HORSE’S MOUTH: The Making Of Umeboshi

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By GEORGE YOSHINAGA

(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on May 1, 2010)

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The other day I was chatting on the phone with a friend from Japan. He called me on my home phone. I have an answering message on my home phone so I rarely pick it up when it rings. However, I can hear the voice message if it is left on the phone so if I have the time to talk, I’ll pick up the receiver.

It’s kind of like being able to “screen” the calls because (although it may sound boastful), I get too many calls.

Naturally, our conversation was in Japanese and oft times, when certain words are used, I can’t interpret them correctly since I don’t get too many chances to use Japanese these days.

So when my friend asked me if I had a keitai denwa, I had to pause for a moment to figure it out. Then I remembered. Keitai denwa is Japanese for cellphone.

This confused me a bit, too.  In Japan, if something is not of Japanese origin, the Japanese will create their own version of the word. For example in Japan, the word for “media” is masu komi.

When I was living in Japan and first heard the word, I didn’t have the faintest idea what the person using it was talking about.

I found out later that masu komi is derived from the English word, “mass communication,” thus, the media.

Since cellphone is a foreign product, I concluded that the Japanese would create their own version of the device. Like, perhaps, “seru fon.”

Keitai denwa actually means “hand-held telephone.” Well, at least denwa is a Japanese word for telephone.

Whenever I touch on English/Japanese or Japanese/English, I recall an incident many years ago.

A Nisei lady, who was proficient in English and Japanese was asked to serve as an interpreter for an American and a Japanese.

As the two chatted and the Nisei interpreter interpreted each other’s statements, she was stymied when the Japanese man used the word, ton neru.

She had never heard the word before and couldn’t figure out what it meant.

So, she excused herself from the pair for a moment and went to a nearby pay phone (no cells in those days) to call another Japanese friend to ask what ton neru meant.

Her friend chuckled. “That’s an English word,” he told her. And he explained that ton neru was the Japanese interpretation for “tunnel.”

Just another English word transformed into English.

So, if any of you want to chat with me and can’t reach me on my home phone, try my keitai denwa.  I always carry it around with me.

Oh, by the way, chatting about cell phones, most say that the Japanese-made ones are technically superior to the U.S. ones.

An example? Well, you can’t use your U.S. cell phone while you are in Japan.

On the other hand, Japanese tourists with cell phones made in Japan can use theirs in the U.S.

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By the way, a reader emailed me to tell me that starting this month, cell phone numbers will go public.

That is, unless you contact the “do not call” service, you will start getting “commercial calls,” which will be charged to your phone bill.

I haven’t had the time to check out this information but the reader told me that anyone who wants to be placed on the “do not dial list“ can call 888-382-1222 and register. The “do not call” restriction will be good for five years.

To be placed on the list, you must call the above number from your cell phone. You can’t use your home phone or any other phone to be placed on the “do not call” list.

Hopefully, this information will be helpful to cell phone owners. I’m planning to call the number given to me because it’s bad enough to get these unsolicited calls on my home phone.

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Well, one thing is certain.

I was reading the Rafu story on the recent Manzanar Pilgrimage and I see that as far as the staff is concerned, the Camp is identified as a “Concentration Camp.”

So I guess when I retire, there will be nobody around to identify the Internment Camp as a “Relocation Camp.”

Oh well, as time passes, I guess a lot of how we Nisei lived will be forgotten.

I was reminded of this when Ray Kawaguchi sent me a piece on umeboshi.

His piece opened, “To all of you who have grown up eating umeboshi when you were kids, this is more than you wanted to know. If you never had umeboshi, read on.

“I guess I’m curious how many Sansei or Yonsei eat umeboshi.

“When I was going to grade school and had to take my own lunch (no free meals in those days), my mother always put a musubi with an umeboshi, in my lunch box.

“And a lot of my Nisei classmates had the same thing.

“In those days, when the kids were under the weather, their mothers would provide musubi with umeboshi or with oka-i-yu. Was supposed to be a ‘cure-all’ for what ailed the kids.”

The story on umeboshi sent to me by Ray was written by Audrey Wilson, which in itself, is rather unusual.

