HORSE’S MOUTH: ‘I Am Chinese’

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By GEORGE YOSHINAGA

It’s hard to even imagine that in about two weeks, we will be celebrating an important event in the lives of Japanese Americans.

The date? That would be Dec. 7, 1941. Remember Pearl Harbor?

A month or so after that date, we went from being Japanese Americans to being called “Japs,” and as “Japs,” we were hauled away to relocation camps. Well today, those have been relabeled “concentration camps.”

I’m sure that even after all these years, all the elderly Nisei can still remember those days. I know I do.

Among the things I haven’t forgotten is that so many Chinese Americans who didn’t want to be mistaken for JAs wore a button with “I am Chinese” printed on them.

Why am I even mentioning this?

Well, there was an article in The Japan Times recently that said more than 80 percent of the Japanese in Japan harbor no sense of friendship with the Chinese, according to an annual report by the government’s Cabinet Office.

Some 80.6 percent of the respondents said they have no friendly feelings towards the country and its people, a rise of 9.2 points from the previous year.

The previous record of 77.8 percent expressing anti-Chinese sentiment was set in the year 2010.

The finding reflects the heightened tension between the two countries.

Meanwhile, the poll revealed that 59 percent of the Japanese do not view Koreans in a friendly manner, a jump of 23.7 percent from last year.

In contrast, the proportion of people who view the United States as a friend of Japan rose 2.5 points to 84.5 percent.

The Cabinet Office conducted the survey from Sept. 27 to Oct. 7, 2012.

I guess the Japanese might now wear buttons with the words “I am Japanese.”

A few columns back I ran a letter from a reader about how to settle a traffic ticket.

In the article it was pointed out that drivers receiving a traffic citation can call a “ticket clinic” and have it resolved without paying a fine.

Well, a number of other readers were interested in settling their case and wanted the contact number of the “ticket clinic.”

I thought I published the phone number, but I was told that I didn’t. So, for those who contacted me, the phone number is (800) 999-6999.

Good luck.

I just finished reading Editor Gwen’s story in The Rafu’s Saturday, Nov. 24 issue on the forum staged by the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, which drew a packed house to discuss the problems facing the facility.

The one thing I am confused about when reading about the situation at the JACCC is how the personnel at the facility were hired.

I don’t ever recall any information on Sandy Sakamoto, JACCC board chair. How was she selected for the post? What is her background?

She apologized for the current situation at the JACCC, but what I would like to learn is how she was named as the chair of the organization.

Ditto for Debbie Ching, who is the interim chief operating officer. A non-JA holding the position at JACCC?

Who named Jeff Folick as the head of the executive director search committee? Don’t we have any Japanese Americans who are qualified to fill these posts?

I’ll be following the current issues to see how things turn out.

I recall that I was at The Kashu Mainichi when the JACCC was established. In a column I asked how the salary of the executive director was established. Well, a short time after my question, the director resigned.

Never found out why.

A neighbor spent a few days in Vegas during the Thanksgiving holiday, and when he told me how crowded it was, I was glad we went there a week before.

He told me he went to have dinner at one of The Strip hotels and had to wait four hours before he could be seated. Four hours!

Of course, he didn’t just wait in line. They took his name and he was paged when his table was ready.

In the meantime, he spent the four hours sitting at a slot machine.

No, he didn’t tell me how he did at the slots. Probably spent more than he did on his dinner.

Yes, I try to keep my eyes on my weight. One way to watch my diet is cutting back on soft drinks.

I’ve switched to diet drinks, but it doesn’t seem to have any effect on my weight, so I’ve cut out all soft drinks and now stick to plain water.

Everyone seems to think I’ve lost a few pounds.

So, who drinks the most diet beverages?

Seems that women top men — 28 percent of women drink diet drinks while only 26 percent of men do.

The statistics are based on interviews with thousands of people.

Here’s an old but beautiful story of marriage and communication between a husband and wife sent to me by a reader:

A couple was shopping at the mall on Christmas Eve and the mall was packed.

As the wife walked through the mall, she was surprised to look up and see that her husband was nowhere around. She was quite upset because they had a lot to do. Because she was so worried, she called him on her cell phone to ask where he was.

In a calm vice, the husband said, “Honey, you remember the jewelry store we went to about five years ago, where you fell in love with that diamond necklace that we could not afford and I told you that I would get it for you one day?”

The wife choked up and started to cry. “Yes, I remember that jewelry store.”

The husband said, “Well, I’m in the bar right next door to it.”

Heh, heh, my laugher a little earlier than usual.

Okay, shall we continue to chuckle?

A girl potato and a boy potato had eyes for each other, and finally they got married and had a little sweet potato, which they called Yam.

Of course, they wanted the best for Yam and when it was time, they told her about the facts of life.

