HORSE’S MOUTH: Guadalupe Memories

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By GEORGE YOSHINAGA

Got a “sayonara note” from Ron Ikejiri, who did not seek re-election as a member of the Gardena City Council.

I don’t remember an elected official ever writing me a note to say “sayonara” when leaving office. At any rate, this is what Ron wrote:
“Last evening, March 19, represented the final day as a member of the City Council of Gardena.

“I was so pleased that we were able to have Paul Tanaka re-elected mayor as he had provided the leadership to place the City of Gardena from junk bond rating into ‘A’ by Standard and Poor’s bond rating agency.

“Thank you for your kind comments. I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to be on the City Council in Gardena. I received so much more than I ever gave. Arigato. Thank you — Ron.”

He then added the following: “It’s springtime. Think your lawn may be coming out of hibernation and need mowing.”

The last paragraph is because I always kid him since he drove by our house one day and mowed our lawn for us and I wrote, “Who else can say a city councilman mowed their lawn?”

Maybe he’ll come by again and mow our lawn, which sure needs it.

Heh heh.

And, I’ll toss in another letter. This one from Ernest Ikuta. He wrote:

“Your brief story on the race of many Americans was quite interesting.

“You are right. A Japanese American is American whose ethnicity is Japanese. An African American is supposed to be an American whose ethnicity is black.

“To say the ethnicity is African American doesn’t specifically indicate what the person’s race is.

“There are too many different countries in Africa. About 30 years ago my son played soccer on a team in which there was another player who was Egyptian American. Since Egypt is in Africa, he could have been called African American. I don’t think any Egyptian would like it if he was classified as a Black American. He was proud of having parents who were from Egypt.”

Thanks Ernie. You made a good point on the issue of ethnicity.

Before I pound another word, I have to apologize to Editor Gwen.

She brought me two passes to the “Tokyo City Day” races at Santa Anita last Saturday.

Unfortunately, I got up feeling under the weather and I asked my son if he would drive me to the racetrack.

He said he had another appointment and so I jumped back in bed.

Maybe I should be thankful.

My favorite jockey, Corey Nakatani, had two mounts on Saturday’s race card so I knew I would place a bet on him.

Yup, both of his mounts finished way back in their races.

So, I know I saved money by staying home.

This was the first “Tokyo City Cup” race I missed since Santa Anita began putting the race on its card.

Well, I guess I’ll take Gwen out to dinner with the money I saved not betting on Nakatani.

No, Gwen, it won’t be McDonald’s.

What about Denny’s? Heh heh.

Another letter from a reader who was interned at Jerome, Arkansas during World War II.

He mentioned that a couple of camps get a lot of publicity, but other such as Minidoka, Idaho; Topaz, Utah; Amache, Colorado; and Jerome/Rohwer, Arkansas are rarely mentioned.

He’s correct. I’m not sure why, but the camps he mentioned rarely receive publicity.

He said he did an article recently that mentioned Jerome, which brought back memories because he was a little boy when he and his family boarded the train at the Santa Anita Assembly Center and he had no idea where they were headed.

“We were told to keep the blinds down on the train and not to peek out,” he said. “It was a five-day trip and when we reached our destination, it was dark in the middle of the night. In the morning I opened the door of the train and it was snowing, so the campsite was all white.

“None of us had any idea where we were.

“When we settled down in the newly constructed barracks, each family were assigned to rooms of two sizes. Two-person families got a room 10 feet by 20 feet. Larger families, 20 by 20. Each had a pot-belly stove.

“Henry and Herb Murayama were our neighbors, so I remember many of us playing Monopoly together with some games lasting seven days. It was a fun time for those of us who were kids.

“I remember Dick Koyamatsu, who was the head coach at the camp high school football team.

“When the camp team played Little Rock High School, the camp team lost 68 to 0.

“During Christmas, my mother was selected by the other ladies in camp to go to McGehee City to purchase presents for the little children. She was able to catch a bus on the highway, which took her to the city.

“When she entered the bus, she saw a sign reading, ‘Black and White Sections.’ So she sat down in the section marked ‘Black.’

“The driver got up, grabbed her hand and said, ‘Honey, you don’t belong in the black section.’ And he sat her down in the front of the bus with all the white passengers.

“While we were in Jerome, the Army sent German POWs to the relocation camp and told the Japanese internees to move out to wherever they wished to move to if they didn’t want to be with the Germans.

“My father decided to move to the Gila, Arizona Relocation Center and we stayed there until the war ended.

“Of course, we were frequently asked, ‘What were you locked up in camps for?’

“I told them it was a joke since I was only nine years old at the time. What I wanted to tell them was that most Americans didn’t even know about the Japanese Americans being placed in camp simply because they were of Japanese ethnicity. Most of them were brought up on the East Coast and never heard about the evacuation. Or they were too young to know the story of Japanese Americans.”

Thanks for the letter about the life of a nine-year-old in relocation camp. I’m sure many of the readers will find it interesting.

Cynthia Carbone Ward and her colleague Kam Jacoby have been interviewing Japanese Americans in the City of Guadalupe as part of a book project they are working on.

