HORSE’S MOUTH: The Longest Bridge in the World

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YOSHINAGA-GEORGEBy GEORGE YOSHINAGA

Yes, as I frequently note, time passes.

It’s March 2014 and if I last a couple of months until June, I will be starting my 25th year with The Rafu. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that I would still be writing for The Rafu after all these years since leaving The Kashu Mainichi.

Needless to say, the Nisei generation in the publishing industry is fading away. At The Rafu, I guess fellow columnist Wimp Hiroto and I are the only Nisei left. And it’s not just in the publication business.

The Japanese American community is now mostly Sansei and Yonsei. We Nisei used to reference our Issei parents.  I’m not sure if the Sansei and Yonsei are doing the same.

In chatting with my Sansei sons and their Yonsei offspring, I think there is very little connection between the new generation and the Nisei era.

Maybe it’s the “little things” I notice, something as simple as nicknames.

The Nisei generation enjoyed giving their friends nicknames that generally stuck with those receiving their new handle. Yeah, like the Horse, which is what my Nisei friends labeled me. It has stuck more than George.

In our sports club, nicknames were more common than the given names to the Nisei. We had a friend that we would call “Barrel,” and there was “Chicken” and “Bird” and “Nose” and “Hippy.”

I’m not sure how we came to call each other by nicknames instead of our given names, but I guess that was the “Nisei way.”

I wasn’t too unhappy to be tagged “Horse.” Hey, I might have been given the nickname “Porky” or “Fatso” because I have to admit I was a bit overweight.

Oh well, as I said in opening this segment of my column, time flies.

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Yes, my wife can drive our car, but very seldom do I let her get behind the steering wheel of our vehicle. Of course, she insists that I let her drive when we go shopping or when I have a meeting to attend in Gardena.

Her request to let her drive follows her statement, “It’s time I let you relax when we just go a few miles to the shopping center,” and I find that I am relenting to her request more frequently nowadays.

Yeah, I am pretty tense sitting next to her with the steering wheel in her hands, but I am adjusting better these days.

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Here’s a letter from reader Alan Dash, who wrote:

“Dear George, I just read your article in the March 11 Rafu Shimpo. Became nostalgic to visit Gardena again. I have heard how much it has changed since I left in 1997. We get The Rafu by mail and in bunches of 3-5 issues and not in chronological order.

“Speaking of names, when I worked for Fuji Research Institute (Japan) in Gardena, as the international representative for the Japanese company, I was often in close contact with Mr. Yoshinaga of Hitachi Japan. He was their chief contact officer for building atomic energy plants all over Japan. In light of the Fukushima incident, I now feel regretful for being connected with the atomic power industry over there.

“During the many years in Gardena, my hapa daughter (June) went to Japanese school at the Buddhist temple each Saturday and actually enjoyed it, unlike the little boys in her class. I still remember a bunch of people in Gardena, such as Sue Okabe and her sister, who taught little Junko the piano, and Dr. Kobayashi and his family. I was a close friend of his son Noel (“Koby”) and still keep in touch by email.

“I liked that little take-out sushi place across from Meiji Market and Cliff at the Meiji Market pharmacy. My favorite travel agent was in the same section (Gary Hiraizumi). Outside of that, you and I both know George Wakiji, whom I first met while we worked at TWA in downtown L.A. How’s that for name-dropping?

“Kyoko, June and I moved to Boise, Idaho, in 1997. Boise is a family-value place, with very friendly people, zero street crime, clean air and water, and a great ambiance. I belong to the local JACL and I am presently the honorary consul general of Japan for Idaho, which is under the Portland, Oregon Japan Consulate.

“We also have a few hundred overseas Japanese that temporarily work for HP and Micron Technology. It is one of my duties to bridge between the expatriate Japanese and the Japanese Americans. Most of the younger JAs do not speak Japanese and have never been to Japan. They are also more politically conservative than the JAs I knew in California.

“The work ethic is strong here and the locals feel uncomfortable about being on the dole. The first thing I notice when I arrived was that the sales people in stores and restaurants were cheerful and smiling and looked happy in their job.

“I never heard a burglar alarm being set in cars in the parking lots and people throw their hand trash into public waste baskets rather than in the streets. Drivers even slow down to allow you into their lanes, rather than speeding up, as in L.A. I’m glad I moved here. Hope to meet you some day.”

Thanks for your nice (and lengthy) letter, Alan. I learned a lot of new things in reading it.

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Well, let me step away from the local scene and pose a question for those in the reading audience. I wanted to make a guessing game out of it and even ask those who participate if they want to make a wager on the answer. I could probably dash off to Vegas with my winnings.

Well, here’s the question: What is the world’s longest suspension bridge span?

I’m sure most will respond that it’s the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Wrong.

Would you believe that the longest is the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge located in Kobe, Japan, at 12,831 feet? Akashi Strait separates Kobe from Iwaya.

A total of 23,000 cars pass over the bridge each day and it can withstand an earthquake of 7.2 magnitude. The bridge is 215 feet above the sea.

Okay, aren’t you glad you didn’t make a bet on my question?

As I always say when I run one of these tidbits, heh, heh.

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Well, it’s time to test Maggie’s memory. I don’t think I used the following but I’m sure if I did, Maggie will say something like, “Mr. Y, you are getting old.”

