HORSE’S MOUTH: Henry Fukuhara’s Art Workshop


(First published in
The Rafu Shimpo on August 24, 2010.)


About a month ago I wrote about attending a regular Sunday service at the Gardena Baptist Church where I used to be a regular member for many years and it was the first time in many years that I did attend a service.
In the article, I also mentioned that I stopped going to the Gardena Baptist Church when Rev. Eishi Hirose retired as the pastor. Ironically, this past weekend, I attended the memorial service for Pastor Hirose, who passed away earlier this month.

During one of the eulogies presented, I was reminded what a small world we live in. I learned that before Rev. Hirose became a pastor, he attended Frank Wiggins School (now Trade Tech) to learn how to linotype. And when he finished his course, he joined the Kashu Mainichi as a linotype operator. That was the period just before World War II.

As everyone who follows my column knows in addition to writing a column at the Kashu, I was also the linotype operator.

I guess I can use the descriptive adage, “It’s a small world,” that I used earlier in this segment of the column.

So, this past weekend, I joined with hundred of others who bid Pastor Hirose a fond Aloha.

As frequently mentioned I am not a high-tech person but am aware that we do live in a high-tech era.

I am often reminded of this thought when my computer breaks down and I don’t know what to do.

If my son is available, I can always contact him on his cell phone (yup, another high tech device) to come over and straighten out the mess I created.

Unfortunately, he is tied up quite often so there isn’t anything I can do.

This morning, I don’t know how it happened but somehow I must have hit the “wrong button” on my computer because all my e-mail  vanished from the screen before I had a chance to check them out.

And when writing to fill a whole page in the Rafu, clearing my e-mail gives me a lot of the information I use for the column. So, now it can be said I am writing out of desperation. (So what else is new?)

Well, I guess I shouldn’t feel too badly because from time to time I learn that there are others out there who face the same kind of problems with their computer.

A couple of days ago I received a “snail mail” from former Nisei Week Queen Judy (Sugita) de Querio, inviting me to the “an Annual Henry Fukuhara Art Workshop” presented at the Fine Art Graphic Gallery in Torrance on Sunday.

Featured were painted interpretations of Manzanar and the area surrounding the former internment camp.

Mr. Fukuhara passed away earlier this year but the art presentation continues and this year was the 13th renewal of the exhibit.

All the foregoing information I received was via snail mail because Judy said her computer broke down and couldn’t send me an e-mail. Welcome to the club, Judy.

Judy is now an accomplished artist. Some 50 years after leaving Poston Relocation Center, she created a watercolor book of her memories of life in camp entitled, “Camp Days 1942-1945.”

And, of course, we all know that Judy wore the Nisei Week Queen’s tiara in 1953. Wow! Does time fly or what?

At any rate, the art show drew a surprisingly large crowd.

And, they even served a buffet lunch. Didn’t know that. So I had my usual lunch of cup of ramen before I visited the exhibit.

It isn’t often I pass on a buffet lunch but with my waistline beginning to look like a sumo wrestler, maybe it was a good thing.

Since I did mention Judy and her winning the Nisei Week Queen’s title in 1953, I thought I would toss in this letter about this year’s coronation ball. It read:

“I just attended my first Nisei Week Coronation all and was impressed with the show. I saw on the stage a very tiny and cute girl, not your stereotype contestant. Yet, she won me over and became the one I rooted for. The problem with underdogs is that they do not usually win, such is the case here.

“Her speech and impromptu questions and answers were in a class above the rest. Her knowledge on the history and imprisonment of the Japanese Americans was especially moving. I read in the program, it stated 60 percent of the total score is based on how they perform that evening. I thought maybe, just maybe. After the results, I knew then she never had a chance to win and that this was our typical beauty pageant. I’m glad the ‘little one’ never thought for one minute that she could not win this. She made the competition exciting. Unlike the highly decorated 442nd RCT, who had to fight prejudice every step of the way, she came home with no medals.

“I was wondering if you were there and know whom I’m talking about.  Also can you find out her true height and has there ever been any contestant that small before?”

Thanks for your comments. No, I was not there. There was a time years ago when I never missed a coronation ball but in recent years, I’ve missed most of them. Reason? Nobody invited me.

