By George Yoshinaga


In last week’s edition of the Gardena Valley News, the publication which serves the City of Gardena, there was a front page story with the headline, “City Proposes ‘Obama Street’ Renaming.”

It was about the city considering changing one of its street’s names to “Obama Street” to honor President Barack Obama.

As I read the story, the first thought which popped into my mind was, “Ridiculous.” Then, the second thought was, “Why?”

Obama has served as President for about six months now. Why would any city even consider renaming a street to honor the 44th President?

Is it because he is the first Black President? If that is the case, isn’t the whole issue based on race?

Which means, of course, that those who oppose the proposal to honor Obama might be labeled as a “racist.”

As a 50-year-plus resident of Gardena, I will be among those opposing such a proposal.

What has Obama done for the City of Gardena? In fact, he hasn’t been around long enough to have accomplished much, as yet.

The Valley News story indicated that the Gardena City Council will be considering the proposal. I hope the Council will show better judgment in exploring the proposal.

A few years ago, I was appointed to a committee by the Gardena City Council to a body called the “Facilities Naming Policy Committee.”

It was formed to establish guidelines for naming facilities such as buildings, parks and streets in the City of Gardena.

There were some heated debates on some of the issues. For example, there was an argument on whether public officials should be honored while they are still in office.

And, should a person holding public office be considered for such an honor after a certain number of years after he/she has retired.

There was the matter of whether any honoree should be considered only after his/her passing.

The City of Gardena has a number of facilities named to honor individuals who have contributed much to the city. Among Japanese Americans, there is “Nakaoka Center” honoring Ken Nakaoka, the first Mayor of the City.

There’s “Mas Fukai Park,” honoring the late Nisei for his many years of service to the City and for being a top official in the office of the late Supervisor Kenneth Hahn.

Both were recognized for their contributions to Gardena and had the honor bestowed on them after their passing.

Heck, if the City of Gardena wants to honor Obama, I think I’ll make a suggestion that we consider a similar honor for Paul Tanaka, two-term Mayor of the City, who has done a lot more for the City than Obama.

I’m hoping the residents of Gardena express the same sentiment about this issue and express their opposition.

I haven’t had the opportunity to discuss this issue with Mayor Tanaka or City Councilman Ron Ikejiri so I don’t know what their feelings are.


A couple of columns back, I published a letter sent to me by Toshikatsu Nakamura, who took me to task for wearing a mustache, which he labeled as an “ugly ass” mustache.

He now follows up with some not-so complimentary comments about Japanese baseball players on the roster of Major League teams. Here is his statement:

“During the recent NBA payoffs, Yao Ming was interviewed. I was surprised at his ability to understand and speak English as well as he did. My hat goes off to him.

“He puts to shame all those Japanese MLB players who are either too dumb or something to handle the English language without an interpreter.

“Despite all the good things attributed to Hideo Nomo, I was highly embarrassed as a Japanese person when, after so many years in the U.S. he always resorted to an interpreter. Was he simply a dumb Jappo or what? They are dumb in failing to recognize the PR value in English language interviews.”

Well, Mr. Nakamura, I’m glad none of the “dumb Jappos” sport a mustache as a lot of American players do. In which case we’ll have to label them “dumb Jappos with ugly ass mustaches.”

Batter up!


I’m quite sure the 297 passengers on a JAL flight from Honolulu to Narita Airport didn’t find any humor in it. I, on the other hand, did get a chuckle. The flight in question was canceled because the co-pilot assigned to the flight didn’t show up and JAL canceled it until they could get a replacement for the missing co-pilot.

So what happened to the co-pilot?

He was arrested by the Honolulu police. Here’s where the chuckle comes in: The night prior to the flight, the co-pilot had a few glasses of beer at a bar.

After he left the bar around 7:30 p.m., he went behind a tree and urinated, whereupon he was seen by a police officer and arrested.

He was released after paying a $25 fine. In Japan, while it is not as commonplace these days, men are often seen peeing on the streets, especially around the closing time of nightclubs and bars. Not much attention is paid to them for their act.

When I was living in Japan, I used to laugh at the sight of these guys standing on the gutter of the sidewalks and “doing their thing.”

In looking back to the days when I was serving with the Occupation Forces shortly after the war, it was an even more common sight.

In the train stations, I used to see dozens of men standing on the station platform urinating onto the railroad track. I guess because trains in those days didn’t have enough toilets or none at all.

