There’s nothing like a nice letter from a reader to get me fired up to begin my column. This one, however short, from a reader who only wants to be identified as “Jim” reads as follows:
“Hi Horse — I’m a lot younger than you (I was born after camp days) but I’ve been following your column for a lot of years.
“I don’t always agree with most of the stuff you write but I feel I get a lot of information that I never knew about. So, keep writing although I know you are getting up in age.”
Thanks, Jim. I’m not “getting up in age,” I’m already up there. Heh, heh.
Let me start by saying that a lot of Japanese Americans of your generation seem to be interested in that period of Japanese American history, but don’t know about what it was really like when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.
We JAs suddenly became “Japs.”
In the past I wrote that even my classmate with whom I attended school from grade school to high school suddenly had an attitude change when the war started.
When Japan invaded the Philippines, Filipino Americans in cities like Stockton, where there was a large Filipino community, began throwing things at Japanese Americans.
We don’t read or hear about these experiences these days.
Oh well, people might say, “Let the past be the past,” but we have to remember that our country being pulled into World War II had a devastating effect on all Americans.
Oh well, let me get on with today’s chatter, not about what happened 70 years ago.
Speaking of the current era, who would have ever imagined that 70 years after WWII, the signing of a Japanese baseball player would be one of the top stories in the sports pages of America’s newspapers? But that’s what is happening with the New York Yankees’ signing of Masahiro Tanaka.
If he continues pitching for the Yankees as he did in his final season in Japan, you can bet he will continue to capture headlines.
My only regret is that the Dodgers didn’t sign him.
But I guess it was petty tough to dish out the kind of money that the Yankees paid him.
Oh well, maybe if the Dodgers win the National League title and the Yankees, the American League crown, we may be able to see Tanaka at Dodger Stadium at season’s end.
This might be a little political, but let’s imagine that Tanaka matches the skills that he showed in the Japanese league. His record was 24 and 0 in Japan.
Well, with Gardena Mayor Paul Tanaka running for Los Angeles County sheriff, would the name of the Yankees’ Tanaka making headlines in the media help Paul?
Heck, maybe Paul can go to a Yankees game and take a photo with the Japanese ace wearing the pinstripes of the New York club.
The headline could read “Tanaka Meets Tanaka.”
Maybe Mayor Tanaka can invite pitcher Tanaka for dinner at a Japanese restaurant in his city. It would be a “no-hitter” for Mayor Tanaka.
With the response Bacon Sakatani, who is putting together this year’s Santa Anita reunion for those who were incarcerated at the race track during the early days of WWII, it would seem a lot of people would want to remember those dark days in Japanese American history.
I know that there aren’t too many people left who were tossed into what was called an “assembly center” in early 1942, so the number of people expressing their desire to attend the event is kind of surprising.
When I first put together the event, almost 300 people attended. That number might be matched this year.
It will be held on Saturday, March 29.
So those of you who might want to spend an afternoon at the Arcadia race track should contact Bacon.
I know going to the reunion rekindles a lot of memories for me.
In those days I was among the younger generation of JAs. Today, I would be among the oldest.
As I frequently mention, Santa Anita Assembly Center is kind of special for me because that is where someone gave me the nickname “Horse,” and it has stuck for all these many years.
Here is a typical letter written by Bob and Agnes Nagamoto about the reunion:
“We would like to attend the Santa Anita Reunion on March 29. There will be four of us since my son and his wife will be driving us.
“Thank you for all the work and time putting together the original reunion. It must have been lots and lots of work.
“I was 10 years old when I went to Santa Anita in May 1942 and we lived in the Yellow Mess part of the camp. My father was the director of the camp dental clinic and Dr. Norman Kobayashi was the medical director.
“The hospital and clinic were located in the jockeys’ locker/dressing room with the beautifully blue tiled showers. The dental clinic was fully furnished with instruments and chairs with lights provided by the USC School of Dentistry. My brother and I were fortunate enough to shower in the jockeys’ quarters.
“This will be my first visit back to Santa Anita. We then went to Amache, Colorado in September 1942.”
Thanks for your letter, Bob and Agnes. I’ll be looking forward to meeting you at the reunion.
Wouldn’t it be something if Corey Nakatani has a mount in the race named “The Wartime Residents of Santa Anita,” and for a Japanese American jockey to win the race?
Who would have imagined that one day there would be Japanese American jockeys competing in races? (George Taniguchi, Mitchell Shirota, Roy Yaka)
Readers who follow my chatter know that I often write about having dinner at McDonald’s. In recent times I have cut off McDonald’s for many of my meals. I don’t know why, but I guess I’m not the only one.
A recent survey showed that the well-known “hamburger house” has been losing a lot of business. Business dropped 3.8 percent in 2013.
After nearly a decade of outperforming all other restaurant companies, McDonald’s has struggled in recent times.
One reason is that the popular hamburger chain installed a more complicated menu that has slowed service and turned off customers.
My reason for cutting back on McDonald’s isn’t the foregoing one. I guess as a JA, I’d rather have a nigiri (rice ball) for lunch than a Big Mac.
McDonald’s for the coming year is budgeting $3 billion in capital expenditures, which will mean over 1,600 new restaurant openings, and maybe a Big Mac will have a bigger price. (My thoughts.)
Okay, it’s time to toss in Las Vegas.
How many of you know that Vegas has hosted almost every imaginable convention but in more than a century, Republicans and Democrats have kept their distance and Sin City has never hosted a national political convention?
Hey, that’s news to me.
Well, all that may end in 2016 when Vegas will try to host the Republican National Convention.
Casino owners are planning to spend $98 million to attract the GOP’s 2016 convention.
Republicans, after losing the last two presidential elections, are eyeing Vegas to change the trend.
The GOP is aware that Vegas has a large Latino population, which generally is a plus for Democrats, but the Republicans will seek to change that.
The GOP, of course, will methodically try to play down the aspect of the city that is a gaming community. If they do, the GOP will be presenting a presidential candidate who could reside in the White House in the next election.
Well, as a Republican, I wish them luck.
Okay, let me toss in one of my favorite topics.
While the government continues its battle against smoking, it was reported that cigarette smoking among high school youths has declined over the past two years.
Although they thought they were winning the battle, they are facing another challenge. That would be cigars.
I guess as a cigar person, I might stand up and cheer.
That’s because the younger generation is switching to cigars. It is easier to find cigars for consumers under the age 18 and it costs a lot less, so I guess I won’t be the only one with a cigar dangling out of my lips.
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.