HORSE’S MOUTH: Macadamia Nuts with Spam!


(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on Oct. 4, 2011.)


Harry Honda sent me a clipping from a local newspaper that touches on something many of you may not be aware of.

That is, when we hear the name “Santa Anita,” the thought that pops into the minds of Japanese Americans is that the famed race track was an assembly center where we were placed while the government was building the relocation camps around the country.

Here’s the “we may not be aware of” matter.

After the assembly center was closed, it was converted to the Army Ordnance Corps training center.

The story sent to me tells of Paul Graf of Albany, Indiana, who was stationed at Santa Anita after the Japanese Americans left. The race track was renamed “Camp Santa Anita Ordnance Base.”

Graf recently visited the track to rekindle memories of having been stationed there.

He also wanted to see the hastily constructed tarpaper barracks, which were located in the parking lot and were used to house the Japanese Americans during assembly center days.

Graf said that he was surprised to find that while the race track had a plaque mentioning the assembly center, it did not mention that the Army’s ordnance center was also there.

I guess he didn’t really look at the plaque about the assembly center because at the bottom of it, there is mention that the Army used Santa Anita for a training site.

I know because (even if I am boasting) I helped put the assembly center plaque on the track grounds.

Mike Williams, Santa Anita’s director of publicity, said it was an honor to have Graf coming to visit with his family.

One thing I found eye-catching in the Graf story was that Santa Anita was mentioned a number of times as “an assembly center for Japanese Americans and Japanese nationals.” I guess the latter description is about our Issei parents.

Of course, we all know that in those days, everyone placed in the camps were simply called “Japanese.” No designation such as “Americans” or “nationals” was used to describe the internees.

And, yes, some of the GIs stationed in the ordnance center also were housed in the stable area.

Don’t know if any of them complained about the smell of horses. Or maybe they might have complained, “Hey, this place smells like Japs.”

Anyhow, the Army used Santa Anita until November 1944, when it was shut down.

By the way, in Harry’s letter to me, he mentioned a Rafu story on the dedication of the Fresno County Fairgrounds, which was also used as an assembly center.

Harry pointed out that the story read, “Fresno County was the only county with two assembly centers,” which is incorrect because Los Angeles County had Santa Anita and Pomona Fairgrounds as assembly centers.

Of course, Harry is correct.

And most of those incarcerated at Pomona were relocated to Heart Mountain, Wyoming.

Speaking of our “camp days,” it seems more and more stories are now coming out about Japanese Americans being placed in camps in Hawaii.

A few articles on the camps in Hawaii were sent to me in recent days. One from reader Paul Shimokuchi was headlined, “We Must Never Forget Honouliuli.”

That was the name of the Island camp and the story was written by Dr. Gary Y. Okihiro, a historian, scholar and author.

The photos accompanying the story were graphic. It seemed a lot worse than the barracks we lived in at the relocation centers.

The shacks were surrounded by endless fields of sugar cane that shielded the internees’ views of the “outside world,” and most of the male internees were forced to work as laborers.

Nothing like that was forced on JAs interned in relocation centers.

As one paragraph stated, “the treatment given to the Japanese was purposefully brutal, as if to punish them for Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.”

Even when it was raining, the internees were forced to eat outdoors with the rain sprinkling in their food. And the Japanese had to always eat after the German and Italian inmates and had to use their dirty plates and utensils, which were carelessly rinsed in a bucket of water filthy with garbage.

Strip searches were another means to degrade the Japanese and to make them feel exposed and vulnerable.

Sure sounds a lot worse than what we faced in relocation camps, doesn’t it?

Perhaps it’s a good thing the true story about how the Japanese were treated in the Islands is now coming out.

Yes, I know that I frequently chat about dining at a buffet-style restaurant.

In fact, it seems that buffet-style eateries are the only ones I want to patronize these days.

It’s not so much that I can eat all I want. It’s more the wide variety of choices available at buffets. I guess you call anyone who loves buffets a glutton. So if one eats too much, he’s a glutton.

