HORSE’S MOUTH: Crime Is No Laughing Matter



(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on May 25, 2010)


What’s that old saying that goes something like, “It opened up a can of worms?”

After touching on the situation at the Go For Broke National Education Center, I was kind of surprised at the reaction I have received via e-mail. I’ll print a couple of them even though all of those who sent me the e-mails requested to remain anonymous. The first one reads:

“You recently quoted two letters about the Go For Broke NEC in your May 18th column. While both may make valid points (about officials’ pay raises), other comments nudged me to write to you too.

“As a voluntary board member of a not-for-profit social series agency (education & feeding programs for homeless and neighborhood needy), I am knowledgeable about “wish list” requests. It is well known that many individuals who receive any organization’s newsletters are not able to give lump sums of money, like $500 or $100. These same folks may, however, want to help in some way. Wish lists are often made up of those items which are in regular (or constant) use, generically found, usually nonperishable and may be in the reach of smaller donor. This list says please help even in a small but important and useful way, by freeing up some overhead costs so more funds can be used directly for programs for those being served. Not so tacky when you think of the list in this light.”

The second letter reads:

“Thank you for keeping us all informed about what happens down in California. I’m a professor and was wondering what is going on at Go For Broke in the last few years.

“I’ve been trying to get a hold of someone to get permission to go through the archives for my research on the Nisei soldiers and never received a response to my e-mails and the vice president of programs’ (who I was referred to initially) voicemail was always full. I’ve been forwarded to the CEO and COO’s voicemails in the last year and not received a response. I’ve been forced to use other sources for my research, which is disappointing.

“Thank you George for keeping me informed on this and hopefully I’ll be able to utilize the archives the next time.”

Thanks to both of the readers for submitting their thoughts and opinions on the GFBNEC situation.

I’m planning to have lunch with an individual connected with the organization so perhaps after the meeting, I’ll have some information to shed on the issues that seems to have been generated on the situation. As I said, “perhaps.” Maybe nothing will come from my luncheon meeting.

In my previous column I wondered if John Kukuruda was a Japanese American.

The high school baseball pitcher, who set a new California record with four no-hitters for his Nicolaus High School team, had his streak broken in the Northern California CIF championship when he gave up four hits to his opponents but his team still won the game 2-1.

Well, reader James Yokota responded to my query with the following letter: “The name John Kukuruda does sort of sound Japanese but apparently it is not. He doesn’t even look like a happa. He is 6-3 in height and weighs 190 pounds and pitches for the high school located between Sacramento and Yuba City.”

John Kukuruda of Nicolaus High School.

I’ll run a photo of Kukuruda and let you readers decide whether he looks “Japanese.”

By the way, Roseville is the home of George Goto, who was a well-known Nisei pitcher during the 40s and 50s era. He pitched for Stanford University and almost made it to the old Pacific Coast League, according to Yokota.

Getting back to Kukuruda. The star hurler said it was really a load off of his shoulders when he gave up his first hit in five games. He said when the opposing batter collected the hit he said to himself, “It was a disappointment to see it end but it was also sort of a relief. It was a big load off my shoulders, but now I could just get back to pitching.”

I guess the only thing left with this story is to find out Kukuruda’s ethnicity. If, indeed, he is of Japanese ethnicity (probably a Sansei if he is), we may be seeing him wearing a Major League uniform in the not too distance future.

Let’s hope there are a few Rafu Shimpo subscribers in the Roseville area who might contact the paper to let us know about the pitching sensation.

I’m sure many of you have seen a photo in some of the print media displaying a new cactus planted by Arizona on its border with California.

It’s shaped like a middle-finger salute because of California’s reaction to Arizona’s new illegal immigration law, which makes me pose the question: How many of you know the history of the middle-finger salute?

If you don’t, here it is. Before the battle of Agincourt in the year 1415, the French, anticipating victory over the English, proposed to cut off the middle finger of all captured English soldiers. Without the middle finger, it would be impossible to draw the renowned English longbow weapon and, therefore, they would be incapable of fighting in the future. This famous English longbow was made of the native English Yew tree and the act of drawing the longbow was known as “plucking the yew.”

Much to the bewilderment of the French, the English won a major upset and began mocking the French by waving their middle fingers at the defeated French saying, “See, we can still pluck yew.” Once “pluck yew” was rather difficult to say, the difficult consonant cluster at the beginning has gradually changed to a labiodental fricative “F’ and thus, the words often used in conjunction with the one-finger salute. It is still an appropriate salute to the French today. And yew thought yew knew every plucking thing. Heh, heh.

