HORSE’S MOUTH: Natto vs. Cheese

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By GEORGE YOSHINAGA
(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on Feb. 22, 2012)

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This past Saturday, out of curiosity, I decided to attend the Day of Remembrance celebration at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) in J-Town.

The other reason was I wanted to thank Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who created the resolution that the Board of Supervisors passed unanimously to recognize Feb. 19 as the day President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which forced the evacuation of 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry into camps.

Please note, I referred to them as “camps,” not “concentration camps” as it is done these days. I’m probably one of the few who refuses to label the camps as “concentration camps.”

At any rate, Supervisor Antonovich did not attend the event, so I could not express my gratitude for his recognition of the “Day of Remembrance.”

Most of those in attendance were the younger generation of JAs.

As evidence of this, Chris Komai of JANM, who opened the program, had the emcee recognize the Nisei veterans from World War II who were in attendance. Only three were introduced to the gathering.

The keynote speaker was Robin Toma. As is the case with most keynote speakers at functions such as these, he talked too long.

By the way, his background record indicated that he attended UC Santa Cruz. I wonder if he knows my son, who attended the same university before he was accepted by the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

I had hoped to run into some people I knew, but there were less than a handful of those fitting into that category.

One was Jack Kunitomi, who no doubt was the oldest person in attendance. He’s 96 years old.

I met Jack when I joined the staff of the Heart Mountain camp newspaper. When I met him, I never realized what his being 10 years older than I really meant.

Now, 70 years later, I know what our age difference during camp days means in the year 2012.

Oh yeah, the other surprising thing was that Norm Mineta was in attendance.

I say surprising because the Japanese community of San Jose also held a Day of Remembrance gathering in their Japantown.

Being from San Jose, it would seem more fitting for Mineta to attend their Day of Remembrance and not the one in Los Angeles.

Enuff said.

Folks who follow my chatter know that I lived and worked in Tokyo during the early ’60s.

In writing about my life in Tokyo, I frequently mentioned how tough it was to adjust to many facets of living there.

However, I don’t think I ever mentioned my experiences in learning how to drive a car in Tokyo traffic.

However, since the person who hired me to move to Tokyo gave me a car, I decided to learn how to drive in their traffic.

The first and toughest thing to adjust to was driving on the left side of the road. A number of times, when I drove around a corner, I found myself on the wrong side and nearly collided with other cars.

So, why am I even mentioning this?

Well, I was reading in a Honolulu newspaper that a young Japanese couple who were married in Tokyo flew to Hawaii for their honeymoon and while there, rented a motorcycle to get around the island.

Driving on the right side of the street must have confused them as it did me when I had to learn how to drive on the left side in Tokyo.

They got into a collision and the bride lost her life.

What a tragedy. I wondered when reading about their accident why they rented a motorcycle instead of a car.

I know If I rode a motorcycle instead of a car in Japan, I wouldn’t be here today writing about the Japanese couple.

And, by the way, they were not wearing helmets.

Speaking of Japanese tourists visiting the U.S., foreign tourism in Japan has picked up.

After the earthquake and tsunami last year, tourism had dropped steadily, but has now been picking up with over one million visitors since the quake.

The one foreign group that is still dropping is the one from Korea. However, the increase of Chinese tourists has filled the gap left by the drop in Korean visitors.

I haven’t seen stats on the number of U.S. tourists visiting Japan since the quake.

Well, here we go again.

I went to fill up at the Shell station at 190th and Normandie.

I was taken back by the price — $4.08 per gallon. It was only last week when, at the same station, I paid $3.76.

Well, maybe we “kotonks” shouldn’t complain.

The price of a gallon of gas in Honolulu this week was $4.25 and is expected to go up another nickel next week.

Of course, as I often mention when talking about gas prices in the Islands, since they do live on an island, they don’t have to rack up too many miles to get anywhere.

Heck, in one round trip from Gardena to the Rafu office, I burn up more gas than my relatives do in ten days. And one round trip from Gardena to Las Vegas covers more miles than my relatives on Maui drive in nearly five months.

Enuff said.

I wonder how much traffic in Los Angeles would be reduced if the city passed a law similar to the one that was recently enforced in Dallas, Texas.

Under the new law in Dallas, if a driver is pulled over by law enforcement and the driver is unable to show proof of insurance, the car is towed.

