By George Yoshinaga
The passing of time has a way of fading our memories. Take this past Monday. It was Dec. 7.
Sixty-eight years ago, then President Franklin Roosevelt labeled Dec. 7, 1941 as a “Day of Infamy.” Until recently, Dec. 7 was always given a lot of attention by the media. Now, however, one has to thumb the pages of the print media to find any mention of the so-called “Day of Infamy.” Usually, the story is buried somewhere on the inside pages.
To most of us older Japanese Americans, Dec. 7 still stirs up a lot of emotion because it was a day that changed our lives. In most cases, we went from being just another ethnic group to “dirty Japs.”
I told the story a number of times over the years in my writing about my recollection of that day. I’ve never forgotten that day.
Since our family didn’t subscribe to any newspapers, I would go to a neighborhood store to buy the Sunday edition of the San Francisco Chronicle.
On that day, when I go to the corner store to pick up the copy of the paper, I bumped into a classmate, a friend whom I went to school from grade school to high school.
When he saw me, the first thing he said was, “Did you hear what your people did at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii?”
His reference to “your people” confused me at first and then I saw the headline in the paper abut the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor.
That incident really changed the way I looked at myself.
As the old saying goes, “The rest is history.”
Other Nisei have also expressed their thoughts about that day over the years.
Reader Dennis Kato wrote me about his thoughts for the day that are quite gripping because he wasn’t out shopping for a newspaper on that Sunday. He lived in Honolulu and this is his tale about that day. He wrote:
“I have been reading your column since the 60’s and enjoyed every issue.
“I was 14 years old when the war broke out on Dec. 7, 1941.
“We lived on the shores of Pearl Harbor so I saw the whole bombing and action of that morning.
“While I was standing on the side of the road, I saw this torpedo plane pass by only a few feet from me. The pilot looked at me for a second and I could see his eyeballs.
“At that age I wasn’t a very nice kid so I gave him my middle finger. The machine gunner, who had both hands on the gun, looked at me so I gave him my finger, too. The torpedo hit one of the battleships.
“As the battle went on, I saw the plane that dropped the bomb on the USS Arizona. The ship exploded with such force it lifted the ship and shook it hard before sinking into the water.
“Within seconds I felt the heat wave from the explosion and it almost knocked me off my feet.
“After the first wave of planes left the harbor, I watched the second wave of planes coming in from the ocean.
“I counted 15, five in each group. The first target was the battleships and next Hickam Field and the third the destroyers and smaller ships behind the battleship.
“The small Navy boats, picked up the sailors in the water. Many were wounded and burnt and many were dead. Weeks later, I saw hundreds of wooden coffins on the pier.
“Long before the attack, the Navy fleet would enter the harbor with new young sailors for their training exercises. I would take my shoebox and shine their shoes for 5 cents a pair.
“The loss of so many of these young sailors was very painful for me.
“When I reached the age of 18, the war was still going on. I went for my Army physical, which took all day. I told the medical captain I wanted to join the Army ‘today.’
“He said, ‘Go back to school and get your diploma first.’ After graduation, I tried three times to get into the Army but because I weighed only 97 pounds, they wouldn’t take me, telling me I was 4F.
“Well, I tried again and this time I was able to talk my way in. Many of the fighting men were going home and the Army needed replacements. At 97 pounds, none of the clothes and boots fit me, so it was rough going.
“I signed up for three years and chose Europe, going to Italy from Hawaii. In the middle of winter, it was 10-20 degrees below zero and it was a challenge.
“At our camp there were German prisoners. I worked with them and won their trust. One soldier who spoke English told me if there is another World War, he will never fight against Japanese soldiers because you can’t kill them.
“He and his men were in a trench smoking when he looked out and saw a soldier coming at him. So he shot him. Then he saw another soldier and he shot him. After smoking another cigarette he looked out and saw still another soldier approaching. He shot him. He told his comrade, ‘This is crazy’ and they surrendered.
“He later told me that if I ever got to Germany to look him up. I never did.
“When you are young and sent to Europe and to see the devastation of the country, the displaced people poor and hungry, you grow up very fast.”
