HORSE’S MOUTH: Just a Thought About the Homeless


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


I mentioned in one of my earlier columns that the census taken last year reported that the Torrance-Gardena area has the largest Japanese American population in the entire USA.

So I guess it’s not surprising that there are so many Japanese owned and operated businesses (including restaurants) in the area.

Heck, where else can you find three supermarkets? They would be Marukai, Mitsuwa and Nijiya.

As far as restaurants are concerned, I’m sure many JAs who dine out have patronized most of the eateries. However, I am sure there are many we may not even know about.

I discovered this when an old friend, Al Morita, invited me to join him for dinner at a restaurant called Onami. It’s located in Torrance on Carson Street, just west of Western Avenue at the corner of Cabrillo Street.

Heck, I drive west on Carson almost three times a week and I never noticed Onami. Anyone who loves sushi will love Onami.

The restaurant identifies itself as a “Japanese seafood buffet,” and is located at 1925 Carson St. Los Angeles Magazine calls Onami one of the top 25 restaurants.

And Zagat Survey labels it one of the “best 100 sushi restaurants in the nation.”

While their sushi bar is the main attraction, they do have hot dishes like chicken teriyaki, beef teriyaki, Korean BBQ, chicken wings and assorted shrimp dishes.

I know that I wrote about the sushi bar at Makino in Las Vegas, but Onami surpassed Makino.

Check out this list of sushi variety: California roll, spicy tuna roll, unagi California roll, rainbow roll, Philadelphia roll, shimp tempura roll, salmon skin roll, futomaki, masago roll, albacore, izumi dai, ebi, ika and Spanish mackerel.

Since it’s a buffet-style restaurant, you know what that means. If you have a giant appetite, one can keep piling the dishes high and keep going back for “seconds.”

As for its name, “Onami” is Japanese for “big wave,” and the slogan for the eatery is “a new wave in dining.”

Yes and they have a dessert bar and salad bar, too.

Onami is open for lunch Monday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner, Monday through Thursday from 5:30 to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., Sundays and holidays from 5 to 9 p.m.

Any reader who gives the place a try can write to me and tell me what they think about the “Big Wave.”

Chatting about restaurants, a USA Today survey on what is the most important thing when ordering a restaurant meal revealed an interesting result:

Forty percent of those surveyed said the anticipated taste is most important.

Surprisingly, only 12 percent said the price of the order.

Preparation and nutritional value ranked at the bottom.

I guess I would be out of step in this survey.

In my book, I would put price of the order nearer to the top.

Okay, so call me a cheapskate. That’s why I love McDonald’s.

Since writing abut the Japanese living on the Island of Maui in a recent column, a reader who signs his name “Mauiyosh” mailed me the following letter about conditions on Maui in the early days. He wrote:

“Our grandparents (Issei) were mistreated and caused great sadness for our Nisei parents.

“That’s because the Issei loved their children and grandchildren.

“The ‘haoles’ were bad enough but the Portuguese bosses were even worse. They rode on horses, holding whips, and hit with glee the poor Japanese and Filipino cane field workers.

“Our dad told us a story of a dirty ‘Portugee’ boss (luna) who whipped our grandfather, and he wanted to hit the guy but he couldn’t because he was so small. He also wanted to cry but didn’t because he wanted to look strong for his father. He couldn’t bear to see him getting whipped. If he did attack the luna, who was much bigger than him, he would have gotten beat up as well and this gave the luna even greater satisfaction, which my dad did not give him.

“They were many good haoles on Maui — one of whom started our camp, called McGerrow Camp, where we were raised. He was the kindest, good-hearted man and did many good deeds for the Japanese. Otherwise, they would’ve been treated worse.

“Mr. McGerrow and his wife are buried in the Puunene Nichiren graveyard. Maybe that’s the reason McGerrow people are so close. Mostly Japanese lived there. Mr. McGerrow loved the Japanese people and they loved him back.

“Some ‘Portugee’ bosses could pass as whites and got better jobs at the cane cannery. It must have gotten into their heads that they were better than the Japanese and Filipinos and treated them accordingly.

“Yes, ‘shikataganai’ was part of the Japanese lives and was used in our family.”

Thanks to Mauiyosh for his letter about living on the Island of Maui in the “old days.”

Perhaps he could write a book on his experiences in those days. Something most of us had no idea about.

I guess when we think about Hawaii, we don’t realize that the state has the same problems as the 49 other states.

The main one being the homeless population in the Islands, especially on the Island of Oahu, where Honolulu is located.

In fact, a report said that Honolulu is the eighth-meanest city in the country when it comes to dealing with the homeless population.

In recent times, the state and law enforcement agencies have forced the homeless, those living in tents in parks and on the beach, to move although they have no place to move  to.

I’m not sure how many of these homeless people are of Japanese ethnicity but I’m sure there must be some.

