HORSE’S MOUTH: Now About Tenkara Fly Fishing


(First published in
The Rafu Shimpo on Tuesday, November 30)


My oldest son brought over five DVD discs of a movie entitled “Japanese Americans.” I’ve never heard or read about such a movie, but perhaps because it was produced in Japan. That in itself is rather unique. A Japanese production company making a film on Japanese Americans?

Well, each disc ran about 2 hours and 15 minutes, so I have viewed only four of them. That’s still about nine hours.

I’ll have to wait a couple of days to watch the finale.

The story line is about a Japanese man who immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1900s, landing in Washington. He began farming in Seattle and called over a “picture bride.” They raised four children who were identified as “Nisei.” However, since the film was produced in Japan, the “Nisei” characters spoke only Japanese in the film.

As the children were growing up, they faced racism from the white community, many of whom posted signs that read, “No Japs,” or “Japs go back to where you came from.”

After Dec. 7, 1941, the racism became worse with white kids trying to pick fights with the “Nisei” at the school they were attending.

Then the film moved on to the evacuation. The only technical flaw about this segment was that the family living in the Seattle area was sent to Manzanar.

From my recollection, I don’t think Japanese families living in the Seattle area were sent to Manzanar. All of them were sent to Minidoka in Idaho, Topaz in Utah and Heart Mountain in Wyoming.

There was a segment about the “No-no” questionnaire.

The parents in the story were centered around urging their sons to respond “No” to the two questions about the JAs’ loyalty to the U.S.

The son, who was of draft age, argued with his mother that he was an American and he would answer the call to service in the military if he were asked.

I guess my mother was the complete opposite. She advised me to answer “Yes-yes” to the two questions, so it wasn’t long before I was wearing an Army uniform.

The son in the film answered “Yes-yes” and he was soon in uniform.

He joined the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the film depicted him fighting with the 442nd as they fought to free the Lost Battalion from Texas.

He was killed in the Lost Battalion action and the film returned back to the Manzanar setting.

I presume that Disc 5 will focus on how the family responded to losing their son since they opposed his joining the Army.

I will follow up when I view the concluding disc.

I don’t know where the DVDs are available and as I said, all the speaking roles are in Japanese. However, if you have a “working knowledge” of Japanese, you’ll get the gist of what is being said.

My son’s Japanese now is limited, although when he was growing up, we lived in Japan and that’s the only language he used, but now he’s forgotten most of the language. Still, he understood what the film was all about.

He was intrigued by what we Nisei had to go through in the period following Pearl Harbor.

Well, enuff said.

Since I touched on living in Japan in the previous segment, a story about Ibaraki Prefecture caught my attention.

When I was living in Japan, I didn’t know anything about Ibaraki, which is about a two-hour car ride from Tokyo.

Well, it seems that film production companies from South Korea, China and the United States are interested in Ibaraki as a site for making movies.

At the moment, the Ibaraki office promoting filmmaking is courting the three countries. They will assist in the production of about 350 films a year. The prefectural office is backing the Ibaraki Film Commission.

The interest in Ibaraki by these countries is due to its ability to provide diverse location settings, including old-fashioned streets for historical dramas, the Showa-era atmosphere of the old prefectural buildings and Ibaraki’s natural environment.

Among the number of works by foreign film firms was the Hollywood production “Babel.”

Inviting foreign filmmakers involves some hurdles. Projects would be limited to those needing scenery unique to Japan.

Some of you may wonder why I’m touching on Ibaraki in the first place.

Well, although I stated I didn’t know beans about Ibaraki, I learned about it pretty quickly since my son’s wife is from that prefecture and after that, every trip to Japan included spending at least a week there.

My daughter-in-law’s father is a farmer and he grows “kuri.”

Maybe a U.S. film company might use his farm for a “location shooting,” and I could play the role of a “kuri” farmer.

That would be interesting.

I’m coming to the conclusion that I should cut back on accepting invitations to events that really aren’t “news events.”

That’s because after I agree to attend one event, another one that is more “newsy” is tossed in my lap.

An example?

Well, next Thursday they are holding a gathering for Prof. Hitoshi Abe, who will be director of UCLA’s Japan Studies Center.

As the person who extended me the invitation wrote, “I know you are interested in Japan, so I thought you might want to meet a UCLA professor who is teaching about Japan.”

Yes. I would, but since I’m committed to another event, my calendar is getting overloaded.

Hopefully, I’ll get another chance to meet Prof. Abe.

Gosh, in glancing at my calendar, I can’t believe that in a couple of days, we’ll be in December.

I know I always say it at this time of the year, but it seems like only yesterday that we were sending out Christmas cards in 2009.

Where did the time fly so quickly?

I guess most of the time I keep track of the calendar by how often I visit Las Vegas.

Well, I’m planning a short trip next week.

I’m sure my favorite slot machine is asking, “Where in the heck is that big loser?”

Heh, heh.

