HORSE’S MOUTH: It’s A Small World



(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on March 2, 2010)


LAS  VEGAS.—Well, here I am after an over two months absence from my favorite place. Needless to say, nothing has changed.

As I walk around, I see hundreds of visitors from Hawaii, playing their favorite casino games. Didn’t see a Nisei Charters bus parked in The Cal’s parking lot as I drove off the I-15 Freeway off ramp so I guess there aren’t too many Angelinos in town right now.

Mentioning Nisei Charters reminds me that there used to be two tour bus companies serving the Japanese American communities in Southern California. One was Nisei Charters and the other Tanoshimi Tours. The latter closed up when its owner/operator passed away about five years ago.

We used to be “regulars” on the Tanoshimi bus. It sure beat driving.

Tansoshimi translated to English means, “pleasant or enjoyment.” And it provided that for the JAs who used to ride up to Vegas on the bus.

My wife always says it’s her “tanoshimi” to look forward to visiting Vegas.

Perhaps I may have to go back to riding a bus to get here.

It used to be, the moment I checked in at The Cal and dropped off our luggage in our room, I would dash down to the casino.

Now, I take a couple of hours to nap before I begin donating to the Nevada economy.

The other thing about getting on in age, I never went to bed before 1 a.m. Now, I’m snoring away at 10 p.m.

My wife still maintains the “staying up to 1 a.m.” She always tells me,  “Hey, I didn’t come up here to get 8 hours of sleep every night.”

Oh well, that’s the way the old slot machine jingles.


Since I did a little story on a feral kitten in a recent column, the article on the Buddhist Temple located in North Las Vegas caught my eye.

It seems that feral cats are making their home on the Buddhist Temple grounds. The Temple, located at Gowan Road and Simmons St., a sparsely populated residential neighborhood, suits the feral cats.

The people of the Temple feed them, give them water and even give them gentle rubs behind the ears.

However, the growing population of feral cats has caught the attention of the Las Vegas police. In Vegas, it is illegal to own more than three cats. Because the Buddhists care for at least 40 cats, a police spokesman said they can be in trouble.

This past week, the Animal Control Dept. visited the Temple. They told the Buddhists to get rid of all but three of the cats and were given a time limit they should accomplish it.

Animal Control said the Buddhist’s will not be cited since they are making an effort get the cats adopted.

The cat problem began about five years ago, according to the Buddhists.

Since I wrote about coming up here, a member of “G” Company of the famed 442nd RTC, dropped me an e-mail to tell me the vets group was holding a reunion here. I was invited to attend some of their activities.

Unfortunately, their reunion begins on Wednesday. I’ll be on my way home on Monday. Too bad, I would like to have attended their event.

As of this is writing, this is one of my longest stays in Vegas. I usually stay three days and two nights. On this trip, it will be four days and three nights.

Hey, one extra day in Vegas is a lot different than an extra day anywhere else, if you know what I mean.

As I might have mentioned, the reason for the slightly longer stay is that my sister from Northern California is in town and my wife’s sister from Maui will be coming in a few days after my sister.

So, to be able to spend a little time with both of them, we had to extend our stay an extra day.

When we left Gardena the TV weatherman said it might rain on Monday. That would include snow in the higher elevation. Hopefully, it won’t snow any lower than 5,000 feet.

The Cajon Pass, through which I-15 runs, is about 4,000 feet. If the snow falls to that level, we may be stuck in Victorville on our return trip.

In the many years that I have traveled to Vegas, I’ve only experienced not being able to drive over Cajon Pass just once.

We were delayed about four hours before the CHP escorted the motorists through the Pass.

Try sitting in a car for four hours and you’ll get an idea of what we had to go through.

It’s a good thing I carry a “shi-shi” bottle in my car. And that’s no laughing matter.

One thing I won’t be doing while I’m up here is watching the Winter Olympics on TV.

Yeah, I only watched it back home to see Apolo Ohno in the speed skating events and Mirai Nagasu in the women’s ice skating event. I watched Nagasu because she’s listed as a U.S. athlete.

Other than that, I really don’t consider ice-skating as a real sporting event. Mainly because of the scoring system.

I often feel that the scoring has a lot of political influence because unlike other “sports,” the contestants don’t really compete head-to-head with each other or race against the clock.

It’s strictly based on human opinion. Judges punch in their scores. And judges are human and often influenced by politics.

Oh well.

A while back I wrote about the Nisei fellow who was deeply in debt to several Vegas casinos and was on trial here. Seems he ran up millions of dollars in “markers.”

Well, the other day, another “high roller” was dragged into court on a similar charge. His debt to the casino didn’t come close to the Nisei. “Only” $3.5 million.

In chatting with a fellow here, I came to the conclusion that a lot of folks don’t really understand the casino’s issuing of “markers.” In reality, a “marker” is technically a check.

When a gambler takes out a “marker” from the casino, he’s actually writing a check. The marker he signs when obtaining cash, states in print that if the marker is not paid within 30 days, it will be forwarded to his bank for collection, similar to any check.

This means that the casino has the name and checking account number of the person drawing out a marker. If the person’s checking account can’t cover the amount of the marker, it will “bounce.”

So, the casino can legally charge the person drawing out the marker as writing a “bum check,” which then becomes a criminal matter. And that is what the gambler is charged with, passing a bad check.