She seems to have a pretty good handle on umeboshi, including how and when it is made in Japan.

Umeboshi is made in mid-June to mid-July, the rainy season in Japan. The fruit is soaked in water to get rid of its bitter taste. Then it’s drained and wiped dry and sprayed with shochu or Japanese rice wine.

It is then put in a container for pickling, mixed with salt and weighed down with heavy stones.

Pressing the fruit down is very important in the making of umeboshi, which takes about six weeks. After that, shiso are washed, sprinkled with salt and all excess liquid squeezed out and combined with the salted ume.

The heavy stone is again placed over the mixture, which is allowed to pickle for another week. During a sunny day at the end of July, the fruit is dried outside for three days and nights.
This traditional method of making umeboshi is one of the oldest and safest ways to preserve food.

The best, most prized and most expensive umeboshi is called, kishu ume from Wakayama prefecture. Aged five years, it has the thinnest skin, the smallest seed and a soft, thick fruit. Eight individually wrapped kishu ume costs about $30.

Another thing. Ume extract when applied to the skin, has been found to cure ringworms and athlete’s foot.

Some touted health benefits of umeboshi, including prevention of aging, purification of blood, vitalization and a preservative for food.

Hey, maybe that might account for the longevity of most Nisei.

We all grew up on umeboshi.

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All this furor over Arizona’s new law on illegal immigrants gives me a chuckle.

Do these people realize how much illegal immigrants are costing tax payers right here in California?

Hey, just what the heck is the definition of “illegal?”

I enjoyed Michelle Malkin’s column on the issue. Michelle writes for Creators Syndicate. Kind of curious why nobody has quoted her comments.

If I may, I’ll borrow her opening paragraph which tells it like it is. Here is Michelle’s analysis:

“Mexican President Felipe Calderon has accused Arizona of opening the door to intolerance, hate, discrimination and abuse in law enforcement. But Arizona has nothing on Mexico when it comes to cracking down on illegal aliens. While open-border activists decry new enforcement measures signed into law in ‘Nazi-zona’ last week, they remain deaf, dumb or willfully blind in the unapologetically restrictions policies of our neighbors to the south.”

Michelle also wrote: “Having traveled into Mexico last year to various cities on the Baja Peninsula, a distance of more than 1,000 miles round-trip, we were stopped more than 20 times at various checkpoints. At most of these stops, we were told to exit the vehicle and we were subjected to rigorous inspections. Where does Mexican President Felipe Calderon get off with his hypocritical outrage at our Senate Bill 1070?”

Too bad I can’t reprint Michelle’s story in its entirety.

Maybe some one on this side of the border will start a campaign to boycott Mexico as some states including California, is threatening to do to Arizona for their new illegal immigrant law.

Oh well, maybe I shouldn’t be so disturbed. Just go out to my backyard, sit in the shade and eat my musubi with umeboshi.

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By the way, according to some sources, the illegal immigrant community on the island of Maui is supposed to be rather large.

Mainly because of the type of labor required in the Island’s agricultural industry. However, now that Hawaiian Pine and Maui Pine have ceased operation, won’t this affect the immigrant community’s work force?
Hey, it’s not cheap living in the Island State to begin with.

In the Islands, the income needed to afford a two bedroom rental rose by nearly $3,000 to  $64,395 a year.

The figure was released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

That figure is $26,000 more than the national average.

Hawaii has led the coalition’s annual Out of Reach study since 2005.

Oh well, with the weather being what it is, it’s not that tough to live outdoors in the Islands.

That’s why many of the public parks are dotted with tents put up by the “homeless.”

Heck, just how many people even earn $64,395 a year in salary?

Well, maybe I think too much like a newspaper columnist.
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Hate to say, “I told you so,” but before the start of the Major League baseball season my prediction was that the Dodgers won’t be going anywhere this year.

My reason? No pitching.

Well, so far, my prediction seems to be holding up. Naturally as a Dodger fan, I hope I am wrong and the club begins to get some solid pitching.

The way they lost four straight this next week sure doesn’t make them look like contenders.

