HORSE’S MOUTH: Little Tokyo Ain’t the Same

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YOSHINAGA-GEORGEBy GEORGE YOSHINAGA

(Published Oct. 28, 2014)

If you’re reading this, I don’t know whether to say you’re lucky or just the opposite.

When I sat down to begin today’s chatter, my darn computer didn’t respond to the “on” switch. So as usual, I called my son who is a computer expert. He said he’d try to get over to my place.

While I was waiting for him, I decided to try getting the darn thing started and lo and behold, the computer turned on.

So, here I am, pounding away and hoping the dang computer won’t shut down as I keep writing.

I guess I’d better take my son’s advice and enroll at a computer school, so if the same thing happens again, I’ll know how to handle the problem.

Yeah, maybe some of the readers are right.

As one said, “You always say that you’re thinking about hanging up your column and retiring. Maybe you should.”

Perhaps some of you other readers might agree.

Hey, I began writing back in camp days. That’s over 70 years ago, so perhaps I’d better seriously consider “hanging ’em up.”

In the meanwhile, I’ll keep up my twice-a-week chatter. Perhaps Editor Gwen will give me some advice on this issue.

At any rate, let me continue for today and the days to follow.

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I was sitting on my front porch as I always do, putting together thoughts for today’s column, and as usual, I also watch cars buzzing by on the street.

A lot of cars do buzz by even though it’s a residential street.

Just for kicks, I counted the vehicles for about five minutes and about two dozen cars sped by.

To my surprise, ten of the cars were being driven by females. Most of them were Asian and most of those were Japanese.

I guess that shouldn’t have been a surprise since most of the residents in the neighborhood are JAs and they go to the shopping centers all around the area.

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Came across an article on my computer that had the heading, “The World Still Needs to Learn Japanese.”

It was written by a Caucasian newsman. He wrote:

“I have previously addressed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in this forum about the necessity for Japan to internationalize further, especially by developing English skills. However, at the same time, I believe the world needs to learn more Japanese.

“Indeed, Japanese is likely spoken as a mother tongue by more people in the developed world than any other language except English. Why is it, then, that so few people in America and other developed countries are learning Japanese?

“Perhaps it has previously been the case that young adults did not think Japan had much economic promise and given that they need to be more practical these days, with youth unemployment so high globally, they chose more vocational-oriented languages, if not other studies entirely.

“It is just one example, but among prestigious New England prep schools, there were 10 that taught Japanese 20 years ago. Now there are only three and even they are struggling. The pervasive media coverage of ‘abenomics’ and Japan’s apparent revival has recently boosted interest in the language at those schools, but only moderately so.

“Unless something is done, the equivalent of Harvard and Yale among prep schools could lose their Japanese programs.

“Can you imagine Harvard and Yale not teaching Japanese?

“Meanwhile, every New England prep school teaches Chinese, despite the fact that most Chinese people that foreigners encounter are quite capable of speaking English. This is not to denigrate learning Chinese, but the story is likely the same around the world.

“Of course, business and vocation are not the only reasons to learn Japanese, as the culture, especially in artistic, culinary and etiquette matters, is admired globally.

“Learning the language at least in basic form is very important to understanding the deeper characteristics of any culture, but especially so for the Japanese. Japan will remain a very important country economically, politically and culturally for the next century, no matter what people say about them.”

The last sentence is quite interesting, don’t you think?

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I hope it’s just not me who is visiting Little Tokyo less and less.

There was a time when visiting J-Town was one of my favorite things to do and I roamed around Little Tokyo at least once a week.

Gee, as I write this and look over my drives to J-Town, I see that I haven’t been to First and San Pedro for three months. That’s right, three months.

When I do drive in from Gardena, park my car where I can find space, and walk around, I don’t see a familiar face.

In the old days, I would stop and chat with nearly every other Nisei friend I bumped into and there were always plenty of them, but I guess these days are not like the “good old days.”

Yeah, I know. The Nisei generation is getting old and doesn’t get around like they used to.

It’s hard to imagine how much J-Town has changed since the days when we were all “Taul Building Leaners.”

Perhaps one of these days I‘ll devote an entire column to the old-time Little Tokyo. It might rekindle memories for a lot of the guys from the J-Town of old, like that tiny coffee shop at the entry to the old Taul Building run by one lady.

Yeah, even if I didn’t have a nickel on me, the lady running the shop would still make me a bite to eat and let me pay her the next time I had some money in my pocket.

Do you think something like that would happen today?

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Speaking of the good old days, remember when J-Town had four newspapers being published?

One, of course, is The Rafu, which is the only one still publishing. The other two dailies were The Shin Nichi Bei and The Kashu Mainichi and Crossroads was a weekly.

Yeah, I worked at all three and now at The Rafu.

Fellow Rafu columnist Wimp Hiroto ran Crossroads for many years.

It’s tough to believe we had so many newspapers serving the community. Of course, J-Town was a lot different then.

Yeah, in those days the staff members from the four publications would get together after putting out the day’s issue. We’d drop by the Sugar Bowl, a coffee shop located on San Pedro between First and Second streets, and chat about what was going on in J-Town.

Hey, we could afford a cup of coffee in those days, about 20 cents with all the refills we could drink.

Henry Mori was the English editor for The Rafu.

I was just a reporter/sports columnist for The Shin Nichi Bei.

Ah, memories.

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With the changes in J-Town, I wonder what is in store for the future of Little Tokyo. How much longer will the area last? Will still have a J-Town, say, 20 years from now?

When we consider that we had three dailies and one weekly newspaper serving the Japanese community and only one today, will the future of J-Town follow in the steps of the newspaper industry?

I’m glad The Rafu didn’t have to follow the demise of the other three papers.

In Northern California, there were two dailies published, The Hokubei Mainichi and Nichi Bei Times. They are both gone.

I even worked for The Nichi Bei Times before I threw in the towel.

I was working for a San Francisco firm that closed, and I was just hanging around J-Town. When the publisher found me unemployed, he asked me to write a column for his newspaper. I agreed, but didn’t last too long.

The newspaper I worked for in L.A. learned I was back in the publishing business and asked me to return to its staff, so I agreed and brought the “Horse’s Mouth” back to L.A. J-Town.

Next June will mark my 70th year as a newspaperman. I guess I can say I’ve been a journalist for more years than the age of many of today’s Rafu readers.

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One of the old-time thoroughbred horse racing fans, a Nisei, that I ran into asked me if I gave up playing the horses.

I told him I still follow the sport but don’t get out to the track anymore. Especially since Santa Anita is the only one still operating after Hollywood Park closed down.

I haven’t even placed a bet for quite a while.

The old-timer said, “Hey, if you want to get out to Santa Anita, let me know. I’ll drive you there.”

I thanked him for the invitation but told him I’ve kind of lost interest in the sport.

All he could say in response was, “Gee, I can’t believe with a nickname like Horse, you’ve given up on racing.”

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Oops. My danged computer has gone crazy. I can’t get the type in lower case. So I’ll have to get Gwen and her staff to retype this portion. Sorry about that, Gwen.

See ya all on Saturday.

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

 

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