HORSE’S MOUTH: Happy New Year


(First published in
The Rafu Shimpo on Saturday, January 1.)

Well, it’s the time of the year when everyone wishes others “Happy New Year.” I never heard an explanation why this term is used as we shift from one year to another. Perhaps the custom might be changing a little.

I know I hear such greetings as “Have a good year,” or “Hope you continue to have good health.”

And there are some who kind of kid around with their greeting with something like, “I hope you have better luck in Vegas.”

New Year is not really a holiday as compared to other holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving.

If I were to ask a friend what their most memorable New Year was, many might answer, “Nothing special.”

Go back in time when we were interned at a relocation camp during the war.

I can’t recall what I did on New Year’s Day at Heart Mountain. I know I spent only one New Year’s Day in camp, but I don’t have any special memories of the occasion.

On the other hand, I have a good recollection of what I did on Christmas.

Heck, today when I hear the song “White Christmas,” I think about Heart Mountain because in Wyoming during winter, we had a white Christmas with real snow on the ground.

Maybe when we were in camp we were not in the mood to wish anyone a “Happy New Year” because none of us knew what was in store for us for the coming year.

I know I couldn’t be too happy with the thought that I might be drafted into the U.S. Army, where I did end up in 1943.

Oh well…..

So what about the coming year?

I don’t know how much longer I can keep pounding on the keyboard of my computer writing my column.

In 2011, I will be starting my 21st year with the Rafu.

As I frequently noted, I didn’t expect to last 10 years with the publication.

Of course, writing isn’t like most jobs, so even at my age, I can still continue to write, but as the readers may sense, I may be slowing down.

To me, writing is fun, so I guess there’s no point in walking away from something that is fun.

On the other hand, the media are changing as is the time, so perhaps I won’t have to make the decision on whether to continue or not.

Needless to say, the Rafu staff is composed of youthful talent and I do have a few philosophical differences with them.

Well, we’ll see in 2011.

The first Japanese car I purchased when autos from that country made their debut in the U.S. was a Honda Civic.

I debated between a Honda and a Toyota, but I settled on a Honda.

Okay, some of you may be wondering why am I touching on this subject.

Well, for one thing, I don’t think I’ll ever buy Honda’s newest product, which is being manufactured at their plant in South Carolina.

Why not?

Well, the newest Honda is called the Honda Jet.

It’s a jet plane that had its first flight this past week.

I’m not sure if the U.S. Air Force will be one of Honda Jet’s customers, but I saw a photo of the plane taken during its test flight and it looks like a great aircraft.

Since it is being built in the U.S., I’m pretty sure America will be one of its customers.

There was a time when Japanese Americans didn’t make the headlines in the media except for their accomplishments.

You know, stuff like getting involved in criminal activities and legal issues.

That seems to be changing these days. Almost every week, it seems a JA is involved in news-making events.

The latest?

Well, this past week a 43-year-old Oxnard resident, Darrin Sasaki, was arrested on suspicion of felony evading from the police.

Sasaki and his passenger, Juan Delgado, were arrested after leading the police on a chase that reached 80 miles per hour.

It also involved driving down the wrong side of the street, running stop signals and driving across the raised concrete median, which caused major damage to his car .

Both were taken to Ventura County Medical Center for treatment for their minor injuries.

They were booked at Ventura County Jail on suspicion of being under the influence of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and felony parole violation. Sasaki is not eligible for bail because of the parole violation.

Another news item that didn’t make any of the JA vernaculars involved Simi Valley attorney Russell Takasugi.

A judge issued an order this past week compelling Takasugi to immediately return more than $500,000 he said he loaned himself from the estate of a client.

Takasugi’s lawyer said he would challenge the order.

Simi Valley police have not filed a criminal action but are investigating a complaint filed in October by the administrator of the estate from which the Sansei is charged with embezzlement — that of Oscar Muro, who died in 2007.

Takasugi’s former law firm associate is Bob Huber, recently elected mayor of  Simi Valley.

Among the things he did with the money was spending $55,711 at a Thousand Oaks BMW dealership, with another $100,000 diverted to his brother-in-law.

The “black cloud” in the case is that the Police Department didn’t begin to investigate the case until after the mayor’s election because it might have damaged Huber’s campaign. This point was made again when Huber won the election.

I’ll follow this case to see what the outcome will be.

Remember when a Japanese vendor opened a hot dog stand in Seattle and named his business “Japadog?”

There was outrage by many Japanese Americans who protested that name was insulting to them.

They were very sensitive to the use of “Jap” as part of the product’s name, especially since it became a very popular business.

Well, hold on.

A businessman from Japan recently started a food truck business with the name “Japacurry.”

His food truck made its appearance this month in San Francisco and will be operating in the Financial District of the city.

The businessman, Jay Hamada, will cater to office workers in the district. He will offer curry lunches as well as bento boxes with chicken kara-age.

He said his curry is a lunch thing. A plate full of curry with some tonkatsu.

So far, his food truck has been a great success.

