HORSE’S MOUTH: Introducing Takayuki Kubota Sensei

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YOSHINAGA-GEORGEBy GEORGE YOSHINAGA

(Published July 5, 2014)

The name Takayuki Kubota may not ring a bell with most of you. However, to me, it does have a lot of meaning.

Before I put my thoughts on paper, let me print a letter from reader Rod Kuratomi, a follower of this column. He wrote:

“Mr. Yoshinaga — My karate sensei, Takayuki Kubota, wanted me to write to you that on Oct. 5, he is celebrating a special event. He said you are an old friend of his from way back.

“It is his 50th anniversary All-Star Karate Tournament, his 75th year of training in martial arts and his 80th birthday celebration.

“He is also having karate seminars on Oct. 4th and a banquet on Oct. 3rd.

“In the past you mentioned in your column about previous anniversary events and Kubota Sensei was wondering if you could do the same this year.

“I am one of the youngest at his dojo with only 33 years of training under Kubota Sensei.”

Thanks for your letter, Rod.

I go way back with Kubota Sensei. I met him when I was living and working in Tokyo as a boxing trainer. One of those I was training asked me if I ever heard of karate. I told him, “Yes, but I don’t know too much about it.”

So he said, “Well, I’m going to introduce you to the top karate expert not only in Japan but in the entire world.”

He drove me to a site about 10 miles from the gym where I worked.

There was this gentleman who was donned in a martial arts uniform.

“George,” the trainee said, I want to you to meet Mr. Takayuki Kubota, the top karate expert.”

We shook hands.

Then Kubota Sensei said, “I heard you train professional boxers. Have you ever heard of karate?”

I said that I had, but that I didn’t know anything about it.

He then said, “Can I give you a demonstration?”

I figured, why not?

So he told me to get in a boxing stance and throw a right hand to his face. The next thing I knew, I was flat on my back on the mat.

After that experience, I became good friends with Kubota Sensei.

When I was ready to return to the U.S., he said he would like to go to America and introduce karate.

About six months after I got back to Los Angeles, Kubota Sensei arrived in the U.S. He opened a karate gym in Hollywood.

After a short period, he decided he needed a bigger gym because so many wanted to learn karate, so he moved his gym to Glendale.

The rest is history. Karate became a popular martial art in the U.S.

As I mentioned earlier, he is staging his 50th anniversary karate tournament in October. Needless to say, I want to be on hand for his tournament to rekindle my friendship with him and bring back memories of Japan.

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I just received the summer edition of “Kokoro Kara,” the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation publication. Not sure how I got on the mailing list, but since I was interned in that camp, I find the articles interesting.

However, several things puzzle me. For one, how was the staff for the publication selected? One of them is Brian Liesinger, who wrote an article entitled “Children of Heart Mountain.”

The question that popped into my mind was: Who is Brian Liesinger?

Since I was interned at Heart Mountain and worked on The Sentinel, the camp newspaper, I feel that I knew most of those involved with the camp, but they all had names like Hosokawa, Watanabe and Inouye. No Liesinger.

In thumbing through the pages of the publication, I came across the names of the staff of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation.

It read: Brian Liesinger, executive director; Bethany H. Sandvik, operations manager; Kim Barhaug, facilities manager; Nicole Blechynden, archivist; and Hana Maruyama, communications assistant.

Among those listed on the Board of Directors were Shirley Ann Higuchi, chair; Douglas W. Nelson, vice chair; and Claudia Wade, treasurer.

Where did all these people come from?

Weren’t the relocation camps for Japanese Americans? So where are they when a publication of camp life is circulated and most of the staffers are Caucasians?

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Oops, before I forget, I’d better toss in this next piece.

From contacts I have received from a lot of folks, people are using my email address and sending out messages under my name.

When I told them I didn’t send such messages, they all said the same thing: “You’d better change your email address.”

I changed it yesterday and my new email will not be published. I will send it to those I’m in contact with and nobody else. So whoever is using my email address “[email protected]” won’t be able to continue after today.

Those I want to keep in contact with will receive my new email through postal mail.

I guess I’m kind of surprised that something like this can happen, but in this day and age, anything is possible.

If I don’t send some of you my new email address, just call me on the phone and I’ll give it to you, and as the Japanese would say, “Domo arigato.”

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By the time you read this, the 4th of July will be history.

Why am I mentioning something like this? Well, I was going to print it in my Tuesday column but as usual, I goofed.

At any rate, what I wanted to tell readers who were going to Las Vegas over the 4th of July holiday was that the city announced they are expecting one of the largest crowds in recent history.

That means not only crowded hotels and eateries but traffic on the freeways and byways. Of course, that means Highway 15 from the Los Angeles area to Vegas.

If some of you are still going, rots of ruck, not only at the gaming tables but on the highways and in eating places.

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Speaking of Vegas, we all know that a lot of Japanese Americans, mostly retired folks, are buying homes and moving to the city. Since they are retired folks, their ages are up there, so what can older senior citizens do in Vegas besides visiting the casino? And since they are older, how much time is left for some of them?

I know it sounds a bit creepy, but when I get The Las Vegas Review Journal, the daily publication in the city, I glance through all the features, including the obituary section.

Maybe not such a pleasant thing to do, but I do get curious about how the JAs are “living” in Sin City.

Oh well, you get what I mean.

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Those of you who have any familiarity with Japan know what the Yakuza is. Well, maybe those who are not familiar also know about the Yakuza.

What we didn’t know, including me, was that the U.S. is familiar with the Yakuza. In simple terms, the Yakuza is the name given to gangster groups in Japan, and recently the U.S. added a fourth Yakuza group to the list of those blacklisted by America.

I wasn’t aware that three others were already blacklisted: They are the Yamaguchi-gumi, Sumiyoshi-kai and Inagawa-kai. Added to the list is the Kudo-kai.

The newest to be banned is based in Fukuoka, has some 950 members and is reported to be the most violent Yakuza syndicate in Japan.

The largest Yakuza group is the Sumiyoshi-kai.

The U.S. Treasury Department has frozen any of their assets within the jurisdiction of the U.S. and prohibits any transactions with them by Americans.

I know I was first introduced to the Yakuza when I was working in Japan some 50 years ago, but I never realized that the U.S. was aware of the gangster group.

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An email from a reader: “Hi, Horse. I got a kick out of your column on your trip to the Pala Indian Casino. I may take a trip down there one of these days. How long did it take to drive there?”

Thanks for your note. We drove on Saturday, so the traffic on the 15 Freeway was really bad. It was stop-and-go all the way to Pala.

Coming home was much better, I would guess it took us about an hour and 15 minutes.

Perhaps if you haven’t been to an Indian casino, you might try Pechanga, which is about 80 miles from Gardena, or about an hour’s traveling time.

Having been to both places, I think you’ll find either one a nice place to spend a day or two.

Good luck.

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So maybe it’s time to figure out where the day goes. According to the Labor Department, Americans sleep an average of 8 hours and 44 minutes.

Watching TV gobbles up 2 hours and 46 minutes.

Eating and drinking, 1 hour and 34 minutes.

Leisure and sports, 2 hours and 29 minutes. Housework, 1 hour and 47 minutes. Personal care, 48 minutes. Shopping, 45 minutes.

And for me, writing a column, 3 hours twice a week.

George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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