Since the Rafu from time to time runs stories about JAs whose favorite pastime is fishing, there are probably readers who are interested in this story about a Japanese form of fly fishing that is catching on in the U.S.

This is the story: Misako Ishimura waded knee-deep into the current, the water temperature perfect for swimming and soothing relief from the afternoon sun. But, Ishimura, 58, had other things on her mind as she swept her rod back and flicked the line upstream in a controlled, gentle cast. The soft-hackle fly dropped into the surface and drifted near a rock undercut.

A shiver vibrated up the line and the petite Ishimura leaned back with her rod and brought up a scrappy longear sunfish. From a distance it looked as if she were fly fishing in the usual style, but the long, supple rod had no reel and the line did not run through ferrules. The line was knotted at the very tip and the rod formed a direct connection between her and the fish.

This is the essence of tenkara, a form of Japanese fly fishing that has begun to attract anglers in the U.S.

The name “tenkara” is thought to mean “from the sky” or “from  heaven,” which may describe the situation from a trout’s point of view – a mayfly gently touches down on a cold water stream, a free lunch from above.

To the angler, the mayfly is an imitation on a hook and an effective and intimate way to connect with the fish.

Tenkara is simply a rod, a line and a hook. The cork-handled rod telescopes down to the size of a lightweight baton for easy transport. Uncapped, it extends to 11 or 13 feet. On the delicate rod tip is a braided nub onto which the leader is tied, usually a rod’s length of furled monofilament and tippet. The fly can be anything the angler wants to use.

Tenkara history can be traced back more than 400 years when Japanese anglers caught cherry trout out from the swirls of pocket water with unsplit bamboo rods tipped with horsehair tied to a simple fly pattern.

Ishimura is a Japanese citizen with permanent residency in the U.S., but grew up in Osaka.

So now, many Nisei and Sansei trout-fishing enthusiasts may be applying Ishimura’s trout-fishing technique.

As I always top off stories like this, I will add my usual “Naru-hodo.”

(Expressing a realization that something is so.)

Have any of you ever head of an “air car”?

I have no idea what it is, but the “air car” is moving towards actual production in at least 14 nations. But, the U.S. is way behind the curve.

The home base for MDI in France, where the “air car” is being manufactured, is swamped with orders but America will have to wait.

It was reported that the “air car” would be available in major cities in the U.S. last month but that has been moved back six months. The U.S. will get the new cars but we have to get in line.

When the new cars are available in major cities in the U.S., one of the first ones to be driving it might be Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who has been offered a test drive in the new vehicle.

Maybe I can get a test ride with Mike.

I know from time to time, I jest about taking my wife to McDonald’s if I have a good day at the race track or in The Cal casino in Vegas.

Well, maybe one has to have just such a day if the hamburger joint is Umami Burgers in Los Angeles.

The burgers served at Umami are flavored with glutamate and other natural food elements captured in a medium-rare burger sandwiched between in a toasted brioche bun.

The price? Would you believe  $10? Of course, they also toss in an order of tempura onion rings.

Umami is located at 850 La Brea Ave.

Yeah. I know. “Uma” is Japanese for horse.

I’ll just stick to Big Mac.

When my in-laws from Northern California visit, I usually drive them around Los Angeles and tell them, “Sorry for the rough ride.” That’s because I conclude that the streets of our city are in bad shape.

Their response is, “You don’t know what bad streets are all about in L.A.”

And, maybe, they’re right.

Just saw a survey that ranks San Jose as having the worst streets in the U.S. Well, I’m not that far off in thinking we have bad streets.

Los Angeles ranks second.

And I’ll bet you won’t guess which city ranks third?

Yup. Good old Honolulu. That kid of surprised me, though.

San Francisco ranks fourth and  San Diego, seventh.

Bump, bump, bump.

In recent times, my physician always reminds me, “You gotta walk more.”

My thought to his advice is, “Gee, at my age, four blocks is all my legs can last.”

However, I was kind of inspired to take his advice when I read about Miki Gorman.

Remember her? She was the first woman to win the New York City and Boston marathons.

She was born Michiko Suwa in 1935 to Japanese parents living in China. After World War II, they moved back to Tokyo.

“We were so poor and hungry,” she said in a recent interview.

With no bus or bikes to ride to school, she walked miles every day. Well, since she was born in 1935, that makes her 75. She still runs 18 to 20 miles a week.

And I complain about walking four blocks a day?

Although her accomplishment as a marathon runner gained her fame, she said she is proudest of having left Japan with only $10 in her pocket and surviving.

She said she still has her original passport with her and now lives very comfortably, and she is really proud of that.


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 Comment

  1. Very interested in where George Yoshinaga’s (Horse’s Mouth) son got the Japanese Americans DVD set. Want to get a copy. I read his column when ever I can as my mother in-lax subscribes to the Rafu.

    Oh, by the way, the reversal of your ATM password does not work per SNOPES, in an emergency.

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