he was to defend her when she happened to catch the eye of bullies.

Family being the way it is sometimes, I wasn’t as close to him as I could have and should have been, but he was always supportive. In elementary school, when I had timidly decided to run for class president, he came to an assembly to try to get me votes. He’d come and do autograph sessions at my mom and aunty’s craft booth to attract customers. He graciously accepted my request to be the emcee at my wedding.

He was a jokester. Sometimes I’d go to Grandma Mu’s house and he’d be there to greet me with a stern look and a gruff, “Hey, you!” like I’d done something bad. After he saw my eyes bulge, he’d let out the signature Sakamoto Cackle, which he and my mom and aunties all have. He’d crush my fingers in a handshake, laugh when I’d whine after he punched me in the arm, and tease me about boys. He was a talented artist, his various watercolor and oil paintings lining Grandma Mu’s walls.

I remember when we’d go to a family party or stop to play firecrackers at his house there was a big, dark room filled with gigantic fishing poles, reels, and a pool table. It was a fun and intimidating room to look around in as a little kid. Their mysterious cat with no tail would walk around and give us stink eye.

As I said, I’ve now come to express myself in food. When I was driving home this morning, unsure of how to feel, the thought of making a bento in his honor came to mind. His show had very catchy music that matched his ever friendly voice. Before each commercial break a little guitar tune would come on and a fish caricature he drew of himself would swim on screen. It’s this fish that I’ve used to make a kyaraben (character bento) for him.

After leaving the hospital this morning, me and my brother went to eat breakfast with one of my aunties, uncle, and cousins. I hadn’t seen them in a while and after what we’d all been through that morning, things suddenly came into perspective. I’ve lost grandparents and grand aunts and uncles, but not someone under the age of 60. I realized that I live on the same island as that side of my family, but rarely see them. Me and my cousins email about get togethers but somehow we end up not doing it. I understand now that we need to make better efforts to spend time together because things happen suddenly and unexpectedly.

My hope is that this image will bring a smile to the faces of my family members as they remember him. I send them all my love and to my cousin Stef, offers of babysitting services too. My kids still have all their limbs connected, so this is a good offer!

Goodbye, Uncle Mike. We will all miss you.

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  • Christine

    Sympathies and thoughts to you and your family, Crystal. *hugs*

  • Oh Pikko! I’m so sorry.

    Hang in there. My condolences to you and your family.

  • Moontaj

    Your bento is beautiful, I’m so very sorry for your loss.


  • Lesliemommy

    Heartfelt hugs go out to your and your family in your time of loss.

    Your bento is just awesome though. It sure made me smile.

  • kat

    so sorry to hear this, hugs from Osaka!

  • akimoto

    I’m sorry for your loss. I’m from Hilo and I know the Sakamoto family. I have worked with Paul and have taught Stephanie and my husband knows Paul’s mom. Paul told me around Thanksgiving time that his dad was sick. I’m sorry to hear that your Uncle Mike didn’t make it. He really was one of Hilo’s celebrities!

  • Cree

    I was saddened to hear about Mike Sakamoto’s death on the news earlier tonight. Now, it made me cry that he was your uncle and his life was too short. Your bento in honor of your uncle made me smile, it’s a very sweet tribute to him, I’m sure he’s smiling at it too. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  • You have my sympathies and what a great way to honor someone with an obvious sense of humor! This is lovely.

  • Stef

    Thank you so much for this. It is so beautiful and I know my Dad would have enjoyed seeing how talented his niece is. I was so happy that all of our cousins were there with Dad this morning…I know that would have meant so much to him. We will definitely see each other more in this new year. And I’ll have to take you up on that babysitting offer soon! Take care…we all love my troublemaking dad, and now we must lean on each other during this difficult time.

  • Stef

    P.S. You should eat the bento. Dad would want you to! Share it with the kids.

  • Lesley

    So sorry to hear about your loss my condolences to you and your family ; ;

  • It sounds like your family lost a real treasure. I’m so sorry. But your memorial bento is a beautiful tribute.

  • Susan

    My condolences to you and your family during this very difficult time. Beautiful bento.

  • Yvo

    <3 Crystal that is beautiful. I feel deeply for you and I wish your family nothing but ease in the times ahead. I know it won’t be easy but I know you will persevere. <3

  • I am very sorry to hear of Mike’s loss. I have nothing but fond memories of him and his show. I just wish I could be as good of a fisherman as he was.

  • Jean

    I remember enjoying your Uncle Mike’s show, especially the cooking part. My sincerest condolences to you and your family. Thank you for sharing this bento and your precious memories. May his memories live on in you and the stories you tell your kids.

  • Thanks everyone for the nice comments. I’ll probably print them out for my grandma to read when we all go back home! She’s allergic to computers.

  • Pingback: Artist, TV fishing show host Mike Sakamoto dies at 59 |

  • Ms. Pikko! My coworker and I were just talking about “uncle mike” this morning. I used to watch him as a little girl, hoping that he’d pull a mermaid out of the water and he inspired her to go marlin fishing. She caught two!

    Our condolences to you and your family.

  • Mikan

    Pikko, I’m so sorry for your loss. Your Uncle Mike’s show was one of my favorites as a little kid. My thoughts are with you and your `ohana during this difficult time.

  • jo

    I am so sorry for your loss. I didn’t know of your uncle Mike until today and not because of your bento post – I live in California, but I ALWAYS stream Hawaiian105 on the internet at work and all day I had heard about this “legend”. With work and all it was not easy to get the story behind this person that the islands will be missing, but now I know.
    Uncle Mike was obviously and infuential person on the islands and will be greatly missed.

    The bento you made is very special. Thank you for sharing that with us.


  • Birdy

    I’m very sorry for your loss. Your uncle sounds like a great guy, and I bet he told tons of great fish stories!

    Using artwork is a great way to remember and honor a loved one, and even though this is the only memorial bento I’ve ever seen, I think it’s fitting.


  • val

    So sorry for your loss. I always watched his show and I don’t even fish…he was great!

  • Oishiso~! I am hungry!!