HORSE’S MOUTH: Kudos to Bacon Sakatani

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YOSHINAGA-GEORGEBy GEORGE YOSHINAGA

(Published Sept. 9, 2014)

So, as I frequently do, I was sitting on our front porch, watching people passing by in cars, on bicycles and walking.

This past Saturday I noticed one fellow pushing what looked like a barbecue set on wheels. I figured he was on his way to prepare a barbecue meal for someone.

He pushed his barbecue set onto my front lawn and set it down a few feet from where I was sitting.

“Hi,” he greeted me. “I’m going to prepare a barbecue dinner for you.”

Before I could say another word, he tossed some pieces of wood into the barbecue equipment, lit it and began unwrapping large pieces of chicken.

“This is what is called a Santa Maria barbecue set,” he said to me, “and I’m from Santa Maria and I’m going to prepare a chicken barbecue for you.”

He introduced himself as Chuck Buentiempo.

So I watched him as he set up the barbecue.

Since he mentioned Santa Maria, I asked him if he knew any Japanese Americans who lived there

He said, “Yes, there are quite a few in the area who are Japanese.”

I tossed in the name of the late Cappy Harada since he was a well-known Nisei from the area because of his involvement in professional baseball.

“I heard the name, but I didn’t know him,” he responded. “Did you know him?”

I told him we worked together on baseball programs.

Well, in about 30 minutes the chicken was cooked, so he told me to get some plates so he could give them to me.

My wife brought out the plates and took the chicken inside. The fellow left before I could even thank him.

Then, I wondered, how could this be happening?

Well, we dined on the chicken and it was great.

So, here I am writing about the whole experience.

What a way to spend a Saturday!

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Okay, let me jump across the Pacific Ocean to Japan.

With the 2020 Olympic Games set for Tokyo, there is a lot of talk about legalizing casinos in the Japanese city.

Many say that because of the Olympics attracting foreign tourists, it would be a good time for Japan to legalize casinos.

Most say, “No way.”

So from the reaction of many, although the Olympics will be hosted in Japan, there is no chance of the country allowing casino gaming to be set up in Tokyo.

Of course, many don’t agree and say that casinos should be set up for the Olympics and be allowed to continue after the Games are over.

It will be interesting to see how it all turns out.

Japanese are casino fans, judging from their presence in Las Vegas and in Hong Kong and Macau.

Well, we’ll see.

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New Year’s is still a ways off, but perhaps because it has a “Japanese American touch,” I can touch on the annual festival.

Of course, one of the annual festivals is the Pasadena Rose Parade on the day of the calendar change from 2014 to 2015.

The City of Alhambra’s float in the parade will be of interest to those of us from the Japanese American community. Alhambra announced that the theme of its 2015 Rose Parade entry is “Inspiring Story.”

The float will be honoring the Japanese American soldiers who served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and Military Intelligence Service during World War II.

Most of the members of the 442nd came from the internment camps, which imprisoned 120,000 JAs after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and to this day, the record of the Go For Broke unit is unmatched, the most highly decorated unit by its size and length of service in the history of the U.S. Army.

The Military Intelligence Service, made up of Nisei GIs, was credited for shortening the war in the Pacific by as much as two years and saving countless lives.

The units were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, which is the country’s highest honor.

The float’s design will feature a motif resembling the Go For Broke Monument, which is located in Little Tokyo. It was designed by Roger Yanagita, a Los Angeles architect.

The monument is engraved with more than 16,000 names of Japanese American soldiers who served in World War II.

The Alhambra float is being designed and built by the Phoenix Decorating Company.

There will be a depiction of the 21 Nisei Medal of Honor recipients. At the rear of the float will be a large American flag and an eagle’s head. A likeness of the Congressional Gold Medal will be incorporated into each side of the float. The float riders will include several Go For Broke veterans.

Needless to say, this will be a great display for those of us of JA ancestry.

I’m going to make an effort to attend this year’s Rose Parade and hope that many of you do the same.

