HORSE’S MOUTH: Sayonara to Two Dear Friends


(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on March 15, 2011.)


It’s been a tough week with all the tragic news about the earthquake and tsunami pouring in from Japan.

Adding to the sadness was receiving a message from Kay Miyagishima that an old friend, Naomi Kashiwabara, passed away last week.

After Naomi moved to San Diego many years ago, we didn’t get to meet as we often did when he was resident in the Los Angeles area, although he would drop me a letter every now and then about something I wrote in my column.

At any rate, Kay sent the following “in memoriam” message on Naomi:

“Last month on the day of the American Legion Sadao Munemori Post 321 meeting, a message was received that Naomi Kashiwabara had passed away. Naomi was by far the most generous contributor to thepPost’s Lincoln High School scholarship fund. Before retiring, he worked as a research scientist for the U.S. Navy Lab in San Diego.

“Here is a eulogy in memory of Naomi by post member Terry Hosaka, his lifelong friend: ‘Naomi passed away from heart failure. He was one of the most ardent supporters of our Post, a World War II veteran and a friend I’ve known practically since I was born, he being 8 years older and from the same small two-block street in the shadows of the Angels Flight trolley over the Third Street Tunnel in downtown Los Angeles. He was a “brain” who went to Cal Tech after Belmont High School pre-WWII.

“ ‘After the war, he graduated from Cal Tech and even got a master’s degree from UCLA. He relocated to Rohwer, Arkansas relocation camp and I didn’t see him until meeting him one day at the PX at the Presidio of Monterey Army Language School, where he was getting out and I was getting ready to go to Japan. After I got out of service, I met his wife Emiko-san and his mother a few times in San Diego and kept in touch over the years with his familiar “Hey Hosaka” on the phone whenever he wanted to talk to me.

“ ‘I told him about efforts to honor Sadao Munemori, the first Japanese American Medal of Honor recipient, at Sadao’s alma mater, Lincoln High School, and the problems we encountered. Naomi listened to me and said he will help us monetarily, and he did to the end, enabling the post to assist the high school ROTC unit with a yearly scholarship.’ ”

Thanks to Kay for his tribute to my friend, Naomi.

It was a tough week, as I said.

Right after getting the news about Naomi’s passing, I learned that another old friend, Tug Tamaru, left us last week.

I met Tug back in 1948 when I became a resident at the old Gakusei-kai student house where he was residing.

He was one of three students among the residents who owned a car. The rest of us had to rely on the city buses to get anywhere we had to go.

So on weekends, Tug would drive a bunch of us to different areas where we could have breakfast or lunch.

The Gakusai-kai had a cook who prepared breakfast, lunch or dinner for the students but he didn’t work on weekends, so Tug’s car provided the transportation we needed to move around the city.

After graduating from USC, Tug became the head of an L.A. city department, a position he held for many years.

The last time I saw him was when we sat at the same table at the “Evening of Aloha” dinner three years ago. We were both guests of Taro Uchizono at the veterans’ dinner.

Both Tug and Taro grew up in Brawley, so they were lifelong friends.

So, sadly, it’s time to say “sayonara” to a couple of old buddies.

A little added tidbit on the earthquake in Japan.

My wife tried to call her sister’s home in Fukushima Prefecture after hearing about the problems they were having with the nuclear plant there and about everyone within the area of the plant being evacuated.

Like many JAs who have been trying to contact friends and relatives in the quake-stricken area, my wife had no luck.

The operator in Japan would come on the line and say, “All phone service is not functioning.”

So, she’ll keep trying.

I guess since the tragic quake with so many people left homeless, we may see a growth in Japanese immigrating to the U.S.

With cities leveled and no place to go, moving to the U.S. might be an alternative for many of the displaced Japanese.

In recent times, the Japanese have not been moving elsewhere. This is especially true with college students. There was a time when Japanese college students could be found at many U.S. colleges and universities. Not anymore.

In the ranking of foreign students in the U.S., Japan isn’t on the list. China leads all foreign nations with 128,000 students attending U.S. schools, followed by India, South Korea, Canada and Taiwan. Taiwan has 27,000 students in the U.S.

Okay, it’s time to move on…

How many of you have heard about the “five-second rule?”

It’s one that says that if you drop food you are eating, it’s safe to pick it up and continue to eat it if the food hasn’t been on the floor more than five seconds.

