HORSE’S MOUTH: I’m Attending the Manzanar Reunion


(First published in
The Rafu Shimpo on August 2, 2011.)


Yeah, I’m heading up to Vegas next week to attend the Manzanar Reunion at the California Hotel even though I’m not a “Manzanar” person.

Why? Some of you may wonder.

Well, over the years I have gotten to know a lot of folks who were interned at Manzanar, so I’ll see a lot of familiar faces and maybe “feel” like I’m one of them.

Those of you who were in camps know that over the years, we run into new faces and one of the questions we would always ask was, “What camp were you in?” And everyone knew what you were talking about.

Although I was a Heart Mountain person, I got to meet a lot of former Manzanar internees through the “What camp were you in”? question.

I would guess that of all the camps, I got to know more Manzanar people than most of the others.

If I were to rank each camp by the number of people I met from each of them, I would rank Manzanar right behind Heart Mountain.

In third and fourth place would be Poston and Gila. After that Jerome and Rohwer. Tule Lake would be followed by Amache. The bottom two would be Minidoka and Topaz.

As I mention from time to time, going to camp gave us the opportunity to meet Japanese Americans from areas we would never have met otherwise.

Heck, I even decided to live in Los Angeles after the war ended because I made so many Ellay friends when I met them at Heart Mountain.

So, that’s the reason I’ll be attending the Manzanar Reunion.

Heck, it does me a good reason to go to my favorite city.

I wish I could join the crowd going to the Heart Mountain event being held in Wyoming this year, also in August, but the “package tour” involves bus travel and stops at various other sites over eight days, and I can’t be absent that long.

My excuse: Who’s going to feed our three cats if we are gone for eight days?

Well, I’m sure Bacon Sakatani will send me information on how the Heart Mountain get-together turned out.

Well, the Rafu did a better job on the unfortunate story on former baseball star Hideki Irabu than the Japan Times did as far as details on Irabu’s personal life were concerned.

However, I’d like to add one little item that was overlooked by the media on the life of Irabu here in the U.S.

That is, he opened a noodle shop in Gardena at the corner of South Western and Gardena Boulevard, which he named Osaka Noodles. It was in business for about year and a half before it folded up.

The sign of the noodle house is still on the building but there are weeds popping up in what was once the parking lot.

I guess there wasn’t much publicity on the noodle house being owned by Irabu.

I never tried the place but one of my Nisei friends told me about Irabu owning the business. So I don’t know if the baseball star ever appeared at the site.

Reader Ernest Ikuta sent me the following email regarding a bit I ran in a recent column. He wrote:

“You should take Maggie’s advice and look up Kaukauna, Wisconsin on Google. Kaukauna is located in the middle of Wisconsin about 100 miles from Milwaukee.

“It has a population of about 13,000. The origin of its name is not clear but it is thought to be Native American, although over the years, the spelling has changed. Most of the names of cities in Wisconsin are of Native American origin.”

Thanks, Ernest. I’m afraid with my limited knowledge of my computer, I don’t know how to hook up to Google.

As for taking Maggie’s advice, perhaps Maggie can take over my space and write a column entitled “Maggie’s Mouth.”

Hey, I gotta retire one of these days.

(Maggie’s comment: Now, now, Mr. Y. NO ONE could EVER take over your space and column. If I can Google, you can, too. It isn’t necessary to “hook up” anything. Ask your son, Robin, to show you how to Google.)

I was given a copy of a letter that Floyd Mori, executive director of  the JACL, sent to chapter presidents, national board and staff.

One of the issues that caught my eye was the financial situation facing the JACL.

A paragraph read, “Thanks to everyone who generously donated to the Japan Relief and Recovery Fund through the JACL and Direct Relief International to help the victims of Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami that occurred in March. It was gratifying to see so many individuals, chapters and districts of the JACL reach out to help others during their time of need.

“The National JACL is facing its own crisis as the financial picture looks rather bleak with a deficit looming this year. Membership numbers and revenues have not kept up with our needs. The National JACL spring campaign brought in very little money. Some sponsors have cut back on their financial contributions.

“Because of these factors, I would like to appeal to the JACL chapters and districts to consider helping National JACL in the same way that money was donated for the Japan crisis. If the JACL could collect a fraction of the amount that was donated through the JACL to help Japan, it would be extremely beneficial to the organization.”

