HORSE’S MOUTH: Chinese New Year in Vegas



(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on Feb. 17, 2010)


Valentine’s Day doesn’t have the impact as we grow older as it did when we were younger.

Still, I thought it would be nice if I got a dozen roses to give to my wife. After seeing the prices being charged at the local florist shop, I asked my wife if she’d rather go somewhere instead.

Since we haven’t been to Vegas for two months and don’t have a trip scheduled for another couple of weeks she said, “Why don’t we drive down to the Pechanga Indian Casino?”

The next thing I knew, we were heading down Highway 91 Sunday morning.  Boy, we should have stayed home. I’ve never seen an Indian casino so crowed. Was it because it was Valentine’s Day or that Monday was President’s Day, another holiday?
I couldn’t get on my favorite slots. All the seats were taken. My wife was able to locate a machine because she plays the penny slots and there are a lot of those.

So, I just walked around, hoping a seat would open up somewhere. Since I had nothing better to do, I lit my cigar and moved around the casino floor.

A Nisei fellow came up to me and said, “I read your column. I thought you said you never lit your cigar.”

He disappeared into the crowd.

It then occurred to me that I rarely see Japanese Americans at the Indian casino. Most of the patrons are Chinese.

I’m curious why JAs don’t frequent Indian casinos like they do Vegas.

At any rate, we spent about 3 hours at Pechanga before we headed back.

Yeah, I was finally able to get a seat at one of the keno machines. No, I didn’t make any money.

Hey, it might have been better if I just bought my wife a dozen roses.

On the return trip we made a stop at Tom’s Farm. They serve great hamburger sandwiches.

However, even that site was jammed. No parking.

On weekends, I am told that Tom’s Farm is the favorite hangout for motorcyclists. And there were bikes as far as the eyes could see.

Since we couldn’t find parking, we got back on the freeway and headed back to Gardena.

I can’t say it was an adventure.

Oh well, see ya all in Vegas in about two weeks.

Many of you probably read in the print media or saw on TV news about film producer, Kevin Smith, who was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight because he was too overweight and took up two seats but only had one ticket.
It seems that the airline and Smith resolved the matter after he met with airline officials.

The reason this story caught my eye is because it reminded me of the time when I used to promote sumo in the U.S. and brought over the sumo wrestlers, all of whom probably would make Smith look like a midget.

I had to pay for two seats for every sumo wrestler.

On top of that, the airline charged me 25 bucks to install special seat belts which would fit around the wrestlers.

In addition, the wrestlers in the top three ranks (yokozuna, sekiwake and ozeki) had to be seated in first class.

Also, the officials of the Sumo Association required first-class seats.
Heck, having to pay for two seats in economy came to about the same price as those who sat in first class.

I’m surprised the airlines didn’t add a surcharge to their in-flight meals because the sumo wrestlers gobbled up every bit of food in sight.

So, I know how Smith felt when Southwest told him he needed two tickets to fly to wherever he was going.

Another bit of sumo news.

There’s a furor going on in Japan now because Asashoryu, the yokozuna who announced his retirement, will receive a retirement package which includes a payment of $1.2 million.

The sumo fans are all upset because they see it as too much for the Mongolian yokozuna who retired last week after a late night drinking session which he allegedly hit a man and broke his nose.

If the Japan Sumo Association does pay him that amount of money, it will be the second largest in history, following that of former yokozuna Takanohana, who received $1.3 million.

Asashoryu is now in Hawaii on a golf trip and while in the Islands, said that he is considering going in to the sport of mixed martial arts.

This bit of news has upset the Japanese even more.

As one Japanese said, “When you consider all the problems he has caused, it’s hard to imagine he would get that much money. Sumo is a part of Japanese culture and sumo wrestlers have to meet higher standards.”

Sumo wrestlers are normally given retirement bonuses but in these tough economic times, most Japanese resent the huge offer made to Asashoryu.

He won 25 Emperor’s cups, the third most in the history of sumo,  following Taiho (32) and Chiyonfuji (31).

By the way, the Sumo Association is negotiating holding a tournament in Las Vegas again this year, probably in June.

A bit of baseball news.

There may still be another Japanese on the roster of a Major League club this coming season.