When I read about the co-pilot’s story, I looked through my old photo collections because I recalled that I took some pictures of guys peeing on the streets.

I couldn’t find it, but I guess even if I did, Editor Gwen wouldn’t print it with my column.

And, oh yes, back in the 50’s, I had a visitor from Japan whom I was driving around Los Angeles on a “sight-seeing” tour.

When I was driving on La Brea, he asked me if I could stop the car for a moment. I pulled up next to the curb, he got out and yes, he unzipped himself and started to shi-shi.
I quickly told him to get back in the car and told him it was a “no-no” to do such a thing in the U.S.

He laughed and apologized.

Fortunately, there were no police cars passing by so we were able to continue on our way.
If there were, the visitor would have probably faced the same situation as the co-pilot and he would have missed his flight back to Japan which was scheduled the next day.
After that incident, I always reminded any visitors from Japan that I might be involved with that “five-four-four,” can only be done in restrooms in the good old U.S.A.


Yeah, I know, I often chatter about ego. But, hey, I’m sure everyone has an ego. Getting recognition is probably one of them. My ego is inflated when people I don’t know come up to me and say they read my column.

On the other hand, my ego takes a hit because some of the so-called “leaders” of the Japanese American community don’t seem to know that I exist.

After writing for a Japanese American community newspaper for over 50 years, I kind of like to think someone out there in “readerland” should know I exist.

Well, I can say my ego balloon was inflated the other day when Terry Handa, President of the Japanese American Chamber of Commerce of Southern California, wrote to me to say that his organization is celebrating its 60th Anniversary and I “cover” the JA community and that he would like to stay in better touch with me and will start sending me the JCC News.

All I can say in response is “Wow!”

The President of the JCC wanting to keep me informed has, as I said, inflated my ego.
Heck, this is more welcomed news than if another President, Barack something, said he wanted to contact me.

He might, since I am strongly opposed to my City, Gardena, wanting to name a street after him, as I noted in opening today’s column.


By the way, how many of you out there in readerland know who Susan Kennedy is? No, she’s not connected with the well-known Kennedy clan. This Kennedy is Gov Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Chief of Staff. She’s the Governor’s closest adviser.
So, why am I even mentioning her in the Rafu?

Well, for one thing, she smokes cigars, a bit of news which caught my attention.
The story about her stogie habit was described in this sentence: “Susan Kennedy held a meeting with advisers to discuss the state’s budget crisis in Governor Schwarzenegger’s smoking tent at the California State Capitol.”

The Governor has a “smoking tent?”

Maybe the next time I visit Sacramento, I’ll make an effort to visit the “smoking tent” to see what kind of cigars the Governor and Kennedy smokes. Probably not the cheap brandI chew on.


Although, as I noted in a recent column, I’m not planning a Vegas trip for at least two months.
Good thing. The temperature in Vegas over the past weekend hit 108. Little wonder that in a recent survey taken, Vegas was judged as the third sweatiest city in the U.S. Only Phoenix and San Antonio tops Vegas.

No California city made the top 20 list as the “sweatiest.” Heh, I guess that’s why you don’t hear people say, “You Californians stink.”

By the way, even with their weather, Honolulu also wasn’t listed in the top 20 as the sweatiest.

I’m kind of puzzled by this because when I visit the Island, I “sweat like a pig.”
I’m not sure whoever coined that phrase because I never saw a sweating pig, even though my parents raised pigs on our farm in addition to vegetables.

Well, maybe I should say, “I sweat like a horse when I’m in Hawaii.”


I don’t know how many of you are boxing fans but there was a female Japanese fighter heading the main event at the South Point Hotel and Casino this past Friday. Her name is Fujin Raika.

She lost a ten-round decision to an American lady boxer.

I wish I knew about the bout beforehand, but I found out Friday morning that she was appearing at the Vegas hotel.

Kind of curious why the South Point PR Department didn’t send a news release to the Rafu.

In the past, anytime there was a Japanese involved in any activity, be it sports or other entertainment, the promoters always used to notify the Japanese vernacular press.
I still remember when Hiroshi Itsuki appeared in a show at the Las Vegas Hilton many years ago.

About 75 percent of those in attendance at his performance were Japanese Americans from the L.A. area because the Hilton advertised it in the JA community.
Oh well, maybe Raika will fight again in Vegas at another time.


Bacon Sakatani, the mover and shaker of the Heart Mountain reunions mailed out a news release and I received a copy.

