HORSE’S MOUTH: The California Bullet Train

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YOSHINAGA-GEORGEBy GEORGE YOSHINAGA

It hasn’t received the publicity that I thought it would create. The chatter here is about the so-called “California Bullet Train,” which the voters of the state approved five years ago, making it the U.S.’s first high-speed rail system.

The engineering work has finally begun on the first 30-mile segment of track near Fresno, a city of a half-million people with soaring unemployment and a downtown littered with abandoned factories and shuttered stores.

The rail project is meant to help Fresno with construction jobs now and improved access to economic opportunity once the project is finished. However, the region that could benefit most from the project is where opposition to it has grown most fierce.

Aaron Fukuda, a civil engineer whose home in the town of Hanford lies directly in one of the possible train routes, said, “People are worn out, tired, frustrated.”

Fukuda is among the residents who are suing to try to block California’s rail line. He and his wife had planned to build their dream home on their Hanford property. At first, he planned to build sound barriers, but then he says he lost faith in the planners. “I don’t think it’s a viable, well-thought out or financially feasible project for the State of California,” he said.

It is rare to find someone in Hanford, a town of 55,000 people south of Fresno, who is not opposed to the project. Many landowners have been in a financial limbo for years as the authority weighs different paths for the train, leaving farmers wary of planting crops, or investing in new equipment in case their land ends up being gobbled up.

Officials don’t understand the emotional toll this has taken on the community, Fukuda says.

The high-speed rail business plans say trains will run between the Greater Los Angeles area and San Francisco Bay Area by 2029 or 16 years from now, which would make those who are in their late 80s over 100 years of age when the project is completed.

Construction has been postponed repeatedly and a court victory this summer by opponents threatens further delays. A Sacramento County Superior Court judge said the state rail authority’s plan goes against a promise made to voters to identify all the funding for the first segment before starting construction.

“I just wish it would go away, this high-speed rail,” says Gary Lanfranco, whose restaurant in downtown Fresno is slated to be demolished to make way for the rerouted traffic.

Well, hopefully, I can keep up with the pros and cons of this news item and find out if the Japanese American leading the opposition can win the battle.

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A short note from a reader:

“In The Rafu, Wednesday, Oct. 16 edition, in your column is a picture of a Japanese kite. As I’ve seen many times in the past years, why does it show a Japanese samurai with crossed eyes? There must be some honorable explanation for it.”

Gee, I didn’t even notice what the samurai looked like in the photo.

I’ll check around to see if there is an explanation from those who might know.

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This tidbit, which was submitted by another reader, can be labeled as “Chinese Brain.”

Mathematician: “How do you write 4 in between 5?”

Indian: “Is this is a joke?”

Japanese: “Impossible!”

Briton: “It’s not found on the Internet.”

And the Chinese: “F (IV) E”

This is the reason Chinese are everywhere in the world: In finance, business, medicine, engineering, anything to do with using both sides of the brain.

If you don’t get it, ah, don’t ask me.

I asked the sender and couldn’t get an answer.

(Maggie’s comment: Forgive me, Mr. Y, but I just had to answer this. “IV” is “4” in Roman numerals, therefore F (IV) E.)

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Well, I would assume that Editor Gwen is back from her week’s stay in Hawaii. She told me before she left that she would be back by Thursday, Oct. 17.

I wonder if she moved around while in the Islands. You know, not just hang around Waikiki on the Island of Oahu, but see other islands, especially Maui, which was labeled as the greatest island in the world. Yup, the greatest island in the world, not just the U.S. The five reasons why Maui was judged as the best island in the world are the following:

• Whale watching: Maui offers the best whale watching in the world. The western and southern waters are by the mountains, creating calm, clear waters for high visibility. Humpback whales are drawn to the area’s shallow waters. That makes Maui a great spot for the winter whale watching season from December to May.

• Life’s a beach: With 120 miles of coastline, Maui boasts more than 30 miles of beautiful beaches. Visitors can find white, black and red sand beaches. Many are easily accessible beach parks with lifeguards, picnic facilities and restrooms.

• Head in the clouds: Haleakala National Park is home to Maui’s highest peak, rising 10,023 feet above sea level. With 30,000 acres it has three separate visitor centers. Hike above the clouds and horseback ride across the desert. You can even visit some lush tropical areas full of waterfalls and streams.

• Road to Hana: This legendary road is only 52 miles from Kahului but the drive can take from two to four hours to complete since it’s fraught with narrow one-lane bridges, hairpin turns and incredible views. The road leads you through flourishing rain forests, flowing waterfalls, plunging pools and dramatic seascapes.

• Kinda Lahaina: This historic town has been transformed into a Maui hot spot with dozens of art galleries, shops and restaurants. Lahaina was also a historic whaling village. Up to 1,500 sailors from as many as 400 ships took leave in Lahaina, including Herman Melville, who immortalized the era in his classic novel “Moby Dick.”

Hooray for Maui.

Since my wife was born and raised on Maui, I guess I spent more time there than the other islands that make up the State of Hawaii.

I guess the people who live on Maui are more “Hawaiian,” even if they are of Japanese, Korean, Chinese or Filipino ethnicity.

