HORSE’S MOUTH: Who’s the Oldest Nisei?

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By GEORGE YOSHINAGA

I guess a lot of folks tuned in on David Ono’s telecast on ABC 7 this past Sunday.

At least judging from the number of emails I received because of my participation in Dave’s telecast.

I had thought that because I was interned at Heart Mountain I would have a minor role in the telecast, but when I watched it, I was kind of surprised at seeing myself on the screen so much.

One of them read: “Hey Horse, that photo of you in a football uniform was a surprise to me. I know you mention from time to time about working as a journalist at the camp newspaper, but I don’t recall you ever playing football in camp.

Probably a lot of readers never knew about your career as a football player.”

Thanks to the writers of the emails. They kind of rekindle my memories of the Wyoming camp.

While touching on Heart Mountain, I wrote that I would like to attend this year’s reunion in Wyoming, but it doesn’t look like I will be there, which is a disappointment for me.

The reunion is scheduled for July 19, which happens to be my birthday. And I was informed that there will be a birthday gathering for me in Las Vegas.

No need to tell you that if I had to select a site to visit, if Las Vegas is mentioned, it is hard to skip any event in my favorite city.

I guess you can call it old age. Yeah, I’ll be tacking another year on my already aging body.

Who would have ever imagined that I would be saying, “Yeah, I’m 88 years old”?

I guess when I see my Yonsei granddaughter driving up to our house, I can begin to accept my old age.

I remember when I used to push her around in her baby stroller, and now she’s cruising around on the Harbor Freeway.

According to a recent survey, what is the top fear among those who are aging?

Well, 82 percent responded that they are most concerned about memory loss.

And 11 percent say they are concerned about physical appearance.

Me? I guess if I was asked that question, I would respond, “How many more years do I have?”

Those of you who have been following my chatter in The Rafu for over 20 years and before that at The Kashu Mainichi for 35 years know that I am not one of those Japanese Americans who accept being called “Asian” rather than JA.

So whenever I see a story about “Asians,” I don’t pay too much attention to it.

Recently, there was a story with the headline “Asians are nation’s fastest-growing group.” I read it even though I concluded it didn’t include Japanese Americans.

The growth of the so-called Asian Americans is due to migration from Asian countries, not including Japan. One paragraph in the article read, “L.A. County, the most populous county in the U.S., has the largest Asian and Hispanic population of any county.”

If any of you have traveled through cities like Temple City, you were probably amazed at the large number of Chinese now residing and operating businesses in the area.

Most streets look more like L.A.’s Chinatown than Temple City.

Speaking of Chinese, a reader sent me the following:

“Horse, here is a Chinese hotel brochure translated word for word from Mandarin to English. My question to your readers of your column is: if this was a Japanese hotel brochure translated word for word from Japanese to English, will it be the same?

“A friend went to Beijing recently and was given this brochure by the hotel. It is precious. She is keeping it and reading it whenever she feels depressed. Obviously, it has been translated directly, word for word, from Mandarin to English.”

The brochure reads as follows:

“Our representative will make you wait at the airport. The bus to the hotel runs along the lake shore. Soon you will feel pleasure in passing water.

“You will know that you are getting near the hotel because you will go around the bend. The manager will await you in the entrance hall. He always tries to have intercourse with all new guests.

“The hotel is a family hotel so children are very welcomed. We, of course, are always pleased to accept adultery. Highly skilled nurses are available in the evenings to put down your children.

“Guests are invited to conjugate in the bar and expose themselves to others. But please note that ladies are not allowed to have babies in the bar. We organize social games so no guest is ever left alone with themselves.

“The restaurant’s menu has been carefully chosen to be ordinary and unexciting. At dinner, our quartet will circulate from table to table and fiddle with you.

“Your room has excellent facilities for your private parts. In winter, every room is in heat. Each room has a balcony offering views of outstanding obscenity. You will not be disturbed by traffic noise, since the road between the hotel and lake is used only by pedestrians.

“Your bed has been made in accordance with local tradition. If you have any other ideas, please ring for the chambermaid. Please take advantage of her. She will be pleased to squash your shirt, blouses and underwear. If asked, she will also squeeze your trousers.

“Above all, when you leave us at the end of your holiday, you will have no hope. You will struggle to forget it.”

I wonder who translated the foregoing for English-speaking guests.

I know the news of the passing of the world’s oldest person last week at the age of 116 made most of the print media headlines, but what wasn’t mentioned with the same energy was that Jiroemon Kimura’s passing made another Japanese the new “oldest.”

That would be Misao Ogawa, a 115-year-old from Osaka.

It’s kind of amazing that the world’s oldest living person is Japanese.

Which makes me wonder. Who is the oldest living Japanese American or Nisei?

There are a number of Nisei in their mid- and late 90s, but I haven’t heard of any reaching 100.