Here is his note: “Are you in shape to do some hiking? The opening of the Heart Mountain interpretive Learning Center (or Visitors Center) at the Heart Mountain Camp is set for sometime during the summer of 2010 and one of the activities that can be done is a hike to the top of Heart Mountain.

“Four-wheel drive vehicles can take us to the tree line at almost the top of Heart Mountain, then it is around a 2 hour hike to the top. A few years back, two persons in their eighties made it. I’ve been up there six times.

“So I want to know what kind of interest there is for this hike next year. Horse is always writing about going up there some day and we’ll see if he will make it. Of course, if he does, then the bad part is, we’ll probably read about it for a whole month.

“Please pass this on to those who might be interested in a trip to Heart Mountain and the hike. For those in their eighties, just take your time, rest a lot, take a sack lunch and it’ll be easy. Just practice before going.”

Since Bacon mentioned me in his news release, he probably made a mistake in sending me a copy. I would like to visit Heart Mountain, but I doubt if I can make the climb.
Bacon said the hike would take two hours. I don’t think I could last 30 minutes.

Hey, in 2010, if I last that long, I’ll be a year older. And I’m too old now.

I never learned what the elevation at the top of Heart Mountain is, but it has to be at least 7,000 feet. At that height, the air can get pretty thin.

I know 20 years ago I went to the top of Pike’s Peak in Colorado and I had to sit for two hours just to catch my breath because of the elevation.
So, if I do join the group, I’ll just ride the four-wheel drive vehicle to the drop-off point and wish all the hikers good luck.
And, I’ll eat my sack lunch in the car.


While chatting about aging, those of us who are getting on in years, always talk about “How time flies.”

For me I get this feeling whenever July rolls around because that’s the month of my birthday.

When I was in Heart Mountain and an evacuee, I never dreamed that one day I would be celebrating my 80-plus birthday.

In camp days, we all thought someone in their 40s was “old.”

Remember the late Russ Hinaga?

The San Jose native played baseball in camp and everyone marveled at how a “40-year-old” could still play baseball.

Well, today, there are dozens of players in their 40s playing in the Major Leagues.

Heck, nowadays most Nisei when talking about a person’s age would say, ”Heck, he’s only 60.”


In a recent column, I mentioned that I always play “hunches” when I go to the races.

Most of my hunches, as I pointed out, have to do with the name of the horse entered in the race.

So, when I read the morning newspaper I look for names that leaps out at me. This past Sunday I saw a horse named, “Kuro.”

In Japanese kuro means to face hardship, mostly financial. They say that a person having such problems is facing kuro in Japan.

Well, I’m not exactly facing kuro, but I figured it might help me to run out to Hollywood Park and place a bet on the horse.
It went off at odds of 12 to one.

No, it didn’t win but finished third and paid $6 to show.

Hey, a $20 show bet would have returned 60 bucks or a profit of 40 bucks. That would put a dent in my kuro.

Oh well, maybe sometime in the future there will be a horse named “binbo,” which would describe my financial status.


While we are kicking around things “Japanese,” here’s a tidbit I picked up recently.
Those who follow what’s going on in Japan know that a few years ago, the train companies installed a “women only” car on their train because during rush hour when people are jammed together, guys try to fondle women who can’t escape from their act because the cars are so crowded.

Well, would you believe they are now considering “men only” cars.

No, the women aren’t groping the male passengers.

It seems that a lot of women are “sizing up” men passengers and if they seem to be financially capable of paying monetary penalty, they are filing false groping charges against them.

So, even if the male passenger didn’t do anything, they are charged by authorities and have to pay “damages” to the victim.

Boy, what is this world coming to?


Time for my laugher.
An Indian walks into a cafe with a shotgun in one hand, pulling a male buffalo with the other. He says to the waiter, “Want coffee.”

The waiter says, “Sure, Chief, coming right up.”

He gets the Indian a tall mug of coffee and the Indian drinks it down with one gulp. He then turns and blasts the buffalo with the shotgun, causing parts of the animal to splatter everywhere. He then walks out.

The next morning, the Indian returns. He has a shotgun in one hand, pulling another buffalo with the other. He walks up to the counter and says to the waiter, “I want coffee.”
The waiter says, “Whoa, Tonto, we’re still cleaning up from yesterday. What was all that about, anyway?”

The Indian smiles and proudly says, “I’m training for a position with the United States Congress. Come in, drink coffee, shoot the bull, leave a mess for others to clean up, disappear for the rest of the day.”
George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and may be reached via e-mail at [email protected] com. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.


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