HORSE’S MOUTH: We Have To Reestablish Little Tokyo

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By GEORGE YOSHINAGA

(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on Feb. 23, 2010)

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“OH, NO!”  “OH, YES!”

That’s what everyone watching the TV Saturday evening hollered out during the telecast of the Winter Olympic’s 1000 meters speed skating event.

A bunch of us were watching to cheer on Apolo Ohno in his bid to become the most decorated U.S. athlete in the Winter Games.

The “OH, NO,” ran out when Apolo slipped and fell into last place. With only two laps to go, it looked like he wasn’t going to get his seventh Olympic medal.

Then the “OH, NO” turned to “OH, YES,” when he rallied to take third place and the bronze medal.

Who would ever imagine that one day, a Japanese American athlete would hold an Olympic record in the number of medals won?

Ohno’s father, Yuki, is a Japanese from Japan (an Issei). So, technically, I guess Apolo is a Nisei, not a Sansei.

If memory serves me correctly, the last Japanese American athlete to capture the headlines in the Winter Olympics was figure skating star Kristi Yamaguchi.

Kristi parlayed her Olympic success into a highly successful career.

Probably we can expect the same from Apolo.

As I mentioned when Kristi won her Olympic title, she didn’t create much furor in the media in Japan.

Probably the same thing will apply to Apolo’s success.

The Japanese media doesn’t go out of its way to recognize Japanese American achievements. Probably because the people of Japan don’t recognize Japanese Americans.

Oh well, that’s the way the sushi scrambles.

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During these trying times in the world of print media, a lot of discussion has been tossed around regarding the future of the Rafu.

Most people will agree that the Japanese community needs a newspaper devoted to its community.

The Rafu does keep people posted on what’s going on in the Japanese community and it’s hard to imagine what it would be like if there were no Rafu.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

In a recent edition of the Rafu, the story about the Gardena Cymbidium Club’s orchid show was printed. Even though I live in Gardena, I wasn’t aware of the event until I read the Rafu story.

Since one of my wife’s hobbies is growing orchids, we knew we had to go to the show after reading the story.

The turnout was impressive. And, many of those in attendance learned of the show through the Rafu’s article.

One reason I concluded this was that as I walked around the Ken Nakaoka Center, so many people approached me and said, “You’re the Horse from Rafu, aren’t you?”

So, these folks, like my wife and me, learned of the orchid show through the Rafu article.

One of the highlights of the event was a demonstration on how to care for orchid plants. At least it was very helpful to my wife who grows and takes care of her many orchid plants.

We also learned a little about the Cymbidium Club. It was founded in 1985 and meets every third Tuesday of each month.

Gee, that means the club is 25 years old and I never knew about it until I read the Rafu story.

I also wasn’t aware that so many Japanese Americans were involved in growing orchids.

And, that’s why we need the Rafu. (Maggie’s comment: And I say Amen to that!).

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In writing about Robert Wada’s book, I forgot to mention how those interested in getting a copy can do so. They can e-mail Robert at [email protected]  or write to him at: 410 W. Amerige Ave., Fullerton, CA  92832-1709.

The reason I am printing this information is because I received a number of inquiries about how to get the book.

In a related e-mail, a reader named Wes Injerd wrote: “Interesting about Robert Wada and his book, ‘From Internment to Korea to Solitude.’ Do you know of any Nisei who lived in Japan during WWII and wrote about their experiences? That would be interesting reading, too.”

Kind of ironic but my sister and her two children lived in Japan during WWII. I never asked them about their experiences as Japanese Americans living in Japan while Japan was at war with the U.S.

Unfortunately, they passed away a number of years ago so I can’t ask them about what it was like living during the war.

The kids, who had grown into adults, did return to the U.S. in the late 40s, but we never talked about their life there when we got together on visits.

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Reader, Shu Miyazaki of Woodbridge, IL, responded to an article which I touched on about Japanese Americans in Hawaii during World War II. He wrote:

“The anonymous writer who claimed that with the exception of the so-called leaders of the Japanese community, the rest of the JAs were left alone. Was he referring to only those living on the Island of Oahu?

“Seems to me he was making a blanket statement for the entire Hawaiian Islands. If such is the case, I beg to differ.

“I have a friend named Rocky Shinyei Matayoshi, a native of the Island of Kauai, who is now my neighbor here in Woodbridge. He is a 442nd RTC, Co. G veteran who earned the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster and a Purple Heart fighting in Italy and France.

