He might not be a household name, but Mack Kurihara is one of the few Japanese Americans to achieve success in the sport of professional boxing.
In the years he has been involved in professional boxing, mainly as a trainer and manager, he has worked with several world champions.
When I was involved in boxing, I met Mack and we worked together a number of times.
The reason I mention Mack’s name is that in the April 25 edition of The Orange County Register, the area’s major newspaper, he made the front page complete with his photo.
The article, written by Register columnist David Whiting, reveals that Mack is opening a boxing training facility in Fountain Valley under the name of “Miyagi Boxing Gym” on May 5. The gym is located at 18928 Brookhurst St. in Fountain Valley.
Why Miyagi Gym? Well, many people who met Mack thought he resembled the character Mr. Miyagi in the movie “Karate Kid” and hung the nickname on him.
Mack was born and raised in Honolulu.
With news of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor and invasion of the Philippines, Mack became the target of other youths of Filipino ethnicity, who began to attack him on his way home from school.
He was physically hurt from these attacks and decided he needed to learn how to fight off these aggressors.
That’s how he got started in boxing.
He became so good at it that even though he was only 110 pounds during his youth, he was able to ward off those who wanted to get at a “Jap.”
Needless to say, the word got around about his fighting skills and he was no longer the target of the bullies.
And as the old saying goes, “The rest is history.”
I plan to drop by his new gym when it opens next week.
It’s been a few years since I last met Mack, so it will be nice to rekindle our friendship.
Time to print a letter from a reader. This one from David Mukogawa, who wrote:
“Like many Nisei and Sansei readers, I’m glad that you decided against an early retirement. The first two things I read in The Rafu are the obits and your column.
“But, I still have a bone to pick with you. Many years ago, we made a bet on the UCLA/USC football game. I gave you UCLA and the point spread. The winner was to receive a Cuban cigar. You not only lost the bet, but you welshed on the bet, saying that the bet was only for a cup of coffee.
“My late father thought that you should have named your column for the other end of the horse.”
Thanks for your letter. I’ll ask Editor Gwen if I can change the name of my column to “Horse’s Ass,” per your request.
With so much attention focused on the decision by USC to present honorary degrees to those Japanese American students who were denied the chance to receive their degrees due to the war and evacuation, but only to those who are still living but not to those who are deceased, I am wondering if and when the school will decide to change their position on the issue.
A few years ago, the State of California passed a bill under which Japanese American high school students who were denied the chance to graduate with their class due to the evacuation were presented with their diplomas.
Every high school in California that had Japanese American students who did not graduate with their class presented them with their belated diplomas during the annual graduation ceremonies.
Perhaps the presentation of high school diplomas didn’t have as much impact as receiving a belated college degree, but to those of us who were able to get our belated high school diplomas, it was a moving moment.
There were three other Nisei in my class who also attended the belated graduation ceremony.
Driving up to the Bay Area may seem like a long way to go, but it was an event I had to wait over 65 years for, so it was quite memorable for me.
The school issued us a cap and gown and we marched alongside the “real” graduating class members.
Most of the students in the graduating class never heard about the evacuation, so getting our diploma after 65 years was an intriguing story for those students I had the opportunity to chat with before and after the ceremony.
I guess I might have written about it back then, but I was asked to give a short speech to those attending the graduation.
This is what I told the audience: “I was not a very good student, so my homeroom teacher told me, ‘George, if you don’t shape up, your graduation will be delayed.’ If Mr. Edwards, my homeroom teacher, were with us today, he’d probably laugh and say, ‘I didn’t mean delayed 65 years.’”
I guess I got the biggest laugh of the day.
Well, as the old saying goes, “Don’t take yourself too seriously. No one else does.”
A tidbit on golf.
Those who follow the sport may have to file the name Chie Arimura in their golf book.
I know, most will say, “Who is she?”
Well, Chie just won an LPGA tournament in Japan, and from the accolades regarding her talent, she might soon be competing for tournament titles in the U.S.
Ai Miyazato is the top Japanese woman golfer on the U.S. LPGA circuit, but judging from some of the talk about Arimura, she may be heard from in the near future on the U.S. women’s golf circuit.
