HORSE’S MOUTH: The Maui Get-Together

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YOSHINAGA-GEORGEBy GEORGE YOSHINAGA

(Published May 28, 2014)

Needless to say, this past holiday weekend was a busy one for me with numerous invitations to accept or reject. Yeah, I did accept one because it was a reunion of people who now live in the Los Angeles area but who all hail from the Hawaiian island of Maui.

The reason I had to accept the invitation was that my wife is a Maui native and she insisted I attend the gathering with her. It was held at the Cherrystones Restaurant in Gardena and abut 30 people attended.

About two dozen years ago, they could never hold the event in a small restaurant because at least 250 former Maui folks attended, so the site was usually a public park. As the years passed, the numbers began to shrink, so now it’s no longer necessary to go to a public park for the gathering.

Since I’m the only “kotonk” attending, I usually just sit around and watch everyone else having a good time. I’m sure most of you know the definition of the Hawaiian word “kotonk.”

When I was drafted into the Army during World War II and was assigned to a unit made up most of GIs from the Islands, everyone called me “kotonk,” so I soon learned what it meant.

Of course, when we Mainland Nisei got together and chatted about the guys from the Islands, we referred to them as “pineapples.” At least we got a good laugh.

Oh well, just a thought.

Oh yeah, I had accepted an invitation to the Nisei vets’ event at the JACCC in Little Tokyo from Bacon Sakatani, but things popped up that made me cancel.

Have to apologize to Bacon if he had me included in his program for the event.

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Being in the journalism field for so many years, I guess I tend to read newspaper articles a little differently than most folks. For one thing, I try to “read between the lines.”

An example?

Well, one of the top stories in the media for the past few days was the killing of six people and the injury to over a dozen others.

The story said the 22-year-old who was involved in the tragedy carried three handguns and hundreds of round of ammo.

If this is accurate, why wasn’t he noticed by people who saw him roaming around the streets?

There was nothing in the article to indicate that people even noticed him and the article said he purchased the handguns and weapons.

Judging by the photos of the handguns, they weren’t cheap weapons like a BB gun. I would estimate that it cost him hundreds of dollars along with hundreds of dollars for the ammo.

Where did he get the funds to buy the weapons? Did his father provide him with the money?

His father did mention that his son was acting a little strange but nothing else about how the killer purchased the weapons. If his father knew that his son had purchased the expensive handguns, wasn’t his suspicion aroused?

It will be interesting to see how this turns out when the investigation by law enforcement agencies begin asking these questions. The answer must be somewhere.

To prevent incidents such as this one, the public needs answers to ensure everyone’s safety.

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Yes, it’s time to respond to an email I received.

The writer wrote: “Did I imagine I read what I read in your column about your forgetting to buy your supply of cigars on your recent trip Vegas?”

Gee, I don’t recall if I mentioned it or not, but yes, I did fail to go to the Indian cigar store to pick up my supply of stogies. Maybe I’ll have to chalk it up to old age.

At any rate, I did contact a friend who lives in Vegas to go by and pick up a box for me. Yeah, I mailed him a check.

It’s not that the cigars are less expensive at the shop where I usually buy my stogies. They carry brands that I can’t find anywhere in the L.A. area and when one of my habits with cigars is chewing on them as well as smoking them, the brands at the Indian shop can’t be found in the L.A. area unless I want to pay a lot of money.

A “retired” newspaperman has to watch how he spends his money.

Enuff said.

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Speaking of age, I’ll be putting on another year in a little over a month. Gee, I can’t imagine that I’d be writing something like this. Yes, people who know me know what my age will be in July.

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How can we tell that time is swiftly passing?

Well, most of you know that from 1962 through 1965, I lived and worked in Tokyo.

So what, you might ask?

When I lived there, the yen was 360 to one dollar. Today, it’s 101 yen to a dollar, which means that it costs a lot more to live in Japan now.

An example?

Suppose you dine at a restaurant and order a hamburger sandwich that is priced at 360 yen. In those days, that would be $1 in greenbacks. At 101 yen, that would mean $3 today or something close to that.

I guess the Japanese don’t feel the difference because they all deal in yen. On the other hand, Americans will calculate today’s yen-dollar rate and realize how much more things cost.

I guess in those days nearly 50 years ago, I didn’t think too much about the yen-dollar exchange because I was getting paid in dollars even though I worked for a Japanese firm.

Just consider the rent I was paying for my apartment in Shibuya-ku, one of the ritzy areas of Tokyo. My rent was 12,000 yen a month. At 360 to a dollar, that’s less than $40. At today’s rate, that would be more than a hundred bucks, or something like that if my math isn’t too messed up.

Glad to be living in Gardena in 2014.

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If I do sound a bit up-in-the-air, it’s because of the holiday this past weekend.

When one has to write twice a week on set days, it gets kind of out of whack when I have to change my schedule, even for a day.

After all these years, I guess my mind is so set on the days I write, I have to change my schedule quite a bit.

Oh well, I’m sure Editor Gwen can understand.

I just peeked at my watch and it showed 7 p.m. On my normal schedule at 7 p.m., I’m sitting in front of our TV set watching my favorite program.

So, stick with me. By next Wednesday, I’ll be back to my old self.

Yeah, I know, some of you will say, “Gee, back to your old self? Give us a break.”

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One way to fill a little gap in my column is to run a photo to fill up a few inches of space.

I thought about this when clearing away my junk. I came across the photo I’m enclosing here. It was taken in 1945 when I was stationed in Japan with the U.S. Army Occupation Forces.

One of our duties was to cruise around the Japanese countryside to observe the people living in the area and give them the chance to see American GIs.

occupied japan (for horse)This photo was taken in Okayama Prefecture.

The Caucasian officer, along with another Nisei, paused by the side of the road to have lunch, which we packed before driving out of the military base.

The driver of the jeep took the photo.

If you’ll look at the background, you can see we were out in the countryside, where the residents didn’t see American GIs. When they saw two Nisei, they probably wondered, “What are those Japanese guys doing in U.S. Army uniforms?”

In fact, as I mentioned in the past about my being in Japan with the Occupation Forces, I was asked many times, “Anata wa Nihonjin desu ka?”

I really didn’t know whether I should answer “yes” or “no” to a question like that, so I left most of them confused.

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Wow, I’m finally seeing the bottom of the page, which means I’ll be through writing in a few more minutes, so until next Saturday’s edition of The Rafu, thanks for hanging in there with me.

I’ll be able to get my schedule back on track after celebrating the past few days of the Memorial Day holiday.

Hey, my wife keeps telling me, “Why don’t you hang ’em up? You aren’t a spring chicken anymore.”

She’s right. I’m like an old rooster.

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Today’s closer is entitled “Life is like a journey on a train”:

Life is like a journey on a train with stations, with changes of routes and with accidents.

At birth we boarded the rain and met our parents and we believe they will always travel on our side.

However, at some stations our parents will step down from the train, leaving us on this journey alone.

As time goes by, other people will board the train and they will be significant — our siblings, friends, children and even the love of our life.

Many will step down and leave a permanent vacuum. Others will go so unnoticed that we don’t realize that they vacated their seats.

This train ride will be full of sorrow, fantasy, expectations, hellos, goodbyes and farewells.

Success consists of having a good relationship with all passengers, requiring that we give the best of ourselves.

The mystery to everyone is: We do not know at which station we ourselves will step down.

So, we must live in the best way — forgive and offer the best of who we are.

It is important to do this because when the time comes for us to step down and leave our seat empty, we should leave behind beautiful memories for those who will continue to travel on the train for life.

Thank you for being one of the passengers on my train.

Have a very pleasant journey of life.

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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