HORSE’S MOUTH: Gambling in Japan

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By GEORGE YOSHINAGA

Yeah, you’re right. I haven’t mentioned my favorite place for quite a while.

That would be Las Vegas.

The reason is that I don’t have a driver anymore.

Surprisingly, when I wrote that I lost my driver so I don’t know when I’ll be heading to Vegas, I received three offers to drive me.

Oh well, maybe being away for two months and perhaps adding another month may actually kill my desire to visit Vegas.

On the other hand, when I read a story such as in the Wednesday edition of The Las Vegas Sun, I do get itchy feet.

The story is about a New York City woman who hit a million-dollar jackpot at the Flamingo Hotel.

She was playing the “Wheel of Fortune” slot machine.

Her payout was $1,452,000.

She told the media she had been playing the same machine on her twice-a-year visits for 20 years, and it finally paid off.

Well, I guess she can drive back to New York because she plans to buy a Jaguar automobile with money from her winnings.

Flamingo’s casino manager said, “It makes me happy to see the tears in their eyes because you know this trip has changed their life.”

Needless to say, reading this story kind of me feel like jumping in our car and heading out on Highway 15 to Vegas.

No, I don’t expect to win a million bucks because quarter slot machines don’t have that kind of payoff, but I’ll be happy with any kind of win.

Oh yeah, because of my lengthy non-visit to Vegas, I’m almost down to my last cigar, which I buy at the Indian cigar store about a mile from the California Hotel, where I always stay.

So, I can either give up cigars or get someone to pick up my favorite brand.

Then I thought, “What about someone who lives as a resident in Vegas?”

That’s when I contacted old friend Rose Kakuuchi, who said she would be glad to pick up a box or two.

Unfortunately, she won’t be able to identify the brand I buy because it’s strictly an Indian cigar store brand.

So, I decided to send her one of the few cigars I have left and she can take it down to the store and they’ll identify it.

Hopefully.

Thanks, Rosie.

By the way, in chatting about driving to Vegas, a lot of friends told me, “Why not find an alternative to driving, like taking a bus or flying?”

There was a time when the “Tanoshimi” charter bus was my means of travel to Vegas, but the owner passed away and the service stopped.

Flying? I don’t think a 25-cent slot machine player can consider the high airfare to Vegas.

Plus a cab ride from the airport to Downtown, which is more expensive than the L.A.-to-Vegas bus fare.

On top of that, Vegas cabs have a reputation of taking the “long way,” which increases the fare. They do this if they feel their passengers are making their first trip to the city.

Speaking of high fares, which city in the U.S. do you think has the top price?

Surprisingly, that would be Honolulu. The cabs there charge $24.92 for a five-mile trip, which is $2 more than Los Angeles for the same distance.

San Jose ranks right up there with Honolulu. A surprise, I thought.

However, business travelers agree that taking a cab is cheaper than renting a car because in addition to the rental fee, there is the matter of paying for parking at the destination, usually a hotel, which may charge a parking fee.

Okay, so I may take up the offer from a few guys who said they would be glad to drive me in my car to my favorite hangout.

They don’t have casino betting in Japan, but I was surprised to learn the country ranks third in the world in gambling.

No need to point out that the USA tops the list with China in second.

“Gambling” in this case includes horse racing and lottery.

Japan has horse racing and lottery, which is probably the reason they are so high on the list.

I know when I lived in Japan I used to go to the races at tracks just outside of Tokyo.

And I used to buy their lottery tickets.

They also have what they call “pachinko parlors.” Pachinko is kind of like slot machines.

Yeah, I used to visit the pachinko parlors in my free time.

Needless to say, a lot of Japanese are pushing to get Vegas-style slots legalized.

Like most people who visit Vegas, their thinking is, “Why do we have to spend all that money to fly to Vegas to gamble when we could legalize it in our own country?”

This kind of thinking will probably prevail when Japan makes the decision to legalize casinos.

Oh yeah, let me toss this bit in about Honolulu.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell has signed a measure banning smoking on beaches and in parks.

Violators will be fined $100 for the first offense and $500 for additional violations.

I guess I’ll ask the same old question. That is, can I chew on my cigars at the beach if I don’t light up?

