HORSE: Terrance Watanabe vs. Harrah’s Casino





It was a quick trip, but I guess one must be prepared for the unexpected. I met Rick Kim at the California Hotel Tuesday, and learned that his wife, Dora, passed away back in May

Although I knew Dora wasn’t in the best of health, it was still shocking news for me. Dora worked as a linotype operator for many year at Kashu Mainichi, meaning we worked together closely.

When she retired, she and her husband, Rick, moved to Las Vegas.

I used to run into them occasionally over the years since they would drop into the Cal to enjoy the casino.

What’s that old saying, “No news is good news.”

Seems to apply here.


As always, the Cal casino was jammed. You’d never guess that we are in an economic recession by the number of people enjoying life in the casino.

We’re not talking a weekend here. I was there on Monday and Tuesday and the game tables were jammed. I had to wait to get on my favorite slot machine.

Most, it would seem, were from the Islands. That’s because if they were folks from Southern California, I would recognize many of them.

And there was nobody coming up to me and asking, “Aren’t you the writer for Rafu?”

Since I don’t have any more visits scheduled, I guess that’s about it for me and Vegas for 2009.


One of the delights of visiting Vegas (yeah, besides slot machines) is having breakfast with Rosie Kakuuchi, a Vegas resident, and her sister, Grace.

On this trip, we even had lunch and a chance to chatter about life in Vegas from a resident’s point of view.

Because we all know that the weather in Vegas is so very hot (it’s about 90 degrees at midnight), and how residents adjust to it.

Rosie said, “It doesn’t bother the ‘locals.’ ”

Well, actually, it doesn’t bother visitors either because they spend most of their time in the air-conditioned casinos.

Heh, heh. Maybe if they turned off the air-conditioner, the slot machines would get hot and I might be able to return to Gardena with more than a few quarters in my pocket.

Well, I know I had one quarter in my pocket. That’s because after I parked my car in the parking garage, I found a quarter on the pavement.

I know. Right away, I thought, “Hey, maybe it’s a good omen.”


Along the Vegas news front, Terrance Watanabe vs. Harrah’s casino is becoming a battle of attorneys.

Harrah’s has retained a national law firm to represent them in their case against the Nisei who racked up $14.7 million in gambling debts.

On the other hand, Watanabe has retained a prominent law firm to defend him.

The Nisei is facing criminal charges for allegedly failing to pay the $14.7 million “markers” (IOUs) to the casino, but his lawyers allege that the Nisei was kept intoxicated while he gambled and the prosecution of him could land the world’s largest gaming company in hot water with Nevada’s gaming regulators.

Watanabe’s lawyers have brought the names of several witnesses who collaborated that the Nisei was drunk and “incapable of forming the criminal intent” to avoid paying the marker.

The witnesses who spent time with Watanabe are prepared to testify that they observed him slurring, having trouble walking and even falling asleep at the gaming tables.

Gaming regulations prohibit casinos from allowing “visibly intoxicated” players to continue to gamble.

The $14,7 million Watanabe is accused of owing pales when compared to the Nisei’s overall gambling debt which added up to $112 million in 2007.

At any rate, I’ll keep up with this case to see how it turns out.


It’s difficult for me to imagine someone running up that kind of debt, sober or otherwise.

Heck, when I’m $14.70 behind, I kind of panic.

Oh well.

It’s safe to say Rafu readers are very astute.

Nelson Shirota e-mailed me this short note: “I thought you might be interested in this event that was listed in the Rafu web site, ‘9/20 – Mary­knoll Karate Chicken/Teriyaki Bingo.’ I have never had ‘karate chicken’ (sounds like it would be tough), nor ‘teriyaki bingo.’”

I can’t make any comments because I didn’t see the original article Nelson refers to.


Here’s another “add” to the stories about “voluntary evacuees” who asked to remain anonymous. She writes:

“After reader Dr. Maeda’s (our children’s pediatrician) account of his family’s voluntary evacuation, I learned that my husband’s family was attempting to do the same. However, as they were leaving with their belongings packed in the car, the FBI stepped in and literally took his father away. They were allowed to visit him at a temporary ‘jail’ and he was eventually sent to a ‘camp for enemy aliens’ in New Mexico. That’s the last they saw him and the family went into a Relocation Center.