That was quite a story by Dennis. I hope you readers will find it interesting and informative.
A story from Hawaii might be of interest to the former Islanders who have become Mainlanders.
Mayor Muliufi Francis “Mufi” Hannemann of Honolulu is proposing changing the name of Ala Moana Beach Park to Barack Obama Beach Park. Needless to say, most folks on Oahu are opposed to the Mayor’s proposal.
As one resident named Kevin Colai said, “What significance is it going to be as Barack Obama Beach Park? Why change something that doesn’t need change?”
Others point to that the President hasn’t been in office long enough to warrant having a beach named after him. They want to see how he turns out as the President before even considering something like this.
Well, I guess if President Obama can be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, naming a beach after him may not be that out of step.
Hey, remember a while back a Gardena City Councilman Steve Bradford suggested that a street in Gardena be named “Obama Avenue.” That suggestion sort of died on the vine because the Councilman has moved on to become a State Assemblyman for the District that includes Gardena.
I really can’t understand why there is so much effort being made to honor a President who hasn’t even served a year of his term.
Seems to me if the folks in Hawaii want to honor an elected official, they should consider Senator Dan Inouye before President Obama. Dan certainly has contributed more for the people of Hawaii than the current President.
Obama’s only “claim to fame” as far as Hawaii is concerned is that he was born there.
And this is even being questioned by many.
Hey, maybe they should re-release the war film, “Tora, Tora, Tora.” Remember that movie?
With so much media attention being paid to pro golfer, Tiger Woods, the movie title might fit in just right.
In English, the Japanese word, “tora” is defined as “tiger.”
So, if they re-release the film, they might switch the name from Japanese to English and advertise it as “Tiger, Tiger, Tiger.”
The name alone might lure filmgoers who might have forgotten it was a war movie and mistake it for a flick on the pro golfer.
Thanks to former basketball great, Tets Tanimoto, the two other folks in the photo that I ran in a recent column, showing the late Nao Takasugi and legendary basketball coach, John Wooden, are identified.
Tets wrote: “The two standing behind Nao and Coach Wooden are Ashlee Tanimoto Bryan and Marcus Tanimoto, my daughter and son. The event where the photo was taken was at the Oakmont Country Club about 10 years ago.’
Thanks, Tets. Reading your letter reminded me of the thrill I used to get when I saw you playing in the NAU cage league.
Yes, but will it bring down the cost of sushi?
This was the question that popped into mind when I read about a Torrance company, Tokyo-based AUTEC, selling robots which makes sushi.
Workers feed the ingredients that go into the different varieties of sushi at the top of the device and the machines crank out the sushi roll from an opening in the bottom.
Taka Tanaka, General Manager of the Japanese company said that if the robots turn out large volumes of sushi, the price might decrease.
At the present time, the company sells the robots to high-volume sushi producers like supermarkets and large dining halls.
Tanaka’s goal is to one day include hotels and casinos as clients.
Whatever. The robot sushi maker may meet the demands of Americans who enjoy the Japanese delicacy.
At the present time, there are about 10.000 Japanese sushi restaurants. About a third of those are found in California, which may be the reason AUTEC is located in Torrance. The number of Japanese migrants in the South Bay have increased steadily.
Japanese businesses and corporations such as Honda and Toyota have headquarters in Torrance.
In all, there are 199 Japanese-owned businesses in Torrance, second only to Los Angeles.
While all this about robot sushi makers may excite sushi fans, I guess as a long-time resident of Gardena, I won’t change my sushi-buying habit.
I’m still a fan of Sakae Sushi House, one of the most popular sushi-making businesses in Gardena.
All you have to do is to go there and see the long line of folks waiting for their orders at Sakae.
And compared to a lot of other sushi parlors, Sakae’s prices are more than reasonable.
In the old days, my wife used to roll her own sushi for holiday dinners like Thanksgiving and Christmas but nowadays, we just pick up the phone and place an order with Sakae.
The other day I ran a photo of a new Japanese “invention,” a pair of chopsticks with an electric fan attached so that the diner can cool his/her food without blowing on it.
