HORSE’S MOUTH: The Nobu Hotel in Vegas

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YOSHINAGA-GEORGEBy GEORGE YOSHINAGA

The easiest way to open a column is by printing a few of the many emails I receive from readers, so here goes.

The first one is from E. Kawamura, who wrote: “Horse — Re: your column stating that you can no longer read the entire article in The Japan Times and only the headline is not correct. Go to the category at the top of JT home page and click on to the subject you want, such as ‘news,’ ‘sports,’ etc., and then go to the article and click on the headline. The entire article will appear for you to read.”

Thanks. I followed your instructions and you are correct. It’s a good thing there are so many knowledgeable readers out there in Rafuland.

Another reader, who doesn’t want to be ID’d: “I’m a Yonsei and wasn’t even born when the JAs were forced into relocation camps. But, I look around for stories about the JA experience during that period.

“Your article on the ‘assembly center’ days at Santa Anita was very interesting to me, since I don’t recall ever seeing any written material about those days. Please continue to toss in more stories about that period for the JAs who were interned.

“I guess I never realized that there wasn’t much written about the JAs before they were sent to ‘relocation camps’ and were kept in what you called ‘assembly centers.’”

Thanks to the unidentified reader. He’s probably correct. Not too much has been written about the JAs who were “assembled” before being shipped off to camps throughout the U.S.

Many of the so-called “assembly centers” were at vacant horse racing facilities. Places like Santa Anita and Tanforan in Northern California.

One thing for me. Going to Santa Anita probably made it easier for us to adjust to “relocation camp” life.

An example:

As a small-town farm boy, I never learned how to dance like the big-city folks.

A couple of young ladies held dance classes for people like myself and I enrolled in their classes.

One of the activities in relocation camp was holding dances, and learning how to dance really helped me adjust to that type of life.

Yes, they did have dances in the grandstand area of Santa Anita, but just learning how to dance kept me on the sidelines watching others enjoying themselves because I didn’t have enough confidence to ask ladies to dance and probably trample on their feet.

How many knew we even had a jail at Santa Anita?

I learned about this facility when someone I knew got into a fistfight and was “arrested” and thrown into “jail.” It wasn’t really a jail as we knew it. I mean, no bars surrounding the room designated it as a jail.

When I went to visit my friend, I just walked into the room, where we chatted about his experience “behind bars.” He spent about five days in the so-called jail before he was released.

Just another phase of “assembly center” living.

The cooks were mostly JAs who were cooks on the “outside,” usually at a restaurant they owned and operated, so the food we were served was well-prepared.

At Santa Anita, we had five dining facilities referred to as “mess halls,” each identified by color. There were the Blue, Green, Orange, Red and Yellow mess halls.

We were assigned to the mess halls located in the area where our barrack or stable living quarters were situated. We dined at the Yellow Mess, located in the parking lot where our barrack was located.

Since there were 19,000 interned at Santa Anita, it’s not hard to imagine how crowded each mess hall was at dining time.

Well, I guess that’s enough about Santa Anita for now. I’ll continue from time to time for those like the Yonsei who never read about that period of the JAs’ lives.

(Maggie’s comment: Mr. Y.: Just a little friendly advice. The Japanese American National Museum might be a place for the unidentified Yonsei to learn more about the evacuation, assembly centers, relocation centers, etc. The museum has a wealth of information pertaining to JAs.)

So, let me move on.

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Oh yeah, I want to say “thank you” to the Gardena Valley Baptist Church for putting me on their mailing list. I now get their news release publication.

I haven’t been attending services at GVBC for a few years now, but there was a time when I was a regular attendee at the Sunday morning services. I guess I was just another face in the congregation.

I’ll make it a point to attend a service this coming week to see how times have changed since those days. Probably most will be complete strangers to me.

Needless to say, Gardena has changed quite a bit since the days of the past.

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I was chatting with one of my Nisei friends, who said he was going on a trip.

Of course I asked him, “Where are you headed?” He responded, “I’m staying at the Nobu Hotel.”

Naturally, I figured that meant he was going to Japan.

He laughed when I asked, “Is that in Tokyo?” “No,” he responded, “Nobu Hotel in Las Vegas.”

Las Vegas? Yes, one of the new hotels on The Strip in Vegas is the Nobu Hotel. It will be the most expensive hotel in Las Vegas, situated next to Caesar’s Palace.

With the kind of prices I saw, I would assume that most of the patrons will be from Japan.

