HORSE’S MOUTH: The Guy Was a Japanese American

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YOSHINAGA-GEORGEBy GEORGE YOSHINAGA

They are standing at the end of the off-ramp of the freeway. They are also in front of supermarkets, pharmacies and restaurants. They each carry a small pail or paper cup and a sign that claims they are veterans of the Korean War or Vietnam War.

Needless to say, this causes many to drop some change and even a dollar bill in their containers. I’ve never seen a Japanese engaged in this sort of activity. So why I am I opening today’s column on such a topic?

Well, the other day my wife suggested we drop by a fast-food restaurant because she had a couple of coupons offering two sandwiches for the price of one.

I  drove her to the site and she went inside while I waited in the car. Since it was a warm day, I had the windows of the car rolled down.

All of a sudden, I saw a hand reaching in the window and tapping me on the shoulder. I was startled for a moment. The guy was a Japanese American. How did I know? He was wearing a baseball cap with the name of a Japanese pro baseball team on it. What do you think he said?

“Hey, can I hit you up for a couple of bucks? I’m thirsty and want to go into the restaurant and buy a bottle of soda.”

I was kind of taken back.

After a second or two of silence, I told him, “You see that gas station across the street? They have a drinking fountain by the front door. Go over there and you can take care of your thirst.”

He responded, “Water isn’t going to help my thirst.”

All I could utter after that was “Get lost.”

He uttered a few profanities and walked off.

Gosh, two JAs engaged in such a conversation.

What the heck is next?

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Just a short note from Bacon Sakatani, who is putting together the reunion at the Santa Anita Race Track next Saturday, March 29. He tells me that 354 people have signed up to attend the gathering.

My reaction was “Wow!”

I put together the original reunion a few years ago and those attending didn’t even come close to 354. It’s going to be a wild party.

The reason I was amazed by the figure Bacon gave me is that the reunion is for those who experienced the internment at the race track during the early days of World War II.

Well, since the years have passed, I don’t think too many JAs who lived through that experience are still around.

I was a teenager when I arrived at the Arcadia track, and all of you know how old I am today.

I have to give Bacon a lot of credit for putting on the event and I hope to see you there.

As I always toss in, I hope Corey Nakatani, the jockey, wins a few races next Saturday. His father was among the 19,000 internees at the assembly center.

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As happens each year because the Cherry Blossom Festival in San Francisco is always held four months ahead of Ellay’s Nisei Week Festival, the Bay City pageant announced the candidates for this year’s tiara.

The Rafu ran the story on the Cherry Blossom Queen candidates in its Wednesday edition.

The reason this year’s candidates caught my eye was that two of the five were born in Mountain View, the small city on the San Francisco Peninsula, where I lived before we were taken away by the evacuation.

Since Mountain View isn’t a large city, I thought maybe the two candidates who were born there might be the offspring of my prewar friends.

At any rate, their names are very familiar, so I’m going to do some double-checking to see if they are indeed the daughters of my friends.

Gosh, the daughter of one of my friends as Cherry Blossom Queen? Maybe?

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Okay, don’t run off when I say that this next piece is on George Takei.

I’m going to make a few comments on the famed film star because the story was published in The New York Times. How many Japanese Americans can make a claim like that?

In chatting about George and his wartime experiences, I always toss in the fact that he was 6 years old when he was interned with his parents.

Takei is going to Japan in May to speak at universities in that country as well as in Korea.

During the trip, organized by the State Department, Takei will talk about his life and career as an openly gay Asian American. No, not as a gay Japanese American.

I assume he will talk about Japanese Americans being tossed into internment camps and his experiences as one of them, even if he was only 6 years old.

In this article, Takei pointed out his favorite places in Japan as Kyoto, Nara and Hiroshima. Oh, not Tokyo?

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Followers of my chatter know that I frequently mention that outside of my wife’s cooking, my favorite place to eat was McDonald’s. Please note, was my favorite place.

Well, for no definite reason, Mac now ranks second on my list. I guess it’s not just me.

A recent article on McDonald’s indicated that business for the world’s biggest chain has fallen 1.4 percent. Now 1.4 percent may not sound like much, but with the kind of business McDonald’s has, 1.4 means a lot.

