HORSE’S MOUTH: 24 Years with The Rafu

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YOSHINAGA-GEORGEBy GEORGE YOSHINAGA

For a while it looked like “Shinnen omedeto” would convert to “Shinnen omaigosh.” That’s because when I flipped my calendar to 2014, I discovered that I lost my ATM credit card. I looked all over the house without success.

So on Thursday, I jumped in my car to report the loss to Union Bank, which had issued me the card. As I was getting in the car, I dropped my key under the driver’s seat, and as I reached down to pick it up, there was my card.

I ran back in the house and reported finding my card. My wife said, “I kind of figured you’d find it somewhere.”

So, it’s “Shinnen omedeto.”

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Every year, at the start of the new year, many companies pass out calendars to their clients. The practice seems to have slowed down. I used to get a half-dozen calendars from firms that I do business with, but this year, nothing.

Well, not exactly nothing. Tak Hamano, owner and operator of Umeya Company, the one that manufacturers senbei, still offers calendars. Not only that, his calendars are large, so I tack one to my living room wall so I can jot down my schedule on the appropriate dates. As the day begins, I check his calendar to see what’s on my schedule for the day.

I usually drive to J-Town to pick up his company’s calendar, but this year I didn’t have to do that. My neighbor Ed Fukumoto drops in at Umeya from time to time and this year, he picked up my calendar and delivered it to my house.

Thanks, Ed, you not only saved me time but at least one gallon of gas from my Toyota .

Heh, heh. Maybe he’ll send me a bill for the gas he burned up.

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As we turn to the calendar from 2013 to 2014, one of the things I always do is reflect on the passing of time.

Gosh, it’s been 70 years since I wore the uniform of Uncle Sam’s Army as Private George Yoshinaga, having left Heart Mountain Relocation Center to take basic training at Camp Blanding, Florida.

Can’t say that living in a military training camp was any better than being an “evacuee” in an internment center.

Well, one thing for sure. Those of us in the military knew where we were headed after we finished basic training. Well, at least most of us did. I guess it was the time in the lives of most Japanese Americans to make decisions that established our future.

One thing for me was deciding where I wanted to live as a civilian. Prior to evacuation, I was a resident of Mountain View, a small city in Northern California about 20 miles north of San Jose.

Since my mother had passed away while I was overseas in the military and my sister married, I really didn’t have a place I could call “home.” So I decided to live in Los Angeles, where I figured there were more opportunities.

Never figured one of these opportunities would be to become a journalist, and 70 years later, I’m reflecting on those days.

No, I never imagined that I would be writing a column for The Rafu Shimpo, the top vernacular newspaper in the JA community.

If someone had told me in those days that I would be pounding a column for The Rafu for 24 years, I would have said, “Man, you have been standing in the sun too long.” But in a few more months, it will be 24 years since I joined the publication.

Needless to say, time passes.

Yeah, 70 years since I had a byline in The Heart Mountain Sentinel, the camp newspaper. The title of my column in those days was “Sports Tidbits.”

I took over the column when its originator, Ted Yano, joined the Army and served with the 442nd RCT, the all-JA military unit.

Well, a little after Ted left, I also put on the khaki uniform, as I mentioned earlier in today’s column.

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Needless to say, as I said in opening today’s column, time passes. I guess at the start of every new year, we all reflect on the past, and one thing that pops into mind is how Little Tokyo has changed.

Something that I sensed as a newspaperman covering the J-Town beat.

For one thing, I can wander around First Street and never see a familiar face. In the “old days,” every other person I ran into was someone I knew and every car that passed through was a Ford, Chevy or Buick. Today, every fourth car is a Toyota, Honda or Nissan.

Yeah, and there are no “yogores” hanging out in front of the building that was called the Taul Building, thus giving the guys the title “Taul Building Yogores.” And I have to admit, I was one of those “yogores.

I guess the only thing I have to add to the foregoing is, “How much change will take place in Little Tokyo in the next 70 years?” Heck, my youngest son will be over 90 years old.

Those who survive might say, “Remember when this area was called Little Tokyo?” And those who hear the comment might respond, “Little Tokyo? How come?”

Ah, memories.

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I guess as we flip the pages of the calendar, we tend to look back as much as look forward to 2014. What does the new year present to the community?

We’ve witnessed a number of changes and those numbers will continue to grow. Of course, as one writing for The Rafu, the first question that pops into mind is, “What’s the future of vernacular newspapers in the JA community?”

Today there is only The Rafu left to serve the JA community in Los Angeles.

When I first joined the media field, there were four publications in J-Town. In addition to The Rafu, there were Crossroads (a weekly all-English publication), Shin Nichi Bei and The Kashu Mainichi.

In the San Francisco area, there were two papers, The Nichi Bei Times and Hokubei Mainchi. Both of these went out of business a few years ago because of dwindling subscribers.

I did write a column for The Nichi Bei Times for about six months before returning to L.A.

The question here might be, “Will there be a need for a newspaper in the JA community 70 years from now?” Hey, 70 years from today it will be the year 2084.

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I’m sure many of you watched the Rose Parade in Pasadena on TV over the New Year’s Day celebration. It’s a good thing they have TV coverage.

I used to go to Pasadena and joined the hundreds thousands who turned out to view the event live.

Well, with old age creeping up on me, I’d never consider going to the event to view it live. Fighting hundreds of thousands of viewers is too much. However, I’m hooked on the event since I once rode on a float.

I played the role of an emperor on the float along with the late Pat Hishiki, who was the empress. It was an experience I’ll never forget.

One thing that still pops into mind is the number of JAs who were in the crowd along Colorado Boulevard. How did I know? Well, every block or so I’d hear someone yelling out, “Hey, Horse, how’d you get a seat on a float?” Needless to say, I’d wave at the voice.

One thing I learned about riding the float. Never drink any coffee or any other liquid before boarding.

The reason? Well, from the time a person climbs on the float until the parade ends, there are at least four hours, and if a float rider needs to go “shi-shi,” there’s no place to go.

I knew I had to gut it out because I had about three cups of coffee before climbing aboard the float. It sounds amusing now, as I look back on the experience, but it sure wasn’t a laughing matter.

Go “shi-shi.”

Ah, memories.

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Because there were no local teams (UCLA and USC) in the Rose Bowl football game, I didn’t even watch the game on TV.

Yeah, I know Stanford is somewhat of a “local” team, but their participation in the Rose Bowl didn’t capture my interest. Maybe it’s a good thing since they lost the game.

Well, the way UCLA ended their season, maybe they’ll be in the game next year, especially if there’s a JA placed on their roster.

There were a couple of JA high schoolers who might make the Bruin roster in the future.

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Well, this column is the start of the new year for me.

Yeah, I know I mention it frequently, but who would have imagined I’d be beginning my 24th year with The Rafu in the year 2014? I’m sure fellow columnist Wimp Hiroto feels the same way.

The Rafu  ran my column in the final 2013 issue next to Wimp’s. I’m not sure how come this happened because Wimp usually appears in the Wednesday edition. Well, maybe those who are fans of Wimp might have glanced over and seen my column.

Don’t know if that convinced them to see what I was writing as compared to Wimp. So, it’s hard for me to imagine that I will be starting my 24th year with this publication.

It’s been a lot of fun, so unless bossman Mike Komai throws me out, I’ll continue to pound away with the Horse’s Mouth.

As we start 2014, I want to thank Mike and all the staffers at The Rafu (including Editor Gwen and typist Maggie) for putting up with me.

Happy New Year to all the readers who follow my column. I hope there are “all the readers” out there.

See ya next week.

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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