By George Yoshinaga
Of the several fruit trees in our backyard, one of them is a pomegranate. When I was growing up on our farm, we had several of them in the field. My Issei parents called them by their Japanese name, jakuro.
However, my wife says that’s not the correct pronunciation. It should be zakuro.
I told her maybe it was the Kumamoto dialect for the fruit because over the years, I learned that there are a number of words used by people from that prefecture which differ from other areas of Japan.
So I decided to toss the matter out into readerland because I know that there are lots of well-informed folks out there who are proficient in both English and Japanese as well as the dialect from various prefectures.
Anyone who wants to snail-mail or e-mail me on this matter, I would welcome your input and information and print it in my column.
The photo shows me posing in the tree, which is now producing a lot of “jakuro,” or “zakuro.”
(Maggie’s comment: Mr. Y, my folks were from Fukuoka prefecture which is very close to Kumamoto and we also said, “jakuro”).
It was a quick response because I wrote about it in my previous column.
A lady, who asked not to be identified (when you read her letter, you’ll understand why), wrote me the following:
“I got a big kick out of your experiences while you were at the Santa Anita Assembly Center. Especially about the men and women shower facility divided by a piece of plyboard. The reason was that when you mentioned the guys peeking through a hole in the plyboard and seeing an eye on the other side.
“Would you believe, that eye could have been mine. I was just curious when I saw the hole in the plywood and wanted to see what was on the other side.”
Okay, Ms. Anonymous, I’ll accept your story.
Oh yeah, she asked if I would also touch on other experiences I had at Santa Anita.
Well, since they used to hold dances in the grandstand area at the Track and I couldn’t dance, I enrolled in a dance class being conducted by three Nisei ladies.
After the third lesson, one of the instructors told me I was a hapless case and I should forget about learning how to dance. She told me some of the girl students were tired of getting their feet stepped on by my clumsy moves.
I wasn’t even going to mention this little piece of the Assembly Center experience until I read Ellen Endo’s story on the recent Heart Mountain Reunion in Vegas.
She wrote about a box of “dance bids” (invitations) donated to the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation of which Ellen is now one of the Directors.
In one paragraph she wrote: “Yoshinaga apparently knew how to have a good time and judging from the number of young ladies who signed his dance cards, one could assume that he must have been quite a dancer.”
I wish I could locate the dance instructor who tossed me out of her class. She’d probably get a laugh at Ellen’s comments about me being a good dancer.
At any rate, I’m glad I saved the 64 bids (although I don’t know why I did) because it might give those who never experienced the evacuation a different point of view about what we did while were incarcerated.
Thanks for the plug, Ellen.
Let me toss in a few more remembrances about the Assembly Center experience. I wonder how many knew they even had a jail at Santa Anita.
Yes. The jail was used to house guys who got into fights and causing other troubles.
I went to visit a guy I knew who was in the jail, which was located on the top level of the grandstand.
The “prisoners” didn’t seem to mind being placed in jail. They concluded everyone at the Assembly Center was in “jail.”
The usual sentence was about a week for most of the “prisoners.”
In addition to taking dancing lessons, I also enrolled in judo classes. Had a little more luck with this activity since I did participate in the sport before we were evacuated.
Anything which popped into mind when reliving those days was that a number of people who lived in the Los Angeles area, drove to the Assembly Center in their own cars.
When they arrived there, they parked the cars in the Race Track infield.
I don’t know how they arranged it, but the owners began selling their cars to dealers. Each day, I would see the cars being driven away. In about a month, all the cars were gone. I wonder how much they sold their cars for.
In those days, I would guess about 50 to 100 bucks. Not bad money while living in the Center.
Getting back to dancing in Camp. One of the reasons I wanted to learn how to dance was because they held dances in the grandstand on weekends. It was one of the popular activities and I figured if I wanted to participate, I’d have to know how to dance.
The music was provided by a “live band” made up of internee musicians. They even had a vocalist named, Yoshiko Iwashika, a teenager with a wonderful voice. Her favorite tune was “Sleeping Lagoon.” Somehow I have the song on a tape and every once in a while I play it when I’m in a melancholy mood.
Although I lost track of her after we left for Heart Mountain, I considered her a friend over the years.