It’s no secret that Las Vegas is famous for its 24-hour buffets, so it should come as no surprise that Vegas is ranked as the sixth-most gluttonous city in the U.S.

With its throngs of endless buffet eateries, Vegas is known as a destination for excess. However, because of its relatively low population density, it’s surprising that Vegas ranks so high on the gluttonous list.

The city has 1,089 fast-food restaurants, 1,607 full-service restaurants and an obesity rate of 26 percent.

The most gluttonous city, of course, is New York, followed by Detroit, Dallas, Houston and Miami.

Nope, Los Angeles isn’t even near the top.

I guess we don’t have as many buffet places as we think.

The three places I visit in the L.A. area on a fairly regular basis are Grand World Buffet in Torrance, Hometown Buffet in Gardena and Sizzler (almost everywhere).

If any of you want to see a horse eating like a “buta,” drop in at any of the buffets.

Oh yeah, one thing about Vegas that one can’t find locally is an eatery that serves breakfast buffets. The Cal has the Market Street Grill with its breakfast buffet, which features white rice in addition to the usual potato that regular restaurants offer.

At the Fremont and Main Street, their buffet breakfast offers miso soup. Now where else can you find a buffet that serves miso soup for breakfast?

Yes, and where else but at The Cal, Fremont and Main Street Hotel and Casino can you ask the waitress for chopsticks and have your request filled without any hesitation?

And, of course, one doesn’t have to worry about the misuse of chopsticks at a Vegas facility.

How many of you know some of the wrong etiquette in chopstick use? Check these out:

• Saguri-bashi: To look for contents in a soup with hashi.

• Mayoi-bashi: To wander chopsticks over several foods without decision.

• Sashi-bashi: To pick food by stabbing it.

• Neburi-bashi: To lick the tips of the chopsticks.

• Yose-bashi: To pull a plate or bowl around with chopsticks.

• Hotoke-bashi: To stand chopsticks up in rice.

• Kaki-bashi: To shovel food into one’s open mouth attached to a bowl or plate.

• Nigiri-bashi: To hold two sticks together as one would grab a knife.

• Hashi-watashi: To pass food to another person from chopstick to chopstick.

• Namida-bashi: To drip sauce from the food or from chopsticks.

How many of you have ever heard of these chopsticks “no-nos”?

I would guess that I’ve been guilty of about four of the above, especially hotoke-bashi and maybe sashi-bashi.

Come on. Think about it. I’ll bet a lot of you have violated these hashi-use no-nos.

Oh well.

When I mentioned that the reason I go to Vegas as often as I do is that my relatives come over so often and Island folks still observe the old “Japanese custom” of bringing us “omiyage.” The most popular “omiyage” are Kona and Maui coffee.

As a coffee-drinking addict, those two brands really fulfill my addiction.

On this last trip, my kinfolks added something new. Since it isn’t being exported to the Mainland yet, we kotonks haven’t had a chance to try the new product.

It’s macadamia nut with Spam favor. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Like my Island relatives, I love Spam and I enjoy macadamia nuts. So what could be greater than macadamia nut flavored with Spam?

Hopefully, the manufacturers of the new product will start exporting it to the Mainland.

I have to thank Maggie for mentioning me in her recent column in the Rafu.

She noted that she’s been retyping my column for publication for 12 years now. Wow! I didn’t realize she suffered that long.

I guess I can say the same thing for Rafu readers because I’ve been writing my column for over 20 years now, a little closer to 21 years.

So, if Maggie has suffered 12 years, the readers have suffered for 20 years.

Maggie jokingly wrote that she won’t come close to another 12 years.

Ditto for me.

You can all stand up and cheer.

(Maggie’s comment: Now, now, Mr. Y., I have NOT suffered for 12 years retyping your column and neither have the readers suffered for close to 21 years reading your column. It has been and is a pleasure to retype your column and I KNOW the readers enjoy your column. Some of your readers don’t agree with you and send you unpleasant emails, but that proves they READ your column).


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



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