Well, I guessed I’ll be able to see them “live” this season.

I had mentioned that my “connection” for tickets to the Dodger games was snapped. Guess I talked too soon.

The connection was re-tied so I’ll be at the stadium for the next home stand, especially Friday night since they’ll be giving away UCLA caps.

Go Bruins. Oops, I mean, go Dodgers.
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She’s a blonde and a British marathoner. But her name is Mara Yamauchi who arrived in London for the marathon there just three days before the event.

She was training in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but when she prepared to leave for England, the airlines shut down due to the volcanic eruption in Iceland.

I don’t know how she finished in the race but the media kidded that she won the medal for most chaos endured and passport stamped.

It took the 36-year-old six days before she finally reached London.

Here’s how she finally got to London:

She flew to Denver from Albuquerque, then to Newark. When she couldn’t get a flight to Ireland, she got on a plane to Lisbon. From there, she took a taxi to Madrid.

When she couldn’t get a seat on a ferry, she rented a car and drove to Paris.

But when the Eurostar from Paris to London was fully booked, she took another taxi to the coastal town of Le Touquet and hopped on a propeller jet arranged by the marathon to Shoreham, England.
Yamauchi finally arrived in London by car.

“There were times when I thought I wouldn’t make it,” she told reporters at a news conference in London. “It’s been such a mental roller coaster.”

I’ll have to check to see how she did.

By the way, as I said, Yamauchi is British and a blonde. She married Shigetoshi Yamauchi, a Japanese.

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After I wrote about a new Japanese restaurant in Las Vegas called, “Sushi Riki,” in a recent column, my old friend, Rosie Kakuuchi, who is a resident of Vegas decided to give it a try.

I guess when one is a permanent resident and not just a casual visitor, finding a “new” Japanese eatery would be an experience.

Unfortunately, Rosie called to say that she went looking for the restaurant from the address printed, but couldn’t find it. In addition, she also looked in the Vegas phone book under restaurants and it was not listed.

Don’t know what more I can add.

Maybe I’d better try to get a hold of Grace Sakioka, who gave me the information on the new restaurant.

Sorry about the misinformation, Rosie. The next time I get up to Vegas, I’ll make up for my goof. I’ll treat you to breakfast at Denny’s. That’s one step above McDonald’s.

As oft stated in my ramblings, I always try to find a “Japanese angle” when putting together my column.

I figure that having a “Japanese angle” would make it a bit more interesting for the reading audience whom I assume are mainly Japanese Americans.

Well, when one of the top growers of Cuban cigars passed away recently, I thought I might mention that he was the founder of two of the most widely known brands of cigars, Cohiba and Hoyo de Monterey.

However, after some thought, I figured that just because I’m a cigar fan, mentioning the founder of the two top brands might draw some interest but decided, “Naw, non-cigar smokers probably never heard of Cohiba and Hoyo de Monterey.”

Then something caught my eyes.

That would be the person who will now take over Alejandro Robaina’s cigar empire. The new owner/operator is named Hiroshi.

Don’t know if he’s Japanese or not.  But if not, how did he come to be named Hiroshi?

Will have to check this out for sure. Hey, I can always use a box of Cohibas and maybe an interesting story on the new owner of the best-known cigar brand in the world.
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Those JAs who were interned in Heart Mountain and visited Montana from camp might get a giggle out of today’s rather short laugher. It’s entitled, “Fastest State Trooper Alive.” It goes:
In most of the United States, there is a policy of checking on any stalled vehicle on the highway when temperatures drop to single digits or below.

About 3 a.m. one very cold morning, Montana State Trooper Allan Nixon responded to a call that there was a car off the shoulder of the road outside Great Falls, Montana.

He located the car stuck in deep snow and with the engine still running.

Pulling behind the car with his emergency lights on, the trooper walked to the driver’s door to find an older man passed out behind the wheel with a nearly empty vodka bottle on the seat besides him.
The driver came awake when the trooper tapped on the window. Seeing the rotating lights in his rearview mirror and the trooper standing next to the car, the man panicked. He jerked the gearshift into drive and hit the gas.