Being interviewed were Harry Masatani and Bindo Grasso, who were happy to share their reminiscences and opinions.

“Masatani is 86 years old and runs the Masatani Market in Guadalupe with his wife and sons. He was born in Santa Maria to an Issei father and Hawaiian-born Nisei mother. He spent his childhood in Guadalupe.

“Grasso moved into the area a decade later and had a concrete business in town until his retirement at age 91. The two met in a coffee shop near Masatani’s Market in the ’50s. The two refer to each other as brothers.

“Ironically, the two first met when Masatani was taken to Santa Anita Assembly Center before the Nisei was shipped off to a relocation camp.

“As for Masatani, he still speaks of his experience and bewilderment, not bitterness. He says, ‘Wartime. Japanese I got locked up. On Dec. 6, we were Japanese Americans. Dec. 8 we are classified as enemy aliens. Enemy aliens, how about that? Not Americans anymore. FBI came and picked up all the heads of household, all the men, so just the women and children are left. And shortly after, came the order to evacuate the West Coast, so they rounded us up.’

“There’s a photo on the wall of Guadalupe’s American Legion Hall showing Gen. Eisenhower greeting the troops, and Grasso is one of the soldiers in the picture. He served this country with honor, but doesn’t make a big deal of it.

“‘I didn’t do anything special,’ he said. ‘Just did what I was supposed to do.’

“By this, he meant that on the day before D-Day, he parachuted into Normandy, landing behind enemy lines to help get up beacons and secure important targets for the troops that would follow.

“Despite having been imprisoned as an enemy alien for much of World War II, Masatani decided to join the Army in 1945. Recalling how his morning in the internment camp began with the Pledge of Allegiance spoken while surrounded by barbed-wire fence and guard towers, he said he took ‘liberty and justice’ quite seriously along with the responsibility he believed came with them.

“Eventually, he returned to his hometown to take over his father’s market and bought a Victorian house where he and his wife still live. Shortly after the family moved in, someone fired a gun through a bedroom window — you can see the bullet hole in the floral wallpaper. But Masatani is a gentle and resilient man who has always opted for forgiveness over anger.

“By now we’d stood chatting in front of the American Legion hall for nearly an hour and Jacoby and I assumed these two old guys would go home and take a nap. But no, they were heading out in Grasso’s car to visit another friend of theirs who is 89.

“‘Sometimes we get in the car for a ride,’ Gasso said, ‘And we end up driving 200 to 300 miles on a road trip.’

“They climbed into Grasso’s car and drove off.”

Wow. That’s quite a story, don’t you think?

Here’s another interesting story.

It’s entitled “Japan’s Flatulence-Absorbing Underpants Go Global.”

So, first it was Japanese cameras and film, followed by TV sets and then cars.

Now, the U.S. may import “flatulence-absorbing underpants” from Japan.

The new product is being introduced by a firm called Seiren and it is flying off the shelves in Japan thanks to its unique deodorizing technology.

Yes, the underpants are 100% cotton, says the company spokesman, but they contain ceramic particles and metal ions that absorb the smell and decompose it.

It case some of you may be wondering, the new product diminishes “onara.”

You can look up that word in your Japanese/English dictionary.

Leave it to the Japanese to come up with a new product like this.

The company says the underpants were initially aimed at “old people with bowel issues.”

“We were targeting nursing homes and hospitals, but now young people started buying them,” said the firm’s spokesman.

Apparently, people of all ages have flatulence problems.

The firm is closely guarding its odor-absorbing undies technology and is applying it to garments like socks as well.

Men, in particular, worry about the smell of their feet.

The product made by the 120-year-old textile firm is being bombarded with orders from around the world. America included?

Who says old friend Harry Honda doesn’t have a sense of humor? He sent me the following and I sure got a laugh out of it. It goes like this:

Ed and Linda met on a cruise ship and fell head over heels in love.

When they discovered they lived in the same city, only a few miles apart, Ed was ecstatic.

He started asking her out when they got home.

Within a couple weeks, Ed had taken Linda to dance clubs, restaurants, concerts, movies and museums.

Ed became convinced that Linda was indeed his soul mate and true love.

Every date seemed better than the last.

On the one-month anniversary of their first dinner on the cruise ship, Ed took Linda to a fine restaurant.

While having cocktails and waiting for their salad, Ed said, “I guess you can tell I’m very much in love with you. I’d like a little serious talk before our relationship continues to the next stage. So before I get a box out of my jacket and ask you a life-changing question, it’s only fair to warn you, I am a total nut. I play golf, I read about golf, I watch golf on TV. In short, I eat, sleep and breathe golf. If that’s going to be a problem for us, you should say so now.”

Linda took a deep breath and responded, “Ed, that certainly won’t be a problem. I love you as you are and I love golf too. But since we’re being totally honest, you need to know that for the last five years I’ve been a hooker.”

Ed responded, “I bet it’s because you’re not keeping your wrist straight when you hit the ball.”

Okay, golfers, start laughing.

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

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