That was a nice story on the front page of Tuesday’s Rafu about Medal of Honor recipient Barney Hajiro, who passed away at the age of 94.
I heard a lot about Hajiro over the years because he was born in the tiny village of Puunene on the island of Maui.
In fact, he was born and raised in a plantation labor camp called McGerrow Camp, where my wife’s family also lived.
And each year, former McGerrow Camp residents who moved to California hold a reunion, and since my wife is a member of the group, I have attended the gathering over the years.
One of the topics that usually come up at the gathering is the story of Hajiro. The group was so proud of him and the recognition he received for his bravery with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during battle in Europe during World War II.
I’m sure with his passing, his friends’ stories from McGerrow Camp will be the main topic.
The reunion will be held on the Memorial Day weekend at a home in Torrance.
There was a time that there were so many attendees, the event was held at a park. However, with the passing of time, most of the attendees are now in their mid-80s to 90s, so I guess it’s expected that the numbers keep shrinking.
At any rate, my personal salute to Barney Hajiro.
In a recent column I wrote about a club we organized during our stay at Heart Mountain and how only seven of the members of the “Jackrabbits” are left from the original 21 in the club.
Well, I was informed by reader Paul Sugihara, who sent me an e-mail informing me that Warren Isa, one of the remaining “Rabbits,” has passed away. That means there are now only six remaining.
Seems like every year presents interesting numbers. So how do you like this one about 2011? This year we will experience four unusual dates.
They are: 1-1-11, 1-11-11, 11-1-11 and 11-11-11.
Isn’t it amazing how people can come up with things like this? How many more years must pass to come up with numbers like these?
The Japanese American community of San Jose is holding its 31st annual “Day of Remembrance” on Sunday, Feb. 20 at the Buddhist Church in San Jose’s Japantown.
The event is to recognize the anniversary of Executive Order 9066, which led to the evacuation of 120,000 people of Japanese descent.
They gather to remember that civil liberties tragedy of over 68 years ago and reflect on what the event means today.
The one thing I gathered from the news release on the event is that one of the issues to be discussed is the comparison between what happened to the Japanese Americans and what is happening to the Muslim community in the present era.
I might be alone in my feelings that the issues between JAs and the Muslims can’t be compared.
At the start of World War II against Japan, many felt that JAs were a threat to the U.S., but this was completely fabricated by those racists who really didn’t understand the Issei and Nisei generations.
This was eventually brought to light with not a single incident of sabotage or anti-American sentiments being displayed by Japanese Americans.
On the other hand, we’ve already had 9/11, which launched a terrorist threat in the U.S.
I rest my case.
Since this is still January of the new year, I thought I would print a news release headed, “Goodbye 2010/Hello 2011.”
It was sent to me by Don Nose, president of the Go For Broke National Educational Center. Hopefully, the Rafu editorial section doesn’t also print the article, but what the heck, we’ve doubled up a few times over the years. Here is Nose’s letter:
”2010 was a year of challenge and transition at the Go For Broke National Education Center.
“Our organization kept on its mission throughout the year, thanks to the leadership of Michael Ozawa, chairman of the board; Stephanie Uchida-Lee, chief operating officer; as well as the dedication and hard work of our board of directors, staff, veterans and volunteers.
“We begin 2011 in a much better place. The economic downturn appears to have bottomed out and our organization is poised to expand its education and outreach programs.
“Now in my fifth week at GFBNEC, I am even more excited about the programs and events that we will be working on in the months ahead. Many of our initiatives are already under way, such as our research with the Center for Military History to collect the oral stories of MIS Nisei linguists who served during the occupation of Japan. Other educational initiatives, including our new classroom videos and web-based projects, will be unveiled this spring.
“So, as we say goodbye to 2010, I give you my pledge of open-door transparency and timely communication. We are restarting our monthly e-Torch online newsletter and efforts are already under way on the next Torch print newsletter with a goal of bringing you timely photos and insights (and sometimes just a good laugh) about our education and oral history programs, events, building plans and other issues of interest to our supporter community.
“Thank you for believing in the mission of the Go For Broke National Education Center. Working together, we will continue to spread the story of the unstoppable spirit of Go For Broke.”