Eddie Kamae is an 82-year-old Nisei.

No, he didn’t receive an honorary college degree because his education was interrupted by the evacuation of Japanese Americans during World War II.

He did get his diploma this week, however. It was his high school diploma from Farrington High School in Honolulu. He quit high school when his teacher informed him he was one credit short of graduating so he picked up his things and walked out of his class.

Well, some 62 years later, he finally donned a maroon gown and  decked out in lei, joined the graduating class of 2010 as he completed his journey at Farrington this week. Kamae received his high school diploma at the school’s commencement ceremony showered by loud applause and shouts of “Eddie,” “Eddie,” “Eddie.”

Kind of rekindles my memory of getting my diploma from my “outside high school” because I wasn’t able to graduate with my classmates because of the evacuation.

Some of you may recall that quite a few Nisei who were unable to graduate with their class because of evacuation, were awarded diplomas from their high school because the California State Legislature mandated that Japanese Americans who were denied their diploma from their schools be presented one.

I have my hanging on the wall just above my computer desk. It makes me chuckle because I was never a good student and who knows, if evacuation didn’t take me away, maybe I wouldn’t have graduated with my class anyway.

Perhaps the survey didn’t include too many Nisei.

The question asked was, “What most often happens to dinner leftovers?”

Over 50 percent responded that they are used for lunch or snacks. Only three percent said they throw it away right after the meal.  Twelve percent said they freeze it for later use.

Most Nisei women, probably because of their Issei parents’ upbringing would respond within the 50 percent category in that they would use leftovers almost all of the time. I know when I was growing up, eating leftovers was a common practice. My wife probably grew up in the same atmosphere because she never throws away leftovers.

So, when I ask, “What’s for dinner?” She’ll often say, “Leftovers.”

Yeah, I know I said I was finished with working the polling place for elections but I was hounded to come back mainly because I am classified as a “language specialist.” That is, I speak Japanese.

Most polling places have signs on the different languages which are spoken at the voting sites. I’m not sure why they need Japanese speakers.

I’ve been working the polls for quite a few years now and I have never been asked to use my Japanese language to assist a voter. This is not the case with Spanish. There are quite a few Spanish-speaking election clerks and I heard them assisting voters who speak only Spanish.

It’s kind of surprising but the state election officials in Hawaii are sending out information for their coming election via postcards and radio ads telling Japanese, Chinese and Filipino voters that they will be able to get language assistance.

This was brought about by a Honolulu lawyer who filed a lawsuit claiming voters weren’t being offered information in their native language for the elections.

Huh? Isn’t this the good old U.S. of A?

Whatever happened to the good old English language?

Well, maybe the day is near when people who vote, who speak “only” English, will have to push the one button to get their ballot in English.

This might be a little “aside” on the continuing debate on whether the camps the Japanese Americans were placed in should be called “concentration camps.”

It was brought to my attention because the Nikkei West newspaper recently ran a story about Japanese American baseball in prewar days and during our internment in the camps. One of the statements made in regard to baseball and the Japanese American was, “We must acknowledge the discrimination and segregation from the larger society that forced the Japanese American community to build their own leagues.”

The statement was attributed to Gary Otake, described as a “Japanese American historian.”

I have to disagree with his analysis.

Japanese Americans had their own baseball league as well as their own basketball league.

I never recalled that the JAs formed their own league because of “discrimination and segregation.”

In Northern California where I grew up, each city with a Japanese American population had their own teams and own playing facility.

San Jose, for example, had their own baseball field where their Asahi team played host to teams from places like Lodi, Fresno, San Francisco, Stockton and Alameda.

The games were all competitive because of the physical size and limited skills of the Nisei athletes. Playing against other Nisei teams made the games competitive.

I know going to watch the Asahi baseball team in action was like going to a Dodgers’ game today.

After the war, I formed an all-star basketball team made up of the top players from all the NAU teams and we played in the municipal league against more physically superior players. We didn’t fare well, losing by big margins.

The team, which might  be tagged as an “all-star” team played in the annual Salt Lake City “Oriental Tournament” and won the title without any problem.