Nobu Hotel is actually owned by a New York-based hospitality company operated by chef Nobu Matsuhisa.

The hotel will have 220 rooms.

Nobu Towers, when completed, will include 16 suites and a penthouse among its 180 rooms. All the units will be styled with Nobu’s Japanese theme. Guests can order room service from Nobu’s culinary team.

The goal of the hotel is to create a product that will attract first-time visitors to Vegas. A spokesman said, “We believe it will be a much different demographic.”

Noted architect and designer David Rockwell is overseeing the design of the Nobu Hotel.

Nobu operates multiple restaurants in New York and London.

Needless to say, the prices being set at the new Strip hotel will find me still enjoying my stay at The Cal in Downtown Vegas.

Oh, by the way, I don’t recall if I mentioned it, but speaking of Downtown Vegas, I saw a news article stating that the popular Japanese restaurant Makino’s has shut down in the Premiere Shopping Arcade, a short distance from The Cal.

There was no reason given for the closure.

Since it’s such a popular dining spot for not only JAs but everyone else who craves Japanese food, I’m surprised it has shut down.

I guess on my next trip, I’ll have to start looking around for another Japanese dining spot.

Maybe my old friend, Rosie Kakuuchi, who is a resident of Vegas, can supply me with another Japanese eatery.

Yeah, all my meals are enjoyed at The Cal, but I do look for at least one Japanese site when I’m in Vegas.

I know that Makino’s opened a restaurant in Orange County, and maybe that’s one of the reasons for the Vegas closure.

The owner might have found it tough to operate two restaurants so far apart.

Oh well, maybe I can pack some bento before I leave for Vegas on my next trip.

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No, I don’t have a Vegas trip scheduled for now.

Hopefully, I can make one for sometime this month.

Hey, as I mentioned several times, I haven’t been there for going on four months now. That would be the longest I’ve been away. I wonder if the folks at The Cal wonder what happened to me.

Don’t worry, folks. If someone is providing The Cal with my column and they read my chatter, they probably know it’s the lack of someone to drive me there.

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It’s a bit early to chat about college football, but I was kind of surprised by a news article  sent to me from reader George Wakiji.

How many of you know that the coach of the U.S. Naval Academy football team is from Hawaii? In fact, although his name is Len Niumatalolo, he looks like a Japanese American, and guess what — at every game he coaches, he wears a lei around his neck and the lei is made by Betty Ihara.

The coach has been wearing the lei for the past three years, especially when Navy plays Army.

Betty delivers the lei personally to the coach each year, and Navy is 3-0 against Army for the past three seasons.

Niumatalolo said, “Naturally, when I wore the lei for the first time against Army, we won, so I’ll be damned if I don’t wear it every season.”

Of course, Niumatalolo was born and grew up in Hawaii, so he’s not going to give up wearing the lei. “It also reminds me of where I’m from and who I am,” he told the media.

He is looking forward to meeting Ihara again when she presents him with the lei for this coming season. “She’s a wonderful lady,” he said.

Ihara refers to herself as “Tutu Betty.” Tutu is Hawaiian for grandma. She likes to think of the coach as her adopted grandson. “He calls me Tutu Betty and I am proud,” said Ihara.

She remembers the coach from his playing days at the  University of Hawaii.

A lei is made of flowers or leaves, and Ihara makes hers out of leaves of the tea plant.

I’m an Army man, but what the heck, Go Navy.

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Now that I’m older, yeah, here are a few things I discovered:

1. I started out with nothing and I still have most of it.

2. My wild oats are mostly enjoyed with prunes and all-bran.

3. I finally got my head together and now my body is falling apart.

4. Funny, I don’t remember being absent-minded.

5. Funny, I don’t remember being absent-minded.

6. If all is not lost, then where the heck is it?

7. It was a whole lot easier to get older than to get wiser.

8. Some days, you’re the top dog; some days, you’re the hydrant.

9. I wish the buck really stopped here. I sure could use a few of them.

10. Kids in the back seat cause accidents. Accidents in the back seat cause kids.

11. It’s hard to make a comeback when you haven’t been anywhere.

12. The world only beats a path to your door when you’re in the bathroom.

13. If God wanted me to touch my toes, he’d have put them on my knees.

14. When I’m finally holding all the right cards, everyone wants to play chess.

15. It’s not hard to meet expenses; they’re everywhere.

16. The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.

17. These days, I spend a lot of thinking about the hereafter. I go somewhere to get something and then wonder what I’m “here after.”

Heh, heh.

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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