HORSE’S MOUTH: Nothing Like Old Friends

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By GEORGE YOSHINAGA

(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on June 29, 2010)

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When the phrase “old friend” is used, it usually refers to a person one has known for many years.

For the Nisei generation, with the passing of time, “old friend” can now refer to the age of the individual. This thought came to mind the other day when I received phone calls from “old friends,” Nisei, both in terms of years known and physical age.

They called because in a previous column I mentioned that I might miss a column this week because I was scheduled to go to the hospital and as “old friends” they wanted to wish me well.

One of them, Tak Hamano of Umeya vCompany, fills both categories of “old friend.” It’s been so many years that I’ve known him I’ve forgotten how we originally met.

Then there was one call from far-off Las Vegas, “old friend,” Rosie Kakuuchi, who always takes my wife and me to breakfast when we visit Vegas.

Thanks for your concern and best wishes.

“Speaking of “old friends,” Supervisor Mike Antonovich, whom I refer to with this phrase, invited me to the “Family Music Festival” held in San Dimas this past Sunday.

San Dimas is another area of Southern California that I’ve never had an occasion to visit so I left early for the festival figuring I’d get lost. It’s not that far from Gardena, probably about 40 miles.

However, after driving to San Dimas, I realized how large Mike’s 5th Supervisory District really is.

I’ve gone to some events hosted by Mike in Lancaster which is on the northern border of his 5th District.

When you calculate the distance between Lancaster and San Dimas, it’s almost mind boggling on how many square miles the 5th District covers.

Mike is someone I can refer to as a “family man.” No matter the event, he is always accompanied by his wife and two children. His wife is such a charming person. Even if the event attracts a lot of VIPs, she never fails to come over to say “Hello” and even gives my wife and me a hug.

It gives us a warm feeling of being welcomed.

The Music Festival was celebrating its 20th anniversary and the turnout was really impressive, which means, of course, that parking was a problem, especially with my “senior legs” which can’t walk more than a few blocks.

However, since I had a VIP parking pass, it wasn’t that much of a chore, even for an old man like me.

While in an “elderly” mode, friend Iku Kiriyama sent me an e-mail under the title, “Traffic Collision Scam Targeting Elderly Drivers.”  It reads:

“On Wednesday, June 23 at about 1 p.m., the Torrance Police Dept. received a call from a local bank. One of their customers (a JA) was making a cash withdrawal and had related to the teller it was to pay for damages resulting from a minor traffic collision even though she did not realize she had hit the other vehicle. The bank staff recognized this could possibly be a scam and contacted the police immediately.

“Once on the scene, the officers were able to detain the suspects and make contact with the victim. The victim related she was backing out of her parking stall near Trader Joe’s at 19720 Hawthorne Blvd., when she saw the suspect vehicle stop behind her. The male and female in the vehicle were waving their arms at her in an attempt to get her attention. The suspects told her she had struck their vehicle while exiting the parking stall. When the victim offered to call the police to have a report made, the suspects stated they had bad experiences with the police and were willing to just take cash to fix the car. One of the suspects made a phone call and told the victim it would cost $725 for a new fender. The suspects told the victim they were willing to follow her to the bank so she could make the withdrawal, if she did not have the cash on her.

“The victim agreed to the suspects’ demand and drove to her bank with the suspects following her in their vehicle.

Investigators at the scene proved no collision had occurred and the suspects were simply trying to take advantage of the elderly victim.

The suspects’ vehicle is a bronze Toyota Matrix, 4-door hatchback with “Toyota of Hollywood” plates.

“If anyone has information on this type of crime, they are urged to contact Detective Gomez of the Torrance Police Dept. at (310) 618-5529.”

Thanks, Iku. There are a lot of elderly JA motorists living in the South Bay Area so they may be a lot more alert if something like this happens to them.

As I note from time to time, I don’t think my writing appeals to everyone. And some readers don’t mind sending me a letter to express their displeasure with my column.

