HORSE’S MOUTH: About Miso and Radiation


(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on March 15, 2011.)


Even in the face of disaster such as one that hit Japan and became the top media news, there are bound to be a few negative stories that pop up and for the most part may go unnoticed.

This one, written by L.A. Daily News columnist Al Martinez, covers one negative aspect of the Sendai quake and tsunami. He wrote:

“I am sitting in the No Name Bar having a pleasant martini while waiting for my wife when the guy next to me, who looks a little like an angry troll, tries to strike up a conversation.

“It is not unusual for strangers to converse at a bar, but it usually begins with ‘How about them Dodgers,’ or them Lakers or whoever is in the sporting news on that particular day. It is never an invitation to discuss anything that is either intellectually challenging or otherwise in need of extensive knowledge. Haiku poets and professors of Victorian  literature do not hang out in Van Nuys bars.

“In this particular incident the troll does not engage in the usual pleasantries. He is watching the 6 o’clock news on a TV set behind the bar. It is focusing on the tragedy in Japan when he suddenly says, “Those damned Japs are getting what’s coming to them.” Then he takes a swig of beer from a bottle.

“His statement strikes me on several levels, namely its bigotry, its hatred and its absolute disdain for people who are suffering so much. Normally I would ignore such a comment or even move to another bar stool, but I am drawn to the man’s cruelty.

“No one deserves what they are going through,” I say, attempting to remain even-natured above a cauldron of rage that is beginning to bubble in me.

“ ‘God’s paying them back for Pearl Harbor,’ the man says.

“I visualize him as a troll of children’s literature, living under a bridge somewhere and hurling threats and invectives at those who pass by. He is short, bearded and broad-shouldered with a mouth that is perpetually down-turned as though he has just eaten something foul or distasteful.

“ ‘You’re crazy,’ I say, turning away.

“I am fuming and would like very much to suddenly spin toward him on the bar stool and punch the scowl on his face. I am sure God would not mind, but I am too old to engage in a barroom brawl, much less with a troll holding a beer bottle.

“ ‘What’s your problem?’ he asks. ‘A lot of people agree with me. Everyone on my bowling team thinks God is not all that happy with the little yellow people.’

“ ‘I should imagine,’ I reply grandly, playing Anthony Hopkins to his John Candy, ‘that given the temperament you apply to God, your entire bowling team is in dire jeopardy.’

“I decided that, short of bashing him and taking my chances with the consequences, I will simply leave him with that. I abandoned a half-finished martini and stood outside to wait for my wife, knowing, thank God, that there are not many people in the Valley like the troll. It must be lonely for him under the bridge all by himself.”

After reading Martinez’s article, I realized that time will not change everyone and those with the angry attitude shown in the story will, like time, never change.

Those of us who are of Japanese ethnicity have spent most of our lives trying to accept what we can never change.

It was a little surprising when I read in the Las Vegas Review Journal newspaper this morning that radiation from the nuclear disaster in Japan has reached Vegas.

Although the effects of the radiation are not life-threatening, I’m sure those who live in Vegas must be a little concerned. Perhaps those concerned might get something out of an article sent to me by reader Jeri Fujioka. It’s entitled “Radiation and Miso”:

“It may have been our fear of fallout from the impending nuclear holocaust or from nuclear power plant meltdown that first attracted Westerners to miso. During the ’60s, students of macrobiotics and Zen began hearing about Shinichiro Akizuki, director of St. Francis Hospital in Nagasaki during the Second World War. Although Akizuki spent years treating atomic bomb victims, just a few miles from ground zero, neither he nor his staff suffered from the usual effects of radiation.

“Akizuki hypothesized that he and his associates were protected from the deadly radiation because they drank miso soup every day. In 1972, Akizuki’s theory was confirmed when researchers discovered miso contains certain elements that are discharged into the body.

“However, the most convincing evidence demonstrating the protection miso offers those exposed to radiation was published in Japan in 1989. Professor Akihiro Ito at Hiroshima University’s Atomic Radioactivity Medical Lab read reports of European countries importing truckloads of miso from Japan after the accident at Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Ito reasoned that if people were protected from radiation from miso, then rats that were fed miso and radiated should develop less cancer than radiated rats that were not fed miso.

“Professor Ito was not surprised to find that the liver cancer rate for rats that were not fed miso was 100 to 200 percent higher than that of rats that were fed miso. Ito also reported that rats that were fed miso had much less inflammation of organs caused by radioactivity.”

Okay, folks, there you have it.

If you’re going to Vegas soon, in the wake of the news about radiation being discovered there, you can always get miso at any of three Boyd properties in downtown Vegas.

The Cal, Main Street and Fremont restaurants serve miso soup from their menu or at the buffet counter.

I always order miso soup off the menu at The Cal. Of course, when they introduced miso soup at the eatery, it wasn’t that great, but nowadays, it’s as good as you can find at any Japanese-style restaurant.

Here’s a bit of information that might prompt someone to act on it. It’s from reader John Masai. He wrote:

“One day when I was stationed at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, a group of Nisei women in Army uniform came marching down the street of a little hill. They were a sight that really opened my eyes.

“They looked so great marching smartly and they were all Nisei. I’ve never seen any Nisei WACs before or after that day.

“I don’t know anything about Nisei WACs or Nisei women in other branches of the service during WWII. I think we should hear from them and their stories.

“They deserve recognition, too.”

You’re right, John.