To retrieve the car after being impounded, the owner must show proof of insurance. This makes it easy for the city to remove uninsured cars.

Shortly after the “no insurance” ordinance, the Dallas impound lot began to fill up and was completely filled after only nine days.

The drive must not only provide proof of insurance to have the car released, but has to pay for the cost of the tow, a $350 fine and $20 for every day the car is kept in the lot.

Accident rates are going down and Dallas’ solution gets drivers off the road without making them show proof of nationality.

Wonder how the ACLU and the Justice Department will get around the new ordinance.

Being named on the list of “Top 50” doesn’t seem like much.

However, when the number of hospitals in the United States is considered, being on such a list is a lot more meaningful.

The Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center in Torrance was recently named one of the top 50 hospitals in the U.S.

I guess I am mentioning this because over the years I’ve been hospitalized at Little Company of Mary a few times and marveled at the way I was treated, from the front office registration staff to the nurses and doctors.

On those occasions, I often wondered if hospitals were ever rated for the way they conduct themselves.

Well, the recent ranking answers that question.

By the way, I wonder if there is a list of the number of hospitals in the United States.

If we assume that every state has at least 100 hospitals, that would bring the number to 5,000.

Of course, some of the less populated states wouldn’t’ have 100 hospitals, but the larger ones, like California, would probably have more, so the 100-hospital average would be met.

Since I’m pretty sure the folks at Little Company of Mary don’t read the Rafu, they won’t know of my praise for them.

Gee, it’s hard to believe that in another month baseball season will be getting under way with spring training games.

Although I’ve been a Dodgers fan ever since the team moved to Los Angeles from Brooklyn, I won’t be as strong a fan this coming season and it’s not because they were a so-so team last year.

It’s the way they “dump” their Japanese players.

The team always seems to be hurting for pitchers, but if their pitching staff has a Japanese hurler, they always seem anxious to get rid of them.

This season, they will be without starter Hiroki Kuroda, who was traded away.

In the past, they also got rid of Hideo Nomo and Takeshi Saito, now stars for the teams they were traded to.

Well, maybe the Dodgers don’t want a sushi and sukiyaki concession stand at their stadium, as was the case when Nomo was their pitcher.

Maybe the personnel chief with the Dodgers believes the headline that appeared in an edition of the New York Times. It read, “Bidding for Japanese Players Is a Denigrated Risk.”

A lot of times I kind of have a slip in my memory.

In this case, I don’t recall if I mentioned that Bob’s Okazuya Hawaiian restaurant in Gardena now serves natto omelet.

I didn’t get an opportunity to try this new dish, but its owner told me about it.

Although I’m a natto fan from my childhood days, I can’t imagine what a natto omelet would taste like and if it has the same fragrance, or stink, as plain natto.

While natto is one of Japan’s favorite dishes, Westerners can’t adjust to the smell.

Yes, as my Hawaii friends might say, “It smells like kukai.”

Oops, maybe I shouldn’t say that.

I guess it’s another example of what people consider “taste.”

While Westerners consider cheese a luxurious delicacy, many Japanese consider it utterly disgusting for the same reason Westerners consider natto as you-know-what.

I’m sure of many of you who tinker around with your computer get out-of-town newspapers on line.

For me, it’s a good source of ideas.

When I have to pound out two columns a week, I need a variety of sources for gathering up ideas.

Because I’d like to keep up with what’s going on in the area I used to live before wartime evacuation, I punch in the San Jose Mercury News as one of my news sources.

Just as I scan the obituary section of the Los Angeles Times and Rafu, I look through the obits in the Mercury News because I know a lot of friends who live in the area around Sa n Jose.

This past week was rather saddening.

Two high school classmates from the pre-evacuation days were listed among those who passed away.

While it’s difficult for me to consider attending their services, I can send their families a sympathy card.

Don’t like to wind up on such a sad note, so I’ll toss in a quickie laugher.

Consider this about money:

It can buy a house but not a home.

It can buy you a bed but not sleep.

It can buy a clock but not time.

It can buy you a book but not knowledge.

It can buy you a position but not respect.

It can buy you medicine but not health.

It can buy you blood but not life.

So, you see, money isn’t everything.

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George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and may be reached via email. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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