Let’s see. What else was there about Camp that today’s generation may not know about?
What about how we ate?
They had six mess halls. Each designated by color as Yellow, White, Red, Blue, Orange and Green with each mess hall serving about 400.
So, if one showed up a little late, he/she had to wait in line until the early diners finished.
The food was so-so. If they served something I didn’t like, I would just pour shoyu on top of the rice and that would be that.
That wasn’t too hard for me to accept because before we went to Camp, I often dined on a bowl of hot rice with shoyu poured on it. Of course, on the “outside,” I used to put a raw egg on top of the hot rice. In fact, it was one of my favorite dishes.
We had sumo at Santa Anita, too. They put up a dohyo (ring) in the infield of the training track. They had a number of tournaments during our days in Camp.
Next to the dohyo, they had a couple of softball fields.
As I recall, they even played one football game. It was the guys from the Los Angeles area battling it out with the San Diego gridders. Don’t recall who came out on top.
At any rate, when we boarded the train to head for the Relocation Center, I was kind of sad to leave Santa Anita. The ride from Arcadia to Heart Mountain took about three days.
As I often mention, at night we had to sleep upright on the seats in the train. No bathing facility on the train. So you don’t need much of an imagination to know we probably smelled like natto.
One of the things which still puzzles me today, some 67 years later, is when our train pulled into the station in Salt Lake City, there were a handful of Japanese Americans standing on the platform waving to us.
How did they know our train was passing through Salt Lake City?
After all, there was a war going on and security, especially where the Japanese were concerned, was very tight.
Going back to Ellen’s story on the Heart Mountain event in Vegas, she wrote about Sam Fujimoto, an internee, sneaking out of Camp to go swimming at the Shoshone River which ran about a mile outside the Camp.
He told Ellen about getting caught by the guards who pointed M-1 rifles at him and his friends.
Gee, we used to walk right out of Camp and go on picnics on the banks of the Shoshone. I even have photos of the picnics enjoyed there, if anyone doubts my story.
Besides, Sam told Ellen the reason they went to the river, was to cool off in the water.
Again, didn’t Sam know about the “swimming pool” we built on the Camp site?
There was an irrigation canal running through the Camp property and a bunch of guys enlarged one section of the canal so it could be used as a “swimming pool.” We used to swim there frequently.
Gee, sounds like we were in two different Camps.
While in a Camp mode, Manzanar is holding a photography exhibit starting this week and lasting until December.
Here is the news release on the exhibit: “Attend nearly any event or program at Manzanar and you may see Volunteer Tom Clayton capturing the moment for posterity with his ‘Manzanar: Light and Shadows’ exhibition. Since 2003, Tom and his wife, Mary Lou, have volunteer at the Manzanar National Historic Site. Tom has taken more than a 1,000 photos of key moments and milestones at Manzanar. His photos have captured the restoration of the Camp auditorium, reconstruction of Guard Tower #8, numerous archaeological digs and dozens of special programs and events including the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage. In addition to recording the changing character of this site, Tom also volunteered to photograph the pre-and post-war works of Manzanar’s Master Stonemason, Ryozo Kado in Los Angeles.
“From this week through December, 43 of Tom’s photos will be featured in an exhibit on the Interpretive Center stage. The Center will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. through Oct. 31 and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily thereafter.”
Ever heard of Korean tacos?
Well, some of you may have read the article in the Los Angeles Times about a very popular Mexican taco lunch wagon making the rounds in the Los Angeles area (e.g. near the Japanese American National Museum) serving Mexican food with a Korean touch.
It is also said that the Korean taco wagon is serving the South Bay (in Torrance), mostly on Saturday evenings. And, they have three lunch wagons making the rounds in the Orange County area.
Those who may be interested in these lunch wagons, be prepared to wait in lines that are a block long. It is all take-out food.
James Yokota send me the foregoing information.
I can’t imagine what a Korean taco might taste like.
Needless to say, it’s probably with real hot seasoning because that’s what Korean foods are noted for.
Oh, before I forget, the name of the lunch wagon is “Kogi Korean BBQ Taco Wagon.”
The names gives it three-ethnic characters.