They warned her about going out and getting half-baked, so she wouldn’t get accidentally mashed and get a bad name for herself like “Hot Potato” and end up with a bunch of Tater Tots.

Yam said not to worry, no spud would get her into the sack and make a rotten potato out of her. But on the other hand, she wouldn’t stay home and become a couch potato either. She would get plenty of exercise so as not to be skinny like her shoestring cousins.

When she went off to Europe, Mr. and Mrs. Potato told Yam to watch out for the hard-boiled guys from Ireland and the greasy guys from France called French fries.

And when Yam went out west, they told her to watch out for Indians so she wouldn’t be scalloped.

Yam said she would stay on the straight and narrow and wouldn’t be associated with those high-class Yukon Golds, or the ones from the other side of the tracks who advertise their trade on all the trucks that say “Frito Lay.”

Mr. and Mr. Potato sent Yam to Idaho PU (Potato University) so that when she graduates she really will be in the chips.

But in spite of all they did for her, one day Yam came home and announced she was going to marry Tom Brokaw. They told her she couldn’t possibly marry Tom Brokaw because he’s just … are you ready for this?

He’s a commontater.

Well, I’ll wind up today with a rather long letter. I found it interesting reading and hope you readers find it just as interesting. It goes:

“Hi Horse, I have been meaning to write to you for some time.

“A while back you wrote in your column about the northern lights.

“Paul Horiuchi and I were able to see the aurora back in 1942 when we were up in Montana on temporary work leave from Heart Mountain. To back up a bit for background, I met Paul in the Pomona Assembly Center when we were both working on the trash crew when our families were incarcerated when the war began, and we became life-long friends. He was 17 and I was 16 at that time. We both volunteered to go on the first group to enter Heart Mountain to prepare the camp for the other evacuees to arrive.

“When we got there, most of us were assigned to live in Block 1.

“Caucasian workers were still putting up the barracks and other buildings at the other end of the camp. Being the youngest of the workers, we lost our job as more and more mature internees arrived into camp.

“When the government began the temporary work leave program to try to fill the loss of farm laborers due to their entering into the Army, we wanted to get out of being imprisoned, even for a short time. Of course, we had never worked before, and not wanting to being a burden to others who wanted to earn some money, we found a farmer who only wanted two persons to work harvesting sugar beets.

“We ended up going to Sidney, Montana, close to the Canadian border in the northeastern part of the state. Luckily we ended up with very nice people and since there was just the two of us, we stayed in the same house and ate with them, agreeing to pay only for board. It was just fine because there were just the farmer and his wife, three boys, 16, 14, 12, and the girl, who was about 9.

“It was fun for us because the two older boys and Paul and I would finish work every day as soon as we could and go hunting. We were supposedly not allowed to have access to guns, but the farmer looked the other way.

“Of course, on a farm you were not to waste food and had to eat anything you shot, so we began to get sick and tired of eating pheasant, wild duck, grouse, rabbit and such.

“One night, it was very clear and we looked up and saw this strange shimmering and glowing, greenish lights in the sky. We did not know what it was, but the boys told us it was the northern lights. This continued for several nights. I thank God and nature for allowing me to see the beauties of this world.

“Sorry for such a long letter.”

Thanks. I’m sure the readers found it very interesting because many of them probably experienced a similar life during our internment in camp.

George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and may be reached via e-mail at horsesmouth2000@hotmail.com. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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1 Comment

  1. Dear Mr. Yoshinaga,

    December 7, 1941 was preceded by racism and intolerance in Japan and the US. Japan committed war crimes against Chinese and Korean citizens. The US denied Japanese-
    Americans their rights under the Constitution. The atomic bomb was unleashed on
    non-combatants in two cities. “Jim Crow,” lynchings and racial discrimination were commonplace in the US. My mother left Gila River and witnessed the tragic Detroit race riot during WW II. This was not a “Perfect Union.”

    Your by-line states “I am Chinese.” You point out the wearing of buttons during WW II by
    Chinese Americans. My father didn’t have a button but he tried to explain he was a
    Japanese American. There were very few people willing to listen. There were acts of violence
    against people who shared the same skin color. Was wearing a button wrong? You point
    out the “heightened tensions” between China and Japan based upon a poll in Japan. What are the core reasons behind these problems?

    Your column raises issues about hiring at JACCC. You point out a non-JA
    has the position of interim COO. Is that wrong? You ask, “Who named Jeff Frolick as the head of the executive search committee? Don’t we have any Japanese Americans who are qualified to fill these posts?”

    Your questions have become a teaching point for my son. Your right to express your thoughts are protected by the Constitution. Your questions are morally and
    legally improper. Racial discrimination was wrong in 1941 and it still is. I have always believed that Japanese Americans must never forget their obligation to point out injustice.

    “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (George Santayana)

    Daro Inouye

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