HORSE’S MOUTH: Six Main Foods of Japan


(First published in
The Rafu Shimpo on May 3, 2011.)


Sunday was Mother’s Day, so my sons put together a dinner to honor their mom, which meant I had to write this column Sunday morning. I usually write the column for Tuesday’s edition in the evening.

That’s because my brain doesn’t function too well before noon.

Yeah, I know, some of you are probably thinking my brain doesn’t function too well at any time of the day. And, perhaps you are right.

Oh well …

On Saturday, two things occupied my time. One of them was the Kentucky Derby.

In recent years I haven’t paid too much attention to the Derby, but this year with my favorite jockey, Corey Nakatani, having a mount, I drove out to Hollywood Park to place a bet on him. Then I drove home to watch the race on TV.

The name of his mount was Nehro, which has a slight “Japanese” sound to it. Nehro was the fourth betting favorite and as those of you who may have followed the race know, he finished second.

The unusual thing about Nehro finishing second was that the after-race write-up by three newspapers I read never mentioned one word about him.

Naturally, most of the stories were about the winner, a long-shot that paid $43.80 to win.

But, most of the stories were about a horse that finished ninth.

Why? Because the horse with the name Pants on Fire was ridden by a female jockey by the name of Rosie Napravnik. By finishing ninth, Pants posted the highest finish with a female jockey on board.

A horse finishing ninth getting an entire half-page write-up in one local newspaper and not a word about the horse finishing second? Oh well, maybe Corey can change all that if his mount enters the two other races in the Triple Crown and wins one of them.

Oh yeah, maybe I should have put a place bet on Corey instead of a win.

At least then, I could have taken my wife out to dinner somewhere other than McDonald’s.

Speaking of eating out, a reader sent me an email about my comments on the sushi buffet restaurant Onami.

He wrote: “I live in Torrance and like you, have passed by the restaurant numerous times and wondered  about the place. Since you mentioned it, I thought I would try it out, but you forgot to mention one thing. That is, it is an expensive place. Most sushi places cost more than usual Japanese restaurants.”

You’re right. I did not mention what the tab is for an adult patron.

That’s because I was a guest of the person who invited me there and he picked up the tab.

And when someone is treating me to dinner, I guess it’s not too appropriate to ask, “How much was the tab?”

As mentioned from time to time, old friend Herb Murayama is into composing haiku, a Japanese form of poetry.

His latest effort is on the recent Japan disaster and another on the Nisei generation. First, the one of the tsunami:

Tsunami Japan
Most unfortunate indeed
High culture nation
Gambaro Nippon
“Hang in there Japan!” says the young
Inspire to create
Rebuild huge ruins
Resilient great people
For better Japan.

The one on the “Nisei era”:
Top Generation
Renaissance Nisei era
war and internment
Dutiful Nisei
Gained civil rights and redress
With effort plus zeal
Forget not, Nikkeis!
Nisei vets, heroic deed
Motto, “Go For Broke”
Nisei fade away
Leaving a great heritage
Carry on! Nikkei.

I’m not into haiku, so I can’t comment on Herb’s effort, but I’m sure those who are will be impressed.

Touching on the Nisei era, many organizations and activities that involve the second-generation Japanese Americans are in jeopardy of closing down because of dwindling membership.

Still, I was kind of saddened that one of the Nisei veterans organizations may fold up due to the lack of membership.

That’s one of the articles that appeared in the recent edition of Nisei VFW Post 1961’s newsletter.

It read: “The post is in jeopardy of shutting down because of dwindling membership. There were many members that used to show up at our meetings. For the sake of continued life of the post, please come and show up at meetings. Let’s save VFW Post 1961.”

I’m a life member of the post, but I have to confess I haven’t attended a post meeting in over five years.

Really don’t have an excuse for not being more involved in the post’s activities.

Perhaps if I can come up with a reason, others who have been missing the post’s meetings have the same excuse. That might be a step in the right direction in finding out why members are not attending the regular monthly meetings.

Just a thought.

It’s often noted that the people of Japan lead the world in longevity. Most agree that it’s the Japanese people’s diet that contributes to this long life span.

So what are the main ingredients in the Japanese diet that are responsible?