So, it was more the competitive nature of playing against other teams of similar physical size and talent which was one of the reasons for the formation of such all-JA leagues in most sports, which brings me to another point that I often wonder about. That is, during our confinement in the camps, teams from other camps visited Heart Mountain to play against our teams.

For example, an all-star team from Gila, Arizona, played a series of games against Heart Mountain teams.

Hey, it was wartime so how was it possible to transport a “Japanese” baseball team from Arizona all the way to Wyoming to play baseball? From my recollection, there were about 20 players and coaches on the Arizona team.

Who paid for their transportation?

And, also, during basketball season, an all-Nisei team from Denver came to Heart Mountain for a series of games. Oh well, that’s the way life was in the concentration camp.

By the way, I forgot to mention it while writing about Hawaii going the “foreign language” route in their elections but Nisei candidate for the State’s U.S. House Representative seat, Colleen Hanabusa lost her bid for the seat. The Republican candidate Charles Djou defeated Hanabusa by a 39.7 tally to her 31.0.

As one Hawaii newspaper put it, “Hanabusa’s defeat might be a blow to Senator Dan Inouye, who supported her financially.” The paper said it might be an indication that Inouye’s long-time influence in Island politics might be slipping.

Inouye was quoted as saying, “Naturally, not withstanding the polls and not withstanding the odds, I was hoping Colleen would win.”

It’s kind of a blow to President Obama and Democrats to have a Republican win the race. It might be recalled that Hanabusa campaigned in the Los Angeles area to raise funds for her bid to gain the House seat. It is often said that the Republican party is “The Party of the Rich.” Maybe Djou’s victory might be an indication there is some truth to this analysis.

While California leads the U.S. in the number of millionaires with 663,000, the ratio of millionaires to total number of households puts Hawaii on top. With a population of 1.3 million, Hawaii has more than 28,000 millionaires.

Perhaps that might be one of the reasons Honolulu leads all the United States in the median price of homes.

The median price if $621,300, almost double that of Los Angeles which has a $33l,400 price.

Anaheim-Santa Ana is second in the nation with a median price of $486,700. Want to move to Riverside? The average price is now $180,500.

Las Vegas is slightly higher at $181.500.

I couldn’t find Gardena or Torrance on the list, but in chatting with a local realtor, I would guess the average in the South Bay is about $300,000.

With so many stories on crime in the media, a reader sent me a piece on why he carries a gun. Not quite a closing “laugher.” Here is his piece:

• I don’t carry a gun because I’m angry. I carry a gun so that I don’t have to spend the rest of my life hating myself for failing to be prepared.

• I don’t carry a gun because I want to shoot someone. I carry a gun because I want to die at a ripe old age in my bed and not on a sidewalk somewhere tomorrow afternoon.

• I don’t carry a gun because I’m a cowboy. I carry a gun because when I die and go to heaven, I want to be a cowboy.

• I don’t carry a gun to make me feel like a man. I carry a gun because men know how to take care of themselves and the ones they love.

• I don’t carry a gun because I feel inadequate. I carry a gun because unarmed and facing three armed thugs, I am inadequate.

• I don’t carry a gun to kill people. I carry a gun to keep from being killed.

• I don’t carry a gun to scare people. I carry a gun because sometimes this world can be a scary place.

• I don’t carry a gun because I’m paranoid. I carry a gun because there are real threats in the world.

I don’t carry a gun because I’m evil. I carry a gun because I have lived long enough to see the evil in the world.

• I don’t carry a gun because I hate the government. I carry a gun because I understand the limitations of government.

• Police protection is an oxymoron. Free citizens must protect themselves. Police do not protect you from crime. They usually just investigate the crime after it happens and then call someone in to clean up the mess.

• Personally I carry a gun because I’m too young to die and too old to take a butt beating.

And so forth and so on.

Until next time….


George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the Rafu Shimpo.



  1. “… Nisei candidate for the State’s U.S. House Representative seat, Colleen Hanabusa lost her bid for the seat. The Republican candidate Charles Djou defeated Hanabusa by a 39.7 tally to her 31.0. ”

    39.7 + 31.0 = 70.7 percent. You forgot to mention Democrat Ed Case, who was also in this race. If everyone who voted for Case had voted for Hanabusa, Hanabusa would have won in a cakewalk.

    Also, this was a special election and there will be a general election in November. Case has dropped out, leaving the field open for Hanabusa to kick Djou’s “okole” in the general election.

    Go Hanabusa!

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