By George Yoshinaga

The print media like all business enterprises is taking a hit during the current economic crisis. Many well-known publications have folded their doors.

The English/Japanese ethnic media have also been hit hard but perhaps not only because of the economic recession.

I was reminded of this when a number of readers, including Harry Honda and George Wakiji sent me an article on the plight of the Hawaii Hochi, the Island State’s only Japanese/English language daily newspaper.

As in Los Angeles, Honolulu had two Japanese/English publications until the Hawaii Times folded up.

Los Angeles had the Shin Nichi Bei and Kashu Mainichi, both of which ended publication.

The Hawaii Hochi, according to the article mailed to me, has existed for nearly 100 years and was generally considered, “the voice of the Japanese American community.”

Paul Yempuku, a good friend of mine, who is the publisher of the Hochi, wanted to convey the message, “Never let the Japanese voice go extinct,” to the Emperor and Empress of Japan during their recent visit to Hawaii.

In his brief chat with the Royal Couple, Yempuku said he pledged to work hard to keep the paper from dying out.

Yempuku has been running the Hochi for more than 40 years. It was established in 1912 by Fred Makino and will celebrate its centennial in three years if it can continue on.

As noted, economics is one of the woes of business but in the case of the Hochi, the biggest crisis is the dwindling number of Issei and Nisei readers, as they pass away.

The publication, with four Japanese pages and one page in English has been losing readership in recent years.

This, although one-fourth of Hawaii’s population of 297,000 are still Japanese Americans.

“Advertising has gone down and the cost of paper has gone up which is also creating hard times,” said Yempuku.

One feature at the Hochi which is giving it a boost is that it also owns a printing facility and prints other smaller papers as well as business and message cards.

To attract younger Japanese American readers, Yempuku said he is thinking about increasing the English pages and running articles on Japanese culture and tradition.

Yempuku said the paper has faced bankruptcy many times in the past but was rescued by the Shizuoka Shimbun, which became a subsidiary of the Hochi in 1964.

The Hochi’s Editor, Noriyoshi Kanaizumi commented, “We cannot ditch our Japanese language news service.”

I, personally, have known Yempuku for many years. He is the brother of the late Ralph Yempuku, with whom I worked in the promotion business, bringing sumo to the Mainland and American circus shows to Japan.

Whenever I visited Honolulu, I used to drop in the Hochi office, located on River Street in downtown Honolulu.

It wasn’t a “flashy” office so I was quite impressed that they could produce a daily newspaper for the large JA population at the time.

Hopefully, Yempuku can keep the Hochi going to help maintain the Japanese American “image” in the Island State.


The South Bay Daily Breeze newspaper in a recent issue ran a front page story in their sports section about the language problem facing pitcher Hiroki Kuroda. The Breeze interviewed Kuroda’s interpreter about the difficulty the manager of the Dodgers has in trying to communicate with Kuroda.

It’s not as easy being the interpreter because the sport of baseball does have a lot of its own language which often is hard to interpret word for word.

This reminds me of a letter I received and ran in my column a while back in which the reader wanted to know why Japanese players don’t make an effort to learn how to speak English. He may have hit the nail on the head.

After all, Kuroda is being paid something in the neighborhood of $34 million. For that kind of money, you’d think he’d make an effort to learn English.

When I went to work for a Japanese firm back in 1962, I didn’t even make 34 million yen, but the owner of the company which employed me expected me to learn how to speak Japanese.

Each day, after I finished my duties at the office, I would go home to my apartment and study the language at least three hours a day. I bought a tape recorder and put my voice in Japanese on the tape. And then, I would play it back and listen to it.

It made me realize why the Japanese laughed when I spoke their language.

Well, after two years, I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging, but I became pretty proficient and soon, one of my duties was to be an interpreter for the Japanese who had to converse with English-speaking people.


While kicking around the topic of language, a reader I was chatting with the other day told me she has a Caucasian friend who decided to take up the Japanese language because of something I wrote in he distant past about the language.

The Caucasian friend thought that it was so funny she thought it would be nice to learn to speak Japanese. It’s about a phrase which was translated from English into Japanese.