Come to think about it, one year I even served as one of the judges.

Hey, maybe that’s why I’ve never been invited again. Heh, heh.

Okay, let me shift gears.

On the heels of the Los Angeles Times’ revelation about the financial scandal in the City of Bell, a follower of this column sent me the following letter:

“Dear Mr. Yoshinaga—The Los Angeles Times expose on the salaries of the officials of the City of Bell brought to mind that Keiro Services never responded to your inquiry about the salaries of their management team. Perhaps you could do for the JA community, what the LA Times is doing for people of Bell and every other city.

“This has opened the eyes of everyone and I‘m sure people will be questioning what is happening in their own communities. We cannot be complacent any longer in believing everyone is intellectually honest.

“Keiro has long been supported by the JA community and we have the right to know how the donated funds are being utilized. Cities, including the City of Los Angeles, are disclosing what their employees are being paid. Why can’t Keiro do the same?” If they have nothing to hide and are on the up-and-up, they should not be reluctant to reveal this information. The longer they stonewall, the more people will become suspicious.

“We all feel monies we donate to the organization should be used to care for the elderly residents and not to enhance the lifestyle of the management elites. It troubles me that two total strangers are forced to share a very small bachelor apartment built for one with absolutely no privacy just so Keiro could make more money off of the resident on Social Security and SSI. Where is the caring and compassion that was so evident under Keiro under the long leadership of Edwin Hiroto? They should be looking out for the welfare of the less fortunate and making sure their final days are happy and free from stress.

“Hopefully you will be able to get answers and make some progress with them. We do appreciate all that you have done for the community, especially in taking on unpopular or sensitive causes and your willingness to question Keiro’s almighty Board of Directors.”

The writer of the foregoing asked that her name be anonymous so I, as always, shall honor her request.

I do file all letters, anonymous or not, so that if anyone challenges the content I can produce it for all eyes to examine.

I have touched on this issue many times over the years but have never received any response from them. I personally know three members of the Board but they never say a word to me about this issue.

Oh well, maybe they feel that I’m just a “urusai kozo.”

Hey, maybe I am.

It goes without saying that the Nisei generation has survived pretty well. And maybe as we look back, we may wonder “How?”

Case in point.

Take the current scare on contaminated eggs which is making a lot of people ill. In fact they are recalling millions of eggs because of contamination.

For those who want to continue dining on eggs, the word is that the eggs should be well-cooked.

Well, getting back to the early days of most Nisei.

One of the favorite foods in our early days was to crack a raw egg on top of a bowl of hot rice and then mix the egg with shoyu.

Man, can you imagine doing something like that now with this scare about contaminated eggs?

I know that I don’t even eat  “sunny-side up” eggs anymore because the yolk is almost raw.

Most of the egg dishes I now eat are well-cooked omelets or hard-boiled eggs.

Raw eggs over hot rice? Ugh. Yes, I guess I should mention that when I was growing up, I lived on a farm and we had our own hens which produced the eggs we ate, “raw over rice.”

I guess we can’t get eggs that fresh these days, especially since most are produced in places like Iowa and they have to be shipped to California and other states.

By the way, I think that people in Japan still have a raw egg on top of hot rice for breakfast.

At least my in-laws still do, although I just settle for toast when they ask me what I want for breakfast when I visit them.

They’re probably thinking, “Ya-pa-shi kare wa gaijin da,” since I pass on “nama tamago.”

Since Maggie, who retypes my column, always catches my misspelling and not too-great grammar, here’s one I’ll toss at her and maybe, I’ll confuse her.

Does she know the definition of “hikikomori?”

Sounds Japanese doesn’t it Maggie?

It’s a word which has come into common usage in recent years and has found its way into the third edition of the Oxford Dictionary English published recently.

It’s definition? The word signifies the abnormal avoidance of social contact, especially by adolescent males.

The word has one of more than two entries in the dictionary.

As I always add, heh, heh.

(Maggie’s comments: Can’t resist writing this, Mr. Y. Since you gave  the definition and Japanese sounding word, “hikikomori,”  I won’t have to look it up. May I say I only know “normal” Japanese words.)

