HORSE’S MOUTH: How About Some Natto for Kuroda?



By George Yoshinaga


This past weekend was an enjoyable one made possible by invitations I received to attend a couple of events.

First, I want to thank Toshio Handa, President of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California for inviting me to his organization’s 60th anniversary luncheon at the Kyoto Grand Hotel in Little Tokyo.

I also appreciated his coming over to the table where I was seated to chat. This is something that rarely happens. That is the head of an organization seeking me out to say, “Hello.”

I was pleasantly surprised that during our chat he said he was a fan of the late pro wrestler Rikidozan, when he was living in Japan. He mentioned this because he said he knew I used to work for Riki in Tokyo. Small world, isn’t it?

I was also happy that I saw Rafu English Editor Gwen Muranaka in attendance. She told me that she would write the “straight news story” on the luncheon so I can just toss in my usual nonsensical chatter about the luncheon.

The chatter includes my thoughts on the various speeches presented by folks on the program. Most did their utmost to deliver their talk in English, but also supplemented the talk by tossing in Japanese.

Hey, even Frank Buckley, the TV news commentator, who served as the Master of Ceremonies spoke some Nihongo.

In fact, he got the biggest laugh when he explained that despite his name, his mother was Japanese and bellowed out some sentences in the Japanese language.

As I expected, it was a rather lengthy program, made longer by the presentation of the “Commerce Awards” presented to numerous businesses which have been part of the Japanese community for many years.

This was followed by the presentation of the “Diamond Award.” I’m not sure what the criteria was for being presented this award, but the Rafu Shimpo was one of the recipients. The Rafu’s Yoko Otsuki accepted the newspaper’s award. She is an executive with the Rafu, although the emcee didn’t recognize her position with the newspaper.

After the Rafu received its award, I left because about three hours had passed and I didn’t expect to be there that long.

So, with the “President’s Award” and the keynote speaker still on the schedule, I concluded that it would be another hour or so before the conclusion of the luncheon. The keynote speaker, who it turned out was unable to attend, was Rep. Judy Ch, of the 32nd District.

I doubt if anyone missed me for leaving early. They probably thought I was going to 5-4-4 since we were sitting in the dining room for such a lengthy time.

Hey, since the majority of those in attendance were older folks, many were seen going to 5-4-4 during the luncheon.

Oh, by the way, they printed the photos of past JCCSC Presidents but time must have taken its toll on my eyesight.

I read the captions under the photos and had to look closely since I couldn’t match the face with the name.

Among them were Mitsuhiko Shimizu, Katsuma Mukaeda, Gongoro Nakamura, Kenji Ito, George Kuniyoshi, Eiji Tanabe and Susumu Kurihara, all of whom I knew personally from days gone by.

At any rate, I want to thank Toshio Handa for making it possible for me to be in attendance.


Thanks also to Soji Kashiwagi, executive producer and writer for the Grateful Crane Ensemble, who invited me to his group’s Nikkei Hit Parade show in Torrance on Sunday.

It was really an enjoyable presentation of all-time Nisei favorite songs. And, I’m not saying this just because I was an invited guest. I really did enjoy every performance by his cast.

It’s really surprising how talented the performers were in presenting the hit songs. The only surprise for me was the two songs labeled as the “most favorite” among the Nisei generation. I expected more from the Relocation Day experience when music was one of the key factors in keeping up the morale of the JAs placed in Camps.

What were the two top choices?

No. 2 was “Aoi-zora,” topped by the No. 1 selection, “Ue-o-mui-te arukou”. That was Kyu Sakamoto’s hit song which, in the U.S. was labeled, “Sukiyaki.”

Don’t know who did the classifying of the top popular songs.

The presentation of the songs which were popular for the Nisei during or camp experience, brought back a lot of memories for me while I sat in the Toyota Music Center, where it was staged.

I was hoping they would present and sing “White Christmas,” because it was a popular number that first winter as we spent our first Christmas in Heart Mountain and it was really a “white Christmas.”

The show was a “sell out,” which means that about 300 people were in attendance.

The “Hit Parade” announcers were Darrell Kunitomi and Junko Nakamura and they did a magnificent job.

Singers were Haruye Ioka, Jason Fong, Keiko Kawashima, Kurt Kuniyoshi and Merv Maruyama.