Well, a recent survey singled out six foods: miso, seaweed, natto, mushroom, green tea and sashimi.

I’m sure most Nisei include the foregoing in their diet, which may account for a lot of JAs reaching the 90s in age nowadays.

The California Hotel and Casino publishes a magazine that they out to those who patronize their facility.

Yeah, I get my copy, although I certainly don’t qualify as a “high roller.”

The cover story in the spring edition, which I just received, caught my eye because it showed two JAs who were listed as “big winners.”

One won $867,392 and the second, $104,738.

On the inside pages, it also displays photos of those who are winners. The most surprising thing about this is that at least 95 percent of the winners are Japanese Americans. You read that right. 95 percent!

This brings me to an article I read recently on gambling. Cal Tech researchers recently discovered that a location in the human brain influences gambling.

The study showed that wagers made by persons under the influence of so-called “gambler’s fallacy” may be the result of a structure in the brain called the “dorsal striatum.”

The brain’s dorsal striatum reinforces the notion that a certain outcome is due based on past events, better known as the “gambler’s fallacy.”

The fallacy is demonstrated at any casino where a gambler may spend hours at a slot machine he feels is “due” despite knowing that mathematical odds against winning never change.

I guess reading this made me think about my attitude when I sit down in front of a slot machine. I don’t feel I fit into the category described in the study.

While we all try to win when we play the slots, I don’t feel that I’m “due” to hit the “big one” every time I begin to play. I just try to enjoy myself while controlling my not-so-fat wallet.

From time to time, I look through the fine print in search of Japanese surnames in the media that may be overlooked in spite of their accomplishments.

Most of the time, it’s in sports.

However, from time to time, there are other areas where JAs stand out but don’t really get the recognition they deserve.

Such is the case with Riki Higashida. He’s a senior at Granada Hills Charter High School, which captured the U.S. Academic Decathlon recently. It was the school’s first national championship. Higashida was one of nine members on the Granada Hills team.

He won a gold medal in the math category. After his victory he was quoted as saying, “It was surreal. It didn’t really hit me and it still hasn’t hit me that we won.”

The win by Granada Hills was an unprecedented one for the newcomer to the annual “battle of the brains” competition held this year in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The school beat out 35 other teams, including one from London, England. They were the first rookie team, first-time entry, to win the national title.

The win marks a record 12th time that a school affiliated with the Los Angeles Unified School District captured the championship.

To prepare for the competition, the nine students sacrificed their spring break and studied 10 to 11 hours a day.

Cough, cough.

While those of us who live in the Los Angeles area are aware of the problem of smog, there hasn’t been too much said or written about the situation in recent times.

In fact, I thought the problem had been brought under control.

So, I was kind of surprised to learn that Los Angeles air is still rated as the smoggiest in the U.S.

The other thing that surprised me was that seven of the top cities with the smoggiest air are found in California.

It’s no surprise that Honolulu ranks as the city with the cleanest air in the U.S.

In second place in the cleanest air category is Santa Fe, New Mexico.

(Maggie’s comment: Just can’t resist typing this: What do you see when there’s no smog? UCLA.)

Laugh time.

One Sunday, counting the money in the weekly offering, Pastor Hashimoto found a pink envelope containing $1,000.

It happened again the following week.

The following Sunday, he watched as the offering was collected and saw an elderly lady put the distinctive pink envelope in the plate.

This went on for weeks until the pastor, overcome by curiosity, approached her.

“Mrs. Tanaka-san, I couldn’t help but notice that you put $1,000 a week in the collection plate,” he said.

“Why, yes,” she replied. “Every week my son sends money and I give some of it to the church.”

The pastor replied, “That’s wonderful, but $1,000 is a lot. Are you sure you can afford this? How much does he send you?”

The lady answered, “$10,000 a week.”

The pastor was amazed. “Your son is very successful. What does he do for a living?”

“He’s a veterinarian,” she answered.

“That’s an honorable profession, but I had no idea they made that much money,” the pastor said. “Where does he practice?”

The woman answered proudly, “In Nevada. He has two cat houses, one in Las Vegas and one in Reno.”


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.



Leave A Reply