By GEORGE YOSHINAGA
(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on June 8, 2010)
One of the privileges of being a media person is that we have the opportunity to meet people of greatness or fame.
In the many years I have had these opportunities, the one person wo always remained in my mind was John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach who passed away last week.
What always impressed me about Coach Wooden was that he never flaunted his greatness.
I still remember when he came to Little Tokyo to have lunch with the members of the Lords basketball team who dominated the NAU AA league. The lunch was held at the old San Kow Low restaurant on First Street.
It was tough to imagine that someone so famous would take the time to have lunch with a group of Japanese American basketball players.
Because of his down-to-earth personality, we didn’t have to sit in awe for being in the same room with the greatest college coach of all times.
Coach Wooden was known for his “Woodenisms,” and through the years, my favorite was, “If you’re not making mistakes, then you are not doing anything. I’m positive that doers make mistakes.”
I hope I can apply that to myself.
A few columns back I sort of marveled that I had a Rafu subscriber from Yokohama write me a letter.
Well, Tsuyoshi Saito, the Yokohama resident, followed up with another missive the other day, touching on Fred Korematsu “day” that passed the California State Assembly. Here are his thoughts:
“I am again writing a not-so-good English mail to you. I hope that you can understand even a part of my letter and that you will speculate what I would like to communicate to you.
“In the Rafu I read that Fred Korematsu Day had passed the California State Assembly. It is so honorable to the Japanese and Japanese Americans so I would like to add one comment about the event.
“I recommend that we should not forget two persons around Korematsu.
“They are Ernest Besig, who was the director of the American Civil Liberties Union and a civil rights attorney Wayne M. Collins.
“When Korematsu was arrested and placed in jail, Besig recommended that he become the test case to challenge the legality of the Japanese American internment. Korematsu agreed to do so and was introduced to Collins as one of his supporters in 1943.
“That was the first step towards the honor which was finally bestowed on him.
“Besig and Collins not only assisted Korematsu but others who were accused of resisting the evacuation, which included Min Yasui.
“And more, Collins also represented others since the mass civil and equality suits brought by more than 4,000 JAs who were deceived into renouncing their U.S. citizenship by Public Law 405.
“Collins devoted his work on behalf of the JAs without any payment from 1945 until President Nixon repealed the renunciation in 1971.
“Unfortunately, Collins died on July 16, 1974 on a plane bound for Honolulu and Besig also died within the ten years at age 94.
“Many Japanese Americans didn’t recognize the debt of gratitude owed to the two and may not give the attention due to them.
“Thank you for your attention to my letter. I always enjoy reading your columns. It is my best textbook when I learn how to write attractive English sentences. It is not too late that we senior citizens begin to learn something because I am ten years younger than you. Ha, ha, ha.”
Thanks for your comments, Tsuyoshi. If I were younger, I might take a “sayonara” trip to Japan and maybe meet with you.
As you wrote, “Ha, ha. ha.”
Yosh Hirai responded to my column on “the Issei generation in America.” He wrote:
“I’m writing in regards to your article concerning the bygone era of our Issei parents, submitted by Jim Isobe about the whereabouts of the hard working Issei men who came to the U.S. to work on the railroad in the early 1900s.
“I contacted Akemi Yano, the director at the Japanese American National Museum per the instruction in your article regarding gathering information about these Issei men.
“Since my father was one of these men who came to the United States at the age of 17 and worked on the Union Pacific Railroad in Idaho and later farmed there, I thought he would qualify as one of the “interest” in the research. I even called my older brothers in Idaho and Washington and they agreed to furnish any background information if needed.
“However, to my disappointment, Yano indicated that they were not doing any research on the subject at this time.
“Maybe you could pass this information on to anyone else that might be thinking about gathering information on the above subject.
Thanks, Yosh. Sorry about the response you received from the JANM.
Hopefully, someone else besides the JANM will respond to your letter because I’m sure that this piece of Japanese American history should be recorded for future generations.
After all, if it were not for our Issei parents, where would we all be?
I know I always seem to note that, “it was a busy weekend.”
Well, this past weekend certainly did fit into this category.
First, I attended the 11th anniversary of the Go For Broke Monument which was held Saturday morning at the site of the monument in Little Tokyo.
Needless to say, in addition to the Nisei vets who served during World War II being represented, there were quite a few political heavyweights including Supervisor Mike Antonovich, City Councilwoman Jan Perry and Assemblyman Warren Furutani.
Each of them addressed the gathering which I estimated to be about 100.
Master of Ceremonies for the event was Terry Hara, Deputy Chief of the Los Angeles Police Dept.
With the exception of Antonovich, all the others who spoke referred to the evacuation and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II as being placed in “concentration camps.’
As those who follow my ramblings know, I am among those who oppose referring to Relocation Camps as “Concentration Camps.”
Oh well, I guess since those who continue to use the term really didn’t live in the Relocation Camps, are entitled to draw their own opinion but as one who did experience it, I oppose it.
Perhaps, if any of you want to sit down and oppose my view, I would be more than happy to do so.
The other activity for my “busy weekend” was the invitation to attend the annual reunion by former residents of Terminal Island, the area near San Pedro which was a “Japanese community,” with (according to former residents) almost 98 percent of the residents being Japanese Americans.
The picnic was held at Bellis Park in Buena Park and about 100 folks attended.
As is the case with most “reunions” the number of attendees is shrinking. Just from last year, one of the organizers told me the figure was down from 200 in 2009 to 100 this year.
They provided entertainment which included talented vocalists singing Japanese songs.
Since many of those in attendance were the offspring of the original Terminal Islanders, there were a lot of youngsters who were probably Yonsei and Gosei.
