HORSE’S MOUTH: My Famous Brother-in-law

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YOSHINAGA-GEORGEBy GEORGE YOSHINAGA

It’s a phrase I often use. That would be “Time passes.”

This was the thought that crossed my mind when I read the front page of Saturday’s Rafu. One of the articles had the headline “L.A. Native Becomes Bay Area Mayor.” In this case, Bay Area being the City of Piedmont.

The reason for the “time passes” thought was that the article was about Margaret Fujioka, a Sansei, being elected mayor of Piedmont. She is the first Asian American to be elected to the top post in the city in its 107-year history. But that’s not why I’m writing about this.

The reason is that Margaret is the daughter of Yoshiro “Babe” Fujioka, whom I first met during our incarceration at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center. I met Babe because he was the younger brother of Ted Fujioka, who volunteered to join the 442nd RCT and was killed in combat in France.

Knowing Ted at Heart Mountain was an important chapter during my stay at the Wyoming site. During the early days of our camp life, the government set up an educational facility, using a half-dozen barracks as a “high school.”

The Nisei students decided that in order to make the high school, a “real” prep school, they should hold an election to name a student body president.

Since Ted was one of the popular seniors, everyone wanted him to seek the office as president. However, others felt they should hold an election.

Well, to hold an election, they would need more than one candidate. Would you believe some of them thought I might run again Ted? Needless to say, the thought made me chuckle. But they were serious, so I said I would think about it.

The bottom line is they convinced me to be the “other” candidate. So, it was Fujioka vs. Yoshinaga. I was sure of one thing. That is, I would get one vote, mine. I did a little better. If memory serves me correctly, I got about 18 votes. So Ted won with ease, or should I say, I lost with ease.

Well, thoughts of those days nearly 70 years ago crossed my mind when I read the article on Margaret in our Rafu.

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I guess some of my relatives, actually my wife’s family living in Hawaii, who have never been to the Mainland except for their frequent trips to Las Vegas, don’t know it’s more than “walking distance” between Vegas and the Los Angeles area. So, when they visit Vegas, they call us on the phone and say, “Can we meet you folks?”

In this case, it will be this coming week. My wife’s sister and her family will be arriving on Tuesday and they called on Sunday to tell us they would be looking forward to getting together with us at the Boyd Hotel in Downtown Vegas.

They must have planned their trip at least two to three weeks in advance, but they didn’t tell us until two days before their arrival!

Needless to say, we won’t be able to join them.

As most of you know, I need a driver and I sure can’t find one on two days’ notice, so I’ll be hammering out my column at my computer for next Saturday’s edition of The Rafu.

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Well, as always, I guess I’ll toss in a couple of letters from readers that touch on some issues I wrote about. The first, from reader Tad Ukita:

“I read your column in the Feb. 24 edition of Rafu about your meeting unknown relatives in Japan. I hope other JAs have read your inspiring column and make efforts to meet or communicate with relatives there. In your article, you wrote about how many other Nisei have undergone the same experience in meeting relatives they never knew existed.

“I’m an older Sansei (73 years old), never having met any of my family relatives living in Japan, made arrangements in 2011 and 2013 to find, meet and learn about my family’s Japan background and history from these relatives.

“One of my grandfathers left Japan to come to the U.S. with his father in 1890 as a ten-year-old. So being able to meet these relatives was most fortunate. These meetings were wonderful experiences for my wife and me.

“Because of what I learned from these relatives, I was able to fill in some of the blanks in my knowledge about my grandparents, which helped me write a book about my grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts.

“Included in the book are narratives about our trips to Japan. The book was finally completed in early December 2013. All members of my family here in this country were given a copy of the book at Christmas time. Family members  in Japan will be given copies of this book with Japanese translations this month.

“We had the book printed in Canada. The printing company did an outstanding effort, producing a beautifully printed and bound hard-cover book.

“I remember all my Issei and Nisei family members very well — all were wonderful and caring relatives to me, other family members, their friends and acquaintances. These Issei and Nisei family members have all passed away. The stories about them were written in order for their meaningful life to be remembered and appreciated by family members now and those in the future.

“The stories were not written to idolize the first- and second-generation family members, for what I wrote about them is from my first-hand memories, letters from others, information from the WRA, and discussions with other family members and family friends, here and in Japan.

“My mother’s side of the family is from Kumamoto Prefecture, like your family. The 2013 visit to Japan involved meeting my relatives in Kumamoto. In our 2011 visit to Japan we met family members who are members of my father’s side of the family, originally from Okayama Prefecture.

“During both trips our relatives were so excited and happy to meet us. Meeting and learning from them about our family background and history in Japan was a highly emotional lifetime experience. I hope you can somehow relay this experience to other readers of your column.