Oh yeah, speaking of former Mauians, I’m sure all of you who follow baseball saw the top story in the Sunday sports page of **The L.A. Times** where Shane Victorino hit a grand-slam homerun for the Boston Red Sox to get them into the World Series.

Masahiro Tanaka

Masahiro Tanaka

So why do I mention this? No, not because he’s from Maui and many of my Maui relatives know him personally. It’s because he played last year for the Dodgers and when he was released by the local club, one of the sports scribes in our town asked, “Why?”

Boy, they sure could have used a grand-slam homer against the St. Louis Cards. Instead, they lost 9-0 in the last game of the series.

Oh well, there are a lot more “whys” attached to the Dodger club and nobody seems to have the answers to the questions.

Would sure hate to see Shane hit another grand slam in the World Series and give the Boston club the world title.

Well, maybe the Dodgers can go after Masahiro Tanaka, who racked up 24 straight wins while pitching for Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Japan League.

He said he would like to play in the Major League and will probably sign with (heh, heh) the Dodgers.

He caught the eye of all the big-league scouts, so when next season starts, his name will probably be in a starting role. For the Dodgers?

Tanaka has big-league size. He’s 6-2 in height and throws a ball that touches 95 mph. His ERA in the Japan league this past season was below 2.0.

Man, the Dodgers sure can use him.

Of course, even if the Dodgers had first crack at Tanaka, they may be looking the other way and wondering how come they let Victorino get away.

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Since I’m chatting about baseball in Japan, let me toss in a bit of Japan news. Does Japan have a restaurant that ranks as one of the world’s top eateries?

Yup. Not only one but four in Tokyo, according to a new book. They are Gentoushi Nakada, Kawamura, Kozasa, and Sukiyabashi Jiro.

Needless to say, if you’re on a limited budget, I doubt if you can dine at any of these restaurants.

Those of you who have experienced eating at Japan’s top restaurants know that it’s not like buying a Big Mac at McDonald’s.

So, did any U.S. restaurants make the top list?

Surprise. The San Francisco Bay Area has three: Benu, The French Laundry and The Restaurant at Meadowood.

If any of you want to try these places, make sure you have a credit card to pick up the check.

As you all know, the Bay City is an expensive place to begin with, and if the restaurants mentioned here are considered among the world’s best, they are also probably the world’s most expensive.

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(Kyodo News photo)

(Kyodo News photo)

Around 140 members of the Fukushima Mothers’ Chorus Association performed at the second Japan-U.S. Chorus Festival at Carnegie Hall in New York City on Saturday.

“To sing our song to the world in this grand hall with our heads held high was wonderful. We will rebuild Fukushima,” Yukio Miyake, who chairs the chorus, said during an interview following the event.

The chorus performed a selection of songs in Japanese, including the Fukushima folk song “Aizu Bandai-san” and “Shoshite, Haru,” a song celebrating the four seasons of Fukushima.

“The language didn’t make a bit of difference. The emotion showed through,” said Chris Murphy, who was in the audience.

Haiku poet Madoka Mayuzumi read the lyrics to “Soshite, Haru,” which she wrote, on stage at the event. She also recited haiku written by residents of areas affected by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

Four representatives of Fukushima also greeted the audience. One was Ryoka Endo, 16, who said she screamed when she thought she would drown in the tsunami. “I realized the importance of my life. I think we should all remember how important our everyday lives are,” she told them.

The Fukushima chorus was joined by the Harmony Celebration Chorus, a local female barbershop quartet-style group, and Choir TOMO, a mixed chorus formed by Mike Shirota, a Sendai-born music director who organizes the choir festival.

At the end of the concert, all of the nearly 250 singers taking part gathered on stage to sing “Climb Every Mountain” and “Ave Maria” together.

Harmony Celebration Chorus singer Audrey Mullinnix called singing with the group “the experience of a lifetime.”

The Mothers’ Chorus Association was founded in Fukushima Prefecture in 1966 and now has 32 groups and around 750 members.

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

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2 Comments

  1. Mr. Yoshinaga,

    Thank you very much for putting this story in the Rafu Shimpo. I hope that your readers will look at this story and take an interest. I don’t ask they they believe my story, but hope that others will simply look into this project and ask three questions of the Authority. They can be any three questions, however I would suspect that they will either be ignored or simply given absurd answers that only a third-grader would believe.

    Here is a sample of three questions I have asked and the answers I have received:
    1. Where will you get the $62 billion to finish Phase 1 of the project (this only gets them from SF to LA and does not include San Diego and Sacramento). Answer: We have enough money to get us to 2017.

    2. Where are the private investors that promised to be a part of the project. Answer: We have private entities building the project (of course I stare at them and wonder if they realize that I know that the builders get paid, the do not pay the Authority).

    3. What happens if you cannot find enough money and have a stranded investment (the $6 billion they have builds a conventional track from Avenue 17 in Madera to somewhere around Shafter). Answer: We plan to put Amtrak on it (although there are no agreements or viable plans to carry out such an action and it would eliminate many rural Amtrak stations in the Central Valley).

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