Recently a reader named, Toshikatsu Nakamura wrote to me in which he said, “I read your column even though I find it bland and boring. Most of the stuff in the Rafu is boring and far from stimulating.”

Need I say more about the reader’s analysis of my writing?

(Maggie’s comment: Never mind, Mr. Y. Nakamura’s letter is a perfect example of what I meant regarding letters sent to us by reader(s).

Another letter. This one from reader Michiko Washlow who wrote:

“Back in April 10, 2010, you wrote that a George Taniguchi was interested in finding any Nisei that was in Japan before WWII and I responded that I was there and I have a group photo of Nisei taken before the war.

“Later in your issue of May 1, you mentioned that Taniguchi of Illinois had written to you on another subject matter. Is he the same person that had written you earlier? If so, I would like to send him a copy of the group photo and would like his address, but you may feel you cannot give me his address. In that case, I would like to mail the photo to you and you can forward it to him.”

Thanks for your letter, Michiko. Since George Taniguchi is a subscriber to the Rafu and reads my column, I am sure he will respond and if he says, “OK,” I’ll give you his address.

Okay, let’s turn from sour to sweet. In this case, King’s Hawaiian bread.

Many years ago, when I made my first trip to Hawaii, a friend took me out for lunch and one of the things he recommended to me was King’s Hawaiian bread. I kind of chuckled and said, “You’re recommending bread to me, what about the main course?”

He explained that he always recommends King’s bread to people making their first trip to the Island.

Okay, so I followed his suggestion and ordered the bread before the entree. Needless to say, I became a fan of King’s bread that day.

Unfortunately, when I returned to the Mainland, I checked around and learned that King’s bread wasn’t sold anywhere but in the Islands.

Well in 1970, the owner of King’s, Mark Taira, purchased a property in Torrance and began producing their product in the Southern California area.

Since King’s is a business owned by a Japanese American family, I often wondered why no stories had been written about the company. Well, wonder no more.

The Daily News, June 21, 2010, printed a feature story on the company, covering two pages complete with a quarter page colored photo of owner Taira.

King’s bread is now sold throughout the U.S. and in military commissaries overseas.

Those who live in the South Bay area are familiar with their factory on Western Ave., next to the 405 Freeway and their “Local Place” bakery a few blocks away.

Of course, the restaurant on Sepulveda in Torrance simply named “King’s” is a popular eatery for JAs and former Island residents living on the Mainland.

They sell their bakery products at the restaurant so I always pick up some baked goods when I dine at King’s.

The good news for the Torrance area is that King‘s employs 450 workers at their three sites.

Recently, the San Jose International Airport called the Norm Mineta Airport, honoring the former Congressman from the San Jose area, expanded its facility by adding a new terminal.

In the publicity photo about the facility expansion, half a dozen passengers were pictured smiling at the new facility. And, guess what? Those in the photo were Japanese Americans.

Is there a connection between the photo and Mineta International Airport?

Just curious.

Speaking of San Jose, I was kind of surprised to see that the city was ranked 10th in population in the U.S. That means they moved up one notch because they were 11th in 2009.

Needless to say, New York City is No. 1, followed by Los Angeles.

Yes, San Jose is ranked ahead of San Francisco, which is in the No. 12 slot.

Las Vegas? Sin City is ranked 28th which moved from 33 in 2009.

Surprisingly (at least to me) was that Honolulu didn’t make the top 35.

Oh well, maybe too many from Honolulu moved to Las Vegas.

A number of readers get bent out of shape when I wrote something negative about the so-called female golfer, Michelle Wie. Actually, I don’t think my comments on Wie are really negative.

It’s more like wondering why she gets so much media attention when she really hasn’t accomplished that much.

In the last two tournaments, Wie finished lower than the Sansei from Monterey, Mina Harigae, but following the last tournament, the former Hawaiian phenom had a quarter page story headlined, “Still Student of Game, Wie Looks to Make Major Grade.”