“I have several extra copies of my family book to give free to others who might be interested in one. I’d like to give you a copy to read and have on your bookshelf. If you would like a copy of this book, please let me know where I may mail it.”

Yes, I would like a copy. Please send it to The Rafu and they will forward it to me. Thanks so much.

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Another letter, a lot shorter, from Stan Kanzaki of New York. He wrote:

“In regards to your Horse’s Mouth column dated 2/25/14, you mentioned that in San Francisco there are no Japanese American vernaculars, but there exists The Nichi Bei Weekly, edited by Kenji  G. Taguma. Also you did not mention The North American Post in Seattle, edited by Shihou Sasaki.”

Thanks for the info on the two publications. I guess I’d better do a little more research on JA publications.

Oh yeah, since you live in New York, Stan, are there any JA publications printed on the East Coast that you know of?

Since there is a large Japanese population in the New York area, it seems that someone must be publishing something about the region.

Waiting to hear your response.

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I got my first copy of The Hawaii Herald, which one of my readers subscribed to for me. It was the February edition of the twice-a-month publication printed in Honolulu.

takamiyamaWhat do you know? The February edition featured the life and career of sumo wrestler Takamiyama, who was born and raised on Maui before he learned sumo and moved to Japan.

Because of his size, he was introduced to sumo on Maui by James Sato, who taught and coached him. Sato was the territorial sumo champion before Hawaii became a state and it was Sato who saw Jesse Kuhaulua (his real name) had potential in the ancient Japanese sport.

Jesse credits Sato for his success. So, some of you my wonder why I’m even mentioning James Sato.

James is the older brother of my wife, Susie. In the photo with Jesse, James doesn’t look like a sumo wrestler, but it’s more Jesse’s size that makes him look small.

James, who played football at the University of Hawaii, is 5-10 and weighs about 250 pounds.

Jesse is 6-5 and weighs 350 pounds, at least when he was still participating in sumo. He’s probably closer to 400 pounds today.

At any rate, the reason I became friends with Jesse is because James introduced him to me on one of my and his visits to Maui and since he lived in Japan for nearly 50 years, he speaks Japanese a lot better than I.

Heh, heh, so what else is new?

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Oh yeah, in the same edition of The Rafu with the story about the Sansei being elected mayor of a Northern California city, there was an article written by sheriff candidate Paul Tanaka.

One thing for sure. When he runs for the sheriff’s office, there will be a lot of trash tossed at Tanaka. I guess you can say, “That’s politics.”

Tanaka’s article in The Rafu gave his response to some of the junk already being tossed at him by other candidates for the same office.

Needless to say, I think The Los Angeles Times will probably come out with anti-Tanaka junk. I’m not sure how much influence The Times has, but judging from some of their past published junk, I’m sure it does have more than a little influence.

However, I’m sure Tanaka will be prepared for whatever position The Times takes in the race for a new sheriff.

As I mentioned in the past, I’m still waiting for someone to bring out Tanaka’s ethnic background. You know, being Japanese American.

It will be interesting to see how The Times approaches this aspect of Tanaka’s background.

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I guess I can title today’s rib-tickler as “Phyllis Diller.” It’s a collection of laughers from the well-known comedian:

• Whatever you may like, marry man your own age. As your beauty fades, so will his eyesight.

• Housework can’t kill you, but why take a chance?

• Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing up is like shoveling the walk before it snows.

• The reason women don’t play football is because 11 of them would never wear the same outfit in public.

• Best way to get rid of kitchen odors: Eat out.

• A bachelor is a guy who never made the  same mistake twice.

• I want my children to have all the things I couldn’t afford. Then I want to move in with them.

• Most children threaten at times to run away from home. This is the only thing that keeps some parents going.

• Any time three New Yorkers get into a cab without an argument, a bank has just been robbed.

• We spend the first 12 months of our children’s lives teaching them to walk and talk and the next 12 months telling them to sit down and shut up.

• Burt Reynolds once asked me out. I was in his room.

• What I don’t like about office Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day.

• The only time I ever enjoyed ironing was the day I accidentally got gin in the steam iron.

• His finest hour lasted about a minute and a half.

• Old age is when the liver spots show through your gloves.

• My photographs don’t do me justice. They just look like me.

• I admit, I have a tremendous sex drive. My boyfriend lives 40 miles away.

• Tranquilizers work only if you follow the advice on the bottle — keep away from children.

• I asked the waiter, “Is this milk fresh?” He said, “Lady, three hours ago it was grass.”

• The reason a pro golfer tells you to keep your head down is so you can’t see him laughing.

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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