HORSE’S MOUTH: A Car Named Meguru

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By GEORGE YOSHINAGA
Originally printed in The Rafu Shimpo on Feb. 25, 2012

This past Wednesday morning was an ideal time for me to sit on our front porch and ponder over some of the things I might write about today.

It was only 10 a.m. when I sat in the warm sunshine without a cloud in the sky. It certainly felt more like July 22 than Feb. 22. Under these conditions I am usually hit with a lot of ideas.

On this day, I was hit with a flyer that a Hispanic man was passing out in our neighborhood.

I took the flyer out of his hands and looked at what was printed. It was written in Spanish.

It didn’t bother me. I figured if I flipped the flyer over, there would be an English explanation on the other side. Nope. The other side was blank.

I assumed that the chap handing out the flyer thought I was Hispanic, which opened my mind to the following topic:

Back 70 years ago, when Japanese Americans were evacuated and placed in camps, we suddenly became “Japs.”

When I enlisted in the Army during World War II and was shipped for training in Florida, I learned that most people in that part of the U.S. knew little or nothing about Japanese Americans.

So, on numerous occasions, I was misidentified as a Mexican or American Indian.

Those who thought I was Mexican referred to me as “Taco Head.”

Those who thought I was an American Indian called me, “Blanket Ass.

I’m not sure whether those names were any better than being called “Jap” or “Slant Eyes” or “Yellow Skin.”

But these were some of the names they tacked onto JAs.

Since the Army unit I trained with were JAs, we marched together wherever we went.

The Caucasian troops who watched us go by were puzzled. They were heard asking, “How come the U.S. Army is training a bunch of Japs?”

Of course, by this time we were used to being called “Japs,” so it just made us laugh.

“Jap” was the accepted term in reference to Japanese Americans.

Some samples?

The Denver Post in its Jan. 10, 1942 edition had one of its featured stories with the heading, “Bureaucrats School for Japs Show Extravagant Planning.”

In an Arkansas publication was a story with the heading, “Denies Jap Camps Offer Utopias to Enemy Internees.”

The Jan. 16, 1943 Denver Post had a story headlined, “Denver Group Denounces Jap School Costs.”

In the publication two days before the foregoing story, on Jan.14, 1943, one of the stories was headlined, “West Coast Does Not Want Japs to Return.”

Those of today’s generation who refer to the camps as “concentration camps” may be interested in a Jan. 16, 1943 story in a Washington, D.C. paper that had this headline: “Senators Plan to End Coddling of Japs in Camps.”

Leading the charge was Sen. Hiram Johnson of California.

Would you believe that even a story on JAs being accepted into the Army had such a headline? A Jan. 29, 1943 story was headlined, “Army to Form Combat Force of Loyal Japs.

Loyal Japs? Kind of made me chuckle.

Then there was a story in which President Franklin Roosevelt approved the enlistment of Nisei in the U.S. Army. This story was headlined, “FDR Approves Enlistment of Japs.”

And finally, here’s a story I took more than a passing interest in because I was involved.

The headline on this story read, “Jap Evacuees Will Be Placed on Farms.”

It was about evacuees being used to fill farm labor shortages because many of them had farming experience prior to the evacuation.

I signed up and along with two dozen JAs from Heart Mountain was shipped to Dayton, Washington, to pick peas on farms in that area. We were paid 50 cents an hour, which was pretty good in those days.

At least I was able to go back to camp with money in my pocket.

This made my mother happy because she would go shopping at the camp store for stuff like toothpaste, soap and snacks.

Heck, when I was a buck private in the Army, I was paid $21 a month. I would send $15 to my mother and the $6 I put in my pocket didn’t make me rich, but at least I could go to the base store and buy some cigars.

Ah, memories.

No, I don’t think the new Japanese electric car named “Meguru” will ever be in demand in the U.S.

The Meguru is a three-seat, battery-operated car that the Japanese call the “Japanese auto rickshaw.”

I doubt if you’ll be seeing the Meguru on the streets of Los Angeles as you would a Honda, Toyota or Nissan.

The reason is simple. The Meguru can only run 24 miles before it has to have its battery charged.

Heck, that means one can’t even make a round trip from Gardena to Little Tokyo. And if one could get more mileage, the owner certainly can’t drive on the freeways because the top speed of the Meguru is 25 miles per hour.

That means it would take 11 hours to drive to Las Vegas and the car has to be charged 11 times en route, with each charge taking about an hour.

I guess in Japan, this would not be a major problem.

Well, we’ll have to wait and see.

By the way, there was no information on how much a new Meguru will cost.

I guess it’s time to toss in a letter from a reader.

As often requested, the writer of the letter asked that I don’t name him. Okay.

Here is what he wrote:

“I just saw your last column in which you ran a photo of the person you often referred to as a ‘fellow Rafu columnist.’

“That wouldn’t be Wimp Hiroto, would it?

“The thing which puzzles me is that you for frequently refer to Wimp as a ‘fellow Rafu columnist,’ which means that you follow his writing.

“On the other hand, in all the times I’ve been reading Wimp’s column, I don’t ever recall him referring to you in any way, which means he probably doesn’t read your column.

“I thought the reason was that you don’t socialize with Wimp, but the photo at Keiro would indicate that this not the case.

“Do you have an explanation?”

Thanks for your letter, Mr. Anonymous. No, I don’t have an explanation.

I guess I don’t expect everyone to follow my chatter, especially a great journalist like Wimp.

He won many journalism awards while he was attending USC.

Hey, I couldn’t even get an award in high school.

Enuff said.

Before I forget to mention it, since I did a story on Las Vegas and the Super Bowl, I should point out that this year’s super Bowl brought in $93.9 million in wagers, the second highest in Nevada Super Bowl betting.

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

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