Thanks, Don. Hopefully I can contribute to the story about the Nisei who served with the occupation of Japan, as I was in the ranks of those who participated in the occupation.
Crime seems to be occupying most of the TV news broadcasts in the L.A. area.
With the committing of the criminal acts, the TV station often runs photos of the suspects or an artist’s portrait of the suspect based on descriptions provided by the victims.
I’m not sure how effective these photos and portraits are in eventually capturing the suspects.
I mean, how easy is it for a suspect to have plastic surgery done to escape capture?
Well, there was a story out of Japan in which a murder suspect avoided capture for two years by performing plastic surgery on himself.
You read that right. He performed his own plastic surgery on his face.
It made it possible to avoid arrest for two years, as he moved from city to city in Japan.
The suspect, Tatsuya Ichihashi, was accused of murdering a teacher, Lindsay Ann Hawker, from England.
How did he perform the surgery?
Well, he cut off his lower lip with scissors and dug two moles out of his cheek with a box cutter.
Would you believe that he wrote a book while on the run, detailing how he changed his appearance?
A Tokyo newspaper printed before-and-after photos of Ichihashi, which really showed the difference in appearance.
He admitted that he had to quit cutting himself up because of the excruciating pain. He began wearing a surgical mask, which many Japanese do to escape pollution.
He was eventually captured and now may face the death penalty.
I wonder how many criminal suspects in the U.S. ever thought about performing surgery on themselves, especially with scissors and box cutters?
While we are cruising around Japan, those of you who visit the country know that there are more smokers there than in the U.S.
This may be changing, however, slowly.
The Japanese government has raised taxes on cigarettes to a level that is making a lot of smokers try to quit. Many smokers can’t afford the cost of the cigarettes and the new higher taxes.
Of course, this is helping Pfizer, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, which makes the leading drug to help smokers break the habit.
Unfortunately, however, Pfizer is running out of the anti-smoking drug in Japan.
At any rate, 14 percent of smokers in Japan have quit smoking, with or without Pfizer’s drug.
Pfizer was selling its drug to 70,000 Japanese per month.
What has upset Japanese smokers is that Pfizer had a year to prepare for the surge in demand following the rise in the cost of smoking in their country.
Strange, I never heard about Pfizer’s drug in the U.S., where smoking bans are growing in most cities.
Oh well, I guess if all I do is chew on cigars, I won’t have to worry about the non-smoking movement.
By the way, the rise in cigarette taxes in Japan is 1,000 yen. In U.S. money, that’s more than 10 bucks. That’s just the tax. I don’t know how much the cigarettes cost, but I would guess it’s about 1,500 yen. That would bring a pack of cigarettes to about 25 bucks.
No wonder a lot of Japanese are quitting. Most of them smoke a little more than a pack a day, from what I observed when I lived in Japan.
Since fellow Rafu columnist J.K. Yamamoto asked a question about me in his writing in the Wednesday edition, I thought I would respond today.
J.K. was writing about movies filmed in the late ’50s and early ’60s. He wrote that one that comes to mind was “The Crimson Kimono” (1959).
He wrote in one part of his column, “One interesting footnote is that Internet Movie Database lists George Yoshinaga as an actor playing Willy Hidaka. It also says an actor named Bob Okazaki played a character named George Yoshinaga. Assuming that George Yoshinaga the actor is the same guy who writes for the Rafu, perhaps he could clear this up.”
Well, I’ll make a short story long so I can fill this column. It goes like this, J.K.
When Sam Fuller decided to make the film, he knew a lot of the scenes would be filmed in Little Tokyo.
So he came to the Kashu Mainichi, where I was working, to ask if I knew anyone he could hire to help set up the filming in J-Town.
Naturally I said, “I’m familiar with Little Tokyo, can I volunteer?”
I was hired with the title “technical adviser.”
So I took leave from Kashu and began working at 20th Century Fox studio, the home base of Fuller’s operation.
One of the first jobs I had was looking for Japanese American “bit players” for minor roles in the film.
Fuller said, “Well, George, as long as you’re going to be on the set, I have a role for you to play.”
Thus, George Yoshinaga became Willy Hidaka.
And when another Japanese American character was needed, Fuller asked me if he could use my name for the role.
Thus, Bob Okazaki became George Yoshinaga.
