HORSE’S MOUTH: Toyotas Are Still Running



(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on April 20, 2010)


Hopefully the letter I am about to print here is the last mention of my goof in translating the name of a racehorse incorrectly. The horse’s name is ”Nadeshiko.” My interpretation was that it had to do with “pee pee” but experts in the Japanese language corrected my interpretation.

Well, reader Kiku Harada adds another version to Nadeshiko. She wrote:

“The title of your column Nadeshiko caught my eye. As far as I know, ‘Nadeshiko’ is the name of one of the over 1,000 Japanese clans. Maybe the owner of the horse named it after his/her family clan. I seize this opportunity to also add that I enjoy reading you, even though I never go to Las Vegas. Thank you.”

Thank you, Kiku. I will try to do some research to find out why the racehorse was given that unusual name. As far as I know, there doesn’t seem to be any connection with Japan.

Well, Hollywood Park racing begins this week.

As I often mention, Hollypark is my favorite track because many years ago it was the first racetrack to recognize the Japanese vernacular press as a member of the media, which meant that I was given a pass to the press box, an area exclusively for representatives of the media.

And, I still get my press pass so I don’t have to pay my way into the club house area. Hey, at 10 bucks a pop, if I had to pay, I probably wouldn’t get out to the tracks as often as I do.
I used to get the same credentials at Santa Anita but not anymore, so except for special events like Tokyo City Cup Day, I never get out to Santa Anita anymore.

As most of you race fans know, Hollywood Park is cutting back racing to four days a week on six different occasions.

The reason is that there aren’t enough horses to fill the race card. Hey, can’t have horse racing without horses unless the horse happens to be a newspaper columnist with nothing better to do with his time.

Some people say that off-track betting has hurt racing. That may not be totally accurate. Off-track betting sites are having a tough financial time, too.

New York Off-track Betting Company may close due to financial problems.

The reality is that if off-track betting can’t afford to operate, it will hurt the live horse racing industry even more.

I guess it’s just the sign of the times. Horse racing isn’t like it used to be, say 20 years ago.

In those days, when I got to the track, I would always sit with a bunch of Nisei race goers and have fun in addition to trying to pick winners.

These days, I could toss a handful of rice in every direction and not hit a single JA horse player.

Kind of sad.

I guess the horse racing industry is facing the same economic problems as the print media.

The print newspaper business is in the news more than a lot of other industries, especially in the Japanese vernacular newspaper such as the folding of the Hokubei Mainichi and Nichi Bei Times in Northern California. Even the Rafu is facing some difficult challenges these days.

But, what about the newspaper industry in Japan?

Daily circulations of Japan’s major publications haven’t felt the economic pinch. The largest newspaper, the Yomiuri, has a daily circulation of 10 million. It’s followed by Asahi with 8 million,

Mainichi with 3.8 million, Nikkei with  3.1 and Sankei with 1.7 million.

That’s just slightly behind the Wall Street Journal, the U.S.’s top publication with a circulation of 2 million.

Others on the U.S. list include USA Today with 1.9 million, New York Times with 930,000 and Los Angeles Times with 600,000.

Japan’s Nikkei has gone online and is requiring readers to pay to view its web site.

In Japan, unlike the U.S., they are not going all out on the web like many U.S. publications are now doing. They are limiting their online fare so that readers must buy print editions for the full articles.

For example, the daily Yomiuri’s web site limits articles to short versions with no photographs. The Yomiuri is, of course, the world’s largest publication.

A Japanese spokesman for the media was quoted as saying, “Japan’s papers have seen their American counterparts suffering by offering everything for free.”

The other thing: Japanese newspapers rely much more on home subscriptions than ads for revenue which may be the reason for not feeling the economic crisis.

Dentsu, the advertising giant, says that advertising revenue fell 18 percent last year.

Along the same line of thinking, how do Americans get their news on a typical day?

Well, 59 percent say they get theirs both online and offline.

Offline only has 18 percent and online only just 2 percent.

And how about this? About 1 percent of Americans don’t follow the news at all.

Speaking of surveys, people were asked if they abided by the “five second rule.” That is, “Will you eat a piece of food if it’s picked up within five seconds?”

The bottom line here is that experts say that anything dropped on the floor that is picked up within five seconds, will not be contaminated.

I guess I belong to the 35 percent because if I drop something on the floor, I just kick it aside and never consider picking it up and eating it.

This happens a lot with me with my cigar. Sometimes, I kind of doze off while I have a cigar stuck in my mouth. However, when I feel it falling out, I snap back to being awake, but I never catch my cigar falling to the floor.

Even though it might be a new cigar, I never chew on it after it falls.

I guess it’s like tossing away a few dollars to simply kick it aside and pull out a new cigar.

Ever since the Toyota automobile controversy hit the U.S., I began to notice how many of the Japanese-made cars are running on the streets of Los Angeles.
It’s really amazing.

The bad publicity doesn’t seem to be having any effect.

Sunday night I had a dinner engagement in Torrance so I was driving South of Western Ave.

At every stop signal I came to, surrounded by other cars, I was amazed that almost every one around me was a Toyota.

At the intersection of Western and Torrance Blvd., I counted eight cars on the left, right and in front of me, which were Toyotas.

So, I guess all this bad publicity hasn’t affected American car owners as much as the media would like us to believe.

And, yes, I drive a Toyota, the Avalon model. It’s a little older model.

I guess I never wanted to admit that I drive an older model car but when I saw an article in one of the newspapers about what kind of cars people drive, I didn’t feel too badly.

Did you know that 29 percent of car owners drive models in the 1967 to 1997 range?

And that 29 percent drive in the 1998 to 2002 range.