I guess I should close this segment with “No comment.”

However, I guess I should add that I find it rather difficult to associate the Japan tragedy to the lagging membership and financial hardship of the JACL.

After our sons grew up and moved on to a life of their own, my wife and I decided that it’s just as cheap to eat out as it is for her to cook at home. And it saves her from a lot of extra housework.

So, on Sundays, we always eat out. What do we eat?

Well, when I ask my wife, “What’s for dinner?” she won’t mention any specific restaurant.

She might respond, “Mexican.” And I know she is talking about the Burnt Tortilla.

“Hawaiian?” She means Bob’s Hawaiian.

“Japanese?” That would be Sanuki no Sato.

“Italian?” Lomeli’s.

“Chinese?” Sea Empress.

“Sushi?” That would be take-out from Sakae Sushi.

“Korean?” No particular one since there are four we patronize.

“Buffet?” Grand World Buffet.

And, of course, she might add, “Let’s not eat out tonight.”

Well, I guess Hiroki Kuroda decided living in Los Angeles is better than residing in New York or Boston.

The Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitcher decided to stick with the local team in spite of their horrible performance.

I’m glad he didn’t follow in the footsteps of the previous three Japanese pitchers, who left the local team and signed with other clubs.

Hey, if the local Japanese American community is going to stage their annual “Japanese Community Night” at one of the Dodger games, we need a Nihonjin on the local roster.

At least we can still utter “gambare” when Kuroda’s on the mound.

I don’t know how I got on their mailing list, but over the past few decades I’ve always gotten a promotional mail about “how to beat the slot machines in Vegas.” I did mail in the requested money to buy one of the booklets.

After reading it, I tried to follow the instructions presented in the booklet, but the results were the same as always. I might have been better off putting the money I paid for the booklet into the slot machine.

So, I was kind of surprised when the Rafu ran an article on slot machines written by a JA writer.

I’m not sure what the writer’s background is as far as slot machines are concerned, but I did find that his article was well-written and easy to understand, especially for a guy (me) who has been playing slots for at least 40 years.

As those of you who see me in Vegas know, I am strictly a video keno machine player.

Aftr all these years, I concluded that it’s the least expensive machine and the one that always produces some winnings.

I was introduced to the video keno machine by a fellow named John Kimak many years ago.

As I stood and watched him play, he turned to me and said, “Hey, the machine next to me is open. Why don’t you sit down and play?”

When I responded, “I don’t know how to play the machine,” he said, “Nothing to it. Pick your numbers and put in your money.”

Sounded simple, so I did. And I was hooked.

Everyone who receives the monthly brochure from The Cal knows that Kimak’s photo is in every edition, averaging a monthly winning of $14,000. He’s the only one I know who won the progressive jackpot on the keno machine, which paid him $150,000.

Well, I’m satisfied with $150, so I continue to play the keno machine.

Perhaps someone at the Rafu can introduce me to the author of the article on playing slots. I have a number of questions I would like to ask him.

As a long-time “hanger-on” in the area known as Little Tokyo, I was surprised when I saw the headline in the Los Angeles Times reading, “Two Shot at Nightclub in Little Tokyo.”

The first thought that came to mind was, “Where is the nightclub located?”

And naturally, the second question was, “Were there any Japanese involved?”

Well, I learned that the nightclub is located south of Third Street in the shopping mall at the corner of Third and Central.

And, there were no JAs involved in the incident.

Then, of course, I came to the conclusion that the area in question is not really in “Little Tokyo,” although some may refer to it as such.

I always felt that anything south of Third Street was not a “part” of J-Town, but I guess that’s changed in recent years because of the expansion of the area.

To me, J-Town was First and Second streets between Los Angeles and Central.

Oh well, in a couple of decades, who knows what the area will be called and what the boundaries will be?

A lot of so-called Japantowns in the U.S. have vanished or are vanishing from the scene.

Will it be “Sayonara, Nihonmachi”?


George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and may be reached via email. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.



1 Comment

  1. It’s not a good idea to limit the boundaries of Little Tokyo.

    The Go For Broke Memorial is closer to Temple than First Street. Nishi Hongwanji and the Zen Soto Mission are east of Alameda. Higashi Honganji is on Third, next to Little Tokyo Towers.

    I was in Little Tokyo just last weekend, and a couple of weekends before that. The neighborhood is doing fine.

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