HORSE’S MOUTH: The ‘Kei’ Cars of Japan

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By GEORGE YOSHINAGA

And the beat goes on.

Ever since receiving the first letter on the subject, I don’t recall ever getting so much mail on the issue.

The latest missive is complete with more photos on the condition of the Evergreen Cemetery.

The reader who mailed me his comments says Evergreen should be renamed “Nevergreen.” He continues:

“The owner rarely waters the grass. He saves money on his water bill and even more cash on gasoline for his lawn mower. The owner doesn’t have the decency to level the headstones. Notice how the headstones are sinking. Why are they sinking and turning over? …

“The State of California has been disciplining Evergreen Cemetery owner Tony Soo Hoo for over 11 years. Are you outraged at how the State of California continues to slap the hands of the owner with probation year after year? He should be kicked out of our neighborhood and never allowed to step anywhere near Boyle Heights.”

Quite a comment if the information sent to me is accurate.

Before I continue with today’s column, I thought another letter from a reader should catch the attention of Maggie, who types my column for publication. She often comments that I rerun my laughers. That is, I seem to forget that I have run them before and rerun them.

Well, here’s a reader’s comment on my memory lapse:

“I have written to you more than a few times and I have one complaint to make per se.

“I do have a comment to make about your typist (Maggie).

“Isn’t she aware of old people who forget easily and often? So a repeat of your past laughers is always new again. I have been reading your column for more years than I can remember and your laughter columns are always new to me.

“Yours for more laughs.”

Thanks to reader “SM” (the way he/she signed off) for the comments on my failing memory.

(Maggie’s comment to “SM”: Of course, I am well aware that old people do forget easily and often. I note you used the words “always new” twice in your short comment. May I add that several of my friends have also commented to me about Mr. Y’s repeated laughers, and as he says, “Enuff said.”)

Before I began writing this column, I went outside on our front porch to think about what to write, as I always do.

It was the 4th of July, but I couldn’t believe that it was Independence Day. I had to put on a jacket to sit outside.

In past years the weather on the 4th was so hot I would have to sit in the shade with only my T-shirt on. Now, a jacket to keep warm.

Well, maybe it’s old age.

I don’t exercise enough and most experts say that to keep healthy and young, one has to do more than sit at a computer keyboard.

Take Japanese mountaineer Tamae Watanabe. At age 73, she is still climbing, having set a world record last month, becoming the oldest woman to climb Mt. Everest, the world’s highest mountain.

She set the world record 10 years ago when she was 63.

I huff and puff if I have to climb more than 10 steps.

Exercise specialist Michael Joyner says most of us aren’t fit anymore because most in society don’t exercise enough. I agree.

I’m no spring chicken by any means, but I know I have to do more that hit the keyboard on my computer, and driving to Vegas once a month really can’t be classified as exercise.

Neither is putting quarters into a slot machine.

Oh well.

Speaking of aging, the elderly population is growing by leaps and bounds, and this is having an effect on the type of automobiles that the aging population buys.

The three major automakers in Japan sense that more than one-third of the automobiles now being purchased by the elderly are smaller cars.

In Japan, the smaller-size cars are known as “kei.” I suppose the Americans call them “compacts.”

The average age of Japanese car buyers in the “kei” class is 50 and over.

Of the 1.4 million “kei” to be sold this year, more than one in four will be bought by drivers 60 years of age or older.

Toyota Motors has jumped in to compete with Nissan and Honda and will be making “kei” cars.

Some wonder if the three big automakers, who lead car sales in the U.S., will introduce the new compact “kei” to the U.S. market.

The price for “kei” is about $10,000, which might be an attraction to new car buyers. It is in Japan.

And the gas mileage on the smaller compact is also a factor for other buyers in Japan, where the price of gas is twice as high as in the U.S.

My Toyota Avalon now has 212,000 miles on it, so I’m thinking I have to buy a new vehicle soon, and with the way gas prices keep going up and down, maybe if Toyota exports their “kei,” I’ll look at one.

Read an article recently that said American growers are going to try producing square watermelons, which would ease transportation and storage.

I wonder if any of the U.S. melon growers thought about going to Japan to find out how they grow square melons over there.

It’s nothing new for Japanese farmers to produce square melons.

When I lived in Japan and brought produce at a market near where I lived, I thought I was seeing things when I came across a square melon.

Of course, most produce in markets in Japan is a lot more expensive, especially melons and other fruits.

So I’m not sure if American buyers would be willing to pay more for a square melon because it would cost the growers more to produce them.

One thing for sure. Square melons are a lot easier to slice and the taste is the same.

