HORSE’S MOUTH: Mexican Food Popular in Japan?

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YOSHINAGA-GEORGEBy GEORGE YOSHINAGA

(Published Aug. 9, 2014)

When I read the top story in last Tuesday’s Rafu, all I could utter was “Wow.”

The story was headlined: “Pioneers to Be Honored at 74th Nisei Week.”

The reason for the “wow”?

Well, I guess it’s the age of the so-called “pioneers.” Seems there was a time when “pioneers” were aging folks. This year’s selection lists five “pioneers” who are younger than I. That’s right. Pioneers who are younger than I.

Bert Inouye was born in 1939, which makes him a few years older than 70. Bobby Iwashita was born in 1937, making him two years older than Inouye. Frank Kawase was also born in 1937. Yoshihito Yonezawa is the oldest of the group, born in 1930, putting him in his 80s.

Yup, all of them younger than I.

Tickles my ribs, but I don’t think I ever considered myself as a “pioneer.”

In chatting about this with old friend Tak Hamano, owner/operator of Umeya Senbei in J-Town, we kind of concluded that the older Nisei generation is fading from the scene.

As Tak put it, “There aren’t too many of us left.”

Perhaps it’s a signal that the name “Nisei Week” might have to be changed as the new generation takes the scene.

Heck, when the Japanese American community reaches the fifth or sixth generation, calling the yearly festival “Nisei Week” may not be appropriate.

Maybe something like “Japan America Festival.”

Just a thought.

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Gee, speaking Nisei Week, I can’t believe it will start next week. Seems like the annual festival pops up on the scene so quickly.

Well, I hope it can continue to bring recognition to our JA community.

Hey, it’s been running for 75 years, and that in itself is quite amazing.

Hopefully, the younger generation will work to continue Nisei Week or whatever name it may adopt in the future.

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When I lived and worked in Tokyo in the early ’60s, guess what I missed the most? Would you believe Mexican food?

Yeah, as one moving to Tokyo from Los Angeles, I missed my weekly Mexican food stuff like tacos, especially fish tacos, stuffed with fluffy white fish and shredded cabbage seasoned with lime.

Fish and cabbage are popular in Japan, but until recently, fish tacos were hard to find there.

Fish tacos are native to Baja California, and are now becoming popular in Yokohama. While Yokohama is a far cry from the beach, the firm Antenna America is offering the Mexican dish to Japanese diners. Antenna America’s tacos are rated as good.

Another Mexican restaurant, Hacienda del Cielo, opened in Shibuya in Tokyo. Hacienda’s atmosphere is described as looking like a fashionable ethnic eatery in Mexico City or Los Angeles and has succeeded in making Mexican food stylish in the Tokyo area.

Both Mexican restaurants are gaining popularity.

Perhaps “gracias” might replace “arigato” in Tokyo.

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Time to toss in a letter or two from readers.

The first one is from Howard Lee Kilby, who lives in Hot Springs, Arkansas, but subscribes to The Rafu:

“Mr. Yoshinaga — Sorry for the delay in writing. I will be flying to Burbank on September 2 and returning to Hot Springs on September 9th.

“I hope to attend a session at Zenshuji Church in Little Tokyo on Sunday, Sept. 7. It will be a day of zazen, which I enjoy very much.

“I also discussed with my son the idea of driving you and your wife to Las Vegas. He said, ‘Fine.’ He’ll take us in his Honda.

“Since this is a brief trip, I think we’d have to drive to Vegas, spend one night and drive back the next day. Probably have to go on Wednesday and return on Thursday or Friday.

“I hope I have a pleasure of meeting you. I’ve been a Horse’s Mouth reader in The Rafu Shimpo since the ’90s. That’s a long time.”

Thanks for your letter, Howard. I may take you up on your offer.

Second letter is from David Hadley. I guess I have more non-JA readers than I ever imagined.

“My name is David Hadley and I am a candidate for the California State Assembly in the South Bay. As you know, I am running against Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi.

“I have been reading your column from time to time, after our mutual friend George Nakano recommended that I start doing so. Rafu Shimpo and your columns have been a good source of information about the Japanese American community in the South Bay and beyond. Thank you for your effort.

“I am not seeking your endorsement or any specific coverage of me or my campaign in your column. I am well aware that I am running against a Japanese American and I am sure that Assemblyman Muratsuchi is much better known to you and your readers than I am. Of course, I would be happy to tell you more about myself and why I am running if you are interested.