Perhaps some of you may still remember the piece I wrote.

It went this way: “An American was curious about what his Japanese friend ate for breakfast.

“He was curious if all Japanese include rice with their morning meal.

“When he asked his Japanese friend, ‘How often do you have rice for breakfast,’ the Japanese responded, ‘Kesa, mai-asa.’

“In English, that’s, ‘This morning, every morning.’

“However, the English speaker mistook the response because it sounded like, well you-know-what.

“He asked the Japanese speaker why he was upset with such a simple question.

“The Japanese speaker was confused, ‘Why do you ask if I’m upset? I just told you how often I have rice. This morning, every morning.’

“To the English speaker it sounded like, ‘Kiss my you-know-what.’

“Oh well, if that tidbit was humorous enough to encourage someone to learn English, so be it.”


The trial of the Nisei Terrance K. Watanabe facing felony charges of theft and passing bad checks in connection with $14.7 million in gambling debts is getting underway in Las Vegas.

Perhaps most of you remember the story I related about the case.

Well, the lawyer defending the Nisei said the casino was responsible because they kept offering him drinks when they were aware that he was already highly intoxicated and didn’t have control of his gambling.

The lawyer, who is from Chicago, is in Vegas and has asked for permission to question witnesses who could corroborate Watanabe’s assertion that he was given drink after drink as he gambled.

The witnesses have been quoted as saying the casino kept the Nisei in such an incoherent state during the late 2007 that he was incapable of forming any criminal intent.

He had gained his wealth from the sale of his company, Oriental Trading Co., a wholesale novelty company from 1977 to 2000.

The Nevada Gaming Board declined to comment on the allegations swirling around the case. However, the District Attorney’s office is conducting an internal investigation into the gambler’s allegations.

As stated in my earlier coverage of this story, I am still amazed that the casino would allow any gam¬bler to “take out’ $14.7 million in “markers.”

“Markers” is the parlance for IOUs” in casinos.

Gee, when I take out a $112 “marker” at my favorite casino, I think the cashier gives a good “look over” before I’m handed the cash.

That’s life.


As I waited for the Dodger’s game with Florida to come on TV, I was jumping around from channel to channel to see what else was on the tube.

By chance, I hit the golf channel and got the LPGA tourney.

When I saw that Japan’s Ai Miyazato was in the lead, I forgot all about baseball and stuck with the golf until the ladies’ tournament was completed.

It took a one-hole play-off but the 24-year-old from Japan won her first U.S. LPGA tourney title.

She’s won a lot of tournerys in Japan but this was her first on American soil. I hope she continues to play well and wins more in the future (Check sports for full story).

It got kind of boring to see so many of the lady Korean golfers winning tournaments or topping the top ten finishers tourney after tourney.

And by the way, what ever happened to Michelle Wie?

If I’m not mistaken, she finished way down the pack. At least this time, the media didn’t go overboard for the young lass from Honolulu.

Miyazato has the perfect first name. Ai, translated into English means, ‘love.”

I’m sure many fans will fall in love with the charming Japanese golfer.
Ai shi teru.” (I love her.).

When I saw the headline over a story reading, “Nisei honored for contribution to development of baseball in Peru,” my first reaction was, “What’s a Nisei doing in Peru?”

When I read the first paragraph, I realized that the Japanese immigrated to Peru and they would be classified as “Issei,” so their offspring would be “Nisei,” just as in the case of our Issei parents coming to the U.S.

The “Nisei” in this case is Gerado Maruy, President of the Peruvian Baseball Federation, a second generation Peruvian born to immigrant parents from Japan.

The only difference between a Peruvian Nisei and an American Nisei is that Maruy, whose real name was “Marui,” changed it to Maruy to “blend in” with the Peruvian culture.

At any rate, Maruy received the “Lalureles Deportivos” or Sports Laurel this year which marks the 110th Anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese to Peru.

He is the first person from the sport of baseball to have his name engraved on the outer wall of the national stadium in Peru, where soccer is the national pastime.

Maruy played on the Peruvian national team that took part in the South American Amateur Baseball Championship in 1957.

Today, the number of people who play baseball in Peru is estimated at around 3,000.