The former resident of Miyazaki Prefecture left Japan 19 years ago to study English in the U.S.

When he was young, he worked in a hotel restaurant in Japan, but he hoped to join the food industry.

His initial hope was to open a ramen shop because of the popularity of the Japanese-style noodles.

Hamada admits he had never intended to make curry until recently.

The success of the Korean barbecue taco trucks influenced him to open a food truck with more options. He also hopes to expand Japanese food on wheels. He is starting out with curry and bento but wants to see more.

So far there haven’t been any protests from the Japanese American community over the use of “Jap” in the title of his business.

As in the case of “Japadog” in Seattle, those from Japan do not seem to be aware of the sensitivity among Japanese Americans over the use of the word.

It will be interesting to see what happens when the success of his business will bring attention to “Japacurry.”

Since I’m a “Downtown” guy when it comes to Vegas, I don’t pay too much attention to what is going on in the rest of Sin City, but this past week a new resort hotel/casino, The Cosmopolitan, opened its doors.

The cost of the new hotel/casino was reported to be $3.9 billion. That’s right, billion.

Analysts predict a tough go for the new hotel/casino because they are entering a market that is struggling. The analysts say that just to cover its debt, it will need to do better than the top-performing Bellagio, its neighbor with 3,933 rooms and the same amount of casino space as The Cosmopolitan.

The Bellagio generated $122.9 million in income during the first nine months of 2010.

Bill Lerner, an analyst with Union Gaming Group, said most hotel/casinos that have opened in recent years have been struggling.

Tourism to Vegas has increased from the woeful days of 2008 and 2009, but not at the rate that developers have added rooms and casino space.

The Cosmopolitan’s interior is designed to make people gawk, including 13 restaurants that will offer worldwide cuisine.

And, the resort has enough gambling space to fill two football fields.

Experts say The Cosmopolitan will have to make a tremendous hit before anybody would get interested.

One thing for sure — you won’t find a Rafu columnist visiting there.

Just look for me at The Cal in Downtown, where I can get miso soup for lunch or dinner and find a bottle of shoyu on the table to pour on my food.

Where else in Vegas can a “low roller” be greeted by the general manager of the casino with “Hi, George, how you doing?”

And I’m sure that when I respond, he will wonder, “Doesn’t this guy have any other word in his vocabulary than ‘lousy’?”

After all these years, I thought I would never hear the word “evacuate” used.

However, since my oldest son lives in La Crescenta, the so-called “burn area,” I have to call him when it rains as badly as it has for a week now.

I asked him, “Do you have to evacuate?” due to the mudslides and rain water washing through the area where he owns a home.

He said he hasn’t been told to evacuate so far. But during another storm he did have to leave his home for a couple of days.

So “evacuation” is back in my vocabulary.

Well, at least he didn’t have to go to a relocation center when he evacuated the last time. He and his wife stayed at a local school that was set up for the evacuees.

I guess I can say I’m one of the few who was evacuated and has a Sansei son who was also evacuated.

For those of you who tinker around with the computer, I’m sure you’ve seen messages like “Work at home for big money.”

Just for curiosity’s sake, I responded to one of them just for kicks.

Big mistake!

My e-mail box is now bombarded with offers of big money to “work at home.”

There are a few who make offers such as $50 an hour. But the majority promise thousands of dollars a month.

Does anyone really fall for these phony offers?

I’m now trying to find a way to rid my e-mail of all this trash. So far, no luck.

Maybe I’ll have to change my e-mail address.

I’ve come to the conclusion that these phony offers are designed to get a lot of personal information from those who respond.

You know, things like your e-mail address, home address, telephone number, age and credit card number (to pay for the information they say they will offer).

With so many ID thieves out there, I have come to the conclusion that these fake offers are to gather personal information from unsuspecting responders.

Well, maybe the scam artists should attract those who live on the “Big Island,” as the people call the Island of Hawaii.

The poverty rate on the Big Island, according to the newspaper published there, is 15 percent because of the lack of employment.

Among the children ages 5 to 17, 19 percent live in poverty (homeless).

If there is a bright spot for these kids without a roof over their heads, it is that the climate in the Islands doesn’t make it that tough to live without a home.

I was kind of surprised to read an article about racial diversity in the U.S.

There was a stat that showed which metro area showed the most segregation between Asians and whites.

The most pronounced segregation was in Detroit. Heck, I didn’t think Detroit had a large Asian population.

Right behind Detroit was New York. Los Angeles/Long Beach tied for third. After that, Vallejo-Fairfield-Napa. In the fifth spot was Sacramento.

I assume that when they say “Asians,” it means Japanese, Chinese and Koreans.

As far as segregation between Hispanics and whites, Los Angeles ranks second.

Topping L.A. is New York. Heck, I didn’t think New York had that large a Hispanic population.

One thing about the survey that was interesting is that Asians tend to cluster in ethnic communities, which is probably why Los Angeles ranks so high in segregation.

We have Koreatown, Chinatown and Little Tokyo. Well, I guess having a name like Little Tokyo kind of segregates Japanese Americans.


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.