HORSE’S MOUTH: Congratualtions to Dana Wakiji



(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on April 27, 2010)


Let me kick off today’s column by congratulating Dana Wakiji who is now with the Fox Sports Detroit as its chief writer and will cover all the major Detroit teams
Dana was unique in that she was the first JA female sports writer for a major metro newspaper, the Detroit News.
She is no longer with the News as she took another step upwards by joining Fox Sports.

Among some of the Detroit sports teams she will be covering are that Tigers of the American Baseball League and the Detroit pro ice hockey team.

Needless to say, I’m sure that Dana’s father, George Wakiji, is a very proud parent.


Another tidbit of “feel good” news.

I’m sure many of you, like me, toss a few bucks away each week playing the California lotto game.

And, while I am sure, like me, you imagine what it would be like to win the jackpot.

Well, I often ask myself, “What would I do if I do win the mega-million jackpot?”

I mean, at my age, what will winning, say, $37 million really mean?

This is the thought which hit me when I learned that the April 3 lotto jackpot, which reached $37 million, was won by a Nisei woman named Mitsuko Higashi of Salinas.

After taxes, she will collect about $21.2 million.

Ms. Higashi has been playing the Cal lotto for the past 25 years, buying her ticket at a Salinas gas station.

As the story goes, she wasn’t feeling too well, so she sent her daughter to buy her ticket since she didn’t want to miss a week after so many years of trying to win.

She checked the local newspaper for the results the following day and, wham, she saw all her numbers were drawn.

She said it felt like she was doused with a bucket of ice water.

Ms. Higashi is a 77-year-old retired hospital worker and said she will use her winnings to support her family.

I guess with $21.2 million, her family can expect a lot of support.

Well, hopefully, one of these days there will be a story about a worn out newspaper columnist winning a mega-million in the Cal lotto.

If he does, he will probably toss his computer into the trash can, jump on an airplane and fly, first to Hawaii for a long vacation. Then, on to Tokyo for an equally extended vacation.

Oh well, dream on.


Another point of view on the much discussed Japanese American relocation experience.

It comes from Joe Nakamura who writes that there is another perspective regarding the JA relocation experience. He wrote:

“I was troubled when I read the article “Words Matter” (April 7) by editor Gwen Muranaka and your column on April 10 and April 17. Both of you spoke on the issues of the war time evacuation and of the Japanese American internment experiences.

Muranaka stated, ‘the nuances of language, the power of words shape how we perceive events, is a power which should not be conceded to those who obfuscate or twist the truth.’

You stated on April 10, ‘So in the future, when those who experienced the camps are no longer around, the words and opinions written in this era, will be used as the guide for future generations to learn about the lives of Japanese Americans from that era’. On April 17 you wrote: ‘Just think how it would have been at the height of the war and we were ‘outside’ where the hostility against the Japanese was norm.’ In my opinion, if we do not include the narrative stories and photographs of the 8,000 voluntary evacuees living ‘outside’ and if we talk only about the internees’ experiences, we obfuscate the truth.

I mean no disrespect nor do I question the harsh realities faced by the internees, but when the topic of World War II is brought up in the Japanese American setting, why is it that the conversation is just of the internment camps? Many internees, when interviewed are quick to tell of the Santa Anita experience, but living conditions were just as harsh for those living ‘outside’ in places like Layton, Utah. Where is the story of Japanese American evacuees living in chicken coops? Sadly, the answer to the queries are moot as almost all of the volunteer evacuees of that period are gone.

“When the Japanese American National Museum opened its doors in the early 1990s, interviews for donations and pledges were solicited and questionnaires were completed regarding which exhibits should be included, improved or expanded. When I asked if the World War II relocation experiences would include a collection of stories and events of the voluntary evacuees, the answer was a polite, ‘No.’ I have not visited the Museum in a while, so hopefully, this may have changed.

“Along with the fading photographs, the information on the 8,000 Japanese American voluntary evacuees will fade and be lost. This is a void in the completeness of the Japanese American evacuation/relocation history.

“I am left with one question. If the void within the history remains untold and unrecorded, then is the accuracy of the evacuation history complete? Lack of words matter, too.”

Thanks for your input on the voluntary evacuees, Joe. I guess one reason their story remains uncovered is that more of them haven’t stepped forward, as you have in your letter, to provide the information needed to “tell their story.”

I know of one Nisei who fled the West Coast 24 hours before the evacuation order was to take effect. He fled to Utah. However, he doesn’t want to talk about his experience so I guess many of the other voluntary evacuees feel the same way.


A little change of pace.

I’m sure a few people felt like jumping off a tall building after a few days stay in Las Vegas, if you know what I mean.

Well, now some of these folks can, if they want to. No, it’s not what you think.

In this case, it’s the new “Skyjump Las Vegas,” being promoted as the world’s highest controlled free fall, where the jumper free falls 830 feet from the 108th floor of the Stratosphere Hotel and Casino at speeds up to 40 miles per hour.
The new thrill ride costs just short of a hundred bucks. That would be $99.99.
The new jump is aiming for the Guiness World Record for the “highest commercial decelerator descent” now held by the Sky Jump at Macau Towers in Macau, which drops 764.4 feet.
Maybe if I were about 30 years younger, I might give the jump a try.

However, at my age, if I’m falling 40 miles per hour, my false teeth might fall out before I come to the end of the leap.


I guess you call it another bit of irony.

A friend, Harold Kobata dropped off three of the latest editions of the Pacific Citizen (P.C.) and I was going to comment on the publication after scanning through the pages of the JACL’s official publication.

