HORSE’S MOUTH: Impressions of the Little League World Series

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By GEORGE YOSHINAGA

(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on August 31, 2010.)

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I guess I can call it another “first.”

As those who read my rambling know I was in Vegas this past weekend. However, I didn’t spend any time in the casino.

The reaction to this would probably be, “Huh, you went to Vegas and didn’t spend any time in the casino?”

And the next statement would be, “Then what the heck were you doing?”

Well, my visit was supposed to be a three-day, two night stay.

I won’t go into specifics, but it’s a health problem and I ended up in a hospital for the entire stay.

So I can call it a “first.”

I spent two days in bed at the Valley View Hospital, one of the largest in Vegas.

Being such a large medical facility, I wasn’t surprised that there were a lot of employees of Asian ethnicity. That would include nurses, technicians and doctors.

I couldn’t identify those who might have been of Japanese ethnicity.

Since I was there for a couple of days I got to know a few of them enough to chat and naturally, I asked the question, “Where you from?”

That’s a normal question I suppose because most of the residents in Vegas are from other parts of the country.

The one technician I talked to said he was from Honolulu. Of course, he asked me if I was also from the Islands.

My response was “No, but my wife is from Maui.”

I was discharged from the hospital about midnight on Saturday so it was too late to hit the slot machines. Needless to say, since I didn’t gamble, I didn’t lose anything. That might be labeled a “first” too.

Since in my previous column I said I was driving to Vegas, most of you are wondering how I was able to drive back.

No problem. I got on my cell phone and called one of my sons and asked him to fly up to Vegas to help me drive.

As it turned out, he drove all the way, while I napped in the back seat.

I guess paying for his airfare might be considered a financial setback. But it would have been a lot less than donating to the slot machines.

So, I’m back and now hacking away, trying to get my column out for today’s edition of the Rafu.

(Maggie’s comments: Mr. Y. I was so sorry to learn about your stay in the Valley View Hospital. We are grateful that you were able to write Tuesday’s column in spite. We wish you a speedy recovery).

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As I frequently do when I’m hard-pressed for time and column material, I go to my e-mail or snail mail for topics which I might chat about.
And if a reader writes to me agreeing with my opinion on any issue, I can’t wait to get it into print. Such a letter was sent to me by Eunice Sato. Most of you may have forgotten that Eunice was the first woman to serve as the mayor of Long Beach. That’s because it was back in the 1970’s and early 80’s.

This is her letter: “AB 1775 by Assemblyman Warren Furutani (D. Carson-Long Beach) passed by both houses of the California legislature with no negative votes, is ready to be signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“Gov. Schwarzenegger should veto AB 1775 Re WWII Japanese American Relocation until the ‘concentration camp’ wording is changed. I was among those forced to leave my home so I know.

“AB 1775 requires the governor to proclaim Jan. 30 as ‘Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.’ Designating that day each year will have a special significance to public schools and educational institutions and would encourage entities to observe that day by conducting exercises remembering the life of Fred Korematsu and recognizing the importance of preserving civil liberties.

“I wholeheartedly support this concept. In fact, I donated my entire $20,000 U.S. Government Redress Compensation payment to the Japanese American Citizens League to an endowment fund for the purpose of perpetuating the civic lessons to be learned by future generations as to what happened to our civil liberties by Executive Order 9066 of then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who carried out the evacuation of the West Coast area.
“However, I believe the bill’s text that refers to ‘concentration camps’ needs to be changed to ‘relocation’ or ‘assembly’ centers which is the more accurate terminology.

“American citizens of Japanese ancestry and their parents who were not permitted to become American citizens were ordered to relocation or assembly areas in inland and isolated parts of the country. To be sure, these camps were the barest minimum or primitive living conditions.

“Those who were imprisoned in ‘concentration camps’ would not be able to leave at will. The young people left camps. Some of my classmates from college left camp in Amache, Colorado, and went to Greeley, where I went to get my Bachelor of Arts degree.

“My parents, two brothers and I left California on a Sunday afternoon in mid-March (after I returned home from San Jose State College on a Friday night) to be out of California before midnight on a cold, moonlit night with no other travelers on the highway. We treasured liberty security.

