For months, I’ve been meaning to write about a couple of books I received in 2013, books that I just never found time to write about. But with Christmas and the end of the year nearly upon us, now is just about my last chance to do so this year! And, if what I write interests you, there may still be time to get at least one of them just in time for gift giving.
The first one is titled “Pure Winds Bright Moon” by Kinji Inomata, which its author sent me before summer. It’s subtitled: “The Untold Story of the Stately Steward and His Hapa Family Beautiful.” (The URL for more info, including how to purchase copies, is: http://purewindsbrightmoon-untoldstory.weebly.com/)
It’s a unique book, to say the least. At its heart, it’s a family history of the extended Inomata clan, but it’s also a community history as well, a rare example of the diversity of experience contained within. Author Inomata is a native Los Angeleno of mixed Japanese ancestry, now retired. Before that, he worked as a legal assistant and paralegal, and served in the Navy during the Vietnam War. In addition, Inomata is a professional entertainer who performs Hawaiian/Polynesian music, singing and playing ukulele, steel guitar and guitar.
His Issei grandfather, Kenji Inomata, was born in Kashiwazaki, Niigata-ken, Japan. He left Japan as a stowaway, worked as a cabin boy and on a visit to New York in the early part of last century, he and a pal jumped ship, swam ashore and began an American adventure.
Whether good and bad, things were simply different back then. It was a time when a young illegal immigrant with poor English abilities and no marketable skills could simply enlist in the Navy, initially get a job as a 3rd-class mess attendant, travel the world, receive medical care and get retirement benefits after 30 years.
When the naval recruiting officer asked for Kenji Inomata’s name, he replied in Japanese fashion, surname first, followed by his given name. That, however, meant his first name, in the United States, would be Inomata and his last name would become mistransliterated as “Kingi.” But he was in.
Over the years, Kingi received promotions and became a naturalized U.S. citizen, a rarity and an anomaly for the time. He also met Genevieve Beckham in Pensacola, Fla., and they wed in 1918. Beckham, incidentally, was of a mixed-race background of European and African heritage, hence the book’s subtitle alluding to Inomata’s “Hapa Family Beautiful.”
“Pure Winds Bright Moon” is fascinating on many levels. Yes, it’s a gift of family history to the Issei’s descendents, but it’s also a window into how one Japanese American family, which later moved to Los Angeles, dealt with the racism directed at Japanese Americans in the 1930s and 1940s. Because of the military service of Kenji Inomata/Inomata Kingi (as well as his mixed marriage), he and his family actually were exempted from being forcibly evacuated from their L.A. home. They were not, however, spared from the discrimination of the era, as the book details.
Also, like many in many Japanese American families, author Kinji Inomata’s father, Takeo Kingi, served in the segregated 100th Battalion/442nd RCT. (In 2011, he was among the still-living 442 vets to be honored with the Congressional Gold Medal.)
The book sells for $26.95 and can be purchased from the aforementioned website. It’s very well-researched and enlightening reading.
On a lighter note, there’s an e-book titled “Who the Hell Are You?” by actor Bruce Locke. It’s available via Amazon for $4.99. Locke got me a review copy when I ran into him and mutual friend Larry Tazuma last summer at the 40th anniversary screening of “Enter the Dragon.” I met Locke years earlier (again, with Tazuma, whom I know from our association with the long-defunct Yolk Magazine) at a party, not long after his role in 1993’s “Robocop 3.” Though I can’t say I know him well, my interactions with Locke have been great; he’s funny and down-to-earth and, as the title of his book shows, a bit self-deprecating.
Locke’s role in “Robocop 3” was similar to that of Robert Patrick in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” in that both are updated, upgraded and superior to the original Robocop and Terminator.
Later, Locke would star in TV’s “Mortal Kombat Conquest.” While those two franchises are Locke’s best-known works, a quick scan of his IMDb page shows he’s worked pretty steadily as an actor since those high points.
The title refers to something someone asked Locke when he showed up at a celebrity golf tournament, the joke being that Locke may not quite have fit the definition of “celebrity” in the eyes of that gatekeeper.
The book is a memoir of sorts, Locke’s journal of his adventures, downs, ups and downs as a working actor. There’s also a lot of golf stuff in it. (Funny how golf becomes the go-to “sport” for lots of ex-jocks in football, basketball, etc.)
So, if you’d like some fun reading and if you’re a golf fan interested in some celeb-related stories, you can’t go wrong with Locke’s “Who the Hell Are You?,” especially for the price.
Correction Dept.: Last column (Nov. 14), I mentioned that 442 vet Yasunori Deguchi, who appeared in my documentary “Going for Honor, Going for Broke: The 442 Story,” had passed away. I was wrong. When I sent an email apology to his son, he informed me that while the senior Deguchi had been under the weather of late, he was better and very much alive! Thank goodness for that, and my apologies for any trouble my error may have caused.
Until next time, keep your eyes and ears open.
(George Toshio Johnston has written this column since 1992 and can be reached at [email protected] The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect policies of this newspaper or any organization or business. Copyright © 2013 by George T. Johnston. All rights reserved.)