So thanks again to Soji. Also, for printing my name in the official program.

I wish I could sing.


Well, let me get back to the “regular” grind.

I’ll start with a short e-mail I received on the piece I did on World War II hero, Ben Kuroki. Mas Itano made the following comment on my piece:

“I read with interest your com­ments on Ben Kuroki. There was at least another Japanese American in the Army Air Corp in World War II. While attending the University of Wisconsin in the late 40’s, I was in the same rooming house with Herbert Ginoza, a Nisei from Hawaii. He said he was a tail gunner on a B-24 bomber, shot down on a raid on an oil field and spent the rest of the war in a POW camp. I Googled his name and came up with an item where his name was mentioned together with Ben Kuroki’s, but I couldn’t find out any more about him. The line also mentions a John Matsumoto but couldn’t get any more than the name.

Thanks, Mas. Will try to check out the info. Perhaps others in the reading audience might be able to supply some info on Matsumoto and Ginoza.

Stick with the following until the end so you’ll understand why I am including it in my column.

Everyone knows the flip of a coin is a 50-50 proposition. It’s not.

The odds can be beaten. That’s what a three-man team of Stanford and UC Santa Cruz researchers have discovered.

They produced a study that turns conventional wisdom for those who ever settled a minor dispute with a simple coin toss.

They used a high-speed camera that photographed people flipping coins and they concluded that a coin is more likely to land facing the same side on which it started. That is, if a coin is facing tails up when it is perched on the thumb, it is more likely to land tails up.

How much more likely? About 51 percent of the time and even as much as 60 percent. In other words, more than random luck is at work.

There is even an unscientific study by a prisoner inside his cell, who once flipped a coin 10,000 times.

The result indicated that if one knows how the coin was faced when flipped, the chances of knowing how it will land are much better.

So, tossing a coin long has been a choice for deciding trivial matters but also critical in sports.

A coin toss determines which team, in football, gets the ball first in overtime if the score is tied after regulation play.

The team winning the coin toss won 63 percent of the games in overtime.

So, if the team calling heads or tails knows the position of the coin before it is flipped, that team has a better chance of picking heads or tails correctly.

Fans often complain about what they see as “unfair” in the NFL overtime procedure of flipping the coin, since losing the coin toss results in losing the game.

Now comes the “later in the column” explanation for my using the foregoing in my column.

Would you believe that some officials are wondering if the system of tossing coins can be converted into “Jan-Ken-Po,” the ancient Japanese system of making a choice. In English, that would be “”Rock-Paper-Scissors.”

The suggestion says that captains of their respective teams can engage in Jan-Ken-Po, with the first team to win two out of three getting the ball in overtime.

Gosh, wouldn’t that be something?

At the last Heart Mountain Reunion in Vegas, they held a Jan-Ken-Po contest under the supervision of former Rafu Editor, Ellen Endo.

Over 100 joined in the contest. And, the winner? A young lady.

Boy, it will be interesting to see two pro football players, standing in the middle of the field, battling each other in Jan-Ken-Po. What will they think of next?


Here’s something which should put a smile on my wife’s face. (Not an easy task).

The Conde Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Award poll has named Maui as the “Best Island in the World.”

As most know, my wife was born and raised on Maui.

The Awards Poll is in its 22nd year.

Maui officials said the Award was particularly meaningful in these tough economic times. Mayor Charmine Tavares said the honor “Reflects the commitment of our visitor industry to offer their very best to Maui guests.”

Another official said, “As destinations everywhere continue to endure challenging times, Maui has been able to capture the hearts and minds of visitors from across the globe.”

The Awards were announced this past week in New York City.

Also for the first time, Maui hotels dominated the “Top Hawaii Resorts” category with four of the top five resorts coming from Maui.

The poll analyzes the travel preference in various categories including airlines, hotels, spas, resorts and rental cars. More than 25,000 participated in the poll this year.

When I showed this portion of my column to my wife she said, excitedly, “Pack your bags, we’re going to huh, Las Vegas.”

While I have Vegas on my mind (so what else is new?), a reader who signs her e-mail only as “a Faithful reader” writes: “Your mention of the Palms Casino Resort in Vegas and mention of the 10,000-square foot suite that rents for $25,000 a night, it was shown on the TV show “Hell’s Kitchen.” Chef Gordon Ramsey had rented the room as a reward for the male chef team who won the team challenge on a particular segment of the show.