“My urgent request is that the wording be changed from ‘concentration camp’ to ‘relocation or assembly center’ in all places in the bill where the word ‘concentration’ is used. I favor having Gov. Schwarzenegger’s veto AB 1775 in the form it was sent to him and then ask the bill’s supporters to replace wording that currently conveys the wrong impression of what happened.

“The internees were not lawbreaking prisoners or dangerous characters. They were your neighbors, classmates or friends.”

Thank you, Eunice, for your letter and your effort to eliminate “concentration camp” when reference is made of the relocation camps.

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Okay, let me move on with another letter of a little lighter vein.

It comes from reader, Irene Furuya, and she writes a lengthy piece on umeboshi. That’s right, umeboshi. Here is her comments on the Japanese delicacy:

Umeboshi

“To all of you who have grown up eating umeboshi when we were kids, this is more than you wanted to know. If you never had umeboshi, read on…Umeboshi is a salty, sour pickle that we often eat in a musubi or rice ball or when we are sick with okai or okayu (rice gruel). In Japan, it is usually served with breakfast gohan or rice with a cup of tea. Food authority Robbie Swinnerton compares eating umeboshi to the culinary equivalent of taking a cold shower. ‘The abrupt, searingly tart, tangy, salty taste jolts the eyes open, shakes the stomach awake, sandpapers off any staleness from the taste buds and get the day off to an unforgettable start.’

“We have always known umeboshi as a pickled plum but it is actually a Japanese apricot, prune or American plum. If you examine the pit, it resembles an apricot more than a plum. So how is umeboshi oshi made, you ask.

“From mid-June to mid-July, the rainy season in Japan, the fruit is soaked in water to get rid of its bitter taste. Then it is drained and wiped dry and sprayed with shochu or Japanese distilled rice liquor. They are then put in a container for pickling, mixed with salt and weighted down with a heavy stone. Pressing the fruit down is very important in the making of umeboshi, which takes about six weeks.

“After that perilla leaves (beefsteak) or shiso are washed, they are sprinkled with salt, all excess liquid squeezed out, leaves broken apart and combined with salted ume. The heavy stone is again placed over the mixture, which is allowed to pickle for another week. During a sunny day at the end of July, the fruit is dried outside for three days and nights.

“The center of the umeboshi industry is in Ryujin Village in Wakayama prefecture, on the main Island of Honshu. Their traditional method of making umeboshi is a ‘lactic-acid fermentation process,’ one of the oldest and safest ways of preserving food.

“Wakayama umeboshi is mellow and not as salty as the typical umeboshi we know. Lactic acid-forming bacteria grows and creates an acidic environment and emits carbon dioxide that contributes to the favorable anaerobic condition and further stimulates the growth of the good bacteria. Salt, rice vinegar and shiso leaves are added. After a year of aging, the remaining red liquid is bottled and sold as umeboshi vinegar. This condiment is versatile for making dressing and is available locally at the natural food stores and some supermarkets.

“The best, most prized and most expensive umeboshi is called ‘Kishu ume’ from Wakayama prefecture. Aged five years, it has the thinnest skin, the smallest seed and a soft thick fruit. Eight, large, individually wrapped Kishu ume sells for about $30. Quite pricey.

“The first umeboshi was found in China, where dried smoked plum called ubai, was discovered in a tomb more than 1,000 years ago. It was used to prevent fatigue, purify water, rid the body of toxins and cure dysentery, typhoid and food poisoning. The first umeboshi in Japan appeared before the Nara Period in years 710 to 794 and was first introduced as a medicine.

“During the samurai era, umeboshi flavored the samurai’s rice and vegetables and purified his water and food. It also helped samurai suffering from battle fatigue.

Ume extract when applied to the skin has been found to cure ringworms and athlete’s foot.

“Some thought the health benefits of umeboshi included the prevention of aging, purification of blood, vitalization and as a food preservative for food and helping with fatigue.”

Gee, I didn’t know any of this stuff about umeboshi, Great stuff, isn’t it?