Ugh. Now I find out that the statement is completely false.

I say “ugh” because a lot of times I would accidentally drop a cigar I’ve been chewing on and after I heard about the five-second rule, I would stick the stogie back in my mouth.

Dr. Roy Gulick, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, says eating dropped food poses a risk for ingestion of bacteria and subsequent gastrointestinal disease, and the time the food sits on the floor does not change the risk.

In general, there are bacteria on the floor and they will cling to the food nearly immediately on contact.

Factors that influences the risk of and the rate of bacterial transfer include the type of floor, the type of food, the type of bacteria, and how long the bacteria have been on the floor.

Researchers found that bacteria are transferred immediately and there was no difference by the time of contact. Carpets transferred a smaller amount of bacteria, but no difference by the time of contact.

Okay, I guess the next time I drop my cigar on the floor, I’ll just have to toss it away.

I guess I’ve been lucky because I haven’t contacted any virus or any other disease chewing on a soggy cigar butt after dropping it on the floor.

It’s no secret that China has moved ahead of Japan in the production and sales of products.

Well, move over some more, Japan.

China is now building electric cars that they will be selling in the U.S. by the end of this year. Sales in California will begin this year and they expect to sell 10,000 to 14,000 vehicles in the first 12 months.

Nissan Motors’ Leaf was the first all-electric car sold in the U.S. back in December 2010.

The Chinese automaker began testing its car in Los Angeles last December.

Oh, before I forget, I should add the following:

The many stories on the current situation in Japan have brought out a lot of information most of us were probably unaware of.

One is that the Japanese American population in the Torrance/Gardena area is the largest of any other region in the U.S., including Hawaii.

This was brought out in the South Bay Daily Breeze newspaper, which printed a story about JAs trying to make contact with friends and relatives in Japan via telephone or e-mail.

Because of the huge JA population in the South Bay, the news story said that the phone company was overwhelmed by the number of people trying to contact Japan.

The figures on the large JA population were based on the last census returns.

The story did not reveal what the JA population in the area was, but if it’s the largest in the U.S., the figure must be a little mind-boggling.

Here’s a bit of news that we may find a little disturbing:

While Asian Americans (including JAs) are widely viewed as “model minorities” on the basis of education, income and competence, they are not perceived as more ideal than Caucasian Americans when it comes to attaining leadership roles in U.S. business.

In a groundbreaking study at UC Riverside, researchers found that race trumps other salient characteristics, such as one’s occupation, regarding perception of who is a good leader.

Asian Americans represent approximately 5 percent of the U.S. population and are projected to account for 9 percent of the population by 2050. However, they account for only .3 percent of corporate board officers — less than one percent.

This study is the first on Asian Americans and perception of leadership and may explain why fewer Asian Americans advance to senior positions of leadership than their education, experience and competence would suggest.

A spokesman said, “We’ve been taught that if you have greater education, skill and experience, you will succeed. That falls apart when it comes to Asian Americans.”

The stereotype in the workforce is that Asian Americans are great workers, but not great leaders.

Past research has found that Asian Americans are perceived to possess the necessary attributes for engineering occupations but lack the necessary attributes for the sales field.

The study found that even when Asian Americans were perceived to be more technically competent, such as Asian American engineers vs. Caucasian American engineers, they still were perceived to be less ideal leaders than Caucasian Americans.

And I’ll close with a handful of humor for lexiphilies, which hopefully will bring a smile or two:

• You can tune a piano but you can’t tuna fish.

• To write with a broken pencil is pointless.

• When fish are in schools, they sometimes take debate.

• A thief who stole a calendar got 12 months.

• When the smog lifts in Los Angeles, UCLA.

• The professor discovered her theory of earthquakes was on shaky ground.

• The batteries were given out free of charge.

• A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail.

• A will is a dead giveaway.

• If you don’t pay your exorcist, you can get repossessed.

• With her marriage she got a new name and a dress.

• Show me a piano falling down a mine shaft and I’ll show you A-flat minor.

• You are stuck with your debt if you can’t budget.

• A boiled egg is hard to beat.

• When you’ve seen one shopping center, you’ve seen a mall.

• If you take a laptop computer for a run, you could jog your memory.

• A bicycle can’t stand alone; it is two tired.

• When a clock is hungry, it goes back for seconds.

• The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine was fully recovered.


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.




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