HORSE’S MOUTH: Congratulations To Nisei Receiving Belated Degrees





It is frequently noted that timing can play a critical role in life. What prompts me to open today’s column with that line?

Well, two Sundays ago I was in Houston, Texas, for the celebration of two veterans units from World War II including members of the all-Nisei 442nd RCT.

Four days after the celebration, the horrible incident took place at Fort Hood, Texas, which is not that far from Houston.

Had the veterans celebration been held a week later, it would have been only two days after the disaster and I am sure the mood of the gathering would have been affected beyond imagination.

After all, those honored at the event were veterans from a war and the memories of their service days would have been rekindled greatly by the tragedy at Hood because it involved their comrade in arms.

So, it can be said, timing is such an important factor, as I noted in the opening line.


Well, let’s move on. A reader who noted, “If you use this letter, please don’t print my name. Okay. Here’s what “Don’t Print My Name” wrote:

“This is not a criticism, but you often refer to the current high school/college athletes as Sansei, but our own kids are Sansei, so most of the current athletes are probably Yonsei or even Gosei.

“There has been/will be problems designating various generations of Japanese Americans.

“We can continue to use Issei, Nisei, Sansei, Yonsei, etc. However, going beyond that becomes difficult. The vast majority of the Americans may know the term Nisei, referring to any Japanese American; some may know Sansei, but beyond that it’s doubtful. (In this paragraph, my computer underlined in red the terms Issei and Yonsei, but Nisei and Sansei are not in red or underlined, meaning those terms are accepted in mainstream America).

“Probably the best designation for Japanese Americans of any generation, would be to use the term ‘Nikkei.’ This covers all generations.

“The Hawaiians have long used the term AJA—Americans of Japanese Ancestry.

“Nikkei, is a shortened form of ‘Nikkei Amerca-jin.’ Literally, Nikkei means Japanese descent and Nikkei America-jin means American of Japanese parentage/descent, similar to Hawaii AJA.

“We already see the term Nikkei used frequently in the Rafu Shimpo English section articles—perhaps there would be a campaign to use the term Nikkei more frequently (in place of Nisei, Sansei, etc.) and let mainstream Americans know that this is the preferred term.

“Again, my computer does not red-line Nikkei, meaning it’s a generally accepted English term.

“Just a thought by a Japanese American or a Nikkei old man—thanks for listening.”

Thanks for your thoughts, “Nikkei old man.” You made some good points.


Another e-mail from a reader who wrote:

“I just read your Saturday column with the photo of you and Helen Kawagoe. Gee, what did your wife think when she saw you posing with such an important, well-known figure like Ms. Kawagoe, way off in Houston, Texas?”

Yes, my wife saw the photo. And what did she say?

“Gee, I’m a pretty good photographer,” was her comment. She took the picture.

Just thought I would toss this in to get a giggle.


It’s a frequently told story.

When the Nisei from the mainland were brought together with the Nisei from Hawaii to begin their military career at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, it was the first time for most of them to become one unit.

At first, the blending didn’t come easy.

In fact, from the stories, I heard, those from the Island attached a name to the mainland soldiers. It was “Kotonk.” It wasn’t exactly a compliment.

As the story goes, “kotonk” is supposed to be the sound a hollow coconut makes when it falls to the ground. Thus, I assume, the mainland GIs were empty-headed.

So, to counter this bit of name-calling, the mainland GIs referred to the Islanders as “Pineapples.”

So, why am I bringing up this bit of past history?

Well, there won’t be any more pineapples coming to the mainland from the Islands.

Maui Pine, the largest producers of pineapples in the Islands, announced it is ceasing operation at the end of this year.

Hundreds of workers will lose their jobs at Maui Pine, which reported a loss of $115 million this year.

The headline revealing this story read, “Pau Pineapple.” “Pau” in Hawaii is defined as “end.”

So, I guess it’s also time to say, “Aloha, Pineapples.”