They showed the guys playing basketball on the half court, as you had mentioned. It was a pretty awesome suite.


Still kicking Vegas around, some of you may recall my mention of a lady wining on the video keno machine. A reader named Marge wrote: “I got a big kick from being quoted in your column, (the lady that won at video keno for the first time.) I got to thinking, would you like my numbers? They are 6, 10, 14, 23, 26 and 29. You will get a laugh out of how I got my win. By playing six numbers from a fortune cookie from a dinner I attended the night before.”

Wow! I know when I go to a Chinese eatery I get fortune cookies which contain the so-called “lucky numbers.”

Never thought about actually using them. Hey, maybe I’ll give it a try since I have been saving those fortune cookies inserts, just for kicks, over a period of time.

Heck, if it works, maybe I’ll tell my old friend, Tak Hamano of Umeya, who makes fortune cookies, to add numbers to the fortunes printed in his cookies.


Yeah, I know I said I was finished with Vegas for the year 2009. However, my next column will will have a Vegas dateline.

This time, as I might have mentioned, my sister (not my Maui relatives) is coming to Vegas next week with her daughter.

Also joining them is my niece, the daughter of my deceased older sister.

She lives in Menifee and I would guess that 50 percent of the readers don’t know where in the heck Menifee is located. Well, it’s a small town in San Diego County.

Since she doesn’t drive to Vegas, she takes the flight out of Ontario Airport which isn’t that much of a drive from Menifee.

No, I’ve never been to her hometown. The only time I see her is when she travels to Vegas.

Kind of amusing is that I watched her growing up from diaper-hood. I wouldn’t know what anyone was talking about if they mentioned Las Vegas in those days.


While mentioning my niece and her mother (my sister), they were interned in Tule Lake along with another sister.

I didn’t pay particular attention to their incarceration at Tule, but these days a lot of emphasis seems to be placed on that Center

Iku Kiriyama had a new release printed on Tule Lake in the Rafu on the presentation of a panel discussion on Nov. 7 at the Katy Geissert Civic Center in Torrance.

I thought I would take it in to see how the panelists composed of former Tule internees would describe their experiences at the Northern California Camp.

That is, compared to what my sisters told me after the end of the war and internment. Especially since one of my two sisters who did go to Japan with her two children.

She was a “Kibei” so her story is a lot different from those I have read or heard from other Tule internees.

Her son, who was only 17 when they went to Japan was allowed to join the U.S. military when he turned 18 since he was “not of age” to have made the decision to go to Japan.

Since he served in the military, he returned to the U.S.

My sister chose to stay in Japan. My other stayed in Tule Lake and returned to Sacramento after the Camp closed at the end of the war.


I’ll have to toss this piece in because I keep jumping up from my computer keyboard to run into the living room to catch a glimpse of the Dodgers game in Philadelphia.

Needless to say the last jump to the TV showed a 7-0 score in favor of the Phillies. So, I decided to slam the door between my in-house office and the living room so I won’t have to hear the TV broadcast.

If I want to see a massacre, I’ll just watch my wife smashing flies in the kitchen with a fly swatter.

Oh well, when the Phillies win the series, maybe I’ll send Joe Torre, the Manager of the Dodgers a package of natto. When he smells, it, he’ll get the message. Maybe he’ll share it with pitcher Kuroda and both will nod in agreement. They stink.


Well, Halloween is just around the corner so I’ll dash off to Vegas and leave you with these quickie laughers, especially since some of you Nisei may accompany your grandkids on “Trick or Treat.”

You know you are too old to trick or treat when:

• You get winded from knocking on the door.

• You have to have another kid chew the candy for you.

• You ask for high fiber candy only.

• When someone drops a candy bar in your bag, you lose your balance and fall over.

• People say, “Great Boris Karloff mask and you’re not wearing a mask.

• When the door opens you say “Trick or..” and can’t remember the rest.

• By the end of the night you have a bag full of restraining orders.

• You have to carefully choose a costume that won’t dislodge your hairpiece.

• You’re the only Power Ranger in the neighborhood with a walker.

And the No. 1 reason seniors should not trick or treat is you keep having to go home to 5-4-4.


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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