Some readers thought, “how clever.”
So I thought I would include another one, today, which might be the answer to the current swine flu concern.
Take a peek and see what you think.
Ah yes. Darn clever, these Japanese.
No, even though I haven’t been to Las Vegas for about two months now, going to an Indian casino has never been an option for me even if some of them are only an hour’s drive from Gardena.
Perhaps the Indian casinos are feeling the pinch and maybe they want to move even closer to large metropolitan areas like Los Angeles and San Francisco.
There’s a story about an Indian tribe wanting to build a $1.5 billion Las Vegas casino on a piece of land overlooking San Francisco Bay, which is more than 100 miles from its tribal land.
And across the country, Indian tribes are seeking to build casinos well away from their reservations.
President Obama’s administration is expected to decide in the near future about loosing the laws on some of these casino projects. Those opposed to this action by the President complain that Indian tribes are trying to expand their operation to get closer to big city markets.
The Indian tribes counter that casinos hold the promise of jobs and a better future for the members of the tribes.
At the present time, the vast majority of Indian casinos are on tribal land well removed from big cities.
At the moment, the Indian gambling industry has generated a $26 billion industry.
In Michigan, the Hannahville Indian tribe wants to build a casino in a city 20 miles outside of Detroit, although their tribal land is 457 miles from the city.
Around Southern California, Pechanga in Temecula is about 85 miles from Los Angeles. Pala about 10 miles further. Morongo is about 90 miles with San Manuel about in the middle at 65 miles.
But, hey, I’ll drive the 286 miles to you-know-where.
Well, at the moment, with snow falling on Highway 15, maybe it’s a good thing I’m not planning to drive to my favorite destination.
As I write this, the TV news is telling its viewers that Highway 15 is closed just before Victorville.
In all the years I’ve been driving to Vegas, I’ve only been stalled by snow once, and that wasn’t on the Cajon Pass. It was beyond Baker at Mountain Pass. On that occasion, I had to wait about an hour before the Highway Patrol escorted the traffic over the mountain.
Waiting in freezing weather for an hour is really an experience.
Heck, on Highway 5 over the Grapevine, some motorists who were stalled at Castaic said they had to remain in their cars for 16 hours.
I know it’s not something to joke about, but I wonder what they did when they had to go you-know-what., especially the women.
I haven’t chatted with my friend, Herb Murayama for a while. He makes frequent trips to Japan so I wanted to ask him how the tumbling of the dollar against the yen affected his trips.
Recently, the dollar fell to a 14-year low against the yen. The yen was quoted as 85 yen to the dollar.
Needless to say, the dollar tumbling has caused jitters in Japan.
Perhaps to put it in terms to how it affects U.S. travelers, take the cost of a Big Mac at McDonald’s in Japan.
A Big Mac costs about 350 yen in Japan. At the old rate, when the yen was say, 200 to one dollar, 350 yen was about a buck. At the present rate, at 85 to one, a Big Mac costs (in dollars) three bucks and change. I hope my math isn’t that far off.
Ah, I remember the days of the 360 yen to one dollar rate when I was living in Japan, I felt like a king.
Today, I might feel like a homeless person.
My many Nisei friends who are now living in retirement might enjoy today’s tidbit entitled, “Why I like retirement.”
• Question: How many days in a week?
Answer: 6 Saturdays and 1 Sunday.
• Question: When is a retiree’s bedtime?
Answer: Three hours after he falls asleep on he couch.
• Question: How many hours to change a light bulb?
Answer: Only one, but it might take all day.
• Question: Why don’t retirees mind being called seniors?
Answer: The term comes with a 10 percent discount.
• Question: Why do retirees count pennies?
Answer: They are the only ones who have the time.
• Question: What is the common term for someone who continues to work and refuses to retire?
• Question: What is the best way to describe retirement?
Answer The never-ending coffee break.
• Question: What’s the biggest advantage of going back to school as a retiree?
Answer: If you cut classes, no one can call our parents.
•Question: What do you do all week?
Answer: Monday to Friday, nothing. Saturday and Sunday, I rest.
George Yoshinaga may be reached via e-mail at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.