Not “getting old,” Maggie, I am old. At any rate, here it is. It comes in a form of a letter from a reader:

“George: Just a couple of comments on a recent column. Concerning your comments on removing one’s shoes when entering a home and no slipper is provided. Most all Japanese American homes we visit, whether it be in Hawaii, Southern California or here in Illinois (the writer lives in Chicago), we remove our shoes when we enter the house and the only ones who offered us slippers were those who were born and brought up in Japan.

“None of our relatives in Hawaii offer slippers. Also the only place I’ve seen separate slippers in the bathroom area was in Japan and never here in the States. Actually, in Japan there were ‘otearai’ or would you prefer to call it ‘benjo,’ ‘toire,’ ‘gofujo,’ ‘kawaya,’ ‘setchin,’ WC or toilet and not in the bathroom since one doesn’t need slippers in the bathroom area since you were going in there barefoot to take a bath or shower. As my wife said, when she read your article, ‘Here in the States most people keep their bathrooms clean so you can walk in there in your stocking feet.’

“Retirement homes in Japan and the Keiro Retirement Home in Boyle Heights: There are retirement homes in Japan but they are expensive just like here. My mother was in one in Urawa in Saitama-ken just north of Tokyo for a few years until she came down with Alzheimer’s and had to transfer to a nursing home.

“To get a tiny studio room she had to pay 20 million yen ($200,000 in the early 1990s). If she stayed less than five years they would return some on a prorated basis but she stayed a little over that and had to forfeit the rest. She did have good care with three meals a day, staff nurses and a visiting doctor who came once a week or when needed would make house calls.

“For her, it was just like a nursing home except when she came down with Alzheimer’s they couldn’t handle it. There are also other retirement homes run by cities and prefectures but they are hard to get into, just like Keiro. I don’t know if they have a waiting list or not.

“With regards to Keiro Retirement Home, you must receive tons of mail rebutting Ms. June Nakamura’s statement. Prices have gone up quite a bit since my sister was there from 1998 to 2001 when she had to transfer to the ICF next door. The monthly fee was $1,200 per month for a one bedroom in 1998 and $1,300 in 2001. So, it has gone up about 40 percent since then.

“This isn’t bad since you get three meals a day and the utilities are all paid for except for any telephone or for cable TV. The waiting list was about two years at the time, but I wonder how long it is now. It must be twice as long as we all age.

“There is one way where you didn’t have to wait. That was if you were a patient at Keiro Nursing Home and there was a vacancy at the retirement home you were given first priority. However, you had to transfer directly from the nursing home to the retirement home. If you went home between, you were out of luck.

“Fortunately for my sister, who was convalescing at the nursing home after being discharged from a hospital, we were informed about this from her doctor, who told us of a pending vacancy at the retirement home. Sure enough, one man was leaving at the end of the month to return to his family and one bedroom unit would be available. I decided to have my sister stay at the nursing home for an additional ten days although she could have been discharged earlier, so that she would be eligible to get the room.

“With reference to Ms. Nakamura’s statement of placing two total strangers in a single studio unit, is this some new rule that Keiro Services instigated? I have never heard of it and something doesn’t seem right. I know there were husbands and wives living in a single unit, but total strangers? If true, I’m sure the waiting list must be a whole lot shorter.”

Thanks for your lengthy letter. I’m sure the readers will learn a lot from the information provided.

(MAGGIE’S COMMENT: Yep, Mr. Y, you submitted this lengthy letter from a reader a while back and I do remember typing it. You are right in that you are old, but everyone reaches that phase of life. I’m also there now. It was suggested by J.K. Yamamoto, who goes over your column before publication, that you date the long letters from readers so that you know if it was already submitted. I think that is an excellent idea. What thinkest thou?)

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Since Bacon Sakatani is putting together the “former residents of Santa Anita Assembly Center” get-together in two weeks, maybe those who attend might go home with money in their pockets after betting on the right horse.

Since it’s the Year of the Horse, who could make a wager and not win if his name is Horse? Of course, that would be me.

Yeah, the reason I took an interest in getting Santa Anita to host the Japanese Americans who were interned at the Arcadia track was that I was one of 19,000 JAs locked up there during the early days of WWII.

An 18-year-old farmboy to be recognized for being an internee at Santa Anita some 70 years later? I’ll take it. Heh, heh.

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It is often said that age isn’t always the worst thing. Try this for a laugher:

• Recently when I went to McDonald’s, I saw on the menu that you could have an order of six, nine or 12 Chicken McNuggets. I asked for a half-dozen nuggets.

“We don’t have half dozen nuggets,” said the teenager at the counter.

“You don’t?” I replied.

“We only have six, nine or twelve” was the reply.

“So I can’t order a half-dozen nuggets, but I can order six?”

“That’s right.”

So, I shook my head and ordered six nuggets.

Unbelievable but sadly true.

• I was checking out at the local Wal Mart with just a few items, and the lady behind me put her things on the belt close to mine. I picked up one of those dividers that they keep by the cash register and placed it between our things so they wouldn’t get mixed.

After the girl examined all of my items, she picked up the divider, looking all over for the bar code so she could scan it.

Not finding the bar code, she said to me, “Do you know how much this is?”

I said to her, “I’ve changed my mind. I don’t think I’ll buy that today.”

She said, “OK,” and I paid her for the things and left.

She had no clue what had just happened, but the lady behind me had a big smirk on her face as I left.

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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