Keiro Residents Look Ahead to 2011

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Takeshi and Haruko Tsukayama, still getting used to life in California after moving from Hawaii, are looking forward to enjoying their retirement. (SAMANTHA MASUNAGA)

BY SAMANTHA MASUNAGA
RAFU CONTRIBUTOR

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As the New Year begins, resolutions will be made, new habits will commence and people may try to change their lives for the better.

But for some, the New Year simply represents a continuation of routine and an appreciation of life’s simple pleasures.

“If I have health, I have everything I need,” said Toshio Enomoto, 85. “If I don’t enjoy life, it’s nobody’s fault but my own.”

Like Enomoto, fellow residents at the Keiro Retirement Home in Boyle Heights focused on personal resolutions, rather than commenting on the world’s outlook for the New Year.

In spite of the excitement of a new decade, seniors like Fujio Matsui, 80, said they would take one year at a time.

“We figured we’d be here (at Keiro) for the next 10 years,” Matsui said about he and his wife’s living situation. “We’ll just have to enjoy it.”

Originally from Hawaii, Matsui served 20 years in the U.S. military as an intelligence analyst and traveled to countries like Japan, Vietnam and the Dominican Republic. After his time in the service, Matsui worked for several banks and also spent time at a sea urchin processing plant.

Thus, after growing up during the Great Depression and experiencing discrimination in Hawaii during World War II, Matsui said he expected the outlook for 2011 to be fine, with little real difficulties.

“I’m just hoping everything will turn out okay,” he said. “Life seems to be good now.”

This optimistic attitude was echoed by Enomoto, who said his goal was to live to 100-years-old.

“The way it looks now, I’ll make it to 100, and then where will I go from there?,” he said, adding that he is very goal-oriented.

Enomoto’s life thus far has been a mix of unique experiences. After the war broke out in 1941, Enomoto and his family were forced to leave their home and grocery store near Venice to move to the Manzanar relocation camp.

Then the loyalty questionnaire was circulated among the internees. Two questions in particular riled Enomoto – Question 27, which asked if JAs would be willing to serve in the U.S. armed forces on combat duty, and Question 28, which demanded unqualified allegiance to the U.S. and mandated that JAs forswear any allegiance to the Japanese Emperor or other foreign governments.

“I answered no-no on my own,” he said, adding that he was angry about being placed in an internment camp.

Based on his answers, Enomoto was sent to the Tule Lake internment camp at age 18. But in spite of the circumstances, he said the four years he spent in camp were some of the best times in his life because of the sports and activities in which he took part.

“Age makes a big difference,” Enomoto said. “(We were) being thrown into an environment where all we had to do is figure out how to kill time.”

After the war ended, he learned the trade of gardening and was drafted into the U.S. Army for a time before entering the grocery business as a produce employee. This decision eventually led to his increased involvement in supermarket management and in 1970, Enomoto went to Las Vegas, Nev. and started a grocery store, wholesale souvenir company and liquor store.

When reflecting on his life, as well as the success of his two children, who both received their doctorate degrees, Enomoto said he was content.

“I have everything I could ever want,” he said. “I live every day to the fullest.”

For Haruko and Takeshi Tsukayama, a new year simply allows them to further enjoy retirement and the activities at Keiro.

After moving from Hawaii a year ago, the couple is re-accustoming themselves to life in California, as they were married and lived in Los Angeles for 27 years before moving to Hawaii, where they stayed for another 27 years.

The transition includes added concerns about earthquakes for Haruko Tsukayama, 67, in addition to worries about her husband’s arthritis.

“I worry that in two or three years, I’ll have to push his wheelchair,” she said.

“I don’t think so,” said her husband, 78, with a smile.

But with these concerns comes optimism.

“I’ve never seen so many older people (at Keiro) in such good health,” Haruko Tsukayama said, adding that there are many residents over the age of 90. “I want to be one of them.”

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