HORSE’S MOUTH: OH NO! No Social Security Checks in August


(First published in
The Rafu Shimpo on July 16, 2011.)


One of my favorite activities is getting together for breakfast with English Section Editor Gwen Muranaka and friend Iku Kiriyama.

No, not at a fancy restaurant on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Usually at Denny’s with a special $4 breakfast of hotcakes, scrambled eggs, sausage and bacon.

We usually spend about an hour together.

Needless to say, most of our conversation is about what’s going on at the Rafu and what’s happening in J-Town.

Since I have to pound out my twice-a-week column, it helps to stimulate my brains about what I can write about.

Of course, we always touch on the future of the vernacular publications in the Japanese community. It’s a pretty well-known fact that most of the English/Japanese vernaculars have folded up with only the Rafu remaining.

San Francisco lost two of its publications, the Nichi Bei Times and Hokubei Mainichi.

So, the question we ask at our get-together is, “What’s the future of the Rafu?”

I sure hope the Rafu can keep plugging along. A Japanese community as large as the one in Southern California can’t afford not to have a newspaper.

It certainly won’t be the end of the world, but I know my relatives and friends who live in the Bay Area all tell me how much they miss the Nichi Bei Times and Hokubei Mainichi since they went belly-up.

Oh yeah, the one thing that I learned during our past Wednesday get-together was that Editor Gwen is Sansei. I guess I always assumed that Gwen was a Nisei, but she said her mother is a Nisei, which makes her a true Sansei.

In this day and age, I guess it’s getting a little tougher to identify a Japanese American as a Nisei, Sansei or Yonsei.

When we were growing up, we didn’t have this problem because our parents were Issei and all of us who were their offspring were Nisei.

However, perhaps the reason I assumed Gwen was a Nisei is that she seems to think and act like one.

Okay, some of you may ask, “How does a Nisei act differently from how the Sansei act?”

Good question. I guess it would take several pages to give my opinion on how the Sansei differs from the Nisei.

The JACL National Convention was held in Los Angeles over the past weekend, but I didn’t see any coverage of it in the Rafu, except for an article on what one of the speakers, Norm Mineta, had to say about his late sister Etsu (Mineta) Masaoka, the wife of Mike Masaoka, a prominent leader of the JACL.

Well, I guess I’ll have to wait for Harold Kobata to bring me a copy of the Pacific Citizen, the JACL official publication, to find out what else went on at the National Convention.

If memory serves me correctly, this was the first National Convention to be held in L.A. in many years, so I thought there would be more news coming out of the event.

The JACL is having a rough time because of falling membership, so I would assume that they would have to utilize their National Convention to take steps to stimulate the JA community in an attempt to regain their position as in the decades past.

If they can’t come up with a positive plan to regain their position in the JA community, maybe it’s time they folded their tent.

Just a thought.

A reader who signs his letters “Retired Mas” often sends me stuff that I can pass on to the readers. His contribution today is titled “Five Pearls of Wisdom.” They are:

1. Money cannot buy happiness, but somehow it’s more comfortable to cry in a Mercedes Benz than it is on a bicycle.

2. Forgive your enemy but remember the SOB’s name.

3. Help a man when he is in trouble and he will remember you when he is in trouble again.

4. Many people are alive only because it’s illegal to shoot them.

5. Alcohol does not solve any problems, but then, neither does milk.

Since most Japanese Americans still consume a lot of Japanese food, they probably don’t have to be concerned about what is called “the biggest challenge to healthy eating.”

According to a recent study, here are some of the challenges to healthy eating:

• Drinking enough water and avoiding too much junk food.

• Overeating and the size and portion of what is eaten.

• Affording healthy food.

• Emotional eating.

• Poor will-power.

Except for rice, I can’t think of any other “Japanese” food that has a size and portion that is considered “junk” food.

I don’t think Spam musubi can be classified as “junk” food, can it? On the other hand, can Spam musubi really be classified as a “Japanese” food?

Well, in the New England section of the U.S., a retired Harvard Medical School professor named Sus Ito has introduced Spam musubi, and it is considered a “Japanese” food there. People are gobbling it up.

As most may know, Spam musubi was created in Hawaii by Japanese Americans, and I guess since it is called a musubi, it has to be considered, in part, as a “Japanese” dish.

Since my wife is from Hawaii, she sometimes makes Spam musubi for my lunch. To emphasize that it has a Japanese touch, she also serves tsukemono with her Spam musubi.

I never eat more than one.

If I am eating rice in bowl, I usually consume two or three “chawans” of “gohan,” which means I’m overeating a little bit.

So, pass the Spam musubi, please …fatso.

I know a lot of senior Nisei are really upset by the recent news that the impasse between President Obama and the opposing political party leaders may lead to the cancellation of the August Social Security checks.