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Normally, I didn’t pay too much attention to the Little League World Series played back East.
This year was a little different with a team from Waipahu on Oahu playing the team from Japan for the world title.
The reason I even mention this is that when the Hawaii youngsters and the kids from Japan won their brackets and faced off against each other, one of my Nisei friends asked, “Who you rooting for?”

I hadn’t given it that much thought but since he asked, I had to think for a moment before deciding I would be cheering for the lads from Hawaii.

Now if the same question was asked of me, say, 10 years ago, I probably would have replied, “Japan.”

The reason is simple. Any team from Hawaii has to be the underdog because of the population factor. Waipahu is a small town so putting together a team of championship caliber would be a lot tougher than a team from heavily populated Japan.

Oh well, maybe if I had been rooting for Japan, Waipahu might have won. I do jinx teams with my picks, as many of you may know.

Even though the lads from Waipahu lost, the town’s people are still planning on a huge celebration. Hey, after all, they did win the U.S. championship by beating the best teams from America.

Oh, by the way, I know a lot of city names in Hawaii are tough to pronounce but I think those announcers who called the Little League championships would at least try to get as close as possible in pronouncing the name.

While watching Waipahu play on TV, I got a big laugh when one of the announcers called the team, “Why-pa-how.”

By the way, the coach of the Waipahu team was a Nisei fellow.

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By the way, in a recent column I mentioned that friend, Al Morita, told me that the California Hotel would be closing four floors of their facility for renovation, starting in September.

Well, I was amazed at the number of people who were staying at the Cal during my visit.
And they weren’t all visitors from Hawaii either. I say this judging from the number of cars in the Cal’s parking structure.

Usually, if I show up on weekdays, I can find an opening on the third or fourth level of the parking lot. On this trip I had to go all the way to the top.

Most of the license plates on the cars (I noticed as walked down the lot) were from California.

Another thing: I usually have dinner at the Market Street Cafe at the Cal about 6 o’clock and the line is expected to be pretty long but moves pretty fast.

Well, on this trip because I was in the hospital until just before midnight, when I got to the cafe, I expected to walk right in and grab a table anywhere. Wrong. I was confronted with one of the longest lines I’ve ever seen especially at that hour.

I assumed they were folks from Hawaii who just flew in and because of the time difference and the flight time, they didn’t have dinner before arriving at the Cal.

At any rate, since it was so late I decided to go to bed on an empty stomach.

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If I were thinking money instead of “getting away from it all,” I would have been better off if I stayed home in Gardena and went out to the Hollywood Park Race Track to play the horses running at Del Mar.
I’m sure those of you interested in horseracing noticed that Corey Nakatani brought in four winners and placed at Del Mar on Sunday.
Two of his wins paid pretty well while the other two were mild favorites. The place horse did pretty well, too.

Hopefully, his success Sunday will lead to him getting more nice rides. Up to now, almost all of his mounts were long shots.
Go get ’em, Corey.

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While chewing on the subject related to sports, one of my Nisei friends asked me for a prediction on the Dodgers because they seem “out of the race” for a post-season series. Yes, they might still have a chance for a wild card spot but winning the league title seems as remote as my hitting the jackpot in Vegas.

If I had to make one prediction, however, it might be that Manager Joe Torre will resign sometime next month when the Dodgers are mathematically eliminated from any post-season playoff.

After he quits, he will be replaced by Mickey Mouse and the Dodger comedy will continue.

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Remember in a recent column, I said that for reasons I could never figure out, all the e-mail messages on my PC screen vanished. And as hard as I tried, I could never retrieve them.

Well, as often mentioned here, whenever I leave town and am away for a few days, I come back and find hundreds of e-mail, most of them junk or as they say in the high-tech era, “spam.”

Well, when I returned from this recent trip, I found 128 e-mail messages. In scanning through them, I found most of them to be spam or junk mail.

So, I tried to find out how I was able to erase all my e-mails by mistake and get rid of all the 128 messages but no luck. So I had to eliminate them one at a time. Time consumed, about an hour.

Well, that’s the modern age for you.
And that’s it for today.

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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.

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