Being able to receive markers from any casino is referred to as a “privilege.” Since privilege is defined as a “permission” or “benefit granted to be enjoyed by an individual,” the casino does investigate the person being issuing this status.
So it would seem that the casino should bear some of the responsibility if the individual being granted the privilege violates the privilege.

I know, some of you may be wondering if I have marker privileges. Yes, but a very small one. I rarely exercise my marker privilege. My motto is, “Spend only what’s in my pocket.”

Oh yeah, before I forget to touch on it since I chatted about the Winter Olympics a bit earlier, I’m curious how the

Japanese media’s coverage of the women’s skiing competition is handling the name of one of the U.S. participants. That would be Julia Mancuso, already a medal winner in skiing.

Those of you familiar with the Japanese language may get the drift about what I am talking about.

Mancuso is not a common name, but the latter part of her name is kind of amusing when translated into Japanese.

Do you get the drift?

If you do, you know that if the “C” in “cuso” was switched to “K”, you’ll get

Good for a laugh, don’t you think?

When I chat with folks from Hawaii, I am reminded that the first time I went to the Island, I heard that Yoshinaga was a household name. No, not me.

The famed Yoshinaga on Maui was the late Nadao Yoshinaga, who passed way in Dec. 2009 at the age of 90.

In a recent story in the Hawaii Herald, Hawaii’s Japanese American Journal, published by Paul Yempuku, Yoshinaga was featured with a full-page color photo on the front page.

The Herald article said that Yoshinaga was the “last remaining political icon of the 1950s and ’60s.”

It was during Senator Yoshinaga’s tenure that most of Hawaii’s progressive laws were enacted by lawmakers, many of whom were Japanese Americans and served with the 442d/100th RCT.

Senator Yoshinaga graduated from Maui High School and earned his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Hawaii and studied law at DePaul University, where he received his Jurist Doctorate degree.

He was elected to the territorial House of Representatives in 1954. In 1959, the year Hawaii became a state, he was elected to the State Senate, where he served until he retired in 1974.

As a legislator, he played the key role in eliminating discriminatory laws, putting the Island State ahead of the rest of the country in many areas.

Little wonder that when people hear my last name they wonder if I am related to the late Senator.

My only regret is that I never did get a chance to meet him in person. Who knows? Maybe he might have been a relative.

There are a lot of Nisei whose parents came to the U.S. from Kumamoto-ken. Former Hawaii Governor, George Ariyoshi’s parents, not only came from Kumamoto, they were from the same Tomochi-machi (village) in Shimomashiki-gun (prefecture).

Yep, it’s a small world.

Since the details from the above story were taken from the Hawaii Herald (I used to know it as the Hawaii Hochi), I should tell you about the publication.

It used to be a daily publication in the old days but now it is a semimonthly, printed on the first and third Friday of each month.

I don’t know if I mentioned it before but Paul Yempuku is the brother of the late Ralph Yempuku with whom I worked on promotions in Japan and bringing sumo to the mainland.

Paul’s son, Roy, is a lawyer in Honolulu.

On my next trip to Honolulu, I hope I can drop in on Paul and say, “Hello” and maybe discuss the state of the newspaper business in the Islands.

Like the vernaculars on the mainland, I’m sure they are confronted with the same problems.

At one time, they were the ethnic majority. I’m not sure that’s the case any more.

As it is often said, “There’s too many haoles in Hawaii now.”

And tourism from Japan has really dropped. Even though Japan retains its title as the No. 2 economy in the world, China is expected to overtake them.

And this won’t help Hawaii’s tourism industry which for many years relied on visitors from Japan.

Since Maggie is always correcting my spelling and grammar, she should get a chuckle out of today’s laugher. Read until the end. You’ll laugh.

This two-letter word in English has more meanings than any other two-letter word and that word is “up.” It is listed in the dictionary as an (adv.), (adj.), (n) or (v.).

It’s easy to understand up meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake up?

At a meeting, why does a topic come up? Why do we speak up and why are the officers up for election and why is it up to the secretary to write up a report? We call up our friends, brighten up a room, polish up the silver, warm up the  leftovers and clean up the kitchen. We lock up the house and fix up the old car.

At other times this little word has a real special meaning. People stir up trouble, line up for tickets, work up an appetite and think up excuses.

To be dressed is one thing but to be dressed up is special.

And this up is confusing: A drain must be opened up because it is stopped up.

We open up a store in the morning, but we close it up at night. We seem to be pretty mixed up about up.

To be knowledgeable about the proper use of up, look up the word in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes up almost 1/4 of the page and can have up to about thirty definitions.

If you are up to it, you might try building up a list of the many ways up is used. It will take up a lot of your time, but if you don’t give up, you may wind up with a hundred or more.

When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding up. When the sun comes out, we say it is clearing up. When it rains, it soaks up the earth. When it does not rain for awhile things dry up. One could go on and on, but I’ll wrap it up for now and my time is up.

Oh, one more thing: What is the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night?

Don’t screw up.

For now, I’ll shut up.

Well, it’s time for me to dash down to the casino.  Heck, I’m here to play the slots and have fun. Not sit cramped up in my room hacking away on writing a column.

Oh, before I forget, I have to salute the California Hotel for their participation in Al Morita’s basketball promotion.

No matter what the economic climate, the Cal always goes all-out to support Morita’s events.

The Cal may not get the publicity for their playing host to Morita’s basketball event but they certainly deserve to get mentioned.

Well, I’m a wee bit short today, but I guess I always say that when I visit Vegas.

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


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