By RYOKO NAKAMURA, Rafu Japanese Staff Writer
INGLEWOOD — The Nanka Kanagawa Kenjinkai held its annual New Year’s luncheon on Feb 8 in Inglewood with a special guest, Madame Sabine Horinouchi.
Because Bob Uyeda, newly elected president, is ailing, Frank Kawase, who served as the president for the last five years, will continue his duties until Uyeda returns.
“Happy New Year, everyone. We have a very special guest today,” Kawase told the members before introducing Horinouchi.
Originally from the Netherlands, she lived in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture for seven years with her husband, Consul General Harry H. Horinouchi, and their two children.
She shared her personal connection to Kanagawa: “My husband and our children were born in the same hospital in Kanagawa Prefecture. We were frequent users of the Odaku-line and used to visit Yokohama, Enoshima, Kamakura, and Hakone.”
Since Kanagawa Prefecture was the first place she lived in Japan, she recalled, “I learned about Japan and made my first (Japanese) friends there. So I have very good memories of Kanagawa Prefecture.”
The kenjinkai members warmly welcomed her with applause.
Kawase also introduced Hikaru and Yoshiko Morohoshi, long-time members, to honor and recognize them for their many years of support for kenjinkai activities. The pair received a certificate of appreciation presented by Kawase.
Because Hikaru, who will celebrate his 100th birthday in October, has been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Yoshiko shared her husband’s biography on his behalf.
Hikaru was born on Oct. 4, 1915 in Stockton as the eldest son of three. The family moved to Minami Ashigara, Kanagawa Prefecture when he was only one year old. He came back to America with his two younger brothers in 1934 and then started working at their uncle’s farm in Oakland.
Despite the fact that the farm belonged to their uncle, after four years of hard work under harsh conditions with almost no pay, Hikaru and his youngest brother decided to run away. One summer night, they grabbed a blanket, broke a window, and escaped.
They intentionally chose the summer season knowing they could find food to eat on the farms they passed along the way. They headed down to San Jose by hitching a ride and sleeping under the stars. On their journey, they met a couple of nice farm owners who gave them food and temporary jobs.
In Watsonville, Santa Cruz County, they met a Kanagawa kenjin named Suefuji who owned a lettuce farm. He kindly hired them as field workers. After ten months of working there, Hikaru moved to San Francisco and began attending night school and working as a houseboy.
In 1939, he entered the U.S. Army as a part of the two-year draft system. When the war broke out in 1941, Japanese American soldiers were ordered to sleep in a tent outside, segregated from the rest of their unit. After Executive Order 9066 was issued, Hikaru was sent to the Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah, and then to the Tule Lake Segregation Center in Northern California.
He was released in June 1945. After living in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Florida, he eventually returned to California. Hikaru and Yoshiko got married in Japan and moved to Torrance in 1965. Hikaru worked as a gardener until his retirement at the age of 72.
Yoshiko expressed her appreciation to the kenjinkai as well as to Kawase for giving them such an honorable award. “We’ve gotten a lot of assistance from kenjinkai members over the years, especially from Mr. Suefuji, who saved my husband when he needed the most help. Words cannot describe how honored we are.”
Before lunch was served, members enjoyed the beautiful sounds of Tsugaru-jamisen played by Naoki Atkins. After lunch, they played games and socialized, and enjoyed a fun afternoon together.
The kenjinkai will host a casino trip in April and a summer picnic in July. The annual membership fee is $20 per family. For more information, contact Frank Kawase at (714) 990-5699 or [email protected]
Photos by RYOKO NAKAMURA/Rafu Shimpo