Among newer models, 26 percent drive the 2003 to 2006 models and 16 percent drive 2007 to 2010 models.

So, since I’m in the majority range, I guess I won’t keep telling people that my Toyota is a 1998 model.

Yeah, I know, some of you may say, “Who gives a darn what kind of car you drive?”


Well, let me toss in a feel good story here.

The reader requests that I don’t print her name. She wrote:

“Since you didn’t think my story about my girlfriend and me was not interesting enough to print I want to tell you about my experience at the Harrah’s Rincon (Indian casino). Early one Monday morning we got a chance to play the new penny slot machines. I put in my 420 and pressed the 100 key (a dollar). Before I could figure out what was going on, horses starting running across the screen. My horse came in first and the ‘call attendant’ light came on the screen.

“I won $1,080. Do you call that luck?”

Thanks for your letter, Ms. Anonymous.

I wish I could write a story about myself with the result you got.

Oh, by the way. I’m not sure about your reference to submitting another letter to me. I don’t think I ever received it, because I do throw away my mail after a few days. I put the name of the writer in a note pad so I have hundreds of names listed. I looked up your name and couldn’t locate it.

Got another letter about the riot at the Santa Anita Assembly Center back in 1942.

This one is from Kaz Watanabe who wrote:

“I am writing to you in response to the April 3 article about the riot which took place when we were incarcerated in Santa Anita. I was only 10 years old at the time, but I saw what happened.

“I saw lots of guys running after one guy and hitting him. There was a lot of yelling. Then this guy entered one of the barracks. It must have been an office. When they entered the office it was quiet for a while.

“Then the guy came out with his hands over his face. His face was bleeding with lots of blood. I said to one of the guys that came out of the office, ‘He is hurt.’

“His reply was, ‘He’s a Korean spy, someone threw a typewriter at his face.’

“Then, soon afterwards, the MPs came in full force and quelled the riot.”

Well, that’s still another version of what triggered the riot at Santa Anita. It doesn’t get that much attention in this era.

Perhaps the Rafu news section will carry the item on which I am about to touch on but I saw it in the Hokubei’s online news.

It’s about the Midwest District Office of the JACL which issued the following statement: “The Japanese American Citizens League is astonished and troubled that East High School in Akron, Ohio, uses the term “Oriental” as its school’s nickname.”

The JACL was quoted as saying, “Though once widely used, the term Oriental is now considered a derogatory and offensive term by the Asian Pacific American community. It is a term steeped in racism, colonialism and xenophobia, conveying a pejorative depiction of Asian people and culture that was used to justify their exclusion and segregation from mainstream American society.”
I don’t want to sound too uneducated but I had to look up the word pejorative to get its definition.

At any rate, doesn’t the JACL have anything better to do?

I never considered Oriental as being such a derogatory label. At least not in the manner in which the Midwest District Office of the organization has depicted.

Now, a while back, a high school in Canton, Ohio, used the nickname “Chinks,” which certainly qualifies as being derogatory, but I don’t put Oriental in the same category.

By the way, the Canton prep school did drop the name, Chinks.

In some ways, we may be getting too sensitive to certain terms and names.

Right here in the Los Angeles School District, Gardena High School was forced to change its nickname, which it used for so many years.

Gardena was known as the “Mohicans,” which some people felt was offensive to the American Indians. So they did drop the nickname.

There are people who want other sports teams to change their nicknames. Like the pro football team, the Washington Redskins and the baseball team, the Cleveland Indians.

Perhaps, I’m the only one out of step but I don’t think these names are offensive to the American Indians.

Oh well, as far as the East Akron High School nickname is concerned, maybe they’ll be selling “Japadog” at their concession stands during their football games.

Just kidding.

If nothing else, the name of the restaurant may entice me to visit the place the next time I visit Las Vegas.

Old friend, Grace Sakioka, sent me a note on the eatery. She wrote:

“If you ever want to dine at a very friendly Japanese restaurant, this one we’ve known from years back, when their restaurant was in Fountain Valley. The name of the restaurant is Sushi Riki, owned and operated by Margie and Takeo Saegusa.”

What makes the name stick in my mind is that many years ago, when I worked in Tokyo, it was for Rikidozan more popularly known as “Riki.”

I am curious how the Saegusa’s came to name their place Sushi Riki. Could they have been friends of Rikidozan?

At any rate, according to Grace’s note, Sushi Riki is located about 4.5 miles from Downtown Vegas at 3900 Paradise Road.

They are open from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday for lunch and from 5:30 to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday for dinner. They are closed on Sundays.

Well, as I said, the next time I’m in Vegas, I guess I’ll drive over to Riki’s and give it a try.

As most of you know, when it comes to Japanese cuisine, I’ve been a Makino’s fan for many years. Now, I’ll have something to compare Makino’s to after visiting Riki’s.

And, if the owners were friends of Rikidozan, we’ll certainly have a lot to chat about.

No, as of now, I don’t have any Vegas visits planned.

Kind of a drought, you might say because it will probably be about three months before I might schedule a trip.

Of course, you never know.

If I hit the big one in the California lottery, I might even move to Vegas.

Then my wife and I can have breakfast with Rosie Kakuuchi every morning. Rosie, as you all know, if you read my ramblings, lives in Vegas so when we visit, she comes over to the California Hotel where we stay and we enjoy breakfast as well as the conversation about what’s happening in Vegas.

Since Rosie is involved in a lot of Vegas Japanese community affairs. I get a lot of information about what the JAs are doing during the year.

Until next time.

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


1 Comment

  1. James Fujita on

    That cigar was bad for your health before you even stuck it in your mouth and you’re worried about dropping it on the ground?

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