“They are not certain exactly where he was (Santa Fe or Lordsburg) in New Mexico, but on a visit with his father in ‘jail’ was told by the guard to speak in English to his Issei father. I may have mentioned a brochure, ‘Confinement and Ethnicity—An Overview of World War II Japanese American Relocation Sites’ previously. There is reference to Camp Lordsburg, N.M., with photos. In 1999, while passing through New Mexico, we inquired and were directed to the former site of the camp on POW Road in Lordsburg, where a few buildings remain.

“His father (like most of ours) did not share details of his imprisonment during the war or why he appeared on the FBI ‘list.’ We can only speculate that he may have made contributions to an organization linked to Japan, or even been a member of the organization here in the U.S. We hardly ever spoke about our incarceration after we left the Center. My children were well into junior high school when they asked if we had been in a Relocation Center. It’s important to share our past experiences with our children. It’s something I’m sure they are curious about. Of course, there is a lot of information available today for them to read. My son was fascinated when he stopped at the Visitor’s Center at Manzanar Historical Monument on his way to Mammoth.”

Thanks to the anonymous reader for her story.

It made me pause to think about my four sons. None of them seem particularly interested in the story of evacuation and Relocation Centers. I’m not sure why. None of them ever asked me any questions about camp life.

For that matter, my wife who was born and raised on the Island of Maui, never asked me about my camp experiences.


When it comes to the U.S. Postal Department’s position on the commemorative stamp to honor the Nisei veterans of the 100th/442n Combat team, the name Doris Dias may have never emerged.

Yet, according to Rafu reader, Aiko King, Doris has been championing for the recognition of the Nisei veterans.

Nothing riled Ms. Dias more than the Postal Service’s decision last year to immortalize The Simpsons of television cartoon fame with a stamp rather than honoring the Japanese American men and women who served in World War II.

“What really upsets me is that the Postal Service has never recognized these people for being loyal to their country, which is my country, despite the fact that their families were put in detention camps because of their ancestry,” Dias said. “In France, 800 of them died to save 211 Texans as one unit. Does that sound fair?”

Dias derives her passion for the cause from her friendship with a few Japanese American women in Los Angeles who are widows of Nisei veterans.

Those heading the campaign say the momentum is building.

“We’ve been rejected annually, but each year we show that there is a broading public support for such a stamp,” said Wayne Osako, stamp campaign chairman.

What started six years ago as a small informal grassroots effort by three JA women, two of whom are widows of Nisei veterans, has now developed into an international campaign.



Oh, by the way.

If I thought the Cal was crowded with Island visitors, wait until this weekend.

The reason? The University of Hawaii football team is playing the University of Nevada Las Vegas at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Someone asked me if I was going to attend the game.

No, I’d rather wait until next month and drive down to San Diego to see them play host to the Air Force Academy, my son’s Alma Mater.

Gee, the last time I went to San Diego to see a football game was back in the early 50’s when Babe Nomura and Jake Kakuuchi were members of the San Jose State team.

Didn’t get to see much of the game. It was so foggy that night, I couldn’t tell which team was which. I was surprised they didn’t cancel the game.

Babe and Jake’s Spartans beat San Diego that night.


In a recent column I mentioned that penny slot machines are really taking hold in Vegas.

Well, the Cal installed some penny “Wheel of Fortune” machines and my wife is hooked on it. The problem. It’s hard to find an open machine.

I watched her play and I can understand why the game is so popular. The players can sit at the machine for hours and not really “lose” a lot of money.

For those interested in the new “Wheel” penny game at the Cal, it’s located between the Redwood Inn and Pasta Pirate restaurants.


Perhaps those of you who are “regulars” in Vegas never gave it much thought, but I realized on my past two trips there, I ate too much. In fact, I think if I lived in Vegas permanently, I would probably look like a sumo wrestler within a year.

The reason is that eating in a res­taurant in Vegas is very reasonable. And, they serve huge portions.

Heck, nowadays, we even take “doggie bags” when we dine in a restaurant. We leave it in the refrigerator in our room until we are ready to come home.

We take an ice chest with us to make sure we can carry it back home and not have it spoil. So for a couple of days after we get back home, we are still “dining Vegas style.”


Well, maybe I’d better tone down my chatter about Vegas. A reader, Dorian Nakamoto wrote: “Frankly, I’m tired of your Vegas write-ups in almost every issue. We’re not all your age and not all of us love Vegas.”