If any reader has information on a Nisei over 100, I’d like to print his or her name in my column.

You can send the information by email or by snail-mail to The Rafu.

I’m sure members of the Japanese American community would like to know just who is the oldest living JA.

While touching on Japanese Americans, those of us who are members of the media are often given information on individuals who may stand out in the activities they are engaged in, say, sports, who don’t get recognition in publications such as The Rafu because their names may be Smith or Jones.

Or maybe Holden, as in the case of cyclist Mari Holden, who will be among five members of the Ventura County Sports Hall of Fame.

Mari’s mother is a Nisei, so Mari is a Hapa.

A Ventura native, she is a six-time U.S. champion in time trials including three consecutive from 1998 to 2000. She was also a double winner at time trials. Her crowning achievement was winning the silver medal in the time trials at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.

I’m sure if we made an in-depth study of athletes, we might dig up many more Hapa who have achieved greatness but have not been identified as Hapa.

I guess following the previous segment, I can toss in this piece from “You Know You’re Japanese American When …”

You know that “camp” doesn’t mean a cabin in the woods.

The men in your family were gardeners, farmers or plantation workers.

The women in your family were seamstresses, domestic workers or farm laborers.

Your Issei grandparents had an arranged marriage.

One of your relatives was a “picture bride.”

You have Nisei relatives named Tak, Tad, George, Harry or Shig.

You have Nisei relatives named Keiko, Aiko, Sumi or Mary.

You’re Sansei and your name is Janice, Glen, Brian, Bill or Kenji.

You’re thinking of naming your Yonsei child Brittany, Jenny, Lauren, Garrett or Brett, with a Japanese middle name.

All your cousins are having Hapa kids.

You have relatives who live in Hawaii.

You learned the words “bakatare,” “urusai” and “yakamashii” because you were called that by your grandparents.

You belong to a Japanese credit union.

Wherever you live now, you always come home to the Obon festival.

The bushes in your front yard are trimmed into balls.

You have a kaki tree in the backyard.

You have at least one bag of senbei in the house at all times.

You have a Japanese doll in a glass case in your living room.

You have a maneki neko in your house for good luck.

You have a Japanese mon and Japanese needlepoint on the wall.

Your grandma used to crochet all your blankets.

Wearing shoes in the house is a big no-no.

When you visit other JAs, you give or receive a bag of fruits or vegetables.

When you visit other JAs, you know that you should bring omiyage.

When you leave a JA house, you take leftover food home on a paper plate or a Styrofoam meat tray.

You know that Pat Morita didn’t really speak like Mr. Miyagi.

After funerals, you go to China-meshi.

After giving koden, you get stamps in the mail.

You know that sushi and sashimi are not the same thing.

And the Horse’s Mouth should shut up.

Since Tiger Woods didn’t fare too well in this past weekend’s tournament, it might be time to let you Nisei golfers get a chuckle out of today’s laugher.

Tiger Woods says to Stevie Wonder, “How’s the singing career going?”

Stevie replies, “Not too bad. How’s your golf?”

Tiger replies, “Not too bad. I’ve had some problems with my swing, but I think I’ve got that right now.”

Stevie says, “I always find that when my swing goes wrong, I need to stop playing for a while and not think about it.

Then the next time I play, it seems to be all right.”

Incredulous, Tiger says, “You play golf?”

“Yes, I’ve been playing for years.”

“But you’re blind. How can you play golf if you can’t see?”

“Well, I get my caddy to stand in the middle of the fairway and call to me. I listen for the sound of his voice and play the ball towards him. Then when I get to where the ball lands, the caddy moves to the green or farther down the fairways, and again I play the ball towards his voice.”

“But how do you putt?”

“Well, I get my caddy to lean down in front of the hole and call to me with his head on the ground, and I just play the ball towards his voice.”

“What’s your handicap?”

“Well, actually, I’m a scratch golfer.”

Tiger, in dismay, says, “We’ve got to play a round sometime.”

Stevie replies, “Well, people don’t take me seriously, so I only play for money, and never play for less than $10,000 a hole. Is that a problem?”

Tiger thinks about it and says, “I can afford that. Okay, I’m game. $10,000 a hole is fine with me. When would you like to play?”

Stevie says, “Pick a night.”

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

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2 Comments

  1. Yeah, that’s my grandma! She’s amazing, her mind is still present, sure every time I see her she’s a little weaker, but she still there! Hard to believe that someone can live that long! Hard to imagine the changes she’s seen in her lifetime. Just had dinner with her at Piedmont Gardens about a week ago.

    here’s the link to the story in the newspaper that came out just after we celebrated her 108th birthday
    http://www.contracostatimes.com/ci_23494891/oakland-woman-celebrates-her-108th-birthday

    Scott Serata

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