After years of outperforming its competitors, McDonald’s has been struggling to boost sales as people flock to rival eateries.

In Southern California, McDonald’s is testing a “build-your-own-burger” concept.

Well, that sounds interesting. Maybe I’ll go back to them and see what their “build-your-own” is all about.

In Japan, sales have declined 2 percent.

It might be that consumers are spending nearly 10 percent less on dining out.

A consulting firm said that people want to spend less eating out, not just at McDonald’s but at all restaurants

A survey indicated that customers said they would spend 5 percent less in the year ahead.

Big Mac, anyone?

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In this day and age, I have come to the conclusion that when people talk or write about “Asian Americans,” we of the Japanese American community are not considered as part of the “Asian American community.”

When Asian Americans are discussed, it’s mostly about Chinese and other groups, especially when it comes to discussing education for these groups.

Several Asian American politicians have come out to fight for the status of Asian Americans, and the politicians heavily involved are Congresswoman Judy Chu of Pasadena and Assemblyman Ed Chau of Monterey Park.

Others in the so-called Asian American category are Cambodians and Laotians.

Sorry, no “Nihonjins.” Oh well.

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Maybe you readers will be seeing a “Mouth” column with a Las Vegas dateline sooner than even I anticipated.

As most of you know, my trips to my favorite city was cut back because I can’t drive that distance myself and I couldn’t find another one to take the wheel after my second son suddenly passed away last year.

I am surprised at the number of readers who have written me via snail-mail and email offering me a ride when I need one. And none of them even said, “You have to help pay for gas.”

So if I take up the offers, I may be putting a Las Vegas dateline on my next column. Heh, heh.

I want to thank the many people who have offered me a ride and even wrote that I could pick the dates of the trip.

Hooray!

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Speaking of Vegas and its casinos, I’m surprised at the number of casino patrons who are suing casinos for permitting them to lose tons of money because they were offered drinks on the house, which caused them to lose track of what they were doing at the gaming tables.

One Ventura man said he was a Vegas regular for three decades, and he was allowed to consume 20 drinks in 17 hours. During that period, he lost half a million dollars.

Nevada regulations bar casinos from allowing visibly drunk patrons to gamble and from offering them free drinks.

The casino says it does not comment on pending litigation.

As one casino spokesman said, “I’ve never heard a story before where a player couldn’t even read his cards because he had too much to drink.”

Yet, a casino continues to serve players with drinks and issue them more markers, used in place of money.

I guess we 25-cent slot machine players are never offered free drinks even if we are stone sober. Heh, heh.

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Still touching on Vegas, we all know that the popular Makino’s Japanese restaurant was shut down about two months ago.

Well, for those looking for another Japanese eatery, a reader who signed his letter “AHG” wrote me the following:

“Hope you will test the Osaka Restaurant on your next trip to Vegas. We tasted every Japanese restaurant in Vegas over the past ten years. Our palate likes the Osaka Restaurant best so far. We also stay at the California Hotel. You’ll see a tall green statue in front of the restaurant. It’s near Henderson, 10920 S. Easter Ave.”

Thanks for the info. On our next trip, I’ll give it a try.

The Las Vegas Review Journal newspaper scores it “Best of Las Vegas.”

That’s a great recommendation.

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The following is a letter from Pattie Kasahara, which I wish to share with you since I felt it was relevant to subjects in this column:

“Hi Horse. Been meaning to write and see how you and Susie are doing — it’s been almost a year since I’ve seen you folks. Hope you have the McGerrow Camp Reunion inked in your calendar.

“Sending you this email, which came to me from an ex-Los Angeles (Crenshaw area) family who now lives in Kauai. A very nice article in the Hawaii paper about you and your efforts for the Santa Anita Reunion. It seems like only yesterday you were talking about getting this done for us all and it finally happened — thanks to you.

“Willie and I will be there to cheer you on this weekend!!! Look out for us. Hope Nakatani will be running this weekend — that would be tremendous, neh! Maybe we’ll all make a few bucks that day. Hope it will be a gorgeous day and sounds like it might just be one.

“Look forward to seeing you this weekend.”

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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