Then Dorian also wrote about “being tired” about another issue: “I’m really tired of having the JACL, et al. requesting or getting $100K to millions in government funds for Japanese American monuments, about the camps or any other issue. Those money should be send on the JA’s practical needs and growth for the new generations. More dollars should be funded for startup businesses, business education, nursing services (yes, forget Keiro with high self salaries) and all they talk about is executive orders, camps, never about the betterment of JAs on their current living conditions or betterment of young ones going out to the world of business, competitions, financial education, etc.

“Why dwell on the negative past? Yes, I admire people like Ms. Weglyn. I heard her speeches.

“Why can’t we move on and help the growth on current situations for JAs and no more spending on monuments and parks?”

Well, I guess after reading Dorian’s tirade about JAs, I don’t feel too badly about being criticized for my Vegas chatter.


A writer recently wrote an article under the title, “Can You Eat Natto, A Hapa Identify Test.”

He wrote: I don’t know about you but sometimes people show a lot of interest in what I eat. Mostly, there’s the usual stuff like, “can you eat sashimi?” The questions are a test and I know the correct answer is “yes.” But “yes” just elects another question, supposedly even more difficult than the preceding one. “Can you eat natto?” When I matter of fact say, “yes, I love it,” the game is over because if you can eat natto, the inquisitor gives up and shuts up.

But are we really what we eat? Do I prove my Japanese identify by eating natto?

Sometimes there is no test. When I told my friend how much I love umeboshi, she exclaimed, “Hen na Amerikajin.”


By the way, in case any of you are interested and are driving to Vegas, the gas station where I fill up before heading back to Gardena was selling a gallon for $2.62. It’s a Shell station.

The Shell station where I filled up before heading to Vegas charged $3.12. That’s 50 cents a gallon higher than in Vegas. I could never figure out why this is so. In other words, it costs me over $5 more to fill up in Gardena than in Vegas.

It’s a good thing my Toyota doesn’t burn a lot of gas. I can get to Vegas using only slightly more than half a tank.


A little on baseball.

Only a couple of weeks to go in the season and it looks like Ichiro might not make .350 or higher in batting average. So, no naked run through Little Tokyo.

On the other other hand, the Dodgers may make it to post season, in which case, another Rafu reader said he would dash through J-Town in his birthday suit.

In either case, I’ll have my camera ready.


Well, after driving for 4-l/2 hours back to Gardena (got back about 4 p.m.) my fingers aren’t moving as gingerly on the computer keyboards, maybe I’ll have to wind down a tad short of filling my usual space.

So I’ll toss in a laugher and call it a night.

For those of you shop at Wal Mart will get a kick out of this laugher:

Tired of constantly being broke and stuck in an unhappy marriage, a young husband decided to solve both problems by taking out a large insur­ance policy on his wife with himself as the beneficiary and then arranging to have her killed.

A “friend of a friend” put him in touch with a nefarious dark-side underworld figure who went by the name of Artie.

Artie explained to the husband that his going price snuffing out a spouse was $5,000. The husband said he was willing to pay that amount but that he wouldn’t have any cash on hand until he could collect his wife’s insurance money.

Artie insisted on being paid at least something up front, so the man opened his wallet, displaying the single dollar bill that rested inside. Artie sighed, rolled his eyes and reluctantly agreed to accept the dollar as down payment for the dirty deed.

A few days later, Artie followed the man’s wife to the local Wal Mart store. There, he surprised her in the produce department and proceeded to strangle her with his gloved hands as the poor unsuspecting woman drew her last breath and slumped to the floor.

The manager of the produce department stumbled unexpectedly onto the murder scene. Unwilling to leave any living witness behind, Artie had no choice but to strangle the produce manager as well.

However, unknown to Artie, the entire proceedings were captured by hidden security cameras and observed by the store’s Security Guard, who immediately called the police. Artie was caught and arrested before he could even leave the store.

Under intense questioning at the police station, Artie revealed the whole sordid plan, including his unusual financial arrangements with the hapless husband, who was also quickly arrested.

The next day, in the newspaper, the headline declared:

“Artie Chokes 2 for $1 at Wal Mart.”

Until next time.


George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and may be reached via e-mail at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.


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