Maybe, I’ll give it a try.
Hey, let’s face it. Ethnic foods these days aren’t restricted to the ethnicity of the chefs.
At the Japanese restaurant that I dine from time to time, Azuma’s on Western Avenue, has a cooking staff of all Hispanic chefs.
But the Japanese dishes are distinctly Japanese in flavor.
Let’s see. The distance between Gardena and Barstow is about 150 miles. When I drive to Vegas, it takes me about two hours to reach Barstow. Ever wonder how long it would take someone to walk to Barstow? What about running the distance?
Well, Ryoichi Seikiya of Japan recently won the 27th Spartahlon ultramarathon, a 152.4 mile race that retraces the journey 2,500 years ago of lengendary messenger, Pheidippides.
The 52-year-old Seikiya completed the trek from Athens to Sparta in 23 hours, 48 minutes and 24 seconds.
In the women’s division, Sumie Inagaki was the winner with a time of 27 hours, 39 minutes, 49 seconds.
Gosh, after someone runs for 27 hours, it’s remarkable that they get the final time down to the seconds.
I asked some people if the competitors run nonstop or take a break during the race, but nobody could provide an answer.
I can’t even imagine running from Gardena to Barstow nonstop. Heck, I have to take a short break when I’m driving the Gardena Barstow leg of my frequent Vegas trips.
Okay, I can’t mention Vegas without chatting about gambling. Try this one, sent to me by a reader. He wrote: “I have to admit I used to enjoy gambling, Friday night poker games or an afternoon of blackjack at one of the casinos. But, I haven’t gambled in quite a while now and the reason is people like this woman.
“An Indian casino in California has given away eight cars and trucks in the past two months and four of them have gone to the same woman.
“Last week, the woman won a Lexus convertible worth $43,000 and the week before it was a Mercedes convertible worth $47,000. Last month, she won two pickup trucks.
“The woman, who asked not to be identified, said she could not believe her run of luck and apparently neither could the casino. A spokesman for the casino said casino security officials reviewed video of the drawings and were convinced they were legitimate.
“‘After the second time she won, we immediately went and investigated to make certain everything was perfectly clear,’ he said.
“The casino official said that the woman is one of the casino’s top players, so her odds of making the first cut were relatively good. But it was phenomenal luck that allowed her to beat out nine other contestants to win the grand prize four times in a row.
“Now comes the second unbelievable part of the story and it may help gamblers who lost to her, feel better.
“She works for a homeless facility in her hometown and she said she has given away virtually everything she’s ever won at the casino, including the trucks and cars.”
The writer of the foregoing added, “Wouldn’t it be nice if I could win something every now and then?”
I guess he sounds like me.
Anybody want to lend me a quarter?
The foregoing reminds me of John Kimak, the fellow I met a few years ago because we play the same slot machines at The California Hotel and Casino, video keno.
Over the years he has won thousands of dollars. The biggest being the $150,000 progressive jackpot when he hit 10 out of 10 numbers with four quarters inserted.
This isn’t a fairy tale I’m dreaming up. In the California Hotel’s monthly news etter which prints the names of photos of major winner, John is in almost every edition, winning anywhere from $14,000 to $40,000.
And, I’ve been playing next to him on some of his big hits.
And, to think, I’m elated when I win $400.
Every year about this time, Forbes Magazine publishes the names of America’s 400 richest people.
Just for kicks, I click out the entire list on my computer just to see if an Japanese American made the list. Nope.
There was a time when being called a millionaire was something to boast about.
Today, unless one is worth over $100 million, he/she can’t even make the top 400.
Susan Taniguchi from U.C. San Diego mailed me a list of idiosyncrasies in English.
Try some of these one-liners:
• If man evolved from monkeys and apes, why do we still have monkeys and apes?
• If a deaf child signs swear words, does his mother wash his hands with soap?
• Would a fly without wings be called a walk?
• If a turtle doesn’t have a shell, is he homeless or naked?
• One thing nice about egotists, they don’t talk about other people.
• Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy adultery?
• If you try to fail and succeed, which have you won?
• And finally, if you spin an Oriental person in a circle three times, do they become disoriented?
That’s it for today.
George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] Opinions expressed in the column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.