“He tells me that his father, who was just a laborer in the cane fields of Kauai, was picked up by the FBI and shipped to the Concentration Camp in Santa Fe, New Mexico, until well after the war was over. He said he volunteered for the Army because he thought that they would release him if he did so, but that never happened.

“He believes that his father’s luna (Hawaiian for foreman) didn’t like him for some unknown reason and had it in for him. He thinks that in order to get rid of him, the luna told the FBI some lies about him and that is why they picked him up.

“When Rocky was discharged from the Army after serving his tour of duty, he stopped by to see his father at Santa Fe on his way back to Hawaii.

“Talk about how small this world is, we (my wife and I) met Rocky and his wife, Elsie, for the first time in the early 1980s here in Illinois. We were introduced to them by a friend who in turn was introduced to us by a couple we knew in Los Angeles back in the 1950s. They had just moved to the Chicago area soon after we did in 1974. It turns out that my wife was a classmate of Rocky’s sister at Kauai High.

“Like the Disneyland attraction, ‘It’s a small world after all.’”

Thanks, Shu. I found your letter interesting reading. One thing I am curious about is whatever happened to Rocky’s father? Like when was he released from Santa Fe?

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I guess it’s a matter of personal opinion and interpretation.

Reference here is to the piece of writing by Yukio Kawaratani, member of the Little Tokyo Community Advisory Committee, who contributed to the Vox Populi feature in last Saturday’s edition of the Rafu.

The title of his writing was, “Please Don’t Disregard Little Tokyo Again.” His opening sentence read: “Little Tokyo was created because the Japanese were not accepted by mainstream America.”

From my personal experience growing up, I have to disagree as the reason Little Tokyo was created. And for that matter, how all of the Japantowns in cities throughout California and other West Coast cities where Japanese Americans lived, were created.

I lived in the San Jose area prior to World War II and the Japantown there was a gathering place for Japanese Americans because of our common interests.

Japanese businesses which catered to the Japanese residents attracted JAs to the area.

Social activities were also attractions which drew the JA residents.

They even had their own baseball stadium called Asahi Park, where the JA teams played their games.

The Buddhist Church had a gymnasium where the Nisei teams played games.

All these things were not established because “we were not accepted by mainstream America.”

Not to be bragging, but I was elected President of the junior class in high school.

And, there were only two other Nisei in the junior class. This sure doesn’t sound like we were not accepted by mainstream America. My classmates were all Caucasians or as Yukio put it, “mainstream America.”

In order for Little Tokyo to survive and regain some of its “good old days” position, we have to reestablish the reason and purpose which was responsible for its creation in the first place.

As I always say, “Enuff said.”

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In response to a bit I did on the overweight passenger who was removed from a flight because he took up two seats but had only one ticket, most agree with the airline’s action.

In a Letter to the Editor to a local newspaper one reader wrote:

“Airlines are responsible for the general comfort of all passengers. It is very uncomfortable to sit next to a ‘way fat’ individual who breaks down the armrest and can literally take up part of your seat. That person should not be allowed to purchase a single seat. But the airline should determine that before boarding and not after the obese one is on the airplane.”

Well, since it was recently announced that airlines will now start to charge $8 for passengers wanting a pillow, one would think they’d give this matter more attention that it has up to this point.

I can’t believe the price they have attached to “renting” a pillow. Will passengers be allowed to “bring” their own pillow before boarding?

Hey, don’t be too surprised if they start charging for using in-flight toilets.

We may be able to get by without pillows but we know we can’t do without a benjo.

And, we know they won’t allow us to bring our own portable toilets on board.

I’d rather have a fat guy take up some of my seat than have someone use their portable toilet sitting in the next seat.

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My adopted cat Peekaboo.

No, I’m not so desperate that I have to run a photo of the stray cat which we found in our garage a while back. It’s that the “adopted” kitten is developing into a kind of cat I’ve never seen before, especially its tail, which is almost as large and fluffy as its body.

Perhaps some “expert” on cats can tell me just what breed this new member of our household might be.

I’ve asked a number of folks who have dropped in to visit, to tell me what breed of cat it might be, but they all tell me the same thing, “I’ve never seen a cat like that before.”

(Maggie’s comment: Wow, Mr. Y., you have an unique kitten. She looks like a mixture of many breeds. Maine Coon cats and Himalayan cats have bushy tails like your kitten. May I suggest you take the kitten to the veterinarian to find out her breed).

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A while back I wrote that California is raising its fine for motorists who park in handicapped parking spaces when they don’t have a permit to do so. The new fine will be almost $1,000 for the violation.

However, I also noted that since most of the handicapped parking spaces are located on private properties, such as shopping centers, not many are ticketed because law enforcement officers don’t patrol private properties.

