HORSE’S MOUTH: A Parking Lot Conversation

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YOSHINAGA-GEORGEBy GEORGE YOSHINAGA

(Published Jan. 10, 2015)

Writing two columns a week, each one covering nearly a full page, requires a great deal of thought on the subject matter. On the other hand, ideas sometimes pop up without any thought.

The other day I took my wife shopping, and while she was in the store I was thinking, “Gee, what can I begin the year with as far as my column is concerned?”

Just about the same time, a fellow Nisei whom I knew walked by my car. When he saw me, he smiled and said, “Hey, Horse, what are you doing sitting in your car in a parking lot?’’ “I’m waiting for my wife to finish shopping,” I laughed.

He joined in the laughter and said, “Me, too.” So he opened the door on the passenger side of the car and sat down.

While we were chatting, he asked me, “Say, didn’t you go to work in Japan back in the early ’60s?”

I responded, “Yeah, I lived in Tokyo for three years. Why do you ask?”

“Well, would you believe I’ve been offered a job in Tokyo?” he responded.

I asked him if he was going to take the offer.

He said he has given it a lot of thought but couldn’t make up his mind.

“Maybe if I chat with you about your experience living in Japan, I might come to some kind of conclusion,” he said.

I told him, “Japan is a lot different today than it was back in the early ’60s, so my response to you may not be worth the words.”

Then I said, “Well, the value of the yen against the dollar today is so different and there are more non-Japanese living and working in the country than there were when I worked there.”

I asked him, “Do you speak fluent Japanese?”

He responded, “Not fluent, but I guess enough to get by.”

I laughed and that ended that conversation.

“Thanks for chatting with me, Horse. I guess I’ll go look for my wife.” And he left.

The conversation did make me think about today’s Japan as compared to the days when I was a resident there.

Yeah, I haven’t been to Japan for at least four years now, and it’s been about 50 years since I lived and worked there. Needless to say, a lot can change in that period of time.

I know because some of the personnel at the company where I worked come to the U.S. to visit, and I can sense the change in their attitude after these many years.

For one thing, most of them have learned to speak English, something they never did while we worked together at the company, and they know more about the U.S.

Oh well, I guess the guy I chatted with in the shopping center parking lot will learn about Japan and the Japanese when (and if) he decides to move to that country.

All I can say is “Rots of ruck.”

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That was an interesting article The Rafu printed in its Jan. 6 edition about people choking on mochi.

One reason for people choking on the rice cakes is that because it’s so chewy, the person eating it thinks it’s safe to swallow the mochi without further chewing, thus causing a disaster.

I know that in the years I’ve watched people dining on mochi, I have seen a number of cases of people getting mochi stuck in their throats.

In my lifetime, I think I got mochi stuck in my throat a couple of times, but quick-thinking bystanders kept me from choking.

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As I expected, The Rafu’s staff did a great job in putting out the New Year’s edition of the publication.

One thing I noticed while watching the Rose Parade was that one Nisei vet was missing on the City of Alhambra float. It was pre-advertised that four Nisei vets would be riding the float, but I counted only three during the parade.

With the number of Nisei vets vanishing because of the passing of time, I guess it’s not easy to get a lot of vets to participate. However, I am glad that after all these years, those Nisei who served in World War II are being recognized.

Let’s face it. Being a World War II vet means that today those who are left are in their mid-80s through 90s. Some have hit the century mark.

Yeah, I’m one of the younger WWII vets, and I’ll be 90 in a few more months.

I guess this is one aspect of our Nisei vets that doesn’t get enough mention.

You gotta figure that’s only natural because when the Nisei vets were scooped up and placed in their khaki uniforms, they were in their early to mid-20s.

I was 19 when I put on my first khaki uniform.

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Speaking of age, I was kind of astounded when a flashy Toyota car pulled up in front of our house and the driver stepped out, a young lady.

I had to do a double take when I recognized her as one of my granddaughters. Yeah, one of my granddaughters already reaching driving age??

My gosh, I still recall the days when she was crawling around on her hands and knees in our living room.

Now, she’s driving to our house to say hello??

Yeah, Grandpa is an old man.

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The Terminal Islanders are holding their annual New Year’s party, to which we are invited each year.

Well, this year we want to attend but, somehow we lost our response to the invitation, so we may not have our names on the guest list, but we are hoping they will still allow us to attend.

If not, I guess my wife and I will drive to a nearby McDonald’s and buy our luncheon.

I guess I have to be more careful what I do with the large number of invitations I get (most of which I misplace).

Sorry about that, Terminal Islanders.

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Went out to Santa Anita Race Track the other day to watch the horses run.

Between races, I took my wife (she’s from Hawaii) around the area and pointed out the barrack sites where 18,000 people lived.

While things like barracks and its population received publicity during the stay of JAs in the camp, other details were rarely mentioned, such as the several tons of food served daily at six mess halls.

Limited seating capacity and lack of equipment added to the problem because all the dishes had to be washed and reused three times a day.

I don’t remember if I read it anywhere, but it was noted that the last group of evacuees to be locked up at Santa Anita came from Santa Clara County.

A total of 4,500 former Santa Clarans. Yes, my family was among those from Santa Clara County who were sent on to Heart Mountain, Wyoming.

Ah yes, sometimes it’s interesting to look back in history.

One day if I have nothing else to do, I am planning to write about our trip from Santa Anita to Heart Mountain.

To look at the route taken by the train today, it seemed like such a lengthy train ride, but I have yet to see a word written on the voyage.

I know that there were a couple of stories about the train pulling into the Salt Lake City train station and dozens of JAs who lived in the Utah city appearing on the platform to greet and wave to the evacuees.

I always asked the question: How did the Salt Lake JA community know that the trainload of JAs would be passing through their city? To this day, I have not seen an explanation.

Hey, when I saw all the JA faces on the platform, I was ready to jump off and shake their hands, but my friends on the train held me back. A number of guys on the train told me the same thing. But I wondered what would have happened if we did get off the train.

Yeah, they had MPs in uniforms watching the JAs on the train. Would they have turned their weapons on us?

I guess there are a lot of unanswered questions that can be tossed out today in the year 2015.

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In winding up today’s chatter, I was asked by a reader why I never put together a book on the evacuation during WWII.

Well, I never gave it much thought, but I guess those who did experience our evacuation were never asked about it. Of course, there aren’t that many JAs left who can write about it first-hand.

I know I made notes about being shipped from Santa Anita to Heart Mountain, but along the way I misplaced them. So if I want to write about it now, it would have to be from memory, which isn’t that great these days.

Of well, maybe one day I will make an effort to write down my memories of the evacuation, if anyone is interested.

George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in his column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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