By GEORGE YOSHINAGA
Over the years in pounding out two columns a week, I developed a habit of sitting on my front porch, chewing on my cigar, trying to develop ideas about what to write about in my next column.
This past Tuesday, my mind kind of went blank. I even lit my cigar and watched the smoke curls skywards, hoping it would give me some ideas.
About that time, my cell phone rang. The voice on the other end was Frank Omatsu.
He didn’t mince any words. “Horse, I just want to let you know Hiro passed away.”
Needless to say, I didn’t even have to ask him, “Hiro who?”
I knew he was referring to Hiro Hishiki, who was in failing health for the past years.
Still it was depressing to hear of his passing.
Hiro was the owner and publisher of the Kashu Mainichi, where I was employed for 37 years.
When one works for a firm that long, the relationship isn’t employer and employee. We were more like “family.” Especially since the English section staff had only four employees including Hiro.
At noon, we always had lunch at one of two restaurants which were located near the Kashu office off of Vignes near the First Street Bridge.
One was a Mexican eatery which is still in operation. The other was Tom’s Restaurant, owned and operated by the late Tom Tayama.
Over lunch, we would discuss the publication for that day, especially on what the top story should be for the edition. Needless to say, we used to have some loud debates.
Since we were like “family,” I would visit Hiro on Sundays when we didn’t publish. He lived in the Silver Lake area of the city with his wife, Bessie, who predeceased him. Also his daughter, Patti, who predeceased him.
Hiro took over the role of publisher when his father-in-law Sei Fuji (who founded the Kashu) passed away.
There is a bit of irony on the news of Hiro’s passing.
In the last month, Kats Kunitsugu, who was the English section editor of Kashu, passed away.
Then, as I wrote in a recent column, I learned that Dora Kim, who was the longtime linotype operator (until electronic typesetting took over) had passed away in Las Vegas.
Now, Hiro Hishiki has left us.
His memorial service is scheduled to be held at Fukui Mortuary’s Chapel.
Perhaps it might be noted as a “homecoming” for Hiro since the Kashu office was located for many, many years, just a block from Fukui.
I retired from the Kashu when Hiro sold the newspaper some 20 years ago.
However, the retirement was short-lived when then English section Editor Naomi Hirahara asked me to continue writing my column for the Rafu.
I would never have imaged that one day I would be writing a Sayonara column about Hiro in the Rafu.
Okay, let me move on.
The zakuro and jakuro debate has created more heat than I ever imagined. I’ll print another letter, this one from a reader, Shu, who wrote: “I guess you’ve received hundreds of e-mail and snail mail informing you that zakuro is correct. I also looked up jakuro in my Japanese dictionary and there was no entry for it. My wife (whose parents hail from Yamaguchi-ken tells me that they call it jakuro also. I’ve also heard it pronounced that way and put it down as a regional dialect.
“There are many Japanese words pronounced two or more different ways. The most notable one may be sake (the salmon and not the rice wine) that many people pronounce sha-ke. That includes my stepmother who was born and raised in Saitama-ken, just north of Tokyo.
“Another interesting thing is that many Tokyoites, especially those Edokkos born in Tokyo (not the immigrants from other prefectures) cannot pronounce Hi as in Hito (a person) and pronounce it Shi, as in Shito. If you listen to Shimakura Chiyoko sings her famous song, ‘Tokyo da yo, Okkasan,’ you can hear her singing shito instead of hito.”
Well, Shu, I’m glad that at least she put the “o” on shito, if you know what I mean.
As I mentioned, this past September was one of the busiest month in quite a while.
So I told my wife, “I’m slowing down.” Which means, of course, I’ll have to cut down on accepting invitations to various events in the JA community.
This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Some folks think I’m getting too snobby.
Replace snobby with “too old.”
As soon as I wrote the previous segment I glanced at my November schedule on the calendar and I find myself penciled in for four events next month, including a trip to Houston, Texas.
So, that’s it for the gateway to November. It’s shut down tight.
Hey, if I’m cutting down my trips to Vegas for the rest of the year, it’s not that hard to cut down on everything else, too.
By the way, speaking of Vegas, a recent survey indicated that the so-called Sin City ranks next-to-last in the U.S. smartest cities.
I would never have guessed such a result in talking to the many Nisei who have moved to Vegas. They all tell me it’s a great place to live, especially if one is retired.
The criteria used was the education of the residents residing in Vegas.
By the way, the lowest ranking city as the “dumbest” just below Vegas was Fresno.
And guess which area was ranked No. 1? It was Raleigh, N.C.
The San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose area was in the top five.
Needless to say, Vegas is asking for a recount. I guess no city likes to be labeled as “the dumbest” in the U.S.
Over the past few weeks, many fans of the LPGA (women’s golf) have wondered why so many of the top lady golfers are from Korea or of Korean ethnicity.
Don’t look now, but it might grow before it diminishes.
The California State high schoosl golf champions hail from Torrance High School.
Would you like to know the names of the team members? Try these: Anne Cheng, Michele Chun Jenny Shin and Rochelle Chan.
Shin was the individual CIF-WSCGA State Regional Champion in 2007 and State Champion in 2008.
No need to wonder where she is headed. Eh, LPGA.
By the way, the co-coach of the Torrance team is Deven Kushi.
Gee, when the Torrance teams step on the fairway, some may wonder, “When did they fly in from Korea?”
When I read the opening sentence sent to me by Alisa Lynch, a director at the Manzanar National Historic Site, I just thought, “Gee another ‘Same old, same old.’”
What was the sentence?
“Former children of Manzanar to share their unique experiences with visitors on Oct. 10 and 11 (this weekend.)”
It was the name of the “former children of Manzanar.” They are Art Williams and Fred Causey. Willams and Causey? Yep. Although they are not of Japanese ancestry, they spend World War II at Manzanar as children.