One of the highlights of the picnic was the dancing of “Tanko bushi” by all those in attendance. Watching them dance rekindled a lot of memories.
I want to thank the Terminal Island Committee for inviting me as a guest.
Yeah, the food was also great. Not great for my waistline, but great for satisfying my appetite.
Min Tonai, a former Terminal Islander, was one of the few people I knew in the group, and we sat together at the same table which made it a more interesting afternoon.
Of course, a lot of folks who said they were Rafu subscribers dropped by our table to say, “Hello” which also made the afternoon enjoyable.
They had a raffle and although I didn’t win, the leader of the organizers was kind enough to “save” me one of the prizes, a bag of rice.
And I know there aren’t too many functions that hold raffles, which give away bags of rice as one of the prizes.
Of course, the only problem with getting a bag of rice is that I had to carry it to my car in a parking lot about two blocks away.
At my age, a 20-pound bag of rice can be quite a chore.
The last edition of the Honolulu Advertiser was printed this past Sunday, June 6.
The Star Bulletin will take over the Advertiser and the newspaper will now be called the Star Advertiser.
About 400 Advertiser employees will become unemployed.
I was curious if this list included columnists such as Lee Cataluna, a personal friend of mine and one of the most widely read writers on the Advertiser staff.
Well, I read her column in the June 6 edition and it sounded like she was not going to continue writing for the Star Advertiser.
That’s quite a shame, if true, because I got a lot of news on what’s happening in the Island state by reading Lee.
However, I’m sure with her writing skills and power of observation, she won’t be unemployed too long.
Oh well, with all this talk about the Rafu’s future, maybe I’ll be writing a similar column as the one Lee wrote in her, “Aloha.”
While in an Island mode, I was kind of surprised by the result of a poll taken this past week by the Maui News. The poll was on the new Arizona law on illegal immigration.
Since the State of Hawaii has so many ethnic groups as its residents, I would assume that they would oppose the new law in Arizona.
An amazing 66 percent of the residents surveyed said they are in favor of the Arizona law on illegal immigrants.
Well, according to other surveys taken on the same question throughout the U.S., the 66 percent registered in Hawaii seem to be in keeping with a lot of other states.
Most of those surveyed in Hawaii seem to have a better understanding of “illegal.”
So, I would assume that if the State of Hawaii decides to institute a similar law, most of the residents would vote for it.
I don’t know what the final results of the $6 million Memorial Golf Tournament in Dublin, Ohio is but on Sunday morning, heading the pack which included Tiger Woods was Rickie Fowler with a three stroke lead.
I know, any of you will say, “So what.”
Well, how many you know that Fowler is a “hapa?”
His full name is Rickie Yutaka Fowler from Murrieta, Calif.
This bit of information was sent to me by James Yokota who wrote:
“Hi, George, keep your eye on the up and coming 21-year-old PGA rookie sensation, Rickie Yutaka Fowler. He is 5’9”, 150 pounds, born in Anaheim and attended Oklahoma State University.
“He is one-quarter Japanese and the son of Lynn and Rod Fowler. He was the NCAA Player of the Year as a freshman and a college golf standout. He was a member of the U.S. Walker Cup team.
“Since going on the PGA circuit this past year, he had already won over a million dollars. At the end of today (Sunday), Rickie has a three stroke lead in the PGA Memorial Tournament. Hope he does well tomorrow. If he wins, he can almost double his earnings for the year.”
Thanks, James. I’m curious why his “hapa” ethnicity was never mentioned.
After you mailed me your letter, I looked at the photo of Rickie in the L.A. Times sports page and, by golly, he doesn’t have a “Japanese” appearance.
I guess, I’ll be following his play from now on, thanks to James.
I guess I’m not alone.
The US Today conducted a survey recently asking which one city most Americans would spend their holidays.
Heh, heh. Topping the list was where else? Las Vegas.
Twenty-two percent of all Americans listed Vegas with 19 percent opting for San Francisco.
Too bad. Los Angeles didn’t make the top ten list.
Well, at least four California cities made the list for the number of stolen cars.
Topping the list? Modesto with 742 car thefts for cities with a 100,000 population.
Following Modesto was Bakersfield, Stockton and Fresno.
Note they are all Central California cities.
Speaking of California cities, does anyone in Los Angeles know where the Nickel Diner is located in our city?
I know I often mention Denny’s as my favorite breakfast spot, but Nickel Diner is ranked first by people who make studies on such topics.
So, can any of you readers give me an idea where this Nickel Diner is located. I like the name. I hope a couple of nickels will pay for a breakfast.
Hey, maybe I shouldn’t sound so cheap.
There was a story in a recent Daily News which said poorer people tend to be more obese.
The opening paragraph read, “The smaller the paycheck, the bigger the belly.”
The reason given is that people of poverty live in neighborhoods that are flushed with fast food restaurants and convenient stores that sell nothing but junk food.
By the same token, low-income families are provided with food that is cheap but fattening.
I’m not really sure about that last sentence. I see a lot of folks I consider to be financially well-off at McDonald’s and Denny’s.
Okay, time for poverty fatso to go off laughing.
• By the time a man is wise enough to watch his step, he’s too old to go anywhere.
• Maybe it’s true that life begins at 50. But everything else starts to wear out, fall out or spread out.
• Don’t worry about avoiding temptation. As you grow older, it will avoid you.
• I don’t feel old. I don’t feel anything until noon. Then it’s time for my nap.
• I never drink water because of the disgusting things that fish do in it.
• Until I was 13, I thought my name was Shut Up.
• My luck is so bad that if I brought a cemetery, people would stop dying.
• Money can’t buy happiness but it does bring you a more pleasant form of misery.
• My wife has a slight impediment in her speech. Every now and then she stops to breathe.
Until next time…ha, ha.
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.