The response might be, “Same to you, Kotonk.”


Another quickie note.

Bill Fujioka, a Los Angeles City official, is taking his entire family to Cal Berkeley on Dec. 13 to receive his late father’s college degree.

UC Berkeley is honoring Japanese Americans who never had the opportunity to finish their degree due to the evacuation and then going off to war.

His father passed away in 1992.

Bill’s mother is very excited about the event.

I’m sure other Nisei who will be receiving their belated degrees are also very excited.

Congratulations to all of them.

I know when I received my diploma from my “outside high school,” it was a memorable experience for me.

Many Japanese Americans who were denied their high school diploma due to the evacuation, received their belated diploma after the California State Legislature passed a bill making it possible for the Nisei to be given their diploma from their pre-evacuation high schools.

It must be even more thrilling for those getting their long-delayed college degrees.


A blunder is a blunder only if it is not caught in time. And boy, did I escape a major one in my previous column.

Fortunately, I was able to catch Maggie in time before she re-typed my error and it went to press.

It was a letter sent to me by Kaz Watanabe, who wrote about George Shibata, a jet pilot who flew in combat during the Korean War.

When he mentioned George Shibata and the Korean War, I added a few comments about Shibata because I knew a Nisei who flew in the Korean War and his name was George.

Unfortunately, the George I knew was named George Nakashima.

I made the blunder because Watanabe said that George Shibata graduated from USC.

And the George I was thinking of also graduated from USC.

In fact, that is where I became friends with George Nakashima. We were roommates at the old Japanese student house, Gakusei-kai.

The two stories differed a great deal. George Nakashima passed away while serving in Korea.

George Shibata returned from service.

George Nakashima is interned at Green Hills Memorial Park in San Pedro. He was a resident of Long Beach before he went off to war.


A friend, Harold Kobata dropped off a bundle of old Pacific Citizen newspapers the other day, saying that I might find something in them that I could use for my column.

The Pacific Citizen is the official newspaper of the JACL. It used to be published once a week during the JACL’s heydays but now it’s only semi-monthly.

Subscription fee for the year is $40. A tad on the high side for 22 copies since they only print one issue in December and January.

I read each issue given to me by Harold, but I can’t make any com­ments since there is a disclaimer printed which states no part of the publication may be reproduced without the expressed permission of the publisher.

Of course, I don’t think that it would bar me from making some personal observations about the publication.

However, I’ll pass on that, too.

Only thing I might mention is that my named appeared in the September edition of the Pacific Citizen. Hooray! It had to do with the Korean War Vets reunion at the Santa Anita racetrack.

And, oh yes, former P.C. Editor, Harry Honda, wrote some of his columns in the copies I read. I wasn’t aware that he was still pounding away on the keyboard.


I would be remiss in not mentioning the name of Don Seki when I chatted about the 442nd/Texas Lost Battalion event in Houston. Seki was among the 442nd vets attending the celebration.

I met him when he hollered out, “Hey, Mr. Horse’s Mouth” at the buffet breakfast that was served to all those in attendance.

In our conversation I learned that we had several mutual friends, some living in Mountain View, Calif., my old hometown.

By the fact that he addressed me by the title of my column, I didn’t have to guess that he was a reader of my column, which is always nice to hear.

Since he is a reader and subscriber to the Rafu, I wanted to make sure I tossed this in so he won’t think I forgot meeting him in Houston and having time for a lengthy chat


Another comment on the L.A. Times and Hideki Matsui, the most valuable player in the 2009 World Series.

Said the Rafu reader in his e-mail:

“I agree with the other reader who sent you a letter about the L.A. Times ignoring Matsui in its stories about the Yankees and the World Series. And it was even worse after the Series was over and Matsui re­ceived the MVP award. The Times ran photos of a few players in their final coverage of the Series and they didn’t even include Matsui. What a bunch of crap.”

I’m not sure what the problem was with the Times and its stand on Matsui. As the reader pointed out, especially after the Yankees won the Series with Matsui as the most valuable.