Harigae? Not even one word.

Well, maybe if Harigae gets a little lucky and finishes near the top, some of the media may begin to wonder, “Where did she come from?”

In the meanwhile, we’ll just have to keep reading about Wie.

There was a story in a recent New York Times which featured an American living in New York City, who “collects” Japanese slot machines known as “pachislos.”

At first glance, I figured that it was misspelled and it should be “pachinko.” Nope, it’s pachislos which was developed at the “pachinko” machine.

In fact, the place where the Japanese play the “pachislos” slots are still called “pachinko parlors.”

Although gambling is illegal in Japan, those who play the “pachislos” machine collect their winnings in tokens, which can be traded for merchandise. A way the “pachinko parlors” get around the antigambling law.

The American who collects the Japanese slot machines, discovered them when he was stationed in Japan as a serviceman and decided to start a collection. He now has 33 machines in his New York apartment.

The reason I took an interest in this story is that I have a pachinko machine in my garage. I don’t know why, but when I was living in Japan, someone gave me a pachinko machine and when I decided to move back to Los Angeles, I said, “What the heck, I’ll just toss it in with the rest of my baggage,” and brought it back.

Nope. I don’t use it. It’s just gathering dust.

Hey, maybe there’s someone out there who might want to take it off my hands. And, if such a person might slip me a couple of bucks, I can toss it in a real slot machine in Vegas. Heh, heh.

Earlier, when I mentioned going to a music festival, I also tossed in a bit about the city of Lancaster. Maybe as one who likes to chew on cigars, I might consider spending more time in the Antelope Valley city.

The reason is simple. Lancaster leads all Southern California cities in the number of smokers. The least number of smokers? Malibu.

Even if I don’t light up the cigar, it’s getting tougher and tougher just to chew on it without someone making a nasty comment.

Last week with nothing to do, my wife and I drove down to one of the Indian casinos. The one we went to has a “No Smoking” section for those who are against smoking.

However, in the smoking area, there are ashtrays placed between the slot machines which should advise nonsmokers that it’s permissible to light up.

Well, I sat next to a lady with my unlit stogie and immediately, she gave me a dirty look. I tried to ignore her, but she looked at me and said, “I hope you are not going to light that (f-word) cigar.”

It took me by surprise but I didn’t want to get in an argument with her so I just moved.

And guess what, a few moments later, she walked by and gave me another dirty look.

“That’s it,” I thought to myself. And, I took out a match and did light up.

Another flurry of dirty words. Well, at least she didn’t call me a “stupid Jap.”

Don’t egg me on.

Well, I had to find a way to jump into the next segment of this column.

One Nisei wrote to tell me that when he was growing up, he was told by his parents (Issei, I presume) that brown eggs were better than white eggs especially when used on freshly cooked white rice.

I had heard that theory, too.

However, a so-called expert on food and nutrition wrote: “Brown eggs and white eggs are the same. The brown hue of the shell is the only thing that separates them. The only thing is that the hens that lay brown eggs are generally larger, therefore, eat more feed, increasing the cost of care of the birds. So brown eggs might be a bit more expensive, although brown eggs and white eggs are the same size.”

A spokesman for the American Egg Board says that the color of the shell has no connection to the egg’s flavor or nutritional value. Brown-shelled eggs cook the same as white eggs.

Speaking of an egg over white rice, I was not aware that all rice used to make sushi in the U.S. is grown in the Sacramento River Valley, where the snowmelt and the region’s warm days and cool nights create ideal conditions for the medium and short-gained varieties preferred by sushi chefs.

As I recall, one of the major rice growers in the area was the Koda Brothers farm.

When “Japanese restaurants” first began serving sushi in California, sushi chefs struggled to find the right rice. At first, the quality wasn’t there but all changed in 1960.

As I always toss in the phrase, “naru hodo.”

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

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