One of the reasons why the homeless population is growing is that rent for apartments is so high. Because Hawaii is a tourist destination, owners of housing facilities keep raising rent.

The average rent for a one-unit apartment is $1,200. Houses three times that amount.

So, even those with regular jobs can’t afford the cost of housing.

I know I’ve touched on this issue before but whenever I hear about the housing problem, I think about the evacuation of Japanese Americans during WWII.

They moved 120,000 JAs to what they called relocation centers.

There were 10 of these centers. Each one averaged a population of over 10,000.

Which department of the U.S. government financed these camps and how much did it cost to build them?

If they did it then, couldn’t the government build “relocation camps” for the homeless?

Most of the camps were built on wasteland. That is, I am sure the value of the land on which the camps were built cost very little.

I was in Heart Mountain and the area surrounding that camp was nothing but wasteland.

Well, there are a lot of areas in the high desert section of Southern California where I’m sure they can build a “homeless evacuation center.”

Just a thought.

Well, I noticed the commercial on the Dodgers’ TV broadcast that they are going to have what they label a “half-price night.” That is, the concession stands will only charge half-price for things like hot dogs and soft drinks.

Since they charge so much to begin with, I’m sure even at half-price they will make a nice profit.

Consider this: Baseball fans at Major League ballparks will buy more than 22.4 million hot dogs this season.

To put that into perspective, if you stretched out the 22.4 million hot dogs, you can “link” Dodger Stadium to the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.

How many miles is that?

By the way, 22.4 million hot dogs at, say, $2 profit comes to a staggering profit, wouldn’t you say?

It won’t get any media coverage in the local area, so I’m tossing it in my column since he should be recognized for his athletic accomplishments.

“He” is reference to Evan Yabu, who was named the “Male Athlete of the Year” from Lane College, located in Jackson, Tennessee.

Evan, the son of Shig Yabu of Camarillo, starred in both football and baseball at Lane College.

His major accomplishment included being named Academic All Conference, team captain and team leader in all-purpose yardage in football. He averaged 19.6 yards per punt return, fourth in division to football.

During his college career, Evan started at five different positions: tailback, slot, cornerback, kick-off return and punt return.

He was also the starting shortstop for the Lane team during baseball season and he maintains a 4.0 GPA.

Congratulations to the Sansei star.

Maybe we’ll be hearing about him if he decides to seek a professional career in either football or baseball.

While the number of Nisei horse players attending Hollywood Park has dwindled to almost nil, I’m still happy to hear the announcement that the Inglewood track will be back for the 2012 season.

There has been a lot of talk about Hollypark folding up after the current season with the property being converted to a shopping mall.

However, Jack Liebau, president of the track, said that talk is “just baloney.”

He said the track is going to continue indefinitely.

That’s good news for me because it’s only a 10-minute drive from Gardena to Hollypark.

I can’t drive to Vegas anymore, but I can still drive 10 minutes.

Okay, as usual, let’s chuckle to close out the day:

1. A blonde asks for a beer from the counter man. “I’m sorry,” he says, “but we don’t serve beer to blondes here.”

She goes home and dyes her hair red and tries again, demanding a beer and getting the same answer. “I’m sorry,” he says, “but we don’t serve beer to blondes here.”

“What makes you think I’m a blonde? My hair is red.”

“You were here yesterday and I recognize you even if you did dye your hair. Besides, this is a toy store.”

2. There were two dumb Americans in Belize and they wanted to buy a plate of food. They decided that one would eat first because they didn’t know how much the plate of food cost. So the first American went to a table and asked for a plate of food. The waitress asked what he wanted to eat. He said, “Chicken,” and the waitress brought him a wing.

The American said, “Well, this won’t cost too much, so I’ll eat it.” When he went to the cashier to pay, the cashier said it was $40. He said he only had a wing but was told that’s what it cost. He went to his friend and told him how much it cost.

The other American said, “Well, if that’s how much a wing costs, I won’t eat.”

The other American asked why and he said, “Because I will eat an egg, and if they charged you $40, imagine how much an egg would cost. It has a whole chicken inside.”

3. A woman said, “I finally figured it out. As I was conditioning my hair in the shower this morning, I took time to read my shampoo bottle. I am in shock. The shampoo that I use in the shower and runs down my entire body is ‘for extra volume and body.’

“Seriously, why have I not noticed this before? Tomorrow I am going to start using Dawn dish soap. It says right on the bottle, ‘Dissolves fat that is otherwise difficult to remove.’ ”

It pays to read the warning labels, my friends.


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. What happens if the homeless prefer living free on the streets than living behind guard towers in a concentration camp? Whose job would it be to round up the homeless? The police, the national guard or the army?
    Will there be a homeless Fred Korematsu?

    Wouldn’t it be cheaper to help the homeless help themselves than it would be to lock them all up?

Leave A Reply