I’m not sure why the few Nisei women who did enter the military and served in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) never received any recognition.

If there are still some of you who were part of the WACs, I’d like to hear from you.

It certainly would make a nice story and let the Japanese community learn more about these select few Nisei women.

Another bit about our history.

A reader writes about his experience after Pearl Harbor. He wrote:

“I want to tell you about my experience as a little boy on Dec. 7, 1941. It was Sunday and our family listened to the radio and heard President Roosevelt’s speech saying the United States was at war with Japan.

“I was a little boy attending Denker Avenue School in Gardena at the time. When I went to school on Monday, my teacher said, ‘Our country is at war with Japan and I hate all Japanese. They should go back to Japan. Japanese should not live here, because we don’t know what they will do.’

“I did not know what to do, so I stuck my head under the flat-top desk.

“I held my hands over my ears until my teacher stopped talking about the Japanese. Going home after school, all the girls walked on the other side of the street and shouted, ‘Hey, Jap boy, you don’t belong here. Get out!’ They repeated this every day. The boys did not bother me. One friend said, ‘I’m still your friend, so I will walk home with you.’

“Later in March or April when our family was ordered to assemble at a church in Los Angeles, I told my teacher, ‘Today is my last day.’ She looked at me with tears rolling down her cheeks and said, ‘Honey, I know you are going away.’

“She hugged me crying. She was crying a lot so my face was all wet with her tears.

“I did not know what to do. It seemed like a very long time. She was in tears when she let me go and stood up. Her tears were still rolling down her cheeks. She said, ‘Good luck wherever you go. Goodbye.’

“That was an emotional time for me so I remember it well.”

Thanks to the reader for this touching story.

I guess there are a lot of stories like his out there in our Japanese community.

His story reminded me of my own experiences on Dec. 7, 1941, which I wrote about on several occasions.

Of course, I was a little older than the writer of this tale. He was still in grade school. I was a senior in high school.

It seems like a zillion years ago.

(Maggie’s comment: When I finished typing the reader’s story, I could not help wondering — was this a different teacher who cried and hugged him?)

It’s great the way the world has responded to the tragic quake in Japan.

One of the areas was from the fashion community. For example, designer Anna Sui created an exclusive T-shirt with the slogan “We’re all in this together” printed on it. All sales of the T-shirt will go to benefit Japan’s relief fund.

Another was Ralph Lauren’s shirt with a Japanese flag printed on the chest.

If people who buy these shirts will wear them around, it will be a constant reminder how the people of America care about the Japanese. Great!

I’m not sure if I ever used the following, but I’ll toss it in today and Maggie will remind me if I did use it previously.

(Maggie’s comment: She surely will. Yes, you did use them previously but it was some time ago and I thought you mentioned where Italian food rated).

It’s about American’s taste for foreign foods:

• I guess in the old days, Chinese food was always near the top.

• And, in later years, Japanese cuisine made a move up the board.

• Well, today, among foreign foods, Thai cuisine tops the list.

• Just behind is Indian food with Chinese finishing third.

• Japan is in fourth place just ahead of Korean.

Sorry, I never tasted Thai cuisine so I can’t make any comments about their food.

Kind of surprised that Mexican food didn’t make the list .

I guess I can open this phase of today’s column with “oops.”

In a recent column I noted that despite the high prices we pay for our gas, Hawaii still tops us on the per gallon cost.

I was wrong.

The latest survey shows that California now ranks No. 1 in the cost of gas, followed by New York.

Hawaii ranks third now. Who would have ever believed something like this happening in our time?

I would guess that some of you may get a giggle out of the following, titled “What Do You Read?”

The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country.

The Washington Post is read by people who think they run the country.

The New York Times is read by people who think they should run the country and who are very good at crossroad puzzles.

USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country but don’t really understand the New York Times. They do, however, like their statistics shown in pie charts.

The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn’t mind running the country if they could find the time — and if they didn’t have to leave Southern California to do it.

The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country.

The New York Daily News is read by people who aren’t too sure who’s running the country and don’t really care as long as they can get a seat on the train.

The New York Post is read by people who don’t care who is running the country as long as they do something really scandalous, preferably while intoxicated.

The Miami Herald is read by people who are running another country, but need the baseball scores.

The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who aren’t sure if there is a country or that anyone is running it, but if so, they oppose all that they stand for. There are occasional exceptions if the leaders are handicapped, gay, minority, feminist, atheist dwarfs who also happen to be illegal aliens from another country or galaxy, provided, of course, that they are not Republicans.

The National Enquirer is read by people trapped in line at the grocery store.

The Seattle Times is read by people who have recently caught a fish and need something to wrap it in.

• “The Drudge Report” is read by people who are trying to run the country and believe in torturing everyone who doesn’t agree with what they think.

The Rafu Shimpo is read by … oops.


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.




  1. Howard Lee Kilby on

    I have recently renewed my subscription to The Rafu Shimpo. One of the reasons for doing so is my appreciation for George Yoshinaga’s fine column HORSE’S MOUTH.

    In one of his recent columns had included a letter written from Tokyo by someone who gave a fresh perspective on what has happened in Tokyo since March 11th. I would like to share that with the readers of our local newspaper with the permission of Mr. Yoshinaga and The Rafu Shimpo.
    My telephone number is 501-767-6096.

    Just a few words to say how much I enjoy your column, Mr. Yoshinaga. I wish you continued success for decades to come.

    Howard Lee Kilby
    [email protected]

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