How can they ignore him as much as they did?

Oh well, as I noted, after over 40 year of having the Times delivered to my house, I’m considering stopping my subscription.


It’s not only my lack of skill with my computer that makes me realize I am from another era.

A lot of words used in the current era have me confused also. Simple words like “stimulus,” which is kicked around so much these days.

I looked up stimulus in my dictionary and it was defined as “something causing or regarded as causing a response.”

So, what is an “economic stimulus plan?”

Many taxpayers have questions about the Economic Stimulus Plan.

One person explained in a question and answer format.

Q: What is an Economic Stimulus payment?

A: It is money that the federal government will send to taxpayers.

Q: Where will the government get this money?

A: From taxpayers.

Q: So the government is giving the taxpayer back his own money?

A: Only a small portion.

Q: What is the purpose of this payment?

A: The plan is for the taxpayer to use the money to purchase a high-definition TV set thus stimulating the economy.

Q: But isn’t that stimulating the economy of China?

A: Shut up.

Hopefully this gives taxpayers a better idea of the Economic Stimulus plan.

And, by the way, a little add to the “stimulus money.” If you buy a new car, the stimulus money will be going to Japan or Korea.


One of the major news stories over the past few days has been the discussion about the new Health Care Plan being voted on in Congress.

It’s a very serious issue, but leave it to Americans.

All Americans have a great sense of humor and can laugh at almost every situation.

Take the following item on senior health care: So you’re a senior citizen and the government says no health care for you. What do you do?

The government’s plan for anyone 65 years or older? They give them a gun and four bullets. You are allowed to shoot two Senators and two Congressmen. Of course, this means you will be sent to prison for life, where you will get three meals a day, a roof over your head and all the health care you need. New teeth, no problem. Need glasses, great. New hip, knee, kidney, lungs, heart? All covered.

And, who will pay for all this? The same government that just told you that you are too old for health care. Plus, because you are a prisoner, you don’t have to pay any income taxes anymore.

Heh, heh.


With all the super high rise buildings being erected in Las Vegas, someone once asked me, “Do they have earthquakes in Vegas?”

The implication being that if they do have quakers, will all those high rises be able to stand the shaking that a quake produces?

I couldn’t answer the question, but I did ask a few other people and they said they never heard of a quake rocking Vegas.

Well, surprise, surprise.

Sunday, a 2.3 quake hit Downtown Vegas. (Yeah, the same Downtown that most of us frequent).

While a 2.3 quaker might not even be felt, at least there is an indication that a quake hitting Vegas is possible.

I usually get a room on the top floors of the Cal where I always stay so this news that a quake did actually hit Downtown kind of concerns me.

On my next visit there (early next year) maybe, I’ll request a room on a lower floor.

At least then, if I have to jump out of the window to escape, it won’t be so bad.

I wonder if a big quake hits (at least five points or more), will the slot machines get a little looser?

Heh. If a five-point or more strikes the casino, I doubt if anyone will be concerned if the slot machines will spit out winnings. The thought will be, “Let me out of here!”


Today’s rib tickler:

A little guy is sitting at the bar, just staring at his drink for half an hour, when a big trouble-making biker stops next to him, grabs his drink, gulps it down in one swig and then turns to the guy with a menacing look as if to say, “Whatcha gonna do about it?”

The little guy starts to cry.

“Come on, man, I was just giving you a hard time,” the biker says. “I didn’t think you’d cry. I can’t stand to see a man crying.”

“This is the worst day of my life,” the little guy says between sobs. “I can’t do anything right. I overslept and was late for an important meeting so my boss fired me.

“When I went to the parking lot, I found my car was stolen and I don’t have any insurance. After that, I left my wallet in the cab I took home.

“Then I found my wife in bed with the gardener and my dog bit me.

So I came to this bar trying to work up the courage to put an end to my life and then you show up and drank up the poison.”

Until next Saturday


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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