That’s because many of the senior Nisei rely on their SS checks as their sole income.

If our government leaders can’t get together to solve the current financial problems facing America, one note writer for a prominent U.S. newspaper wrote, “Maybe they can learn a lesson from their counterparts in Japan.”

Among the things the writer cites about is the word “gaman.”

He wrote that Americans are pushy and sometimes treat life and budget negotiations as a contest in which the weakest are to be gleefully pushed aside when the music stops. But he hopes we can learn from the Japanese, who right now are selflessly sacrificing their own interests for the common good.

His reference is about the earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands and destroyed entire cities, and the country’s reaction to the tragedy.

They sure didn’t punish the people of their country as our government leaders are threatening to do by cutting off the senior citizens’ Social Security checks.

Oh, by the way, when Gwen, Iku and I had breakfast the other day, the one issue we didn’t touch on too much was the current controversy over the use of “concentration camp” vs. “relocation center.”

This may be due to the fact that I am virtually alone in calling the camps the Japanese Americans were placed in during World War II “relocation centers.”

One thing that we did chat about was the Santa Anita Race Track, which was used as was then called an “assembly center.”

It was called an “assembly center” because all the JAs who were rounded up were “assembled” before we were moved to a “relocation center.”

When I began my one-man campaign to have a plaque placed at the Arcadia race track, I did hear some voices that suggested that if I were successful in getting the race track management to approve the erection of the plaque, it should not be called an “assembly center.”

No, nobody really suggested calling it a “concentration camp” when I was working on the project because it was only a temporary facility before we were moved on to whatever people wanted to call it at that time. I pushed for the use of “assembly center” because it best described the camp at that time.

For those of you have visited Santa Anita and viewed the plaque, you know that the race track was titled “assembly center.”

So be it.


In reading a list of places that Japanese tourists like to visit, I was sort of surprised that Alaska was on the list.

Also that Cody and Yellowstone were on the list. Those of you who were at Heart Mountain know where Cody is located.

Needless to say, Las Vegas is also on the list.

I’m curious what a Japanese tourist does in Alaska.

Of course, Los Angeles and Hawaii are on the list, too, which doesn’t come as a big surprise.

Other cities and areas that are on the list can also be considered a bit surprising, such as Yosemite National Park and Pebble Beach. The latter probably because many of the Japanese tourists want to play golf at Pebble Beach’s famed course.

A spokesman for the Alaska travel industry said that the Japanese are awed by the aurora-viewing tours. However, due to the severe weather in the wintertime, Japanese tourists find their travel to Alaska is limited to certain periods on the calendar.

Most of the activities for Japanese tourists, no matter where they go, include shopping, fine restaurant dining, and small-town visits.

Here’s a tidbit about two old Nisei men, which should draw some giggles:

Two elderly Nisei friends, Ichiro and Kenji, met in the park every day to fed the pigeons, watch the squirrels and discuss world problems.

One day, Ichiro didn’t show up. Kenji didn’t think much about it and figured maybe he had a cold or something. But after Ichiro hadn’t shown up for a week or so, Kenji really got worried. However, Kenji didn’t know where Ichiro lived and was unable to find out what had happened to him.

A month passed and Kenji figured he had seen the last of Ichiro. But one day, Kenji approached the park and lo and behold, there was Ichiro. Kenji was excited and happy to see him and told him so. Then he said, “For crying out loud, Ichiro, what in the world happened to you?”

Ichiro replied, “I have been in jail.” Kenji cried out, “Jail? What in the world for?”

“Well,” Ichiro said, “You know Sumiko, that cute little Japanese waitress at the coffee shop where we go sometimes?” “Yeah,” said Kenji, “I remember her. What about her?”

“Well, one day she filed rape charges against me and at 89 years of age, I was so proud that when we got to court, I pleaded guilty.

“The judge gave me 30 days for perjury.”

Not funny enough? Try this one:

An 80-year-old man goes for a physical. All of his tests come back with normal results. The doctor says, “George, everything looks great. How are you doing mentally and emotionally? Are you at peace with God?”

George replies, “God and I are tight. He knows I have poor eyesight, so he’s fixed it so when I get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, poof, the light goes on. When I’m done, poof, the light goes off.”

“Wow, that’s incredible,” the doctor says.

A little later in the day, the doctor calls George’s wife. “Yoshiko, George is doing fine. But I had to call you because I’m in awe of his relationship with God. Is it true that he gets up during the night and poof, the light goes on in the bathroom, and when he’s done, poof, the light goes off?”

“Oh, my goodness,” Yoshiko exclaims. “He’s been shi-shiing in the fridge again.”

George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.



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