One of the toughest jobs I had as a “technical adviser” was lining up about 100 JAs to perform as ondo dancers for the Nisei Week Parade, which was one of the major scenes in “Crimson Kimono.”
Needless to say, I got a lot of my friends to be “bit players” in the film.
The Nisei Week Parade was filmed on what was then known as Weller Street.
Another difficult part of my position in the film was getting business and shop owners in Little Tokyo to approve filming in front of their place of business.
Many said that their business would be hurt by the camera crews and others connected with the filming, crowding the sidewalks.
When the filming ended, Fuller said he might hire me for other films he was considering, but I rejected his offer.
I went back to the old newspapering grind.
By the way, “Crimson Kimono” had its world premiere at a theater in San Francisco. I’m not sure why Fuller decided on the Bay Area city, but it did draw a lot of attention up there.
Yeah, I got a free trip to participate in the premiere.
So that’s the story of Willie Hidaka (George Yoshinaga), J.K.
Needless to say, my performance as an actor was never an Oscar threat.
One good thing about my participation was that I became good friends with James Shigeta, the lead actor in the film.
Since I had surgery on my shoulder, I can’t wear a seatbelt when I’m either driving or sitting in a car as a passenger. However, since I don’t want a traffic cop to stop me for violating the seatbelt law, I just throw it over my arms and it looks like I am wearing a seatbelt. So far, I’ve escaped without being pulled over.
I did get a letter from my physician explaining my situation in case I do get stopped, anyway.
I don’t know how effective the letter will be or if the traffic cop will understand my situation.
This kind of reminds me of a little piece I read in one of the papers the other day.
It went like this: “I was driving my car with three young children on a warm summer evening when a women in a convertible ahead of us stood up and waved. She was stark naked. As I was reeling from the shock, I heard my 5-year-old shout from the back seat, ‘Look, Mom, that lady isn’t wearing a seatbelt.’ ”
Heh, heh. Maybe she had shoulder surgery.
I’m not sure why, but I noticed the other day that mushrooms were sprouting up on our front lawn.
One of my sons asked me if it might be okay to pick them and have them for dinner. They sure look edible.
How do I know a good mushroom from one that might be poison?
Well, when I was growing up on a farm, we used to have mushrooms popping up all over the place. So we would pick them and bring them back to the house.
My mother would look them over, and one by one she picked a few and tossed out a few. She said the ones she threw away were dangerous to eat.
I don’t know to this day how she knew the good ones from the bad ones because they all looked alike to me, just like the ones now growing on our front lawn.
I told my son we’d better stick to McDonald’s.
Well, you can title today’s laugher “Yonsei Giggles.”
Two Yonsei businessmen in Little Tokyo were sitting down for a break in their soon-to-be-new store on East First Street and San Pedro.
As of yet, the store wasn’t ready, with only a few shelves set up.
One said to the other, “I bet any minute now some old Nisei is going to walk by, put his face in the window and ask what we’re selling.”
No sooner were the words out of his mouth when, sure enough, a curious senior Nisei walked to the window, had a peek and in a soft voice asked, “What are you selling here?”
One of the Yonsei replied sarcastically, “We’re selling assholes.”
Without skipping a beat, the old Nisei said, “And a fine job you’re doing. Only two left.”
Don’t mess with old Nisei men.
Well that one was kind of short, so to eat up more space, try this one:
This little girl gets a new puppy and wants to take her for a walk really bad, so she goes into the kitchen and asks her mother, “Mommy, can I take the puppy for a walk, please?”
“Honey, it’s not a good idea. She’s in heat.”
When the girl looks confused, Mom says quickly, “Go ask your father. He’s in the garage.”
So the little girl finds her dad. “Daddy, Mommy says the puppy is in heat and to ask you if I can take for her a walk.”
The dad looks around, grabs a rag and a gas can to put a little gas on the rag, then pats it on the puppy.
“Okay, now you can take her for walk.”
When the girl comes home with no puppy, the dad asks, “Where’s the puppy?”
She answers, “She ran out of gas and the other dogs are pushing her home.” Heh, heh.
A guy has just fallen from the roof. His blonde wife comes after hearing the big thump and asks if he’s okay.
The guy tells her to call 911. So she starts screaming, “Does anyone know the number for 911?”
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.