And it was a Peruvian “Nisei” who was given credit for the sport becoming popular in the country.

The 79-year-old said he’s honored, adding, “Hey, I haven’t set any world records.”

Reader Joy Endow adds this bit of sports news. She wrote:

“Here is a story I think is newsworthy. First of all, I feel that there is a lot of emphasis on golf, basketball, in the sports world but not too much about bowling. A fellow bowler of my husband whose name is Shig Fukumoo (he gave his okay on my writing to you) is a senior Bowler at Gardena Bowl. Shig was bowling a perfect game until the 10th frame when he had two strikes and one more to go in order to have a perfect 300 game. The only thing that puzzled everyone was that Shig disappeared while everyone was anticipating a perfect game, the final ball. Finally, he returned after a long pause, threw the ball and got a strike—the crowd went crazy!

“There were people in the crowd saying that Shig went to get some oxygen from his tank before he could continue because of his emphysema. Hearing this story prompted me to tell you. I know your brother was a Gardena Bowl bowler and was, if I remember, in his nineties. (My husband says there are two bowlers in their nineties and still going strong). Well, Shig is 76 and a real trooper. Actually his second 300 game.”

Thanks for your letter, Joy. Yes, my brother, Kay used to bowl at the Gardena Bowl.

He was 92 and he bowled until about three weeks before he suddenly passed way.

And, you are correct that bowling doesn’t get too much media attention.

It wasn’t always like that. In the old days, papers such as the Rafu carried a lot more stories about bowling as much as it did basketball and golf.

Perhaps the demise of popular bowling centers like Crenshaw Bowl may have been among the reason for the lack of coverage of the sport.


The Rafu ran a short story on the Japanese has invented a pair of baseball-playing robots.

I like the AP story which said, “Look out Ichiro and Daisuke, the baseball-playing robots can pitch and hit with incredible results.”

The pitching robot has a three-fingered hand and can throw 90 percent of the pitches in the strike zone. The line I liked is the one which read, “The robots won’t need any relief from the bullpen and never ask for a pay a raise.”

I don’t think robots will ever take the field in a real game but perhaps one day they can be used for batting practice. If they can throw strikes 90 percent of the time, who needs “human batting practice pitchers?”

While the robots can’t throw that hard yet, the inventor hopes to reach speeds up to 93 miles per hour.

Probably they won’t have any language problems, either. That is, you won’t have to punch one to speak English to them.


Another story in the Rafu was about an American climber found dead on Mt. Fuji this past week.

Man, every time I hear or read stories like this, I’m relieved that my group was able to climb the famed mountain a decade ago and we didn’t encounter any problems.

The American who died in this latest incident was “only” 30 years old.

Those who were in my group were in their 70s and 80s.

A police officer named Takahiro Omata said, “Don’t underestimate Mt. Fujii. It’s quite steep and much tougher than one might think.”

I agree with officer Omata from my own experience. I still have a hard time realizing that

I made the climb.

Maybe now I can brag a little more about making the climb.


It is often said, that, by nature, the Japanese don’t smile too much in public.

Well the Keihin Express Railway wants to change this image, especially with its employees.

Employees will now be required to pass the smile test before they face the public. They face a digital camera mounted atop a computer and a sign ”smile” pops up. The employee breaks into a broad grin and the computer responds with a score.

In the case of Mitsue Endo, a station attendant, the computer returned a score of 70. Kind of borderline.

The rail company said that smiling helps interaction with the pas¬sengers. The atmosphere becomes more relaxing with a smile.

An employee commented, “I don’t think that we have had much opportunity to stare at our own faces to check our facial expressions until now.”

Leave it to the Japanese.


Since we are chatting about smiling, I’ll close with these which I am sure will make you chuckle:

• Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in his shoes. That way, when you criticize him, you’re a mile away and you have his shoes.

• And here’s one for Vegas fans: The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.

• Never take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.

• Here’s one I’m sure a lot of readers will like: Never miss a good chance to shut up.
• If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is probably not for you.

Okay until next time, smile. Even if you’re not facing a camera.
George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and may be reached via e-mail at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.


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