Remember when Japanese tourists were the target of U.S. business, places like hotels and shopping centers? Well, no more.

Major hotels in the U.S. are bending over backwards to cater to Chinese tourists, the most sought-after travelers.

The rising number of Chinese tourists now arriving in the U.S. is traced to the rising Chinese middle-class and the easing of visa restrictions.

The major hotels are treating the Chinese with the “comforts of home.”

That means things like hot tea in their rooms, coffee for breakfast and Mandarin-speaking hotel employers.

The Marriott and Hilton even address the cultural differences.

No Chinese tourist is placed on the floor containing the number 4 because in the Chinese language, the word for “4” sounds like the word for “death.”

This is similar to the Japanese number 42, which is pronounced “shi-ni” in Japanese. That means “death” in Japan. So, as travelers to Japan know, no hotel has a room numbered 42.

Like the Japanese tourists of several decades ago, the Chinese are coming to America to simply have fun with lots of cash. The average Chinese traveler spends $6,000 per trip.

So, hotels are openly competing for the Chinese tourists, who travel in large groups and visits multiple cities during their two-week American tours.

And yes, the major hotel chains are training their employees to avoid cultural missteps that would offend the Chinese visitors. That would include superstition.

For example, to the Chinese, red is a lucky color along with the number 8, which signifies wealth. The color white, on the other hand, is frowned upon.

Gosh, when the Japanese were the most sought-after tourists in the U.S., I don’t think hotels went through all the practices they are now doing for the Chinese.

In spite of all this, many experts say that America is still far behind other countries in attracting Chinese tourists.

Heh, I wonder if the major hotels catering to the Chinese serve hom-yu in their restaurants.

Oops. Maybe hom-yu is more for the JAs’ taste buds. Like the good old days at Far East Cafe in Little Tokyo.

Before I go another word further, I want to pause and congratulate old friend, Bacon Sakatani, for being honored by Mt. San Antonio College last week. He is a graduate of Mt. SAC, as the school is popularly known.

Bacon received a full-page write-up in The San Gabriel Valley News, a clip of which was sent to me by reader Jean Kawada.

One thing I learned from reading the article. That would be Bacon’s “real name.” I asked a lot of people what Bacon’s real name was, because I know Bacon was his nickname. Well, now I know his real name is Harumi.

Of course, we all know that Bacon is also known as “Mr. Heart Mountain” because of his putting together the annual Heart Mountain Reunion in Las Vegas.

Not bad for an individual who was only a grade-school student during our camp days.

Go get ’em, Harumi.

One of the events I always look forward to each year, is the annual former Nisei Week Queens’ reunion, which is put together by former queen Em (Kato) Yamada.

I knew Em before she became a Nisei Week Queen and hence a celebrity, which is why she always invites me to the event, which is held in conjunction with the Nisei Week Festival.

Some may be curious how I met Em long before she became the queen.

Maybe I related the story in the past, but if I didn’t, I thought it might be good reading.

Would you believe we met because we rode on the same minibus that was headed towards Little Tokyo? Yup. Since we were the only two JAs riding on the bus at that hour, we started to chat, and as is always said, “the rest is history.”

By the way, Em has been chairing the Queens’ Reunion for 20 years now but says this is her last and someone else will be taking over, which may mean that it will be the last one I will be attending. Oh well, time passes.

Today’s giggler is entitled “Punographic,” and contributed by reader Stanley Kanzaki. Good for a chuckle or two.

• When chemists die, they barium.

• Jokes about German sausages are the wurst.

• I know a guy who’s addicted to brake fluid. He says he can stop anytime.

• How does Moses make his tea? Hebrews it.

• I stayed up all night to see where the sun went. Then it dawned on me.

• The girl said she recognized me from the vegetarian club, but I never met herbivore.

• I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. I just can’t put it down..

• I did a theatrical performance about puns. It was a play on words.

• They told me I had Type A blood but it was a type-o.

• Why were the Indians here first? They had reservations.

• We were going on a class trip to the Coca-Cola factory. I hope there’s no pop quiz.

• I didn’t like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.

• Did you hear about the cross-eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn’t control her pupils?

• When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble.

• Broken pencils are pointless.

• I tried to catch some fog but I mist.

• England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.

• I used to be a banker but then I lost interest.

• All toilets in New York’s police stations have been stolen. The police have nothing to go on.

• A cartoonist was found dead in his home. Details are sketchy.

• Venison for dinner again? Oh deer.

• The earthquake in Washington obviously was the government’s fault.

Cheers.

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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