I know that the LPGA has a lot of Korean participants, so having Arimura breaking in might be something to look forward to.
Another tidbit on sports.
When we see a Japanese surname in the box score of Major League Baseball, we assume it’s a player from Japan.
An example? What about the name Komatsu?
If the box score for the St. Louis Cardinals team listed Komatsu’s first name, everyone would know that he’s a Sansei.
He is Eric Komatsu, who collected his first Major League hit recently against the Milwaukee Brewers.
The family of the graduate of Camarillo High and Oxnard College was in the stand when he made his first big-league hit.
Komatsu was sent in to pinch-hit for Carlos Beltran in the 9th inning, hit a 0-1 changeup and beat the throw for an infield single.
The Sansei was selected by the Cardinals in the December Rule 5 draft and made the opening day roster for the first time in his brief career.
It will be something to look forward to if and when the Cards come to town to play the Dodgers.
Yet another tidbit on sports.
According to several stories in the media, the NFL is thinking of calling off the Pro Bowl, which has been played in Honolulu for the past decade.
No reason was given for the move to eliminate the Pro Bowl, which is an all-star game pitting the stars of the two pro league divisions against each other.
So, if they do decide to end the annual post-season classic, would Japan be interested in hosting the game?
Back in 1976 I asked the same questions about a college all-star game in Japan.
Most people laughed at such a suggestion, but I talked one of the sponsors in Japan into considering such a game and they agreed give it a try.
Thus, the Japan Bowl was born.
Next, I had to get the NCAA to okay such a game on foreign soil.
No NCAA-sanctioned game had ever been played on foreign soil, so the organization was hesitant in giving its approval.
They finally did and the first game was played in 1977.
The sponsors, of course, were concerned about the game drawing any fans since football was something new to their country.
Well, as I wrote in the past about the game, when I arrived at the National Stadium in Tokyo, I was stunned to see a long line waiting to buy tickets for the game.
The rest is history.
The Japan Bowl ran for four more years and it closed its doors because the fan base dwindled too much.
The Pro Bowl, if it does decide on moving to Japan, will probably have to examine the fate of the Japan Bowl.
Oh yeah, before I forget.
A friend told me the other day that the media, in reporting the signing of Jeremy Lin by the New York Knicks, is calling him “the first Asian to play in the NBA.”
How soon we forget.
The title of “first Asian” belongs to Wat Misaka, the University of Utah star who actually broke the “color line” as the first non-white to play in the NBA.
Well, maybe Misaka was not considered an “Asian” in those days.
Perhaps someone should contact the TV announcer who declared Lin as the “first Asian” and explain to him about Misaka.
Of course, the TV announcer who made the comment about Lin was probably still a toddler when Misaka made his decision to play in the NBA.
I was kind of dozing off in front of my computer keyboard as I was grinding out today’s column.
My son walked up to me and asked, “Are you sleeping?”
I laughed and said, “No, I’m thinking about a few issues I want to make some comments about but I haven’t decided which one.”
He said, “Well, why don’t you run a few photos? Then you don’t have to write anything.”
Hmmmm … good thought.
So, I started rummaging through an old cigar box to see if I could find a few photos.
The one I’m running today was taken in 1946 in Okayama, Japan.
Someone took a photo of us as we stopped to eat our lunch.
That’s me with a couple of other GIs.
Okay, I guess I made it to the end of today’s column without straining my brains too much.
An attractive blonde arrived at the casino. She seemed a little intoxicated and bet $5,000 on a single roll of the dice.
She said, “I hope you don’t mind, but I feel much luckier when I’m completely nude.”
With that, she stripped off her clothes from the neck down. She rolled the dice and with a scream yelled out, “Come on, baby, Mama needs new clothes.”
As the dice came to a stop, she jumped up and down and squealed, “Yes, I won. I won, I won.”
She hugged each dealer and then picked up her winnings and her clothes and quickly departed.
The dealers stared at each other dumbfounded.
Finally, one of them asked, “What did she roll?”
The other answered, “I don’t know. I thought you were watching.”
The moral of the story: Not all Americans are drunks. Not all blondes are dumb. But all men are men.
Hope you all got the gist of this laugher.
George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and may be reached via email at [email protected] Opinions regarding this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.