HORSE’S MOUTH: The Last of the Nisei Journalists

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By GEORGE YOSHINAGA

I was both stunned and saddened when I received an email from old friend Iku Kiriyama that old friend Harry Honda passed away a few days ago.

I tried to get more information, but couldn’t get in touch with Iku.

Gee, it was only last week that I received a couple of emails from Harry, who often provided column material to me.

The passing of Harry means the last of the old-time Nisei journalists has left the scene.

Harry was the editor of the JACL publication Pacific Citizen and in more recent times, a columnist for the PC.

It was Harry who was the editor that I worked with because I was one of the linotypists at Shin Nichi Bei, where the PC had its type set on the newspaper’s linotype.

That affiliation ceased when I moved to The Kashu Mainichi as reporter/columnist, giving up typesetting.

So I was friends with Harry for about 60 years. And it was a friendship I cherished.

I last saw Harry about two months ago at a JACL dinner event, where we sat at the same table.

I’m sure The Rafu will carry a story of Harry’s passing in this week’s edition.

Hopefully I can attend Harry’s memorial service slated for Monday, July 15, according to Iku’s email, at the Maryknoll Church in J-Town.

Aloha, Harry.

Since it’s Sunday and I try to reduce my workload, one of the ways to accomplish this is by tossing in letters from readers that I gather up during the previous week.

I’ll begin by using a rather lengthy one from a reader who signs his letter as “Asian Horde.”

He wrote: “Horse, I sent this newsletter to you a couple of weeks via The Rafu but I guess they’re not passing it along to you.

“There’s a social media journalist on Facebook who covers all manner of Asian American news, sometimes before it hits the ethnic newspapers. Her name is Rachel Roh and she is half-Japanese and half-Korean. It was Roh who actually broke the story of the JACCC CEO Greg Willis’ resignation back in 2012 about a week before The Rafu printed their follow-up. She speaks English, Japanese, Kankoku-go, Spanish and French. Can you imagine that? That’s why she was able to read the LeMonde coverage of Willis’ French connection, prison sentence and his flight from justice.

“Anyway, she asked me to pass this along to you because I once bragged that I knew you …

“Here’s a link to The Contra Costa Times’ coverage of Oakland Nisei Chiyoko Otagiri’s birthday back on June 19. She is 108 years old and credits her longevity to hard work and eating vegetables. Her parents, who lived in Cupertino, both lived into their 90s and her brother just missed making 90 before he passed. Mrs. Otagiri’s daughters, Eiko and Kathryn, are 83 and 85, respectively. Her son, Jim Otagiri, is the baby at 80 …

“George, you know that you and I never agreed on much when I was at The Rafu and you were at The Kashu. I used to joke that ‘Horse has been on the wrong side of the right issues for more than 43 years.’

“But despite everything, you would often write something complimentary about something I wrote, and coming from you, it used to really make my day. Even back then I knew you were special. You are the Nisei diarist of record and there’s never going to be anybody like you.”

Thanks for the last line in your letter. Today’s Sansei and Yonsei may not appreciate that statement.

In my previous column I thanked Patti Hirahara for introducing me to David Ono and getting me on his documentary TV show on Channel 7.

Well, Patti responded with this letter: “Thank you so much for mentioning me in your June 25 column. David Ono’s documentary continues to rank high in most emailed stories and is one of the most popular videos on KABC-TV’s website.

“In sending the link to friends and colleagues both here and Japan, everyone has said that this was a fresh and new approach to this subject and many wish this would be subtitled and shown in Japan.

“I even had friends say that it was interesting for them to see you on television since they had read your column for so many years, and especially with your talking about football in camp.

“Congratulations on your 24th year with The Rafu. We first met when I was writing and taking photos for The Kashu Mainichi in 1975. So, this will mark 38 years since we have known each other. How time flies.”

Gee, I’ve known you for 38 years? Wow. No wonder I feel old.

If nobody is laughing, I guess I’d better throw this in to get away from the sour mood.

A recent article in a local newspaper reported that a woman has sued a hospital, saying that after her husband had surgery there he lost all interest in sex.

A hospital spokesman replied, “Your husband was admitted for ophthalmology for cataract surgery, and all we did is correct his eyesight.”

You can laugh now.

Last week The Rafu had as one of its top stories an article about the family of an American GI who fought against the Japanese on Okinawa and captured a Japanese flag during the battle.

He brought the flag home and kept it all these years but decided to locate the family of the Japanese soldier and return it to them in his memory.

Well the same story was published in The Japan Times this week as a front-page top story.

The Japan Times is an all-English daily newspaper and most Americans living in Japan subscribe to the publication.

So I guess that The Rafu publishing the story before Japan’s top English-language paper is something Editor Gwen and her staff could be proud of.

Take a bow, gang.

With so many baseball players from Japan now in the Majors, how many of you readers out there in Rafuland can name the first Japanese players to make it to the Big Leagues?

How many of you remember the name Masanori Murakami?

Yup. He made his debut for the San Francisco Giants on Sept. 1, 1964 at Shea Stadium in the eighth inning for the Bay City team.

Murakami faced four batters and gave up a single to Chris Cannizzaro of the New York Mets.

A crowd of 40,000 was on hand to see Murakami.

Murakami is now a broadcaster for NHK in Japan covering Japan’s pro league.

After returning to Japan, before becoming a broadcaster, Murakami pitched for 18 years.

Today, Japanese players like Hideo Nomo, Ichiro Suzuki, and Hideki Matsui are frequently mentioned, but everyone seems to have forgotten Murakami, who opened the doors for today’s Japanese players.

Isn’t that something?

Hooray. I found a driver, so I’ll be making my trip to Vegas in two weeks.

And guess what? My trip will fall on my birthday.

It will be the first time I turn one year older while I’m in Vegas.

Hopefully, my luck will be good on the day I add another year to my already aging body. Heh, heh.

Well, we’ll see. I can’t believe it’s been five months since my last trip to Vegas.

I don’t think my absence damaged the profit that Vegas earns. They sure didn’t miss a player who tosses 25 cents into their slots.

Again, heh, heh.

I guess I’ll celebrate my birthday at Makino’s Japanese Restaurant if my friend Al Morita can arrange it.

Okay, I guess I’ll wind up today’s column talking about — what else — baseball and in this case, Japanese players on Major League teams.

The Dodgers have a Korean pitcher named Ryu and he has an interpreter at his side during games.

Remember when the Dodgers had their first Japanese pitcher?

He didn’t have an interpreter because in those days, when Japanese pitchers made their first appearance on U.S. teams, interpreters weren’t allowed in the dugouts or on the field.

Not so anymore.

They all have interpreters. One of them is Kenji Nimura, who was Hiroki Kuroda’s interpreter until the latter was traded for Yu Darvish, a Japanese despite his name.

So, Nimura was traded too when Kuroda was traded.

Now, Nimura provides interpreting to Darvish while Kuroda has a new interpreter to talk on his behalf.

Just how much do these interpreters make in salary?

Nobody wants to say.

So I guess the Japanese word that describes the situation might be “naruhodo.”

At any rate, interpreters’ language skills are considered important to the success or failure of the players.

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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