The New York Mets said, this week, that they have signed left-handed pitcher, Hisanori Takahashi, who became a free agent in Japan after playing with the Yomiuri Giants.

Takahashi, 34, has agreed to a one-year contract and will earn $1 million if he is promoted to the Major League roster.

He will be training with the Mets in Florida starting next week.

He played for the Yomiuri Giants for 10 seasons and posted a 79-66 career record and a 3.70 ERA in 246 games.


A fellow named Mark Miyake has issued an alert to Japanese American families.

He said there are flyers being distributed around many of the churches in the local areas asking people to distribute and post them.

The flyers being circulated are targeting older Japanese Americans and scamming them out of their retirement funds and destroying them financially. The flyers have really hit the elderly Japanese American community hard. The perpetrator has hit Miyake’s relative, friends and friends of friends and swindled them out of their life saving.

The perpetrator was last seen around Torrance, but everyone should be on the lookout for him.

So Miyake says, “Please watch your older friends and relatives.”

Man, what is this world coming to? All we hear about these days are criminal activities, although this is the first I’ve heard about Japanese Americans being targeted.

I received an e-mail the other day announcing two fundraising events being held in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

In Los Angeles, the date for the fundraiser is Saturday, Feb. 20 from 2:30 to 4 p.m. at the Jonathan Club, located at 545 So. Figueroa in downtown L.A.

I am curious about this because the recipient of the fundraiser is Colleen Hanabusa, a candidate for Hawaii’s First Congressional District.

I don’t ever recall a candidate from another State campaigning in Southern California.

At any rate, the guest speaker at the fundraiser will be Senator Dan Inouye.

Familiar names on the committee putting on this event are Irene Hirano (Mrs. Dan Inouye) and Dale Minami.

It will be interesting to see how many people the event will attract and how much funds it will raise.

I just received a copy of Robert Wada’s book entitled, “From Internment to Korea to Solitude.”

As I write this, I’ve already read several chapters of the book which is the memoir of Robert.

It has the subtitle, “Nisei youngster of a WWII Japanese American Internment Camp and later a Marine Corps Veteran of the Korean War.”

One of the highlights of the book is that it contains many photos of Robert growing up and later in service in the Marine Corp.

I know that Robert is not a “professional writer” but from what I have read, it is well-written because of one thing, in my opinion. That is, Robert wrote this book from the heart.

In addition to the various facts about his life, Robert offers an in-depth look at Japanese Americans of his generation.

He captures the life and thoughts of those Japanese Americans who lived through the experiences he faced in life.

I can say without any hesitation that reading his book will be well-worth the time.

I’m a little older than Robert, but I can relate to many of the thoughts he shares in his writing.

A number of Nisei have contributed to the preface of his book including Vincent Okamoto, who was a Captain in the military during the Vietnam War.

Okamoto wrote: “Robert Wada’s book is an emotional work of art. As Japanese Americans, we share in his events and experiences that helped shape and mold us into the people we are.”

Another Vietnam War vet, David Miyoshi added: “In 1985, Ronald Reagan declared, “Some people spend an  entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But, the Marines don’t have that problem. Well, neither does Bob Wada in his moving account of the human side and its ordeals of being an elite warrior in the U.S. military.”

I want to congratulate Robert for putting together his story. As I indicated, he’s not a “professional” writer, but he did a great job on his book.

I want to suggest that everyone read his book.

It didn’t get the same media coverage of the “regular” New Year’s Eve celebration on The Strip in Vegas, but this past Sunday, The Strip resorts ushered in “another” New Year. In this case, Chinese New Year.

According to reports, it brought in thousands of international travelers and millions of dollars to Vegas.

Because the Chinese New Year celebration coincided with Valentine’s Day and President’s Day, even more visitors arrived in Vegas.

For several weeks prior to the event, casinos have been preparing for the Chinese New Year with special decorations such as, red and gold lanterns, citrus trees and lush gardens.

The celebration will last until the end of February, resulting in longer stays for the international travelers.

The key is that Chinese New Year attracts the so-called “whales,” as high-rollers are called. They hail from the Far East, mainly Hong Kong, Mainland China and Taiwan.

MGM Mirage properties have special menus at their Asian restaurants and performances from Hong Kong pop and film star, Sam Hui.