The car’s speedometer was showing 20-30-40 and then 50 mph. But it was still stuck in the snow, wheels spinning.

Trooper Nixon, having a sense of humor began running in pace with the speeding (but stationary) car.

The driver was totally freaked, thinking the trooper was actually keeping up with him.

This goes on for about 30 seconds, then the trooper yelled, “Pull over!”

The man nodded, turned his wheel and stopped the engine. Needless to say, the man from Wyoming was arrested and is probably still shaking his head over the state trooper in Montana who could run 50 miles per hour.

Who says highway patrol officers don’t have a sense of humor?

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

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2 Comments

  1. Malkins experience in Baja Peninsula doesn’t compare to the new law in Arizona. Malkin was a foreign visiter, who was stopped at various check points do to the high rate of drug trafficing, so the government has these check points for this purpose.

    Arizona law, will not only require the police to check or ask for documentation of alleged “illegals”[what ever that means], but the law will also subject citizens to the same search and lead to possible abuse of the system since it is so broad. I’m a sixth generation Californian, and my ancestry has immigrants who came west on the trails passing through Ohio, and I’m a third generation on my father’s side of the family, but I would require a passport to visit Arizona in case I am stopped to prove my citizens ship. Joking aside, but the truth of the matter is that this new law targets people of color or those of Hispanic origin. It’s ironic, since many of the current people in Arizona are implants from some other state who came to Arizona for the warmer dryer climate for health reasons.

    So many of these people in Arizona get upset that people are not speaking English, well I hate to burst your bubble, but illegals can also speak English and wear red ties, they are not just the farmer with dirty boots. There are plenty of pale faces who are here illegally, but the people and their backers don’t care about them because these are white people who happen to speak English. I think American’s are getting more ignorant as time goes by because when you compare them to many other people in different countries, American’s can barely speak English themselves. Take a trip in America some where and you will see that their are plenty of American’s who can’t even speak proper English or use proper grammar, and my grammar isn’t that good either. Foreigners who do study English use better grammar than the American born, and many of them understand several different languages. I think it’s a shame that American children are being taught only English in schools today.

    Them white supremacist have it all wrong. This land is a diverse country and it always has been even before the Europeans came here.

  2. “Malkins experience in Baja Peninsula doesn’t compare to the new law in Arizona. Malkin was a foreign visiter, who was stopped at various check points do to the high rate of drug trafficing, so the government has these check points for this purpose.”

    A lot of the crime in Arizona comes from the drug traffic up from Mexico. You have just justified the reason for the law! Thank you!

    “Arizona law, will not only require the police to check or ask for documentation of alleged “illegals”[what ever that means], but the law will also subject citizens to the same search and lead to possible abuse of the system since it is so broad.”

    If you do not know what “illegals” means, then you need to find out before you criticize a law about “illegals.” Also, EVERY SINGLE LAW could lead to “possible abuse”. Your statement is based completely on speculation.

    “Joking aside, but the truth of the matter is that this new law targets people of color or those of Hispanic origin.”

    Read the law! There is no reference in the law to targeting people of color or those of Hispanic origin. Your statement has no foundation in fact.

    “It’s ironic, since many of the current people in Arizona are implants from some other state who came to Arizona for the warmer dryer climate for health reasons.”

    Please learn the definition or “irony”.

    “There are plenty of pale faces who are here illegally, but the people and their backers don’t care about them because these are white people who happen to speak English.”

    Funny! I never knew we had an illegal alien problem from Canada and England and Australia, etc. But the law targets ALL illegal aliens. All means All.

    “Take a trip in America some where and you will see that their are plenty of American’s who can’t even speak proper English or use proper grammar, and my grammar isn’t that good either.”

    Funny again! You are right!

    “I think it’s a shame that American children are being taught only English in schools today.”

    Uhhh…wait. If you say Americans can’t speak proper English, then it sounds like we need to teach MORE English, not teach another language. Let’s get our native language right before we try a second one.

    “This land is a diverse country and it always has been even before the Europeans came here.”

    Funny! So before Europeans, where was the diversity?

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