HORSE’S MOUTH: My Thoughts on JACL


(First published in
The Rafu Shimpo on April 26, 2011.)


I don’t think there are many who can claim that well-known Nisei Harold Kobata is their newspaper delivery man.

Just kidding.

The reason this thought popped into mind was that Harold is good enough to drop off a cop of the Pacific Citizen almost every month.

The “PC” is the official publication of the JACL organization.

Glancing throughout the Pacific Citizen’s pages, I note that almost every edition has an article on the future of the JACL and its newspaper.

In the April edition, Floyd Mori, the national director of the organization, wrote a piece under the heading, “JACL Membership Is an Ongoing Issue.”

In one paragraph he wrote: “It is no secret that the JACL membership has been decreasing due to our members aging and passing on without enough younger people to replace those who leave us. Now as we go forward, we must do our part as JACL members to build our membership base.”

One of his suggestions to increase the membership was to include other communities. I guess he is referring to other “Asian American” groups.

In recent years, I would guess that more and more non-JAs are joining JACL. But, doesn’t this actually destroy the base of the JACL? After all, JACL is the commonly used term for Japanese American Citizens League.

If the Japanese American Citizens League has to go after non-JAs to  continue its existence, what is the purpose of the organization?

There was a time when the JACL was vital to the Japanese Americans, but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.

So, perhaps the JACL should disband and reorganize under a different title. Say, “Asian American Citizens League.”

Let’s face it, if the JACL were to announce that it was closing its doors, what effect will it have on the Japanese American community?

Sadly, I would say, “None.”

No, I’m not anti-JACL. In fact, a few decades ago I used to support them even though I was never a member. Heck, I even attended a number of their national conventions as an observer, especially when Helen Kawagoe was the national president.

Oh well….

Don’t know why the following is hardly ever given any attention by the general media. It’s about California’s criminal alien population.

The number of criminal aliens in California rose to 102,795 in 2009, a 17 percent increase since 2003, a according to federal auditor’s report.

This is, of course, costly to the state. The government accountability office reports it cost well over $1.1 billion a year for states to imprison criminal aliens. Even in good financial times, that would be a staggering amount of money. In today’s economy, it’s almost disastrous.

By criminal aliens, I’m referring to those who commit crimes after entering the U.S. illegally.

California, moreover, is more expensive than all the other states. GAO auditors estimated the state spends $34,000 to incarcerate a single criminal alien for one year. In Texas, it’s only $12,000.

More than one in four of the illegal immigrants imprisoned in California was behind bars for drug offenses. Many are repeat offenders. Criminal aliens have been arrested an average of seven different times.

And we are moaning and groaning about California’s financial woes?

Japan is holding its national election soon. Many supporters of Prime Minister Naoto Kan are seeking re-election.

Now if our president had a name like Kan, can you imagine how much fun the opponents would have in their campaign?

You’d probably find campaign slogans like “Can Kan” occupying the airwaves. Too bad I can’t find a word that would rhyme with Obama.

Maybe something like, “Oh mama, let’s get rid of Obama.”

While it is highly publicized that the earthquake tragedy in Japan has affected the country as a whole, perhaps nothing can match the lack of support of its professional baseball league.

Now in its third week of the 2011 season, all the teams are suffering from the lack of fan support.

Heck, it’s even worse than the Dodgers’ fan base, which criticized the owner and supported the takeover of the team by Major League Baseball.

The Tokyo Yakult Swallows, one of Japan’s most popular clubs, has been average only 8,634 fans er game. The Yokohama Bay Stars are doing slightly better but with only 11,465 in attendance.

Hey, maybe we’ll have more and more Japanese players seeking jobs in the Major Leagues.

Well, we saw the Dodgers’ Hiroki Kuroda pitching to the Chicago Cubs’ Fukudome and Matsuzaka of the Boston Red Sox beating the Angels.

Maybe one day soon, it will become a regular happening in the big leagues. A Japanese against a Japanese.

And they’ll start selling sushi again at Dodger Stadium. Until that happens, we’ll pack our sushi and take it with us when we go to Dodger games.

Yes, we get curious looks from fans sitting around us when they see us dining on sushi.

They began showing the film “Children of the Genbaku” in New York last week. It’s about children who survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was made a few decades ago but this is the first time it is being shown outside of Japan.

One thing I am curious about is the word “genbaku.” Since the atomic bomb was unheard of until the U.S. dropped them on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I wondered how the Japanese were able to come up with a word for the A-bomb.

We all know that in the Japanese language, foreign words are not translated. Instead, they use their own pronunciation for the non-Japanese word.

An example? What about “dollar?” The Japanese say “doru.”

And, they have many other words that are pronounced in Japanese but are non-Japanese words.

When I read the story about Hawaii resident Saramae Landers, who lives on the Big Island, I felt like a teenager.

She is 105 years old, celebrating her birthday earlier this month. She was honored by the State Senate for her outstanding lifelong achievement.

She left her home in Idaho to teach on the Big Island, mostly to non-English-speaking children of Japanese plantation workers.

Author Margaret Drake featured Landers in “Haole Teacher,” a 2009 novel based on her experiences working with JA children.

Last year, at age 104, she traveled to Thailand and rode an elephant. At age 75, she took scuba lessons.

As to teaching JA children, she said, “We have different languages but we all laugh and cry in the same language, and that makes us united.”

She wakes up at 6:15 every morning and takes a bus to the senior center to help out there.

Her philosophy on life is simple: “I just take it one day at a time. I think yesterday is gone, so there’s no use in worrying about what’s already happened, and tomorrow isn’t here, so enjoy today.”

Hey, maybe we should all adopt her philosophy.

No, that doesn’t mean we’ll all survive to 105.

Speaking of age, someone told me that I looked like I lost weight.

I don’t give such thought much attention at my age, but I decided, “Hey, maybe I should jump on the scale in our bathroom to see if I did lose some weight.”

What a surprise! The needle on the scale stopped at 162 pounds. I haven’t weighed that low since my 10th grade in high school. Heck, some people nicknamed me “Slim” in those days.

So, I started going through my old photo files to see if I had a picture of me at 150 pounds.

I couldn’t find one but I did come across the one I’m printing today. It was taken in 1932. I don’t know what the occasion was when the photo was taken, but it shows my parents, my three sisters and brother.

Needless to say, I didn’t look like a horse in those days. Perhaps I might have been called “Pony.”

I know a lot of Japanese Americans were involved in raising funds for the tragedy in Japan, but I was curious if some of the JAs who have relatives in the Sendai area invited them to come to the U.S. until life could be restored to normal.

Well, one resident in Maui by the name of Kay Fukumoto sent an email to her relatives offering to put them up in Hawaii until things got better.

Her relatives rejected he offer, telling her they had to support the “Fukushima 50,” the 50 or so workers who stayed behind to try to save the nuclear power plant, despite grave health risks to themselves.

Her relatives said, “We were born and raised in Fukushima, so we’re going to stay.” They feel this loyalty to stay regardless of what the dangers are to them.

Quite moving, don’t you think?


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.



Leave A Reply