Remember when Japanese tourists were the “king” of the Strip as far as high rollers were concerned? These days, it’s tough to find any Japanese at the high stakes gaming tables.

If the Chinese New Year celebration is going to last until the end of February, maybe I’ll trot down to The Strip and take a peek. I’m going to be in Vegas starting Feb. 25.

Yeah, my wife’s relatives are coming, but they will be staying Downtown, not on The Strip.

Also, my sister will be coming down from Mountain View at the same time. She stays on The Strip so I’ll have an extra reason to get over to the so-called main drag of Vegas.

However, as far as gaming goes, I’m strictly a California and Main Street Station patron.

I feel more comfortable mainly because most of the patrons are from the Islands and the L.A. area.

It’s a lot more fun and bumping into familiar faces makes it that much more so. And isn’t that what Vegas is really about? Hey, it’s nice to make a few bucks but a lot nicer to see friends.

Besides, where else can I get miso soup or saimin, if that’s what my appetite calls for?

I don’t know if I’ve asked this question before but how many of you who own computers are hooked up to the Internet, get messages, mainly from overseas, telling you that you’ve won millions of dollars and all one has to do to collect is to submit their name, address, telephone number and e-mail address.

How many people really respond to these messages?

If all the messages I get are legitimate, I’d be a multimillionaire now.

It’s really disgusting.

And, oh, another thing I’m starting to get the same kind of junk in my snail mail. They all promise that I’ll be very rich if I respond to their message.

I got one from a so-called psychic the other day saying that according to the message he got about me, I will be very rich in March.

Hey, maybe I’d better buy some California lottery tickets in March.

Give me a break!


I didn’t get rich last week at Hollywood Park, where I occasionally go to watch the horse racing from Santa Anita.
But would you believe a stranger came up to me and gave me $5?

I was puzzled until he related his story.

He said he was looking over his racing form when he saw me walk by with my usual cigar stuck in my mouth.

Since he didn’t have any particular horse to bet on in the race coming up, when he saw me with my cigar and also saw a horse named Cigarman running, he thought, “What a hunch.”

So he told me he went and placed a moderate bet on Cigarman. The bottom line is, Cigarman won and paid $23 to win.

I don’t know how much he bet on the horse, but since he gave me 5 bucks, he must have made a few bucks. How come I didn’t bet on Cigarman? Hey, I made 5 bucks without betting on it.

Enuff said.

Since I doubt that there are any blondes in readerland, I’ll toss in a dumb blonde laugher to close out the day.

Two blond girls were working for the City Public Works Dept. One would dig a hole and the other would follow behind her and fill in the hole. They worked up one side of the street, then down the other, then moved on to the next street, working furiously all day without rest, one girl digging a hole, the other girl filling it in.

An onlooker was amazed at their hard work, but couldn’t understand what they were doing.

So, she asked the blonde digger, “I’m impressed by the effort you two are putting into your work, but I don’t get it. Why do you dig a hole, only to have your partner follow behind and fill it up again?”

The blonde digger wiped her brow and sighed, “Well, I suppose it probably looks odd because we’re normally a three-person team. But, today, the girl who plants the trees called in sick.”

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



  1. So Colleen Hanabusa needs to chase after Inouye’s money to win? That will make her a slave to whatever he asks her to do.

  2. Asa should do much better than Akebono in MMA. He is in his prime and is one of the most athletic Sumo wrestlers ever. I just hope he leaves Japan and comes to the USA, where he will get some respect..

  3. It’s shocking how far Hanabusa will go to raise money. I hope everyone in California sees this for what it is: an attempt by Sen. Inouye to get his hand picked “gal” into office by raiding other resident’s pocket books. Makes me wonder if no in Hawaii will support her….

  4. So where did you learn that Asa “said” he is considering entering mixed martial arts? Everything I’ve read points to his saying that he wants to return to Mongolia and take care of his many commercial ventures there. The only thing I’ve read is that the MMA people would LOVE to have him enter their venues, but nothing from him.

    Can you keep us updated on the proposed LV jungyo? Nothing on the Kyokai website yet about that – we all thought the idea had been discarded.


  5. I got an email saying that police are LOOKING FOR the Mark Miyake guy, not that he is telling people to be on the look out.

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