I should know what numerical edition this year’s Nisei Week is, but it’s only a number, so who’s to care? Maybe seventy-something? Discounting the war years, of course. Charlie Chaplin was once a surprise visitor. [If you ask, “Who’s he?,” CR2S has a problem.] Can you believe the queen contest was once decided by *purchased votes? An amateur talent show was a highlight, as was a two-day food and game carnival. [*Japanese retail businesses were authorized to give customers one queen vote for every dollar spent, with the biggest vote-getter named queen. This approach lasted all of one year as should-have-been-expected charges of vote manipulation brought a quick end to the ill-fated concept.]
Whatever umpteenth renewal of Nisei Week this is, I’ll leave the math up to you. Am somewhat chagrined to admit CR2S hasn’t viewed a NW Parade nor attended a Queen Coronation in quite some time. I mentioned visiting Li’l Tokio on a recent late Saturday night and being pleasantly surprised by the crowded sidewalks, as well as the restaurants and bars. And how, much to my surprise, the majority was not black-haired or angled-eyed. CR2S was informed the 2014 queen coronation compared well with past renewals and the parade lured an appreciative throng of onlookers. So yeah, vicariously or otherwise, witnessing the revitalization of our little burg is pretty cool, even if only once a year. [The convenient Metro Station is the glue that will secure Nihonmachi’s future. LTers would be wise to give thanks to former councilperson Jan Perry for this fortuitous transportation link.]
William T. Fujioka was a featured celebrity alongside Korean War hero Hershey Miyamura, who was 2014 grand marshal. Maybe not the most well-known Sansei minion to be recognized, but Bill was a deserving honoree. He just retired as Los Angeles County’s top manager,which means he oversaw a workforce of more than 100,000. That’s five zeroes, folks, not to forget department heads, consultants, advisors, lobbyists and recalcitrant labor unions.
Unlike Los Angeles City Hall, where Fujioka was the top administrator for eight years, at County he also had to contend with sacrosanct fiefdoms of five disparate supervisors, none famous for being cooperative. [CR2S goes back to the good ole days of Kenny Hahn (Masani Fukai) and Ed Edelman (Jim Miyano), and remembers Gloria Molina when she was an unpaid volunteer. As well as Baxter Ward, but I digress.] Despite the crippling Great Depression years, the former ELA denizen’s seven-year county stint was highly successful. According to an L.A. Times retirement story, Fujioka is planning to write a book about his government experience and serve as a (pro bono) consultant to non-profits.
The Sansei’s impressive resume, at two lofty governmental levels, is reminiscent of an earlier Nisei trailblazer: Takuji “Tug” Tamaru. He went from a saxophone player in a Poston dance band to eventually become Los Angeles’ top financial guru. When a rapidly growing City of Anaheim needed the services of top-notch fiscal leadership, it lured him to Orange County. The theft prompted a tug-of-war that was resolved when both townships agreed to share his expertise! Tamaru’s success was not limited to governance as he married *Terry Hokoda, 1949 Nisei Week Queen. [*One of CR2S’s all-time favorites. Which means I should also mention June, Akemi, Mitzi, Helen, Faith, Jen and a host of others. Damn, will I never learn?] And you might wonder about his nickname: Takuji became “Tug” early on growing up in pre-war Brawley. [The Nisei generation was infamous, top to bottom, for its array of assumed names.]
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Like others of you, CR2S has many opportunities to meet visitors from our mother country; especially nowadays at Keiro Retirement Home, where young and old alike make the pilgrimage to recite/entertain/perform or simply visit to pay their respects. Personally, I don’t know why. I mean, geez, the only thing residents have done is grow old. Not exactly something to praise, venerate or gift. Whatever. If people want to be nice, who am I to wonder why?
Anyway, this past week four teenagers (two & two) from Japan shared meals and conversation at KRH. CR2S readers are well aware my linguistic talent isn’t exactly scintillating, barely adequate. Nevertheless, I’m trying to think of some worthy piece of advice that would serve them well later as adults. I mean, hey, Hiroto-san, the guru of advice, wishes dispense something worthwhile for them to take home.
So I go to the table where one of the boys, Sho, is having his final meal. I shake his hand, wish him well. Whammo, a stroke of genius! I continued to clasp his right hand. In most every instance I can recall, Japanese males seem to offer a dead, limp handshake. A very courteous bow or nod is offered, but seldom a firm, manly grip. So I explained to the youngster the importance of first impressions and in America the significance of a firm handshake as opposed to a wet rag. That simple, easy gesture would immediately set him apart, I told him.
He laughed and thanked me. I then squeezed his hand a bit harder, with a final caveat: “But not too strong.”
Methinks Sho will return home and maybe someday become a successful politician, diplomat, business mogul. Or get smacked on the nose for being too American!
W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.