Well, California State Assembly Majority, Whip Fiona Ma, is pushing to allow parking control officers, not only law enforcement officers, to issue tickets.

She said, “If you go into a pizza place and come back and find a ticket, you’ll think twice about doing it again.”

Yeah, I guess a $1,000 for a pizza might be considered a bit expensive.

In South Carolina, they are going to require photos to be put on handicapped parking placard to prevent fake cards to be used.

Perhaps California will soon follow suit.

Although I’m a rabid sports fan, I never considered auto racing to be considered a sport.

Well, I learned that some of the top auto racing events draw a lot more fans than the “traditional” sports.

It might be said that I learned that the “hard way” this past week.

As stated a couple of times, I am visiting Las Vegas next weekend. And guess what?

NASCAR, the organization which puts together most of the major auto racing events, is holding its annual major event in Vegas this coming weekend, Feb. 26 through 28.

They expect over 100,000 fans to attend.

Sure hope I don’t get locked out of my hotel reservation.

As those of you who are regulars to Vegas know, there are certain times when it’s almost impossible to get reservations there.

And the NASCAR weekend is one of those times.

Oh well, I’ll just bring a few extra blankets just in case I have to sleep in my car. Will remind me of many years when sleeping in the car while visiting Vegas wasn’t that unheard of.

Those were the days when the guys who used to hang around J-Town would decide to just drive up to Vegas to get away for a few days.

We’d jump in the car and take off.

Needless to say, none of us were “high rollers.” More like nickel slot players.

I guess I didn’t climb up the financial ladder too much since those days.

I’m up to the quarter machines nowadays.

Yeah, in those days they had blackjack tables where the ante was only 50 cents.

Nowadays, it’s hard to find a blackjack table where 2 bucks is the minimum ante.

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Today’s laughers:

Two ladies talking in heaven:

1st woman: Hi, Wanda.

2nd woman: Hi, Sylvia. How’d you die?

1st woman: I froze to death.

2nd woman: How horrible.

1st woman: It wasn’t so bad. After I quit shaking from the cold, I began to get warm and sleepy and finally died a peaceful death. What about you?

2nd woman: I died of a massive heart attack. I suspected that my husband was cheating so I came home early to catch him in the act. But, instead, I found him all by himself in the den watching TV.

1st woman: So, what happened?

2nd woman: I was so sure there was another woman there somewhere that I started running all over the house looking. I ran up into the attic and searched, and down into the basement. Then I went through every closet and checked under all the beds. I kept this up until I had looked everywhere and finally I became so exhausted that I just keeled over with a heart attack and died.

1st woman: Too bad you didn’t look in the freezer. We’d both still be alive.

Didn’t make you chuckle? Try this one:

They always ask at the doctor’s reception desk why you are there. And you have to answer in front of the others what’s wrong and sometimes it is embarrassing.

There’s nothing worse than a doctor’s receptionist who insists you tell her what is wrong with you in a room full of other patients. I know most of us have experienced this and I love the way this old guy handled it.

The 75-year-old man walked into a crowded waiting room and approached the desk. The receptionist asked, “What are you seeing the doctor about today?”

“There’s something wrong with my dick,” he replied. The receptionist became irritated and said, “You shouldn’t come into a crowded waiting room and say something like that.”

“Why not, you asked me what was wrong and I told you so,” he said.

The receptionist replied, “You caused embarrassment in this room full of people. You should have said there is something wrong with your ear and discuss your real problem with the doctor in private.

The man replied, “You shouldn’t ask people questions in a room full of strangers if the answer is embarrassing to anyone.”

He walked out, waited a few minutes and then re-entered.

The receptionist smiled smugly and asked, “Yes?”

“There’s something wrong with my ear,” he said.

The receptionist nodded approvingly and smiled, knowing he had taken her advice. “And what’s wrong with your ear, sir?”

“I can’t pee out of it,” he replied.

The waiting room erupted in laughter.

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Kind of short today, but I got a Sunday dinner engagement to attend.

Till next time.

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George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and can be reached via e-mail. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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5 Comments

  1. I thought this site was appropriate for all reader’s, but to write “There’s something wrong with my d**k,” puts it in another level… not up. Put a warning for parents next time please

  2. We understand where you are coming from and will make sure to either edit out or post a warning next time. Appreciate the comments.

  3. James Fujita on

    Of course, racially restrictive covenants and other anti-Asian laws had absolutely NOTHING to do with the establishment of Little Tokyo, Chinatown, etc., right?

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