Then I got my copy of the Rafu and saw that Maggie wrote an entire column on the P.C. so I guess there isn’t any more I can add to her comments.

As most of you may have read or heard, the are considering doing away with the print edition of the P.C. and going on-line.

And, that was the gist of Maggie’s column.

With membership in the JACL falling, I guess the P.C. readership is also staggering, which may account for the current situation on whether to continue printing the publication.

The only thing I would like to add to Maggie’s comment is that the JACL’s goal has changed so much over the recent years.

Although it calls itself the Japanese American Citizens League, the organization appears to be heading away from purely JA interest.

Just check the staff of the P.C. and you’ll get an idea of what I mean.

The editor is Caroline Stom.

The assistant editor Lynda Lin.

The reporter Nalea Ko.

Circulation handled by Eva Lau-Ting.

The Board of Directors includes Jason Chang, Judith Aono, Hugh Burleson and Cindi Harbottle.

The editorial on the demise of the print edition of the P.C. was written by Hugh Burlson.

In fact, the only familiar name I came across was that of Harry Honda, former editor of the P.C., who still contributes his column, “Very Truly Yours.”

So there you go.


Needless to say, a lot of Nisei these days (in their senior years) like to travel because they have a lot of time on their hands.

Well, Ray Kawaguchi sent me a few words about traveling and some of the hazards involved that we give much attention to.

He wrote: “Be very careful when you travel and remind your elderly parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and anyone you know who travels.

“The older generation is more likely to be victimized. You can’t be too careful these days. Almost anyone can be caught. A person arrives at the hotel and checks in at the front desk. When checking in, the traveler gives the front desk his or her credit card number for all charges to their room. The person gets to the room and settles in.

“Someone calls the front desk and asks for (example) room 620 which happens to be the traveler’s room. The traveler answers and the person on the other end of the phone says the following: ‘This is the front desk. When checking in, we came across a problem with your charge card information. Please re-read your credit card number and verify the last three digits at the reserve side of your charge card.’

“Not thinking anything, the traveler might give this person your information since the call seems to come from the front desk. But actually, it is a scam of someone calling from outside the hotel/front desk. They ask for a random room number. Then, ask you for credit card information. Sounding so professional that the traveler thinks he is talking to the front desk.

“If any of you ever encounter this problem on your vacation, tell the caller that you will be down at the front desk to clear up any problems. Then go to the front desk and ask if there was a problem. If there was none, inform the manager of the hotel that someone called to scam you of your credit card information acting as a front desk employee.”

The foregoing information was sent in by someone who had been duped and is still clearing up the mess it created.

I hope travelers will keep the foregoing in mind.

I, on a couple of occasions during my travels, have experienced what was mentioned here.

Fortunately, for me, the call did come from the front desk and not by a scam artist, but I shudder when I think of what might have been.


I used to be a movie buff. That is, I loved going to the movie theater to see films.

Not anymore.

However, I thought it was just me and, of course, the access to films on TV.

Well, I learned that I am not alone.

A recent survey by USA Today, indicated that only 19 percent of people over 50 now go to the movie theaters.

And, if I really wanted to see a film that gets so much attention like “Avatar,” I can get it on DVD and watch it on my home entertainment system.

At least, that is what one senior Nisei told me.

I’ve never gone the DVD route, so maybe I’ll check around and see if it’s that simple.

Heck, if I can sit in my living room, pop my own popcorn, go to the refrigerator and get a soft drink, why jump in a car, go to a theater, and wait in line to see a flick?

Yeah, on top of that, when I have to go shi-shi, I can always put the film I’m watching on “hold” and I won’t miss a scene from the flick.

Just call it old age.


In recent times, much has been written about the drop in Japanese tourism.

Especially in places like Hawaii.

Well, Japanese involvement in another area is taking its toll.

Japanese students seeking education in the U.S. has fallen 52 percent since the year 2000.

Graduate enrollment has dropped 27 percent.

However, other Asian countries are sending more and more of their students to America for higher education.

Korea, which has about 76 million fewer people than Japan, now sends two and a half times more students to the U.S.

Just one Japanese undergraduate student entered Harvard’s freshmen class last fall. The total number of Japanese at Harvard has been falling for 15 years, while enrollment from China, South Korea and India has more than doubled.

A Harvard professor who visited Japan last month said she met with students and educators who told her that Japanese young people are now looking inward and prefer the comfort of home rather than venturing overseas. They also said that the economic advantage of attending U.S. colleges is questionable.

And, major Japanese companies don’t like what they see as the sometimes uppity and overly independent ways of American educated young Japanese.

And, an international degree is not valued as in the past.

Many Japanese employers prefer the harmony that comes from hiring locally educated students, who they believe work longer hours, complain less and request fewer vacations.

I guess all I can add when I read this is naruhodo.


Went to a reunion dinner held at the Ports O’ Call Village in San Pedro the other day. I haven’t been there in about a dozen years and was surprised at how the area has changed.

Yes, the main thoroughfare which runs along the village is still called Nagoya Street, but I sure don’t recognize many other things there.

As some of you may remember, back in the mid-60s, I was on the staff of the Los Angeles Port Commission public relations office.

I didn’t last long.

After pounding on a typewriter for so many years, I really couldn’t adjust to the surroundings.

But, I still have pleasant memories of the Ports O’ Call which was refreshed at the reunion dinner.

I guess I must be getting old.


George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.


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