I’m curious about this because the City of Gardena is also contemplating a smoking ban at its parks and other public places.

From what I have heard, the ban will probably be enforced.

Maybe I’ll call Mayor Tanaka about the proposed ban and ask how it will affect my “chewing cigar” habit.

I know a lot of folks get nervous when they see me with a cigar stuck in my mouth, but I assure them that I don’t light up.

Then I get a curious look from people. Some may even comment, “Then why don’t you quit?”

Good question to which I don’t have a response.

Now let me jump from smoking to drinking alcohol.

How many of you know that a Japanese company, Suntory, is the biggest producer of scotch whiskey in the world?

Japan bypassed Scotland in this regard.

The finest single unit liquor in the world is now produced by Suntory. At last year’s World Whiskies Awards, Suntory was voted the world’s best single malt, winning the top spot in the blended malt category.

Can you believe that?

First it was Toyota, Honda and Mitsubishi taking over the streets of the U.S. Now it’s Suntory taking over the bars and liquor stores.

What can we expect next from the Japanese?

Not since the days of Fighting Harada have Japanese boxers dominated their weight division.

The latest is Kazuto Ioka defending his WBA light flyweight title against Wisanu Kokietgym from Thailand with a ninth-round knockout.

His win/loss record is now 12-0.

Officiating the bout was American referee Mark Nelson, who stopped the bout in the ninth round after Ioka put his opponent on the canvas with a hard right to the loser’s body.

Everyone knows how I, along with the Nisei generation, talk about how old we are getting.

One such aging reader sent me this piece, which I found to be factual as the years pass over us. It goes like this:

You know, time has a way of moving quickly and catching you unaware of the passing years. It seems like just yesterday that I was young, just married and embarking on my new life with my mate. Yet in a way, it seems like eons ago and I wonder where all the years went. I know I lived them all.

I have glimpses of how it was back then and all my hopes and dreams.

But here it is, the winter of my life, and it catches me by surprise. How did I get here so fast? Where did the years go and where did my youth go?

I remember well seeing older people through the years and thinking that those older people were years away from me and that winter was so far off that I could not fathom it or imagine fully what it would be like.

But here it is, my friends are retired and getting grey. They move slower and I see an older person now. Some are in better and others in worse shape than me, but I see the great change. Not like the ones that I remember who were young and vibrant. But, like me, their age is beginning to show and we are now those older folks that we used to see and never thought we’d be.

Each day now, I find that just getting a shower is a real target for the day. And taking a nap is not a treat anymore. It’s mandatory because if I don’t on my own free will, I will just fall asleep where I’m sitting.

And so, now I enter into this new season of my life unprepared for all the aches and pains and the loss of strength and ability to go and do things that I wish I had done, but never did.

But at least I know that though the winter has come, and I’m not sure how long it will last, this I know — that when it’s over on this earth, it’s over. A new adventure will begin.

Yes, I have regrets. There are things I wish I hadn’t done, things I should have done, but indeed there are many things I’m happy to have done. It’s all in a lifetime.

So, if you’re not in your winter yet, let me remind you that it will be here faster than you think. So, whatever you would like to accomplish in life, do it quickly. Don’t put things off too long. Life goes by quickly.

So, do you what you can today as you can never be sure whether this is your winter or not. You have no promise that you will see all the seasons of your life. So live for today and say all the things you want your loved ones to remember.

And hope that they appreciate and love you for all the things that you have done for them in all the years past.

Life is a gift to you. The way you live your life is your gift to those who care after. Make it a fantastic one.

Live it well, enjoy today. Do something fun, be happy, have a great day. Live happy in 2013. Lastly, consider the following: Today is the oldest you’ve been yet the youngest you’ll ever be.

So enjoy this day while it lasts.

Wow. What a great piece on aging. I’m sure it will stir the thoughts of all of us and our aging generation. Thanks to the reader for this contribution.

Well, to get back to today.

I’m a Dodgers fan but after watching them lose their sixth straight game I made a decision.

If their losing streak hits 10 straight, I’m not going to watch them for the rest of the season.

That is, unless they get to the World Series.

As they look now, that’s about as possible as my winning the California Lottery.

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

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