“I am writing to simply introduce myself, thank you for your columns and to tell you that if (when) I win the privilege of representing the South Bay in the State Assembly, you and the Japanese American community will have a friend in Sacramento. I can tell you from reading your column that you and I share many of the same values.

“I am not seeking to divide our South Bay community. I am seeking to unite it. You should know that before I entered this race as a candidate, I was chairman of the local Republican Party and spent seven months recruiting candidates who would undertake the challenge of bringing balance to the State Assembly.

“One of the first potential candidates I reached out to was Gardena Mayor Paul Tanaka, who I thought would win and represent the South Bay very well. He chose not to run because his heart was committed to the Los Angeles County sheriff’s office.

“I tell this story to emphasize that I look for talent and experience in all of the communities of the South Bay.

“So good to meet you online. If you would like to get in touch with me, my phone is available and so is my email. I hope you are having a good summer and I will continue to read your columns.”

I appreciate all you readers who take time out from your busy schedule to express your thoughts to me.

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Haven’t heard much about the high-speed bullet train that California has been discussing over the past few years. Seems like the project is at a standstill now.

Maybe it’s time for the Golden State to tie up with Japan in carrying out the new service.

Hey, Japan installed its high-speed rail back in 1964. That’s 50 years ago, so they must know things about installing the new system that we don’t.

According to the latest news releases, Japan is going to improve its present high-speed rail to half the time it takes now to go from Tokyo to Osaka, so while California is debating — “Do we or don’t we?” — Japan is advancing to an even more efficient system.

If the Golden State allows Japan to build the new system, travelers from Los Angeles can ride to San Francisco in less than two hours. That’s better than most airplane flights.

Japan’s new system will cost about $2 billion. This might be a bit much for our state.

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This past Wednesday, Aug. 6, if I asked ten Nisei friends what was significant about the date, I would guess that half would say, “Was it your birthday?” Others might say, “Is that the date you began writing your column for The Rafu?”

Needless to say, none of these responses would be accurate.

So, what was special about the date?

Aug. 6 marks the 69th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima, which was a major step in bringing World War II to a close.

A ceremony was held on Wednesday, just a few hundred meters from the center of the A-bomb blast. The ceremony drew U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and representatives from 67 other countries, including Great Britain and Russia.

On Aug. 6, 1945, the U.S. bomber Enola Gay dropped the A-bomb on Hiroshima, ushering in the nuclear age. The bomb nicknamed “Little Boy” detonated at 8:15 a.m. at an altitude of 600 meters, killing about 80,000 people. At least another 60,000 died by the end of the year from the effects of the fallout.

The second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on Aug. 9.

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Okay, I’ll toss in another letter here. It’s from a reader who calls himself Jzf32:

“In reading the July 24th issue of The Rafu, I noticed that Hershey Miyamura is going to be the grand marshal for the Nisei Week parade.

“I was in Las Vegas during the month of May for my birthday and was reading The Las Vegas Review Journal. There was a very interesting article about a POW named Gene Ramos, now living in Vegas, who was a cellmate with Miyamura during the Korean War.

“Mr. Ramos describes the events leading up to Mr. Miyamura receiving the Medal of Honor, which I found to be very interesting.”

I would like to read the story. Can you send me a copy?

Since The Rafu ran the story on Miyamura being the grand marshal, I am sure a lot of readers would also like to see the article about Mr. Ramos.

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I’m not sure how many of today’s youngsters attend Japanese school.

In our days as youth, our parents insisted that their kids attend Japanese language classes, usually held after regular schooling was over.

I know my parents made me go to Japanese school. However, the principal of my J-school told my parents that my presence in the class was distracting other students, so I was expelled.

At the time I didn’t think too much about it, but in later life, I regretted not staying in Japanese school. So whenever I see Japanese schooling material sent to me via mail, I give it to my sons and tell them to enroll and study the language.

One of them did so but two of the others thought learning Japanese wasn’t going to be helpful in their lives.

When I explained my dropping out of the language school and what it meant to me, they all decided to sign up for Japanese school.

I’m glad because in this day and age, learning to read, write and speak the Japanese language will certainly be helpful to them in today’s society, and I speak from my own personal history.

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

 

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