Both of their fathers were employees of the War Relocation Authority so they lived in Manzanar. They returned to share their unique experiences as Caucasian kids in a Camp for Japanese Americans.
The two will walk around the Camp’s administrative area sharing their childhood memories, as well as making an appearance at the Interpretive Center. They will answer questions in an informal setting.
The programs are free of charge.
I wish I had time to go up to listen to these two. They will most certainly present another side of Camp life. That is, how two Caucasian kids coped with living with the JAs.
Nowadays, there is a lot of talk about the proposed “bullet train,” which will connect Southern California to the northern part of our State.
It’s too much in the future for me to pay too much attention to it. Some say it will be completed in the year 2016, which is roughly 20 years from now.
Hey, if we’re lucky, most of the Nisei will be near 100 years of age.
At any rate, the reason I mention it here is that, will the California “bullet train” encounter some of the problems found on the Japanese shinkansen trains?
And what would that be? Well, to begin with, the trains in Japan are usually jammed. And this is where they have problems in Japan. The one word? Groping.
In a crowded situation, a lot of the male passengers jammed up against females, let their hands “move around.”
Now the Japanese government wants more police officers, rather than civilians to be the initial arresting parties in cases of alleged groping on trains.
Most gropers are nabbed by “citizen’s arrest,” but authorities have a hard time gathering incriminating evidence as well as witnesses and often end up having to rely on the claim made by the victim.
Also, sometimes the victim may falsely accuse the so-called groper for her personal reason.
Police officials underscore the importance of arrests made by police, noting that investigators bear the responsibility when deciding whether to detain people “arrested” by civilians.
Will we have such situations when the new train service finally becomes a reality?
After all, these days in the U.S. there are so many incidents involving sexual crimes.
Don’t mean to sound like Harry Honda’s “PR man” but just received a postcard from him. Guess where he is? How does Uruguay sound?
He mentioned the Japanese colony in that country stating that the first immigrants from Japan landed in Uruguay 100 years ago.
And that most of those of Japanese ethnicity live in nice residences in the city of Montevideo, where Harry is staying.
Not sure how and why Harry chose to visit Uruguay. Haven’t heard of any other Nisei visiting that country.
My “Outside” prewar high school held its annual reunion this past Saturday which I didn’t attend feeling “who is going to miss me.” Well, I just get a letter from one of my former classmates asking, “What happened to you?”
I’m trying to decide if I should repond especially since she added, “I heard you attended your Relocation Camp high school reunion.”
I’m curious how she found that out.
Of course, if I do respond, it will be to explain that it wasn’t a “high school reunion,” but a get-together of all those who were in Camp at Heart Mountain.
Then a thought struck me.
Why do I attend a Camp reunion and not my high school class reunion?
Did going to Camp change my outlook on life?
Kind of an interesting thought.
Maybe I should chalk it up to old age.
I opened today’s column by saying I lit my cigar on the front porch of my house. That’s something I rarely do these days.
It’s not only that people object to have to smell cigar smoke in public places.
It’s that like everything else, the price of cigars have almost doubled. I get mine via mail from a cigar maker in Florida. Over the past year or so, the price and shipping cost has changed my habit from occasionally lighting up to strictly chewing.
Well, at least nobody can complain about “secondhand chew.” I’m not sure why they placed “secondhand smoke” to the smoke which is emitted by a lit cigarette. Why not call lit “firsthand smoke”?
As we all know, Japan probably has the strictest ban on smoking. There are places in Tokyo where one can’t even light up when waking down the street.
So, it doesn’t surprise me that some enterprising people have come up with a new approach to the strict ban in Japan.
They now have “smokers only” businesses, including restaurants and bars. At these places, non-smokers are banned.
One place called “Cafe Tobacco” now attracts 600 customers a day. One patron was quoted as saying, “I thought it was great. Starbucks bans smoking and so do many other coffee shops.” While total cigarette sales fell 5 percent in the last fiscal year, sales still came to $38 billion. Pretty good profits I would say, especially for a country with such a tight ban on smoking.
Oh well, cough, cough to you, too.
I didn’t mean to expose Editor Gwen about her winning bet at the Japanese American Korean War Vets reunion at Santa Anita last week but since I did, she said, “I guess I owe you a lunch since I said I would take you out if I won.”
Don’t worry about it, Gwen. The next time I win, I’ll buy you lunch.
But, don’t hold your breath, unless you can consider a Big Mac a “lunch.”
The other day I had to take an elevator to the upper floor of a building. There was a lady standing in front of me who had pushed the “Up” button. Since the elevator didn’t arrive right away, she kept pushing the button. Which made me wonder, does pushing the elevator button more than once make it arrive faster?
Perhaps only the older Nisei in the reading audience remember the name, Red Skelton. He was a comedian.
So, who else can I quote with my usual “laugher”?
Of course, my wife might not enjoy some of his quips.
At any rate, here they are:
• My wife has an electric blender, electric toaster and electric bread maker. She said, “There are too many gadgets and no place to sit down.” So I bought her an electric chair.
• My wife told me the car wasn’t running well because there was water in the carburetor. I asked where the car was and she said, “In the lake.”
• I take my wife everywhere, but she keeps finding her way back.
• I asked my wife where she wanted to go for our anniversary. “Somewhere I haven’t been in a long time,” she said. So, I suggested the kitchen.
• She ran after the garbage truck yelling, “Am I too late for the garbage?” The driver answered, “No, jump in.”
• I haven’t spoken to my wife in 18 months. I don’t like to interrupt her.
And the last one: “The last fight with my wife was my fault. My wife asked me, ‘What’s on the TV?’ I answered, ‘dust.’”
George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and can be reached via-e-mail at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.