I know that Nisei GIs have been honored in the past by the Rose Parade, but this will really be a new highlight.

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I’d like to toss in this tidbit for those of you who were interned at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center during WWII.

It’s the Heart Mountain Reunion, set for Saturday, Sept. 13, at the Quiet Cannon in Montebello, 901Via San Clemente, just off the 60 Freeway.

According to Bacon Sakatani, dress will be casual for the event.

Lunch will be served at 11:30 a.m.

Yes, I’m planning to attend and my son has agreed to drive me and my wife.

I want to thank Bacon for his effort in putting this event together each year.

Remember, unlike those of us who are older, Bacon was still a youngster during his stay at the Wyoming camp, but he has put so much energy into the reunion for the past number of years.

Maybe we should do something to honor Bacon.

There were ten relocation centers set up by the U.S. government, but I don’t think any of them have the type of activity that Heart Mountain has, thanks to Bacon.

I know that when I attend the event my memories about my stay at Heart Mountain will be rekindled.

Not only that, but memories of the train trip from Santa Anita Assembly Center to the Wyoming camp are brought back every time I attend the reunion.

Things like our train pulling into the Salt Lake City train station en route to Heart Mountain and seeing the platform occupied by JAs who waved and greeted us.

It always makes me wonder how those JAs living in Salt Lake knew that we would be passing through their city.

Another thing. I often wondered if Bacon was on the same train as I was from Santa Anita to Heart Mountain.

After all, there wasn’t much association among those of us riding on the train. I don’t ever recall meeting new faces on the train.

Oh well, I had just turned 19 years of age when we were shipped to Wyoming, so I wasn’t too much of a mover and shaker.

As I mention from time to time, I didn’t even know where Heart Mountain was located even when someone told me, “It’s in Wyoming.”

My response to that was always, “Where is Wyoming?”

When someone told us we were going to Santa Anita when we boarded the train in my Northern California hometown, I asked, “Where is Santa Anita?”

When I became a horse player, I sure learned where the famed race track was located.

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Chatting about “concentration camp vs. relocation center,” I’ll print this letter from reader Sumi Shimatsu:

“Hi, George. I know Maggie, who corrects your articles, calls it ‘concentration camp.’ However, the WRA stands for War Relocation Authority and Heart Mountain was one of ten relocation centers. I was in it too. However, with only 3-4 strands of barbed wires around the camp, I was able to go to Shoshone River to catch minnows for many women who wanted them as pets in their rooms.

“I was also in Crystal City Internment Camp, which was under the Justice Department, supposedly more restricted than the relocation centers because the men and some women who were arrested by the FBI and sent to Missoula, Montana; Bismarck, North Dakota; Fort Sills, Oklahoma; Kennedy, Texas; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Lordsburg, New Mexico; and I think there was one in Louisiana. However, these were more restricted. However, I doubt that they were also concentration camps.

“Our camp was more restricted with fences ten feet high with barbed wires four inches apart, our mail inspected, no magazines, newspapers, comic books allowed. Japanese from Alaska, Hawaii, Peru and America, Germans and Italians. Guards were Texas Rangers.

“However, it was much more nicer than Heart Mountain mainly because naturally our family were together, my father was not in New Mexico, and special because we didn’t have a mess hall. We had individual kitchens in our home of 2-3 rooms, no barracks, cooking on kerosene stoves, Mom going to grocery for whatever food we needed with plastic coins given to us each month. It was wonderful.

“I no longer worried how my father was. Our family was all together. I know many families in all the relocation centers were together but many of us whose father or mother were arrested by the FBI were not, and our worries were greater wondering how our father/mother were in their camps.

“So, everyone could not enjoy the relocation center like you. I know from the Mountain View farm that you were from, it was fun and I know the farmer who lived in my barrack always said it was great to be able to eat without working. Even so, I would not call their camps ‘concentration camp’ either. But to each his/her own. Call it what they want. It still wasn’t right.”

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

 

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