It didn’t get any publicity in the Southland but the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California held a Mashi Murakami Charity Golf Tournament this past Sunday at a course in Napa.

Murakami played host to the tournament bearing his name.

If his name sounds familiar but doesn’t really ring a bell, he’s the first Japanese to play in the Major Leagues when he pitched for the San Francisco Giants during the 1964-65 season.

He really didn’t create that much media attention when he joined the Giants, something the players from Japan get today.

I’m not sure why he didn’t get the attention that, say, Hideo Nomo did when he joined the Dodgers.

At any rate, Murakami wasn’t even assigned an interpreter in those days and he always felt that what helped him the most were the Issei and Nisei who went out of their way to make him feel at home. He never forgot this and it was his long time wish to repay the Japanese American community for the kindness he received.

Hence the Mashi Murakami Golf Tournament.

He wants the proceeds from the tournament to benefit the Japanese American seniors in the community, most who are Nisei.

A nice gesture on his part, don’t you think?

As a Japanese American I have always been proud that almost all of us are more American than Japanese.

This can’t be said about all ethnic groups.

One area that is proof of our being “American” is that when Nisei get together, English is spoken. Most other ethnic groups, when among themselves, will speak in the language of their ancestors.
And even in speaking English, we don’t use some of the annoying words so frequently heard. Words like “You know,” or “whatever.” These words are used by 72 percent of English speakers.

Other commonly used words by non-Nisei are “It is what it is” and “anyway.”

Just thought some of you may find this interesting. “You know…”

Speaking of survey, a recent one asked travelers what is the “must have” when hitting the road on a trip. It didn’t surprise me that most  responded “reading material.”

Next was iPod or media player. This was followed by snacks and beverages.

And try to guess what was at the bottom of the list. Okay, you can peek at the answer below:

Six percent carried earplugs or earphones.

When I used to travel a lot, the one thing I always carried with me was a crossword puzzle booklet. I always figured it kept my mind sharp.

Reading is okay but on a plane flight, there is always some kind of disruption, be it an in-flight announcement on the PA system or the stewardess asking if the passengers might want some refreshment.

Such interruptions don’t better me if I’m working on a crossword puzzle.

My computer was repaired and I’m beginning to get e-mail again.  Here’s one about the new Arizona immigration law and the U.S. Constitution. It reads:

“In a stunning development that could potentially send the nation into a Constitutional crisis, an astute attorney who is well-versed in Constitutional law states that the ruling against the State of Arizona by Judge Susan Bolton concerning its new immigration law is illegal.

“The attorney in question submitted her assertion in a special article in the Canada Free Press. Her argument states in part: ‘Does anyone read the U.S. Constitution these days? American lawyers don’t read it. Federal Judge Susan R. Bolton apparently has never read it. Same goes for our illustrious Attorney General Eric Holder. But this lawyer has read it and she is going to show you something our Constitution states which is as plain as the nose on your face.’”

I guess if she were around when the government tossed all Japanese Americans into internment camps, she might have said the same thing during that era.

I’ll be off and running this coming weekend. Where else but Las Vegas?

I was going to cut back on visiting Vegas but as usual, relatives are coming over from Maui so my wife and I thought we’d spend a day with them. That’s right, one day.

Hey, even with my luck, how badly can I do in one day?

Besides, like a lot of visitors to Vegas these days, we look forward to great dining and doing some shopping as much as tossing our money into slot machines.

According to a recent survey, more and more visitors to Vegas are going this route.

And Vegas shopping is not only for high rollers.

These days you’ll find a lot of mainstream department stores, inexpensive restaurants all of which stay open until late hours for the convenience of out-of-town guests.

My main shopping destination, of course, is the Indian cigar store about a mile from The California Hotel.

Not just to buy stogies for myself but for my cigar-smoking friends who want me to pick up a couple of boxes when I go to Vegas.

They carry all the major brands and the prices are a lot more reasonable than cigar stores in Los Angeles.

And I can carry them back without having to pay the extra taxes our state places on imported tobacco products which can pile up.

No, if anyone is interested, I don’t charge a service fee for buying cigars from them. Heh., heh.

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



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