CROSSROADS TO SOMEWHERE: Jappo Is a Five-Letter Word That Spells Pride



Hi there, how it is? Time to touch base again. Let’s make that “touch gloves,” considering all the weekend hullabaloo over two guys pummeling each other. That’s what makes America so great. The world is going to pot and people are in a frenzy over a boxing match. Go figure. Not to forget the unwashed who once a year become devotees of a horse race. There were 170,000 at Churchill Downs, most probably wishing they were in Las Vegas.

Being familiar with degenerates, more than somewhat, I have a soft spot for miscreants. Those who bet the rent money on anything that moves need compassion, not condemnation. The misguided who wager milk money in search of a cash cow are merely failures at husbandry.

For whatever reason, I find myself in an expansive mood today. The negative is always there to dissect and discuss. Finding positives in the news is rare, sometimes impossible. Regardless, let’s take a gander at some past events to raise cane if not able. Shoot, you don’t have anything better to do now anyway, right? And as always, we will somehow manage to connect everything to being a nice, quiet, observant Jappo.

The 40th anniversary observations marking the end of the Vietnam War were interesting. First of all, you can’t help but admire the way displaced Vietnamese survived, adapted and succeeded under dire circumstances. [Because you can’t help but compare it to another “Asian” experience.] CR2S finds it intriguing their elderly observe the upheaval in terms of a lost war. Meanwhile, their “Nisei” trumpet the impressive recovery of the motherland as well as their stateside success. When you realize almost 70% of all Vietnamese are under forty years of age, you get a clearer picture of the generational divide.

[As far as Americans are concerned, no one wants to be reminded we lost that war, as well as other sour reminders like student uprisings, draft evaders, Chicago, Gen. Westmoreland, ad infinitum.]

Then there is today, fifty years after Selma. We are sadly reminded that Baltimore is in Maryland, not Disneyland. I’m not very good remembering dates, but wasn’t it not so long ago when Los Angeles was burning? While the rioting has turned into a celebration in Baltimore, the first word I think of is “premature.”

The annual return to Manzanar was a memory shaker of a different ilk. Seventy years after its closure, a mass of 1,500 made the ’15 trek to the wartime habitat. Being involved in reunions of all shapes and sizes over the years, such an impressive turnout is absolutely astounding. I wonder how many were ex-Manzanites. Actually the more newbies the better, when you think about it, to be informed and educated so 9066 is never forgotten.

FDR is hailed for TVA and WPA, but WRA gets lost in the New Deal shuffle of initials. CR2S well remembers how difficult it was for Sue Kunitomi Embrey to organize and entice enough people to make the initial hegira. Then she launched a relentless (and seemingly hopeless) campaign to convince Washington, D.C. to acknowledge the Owens Valley folly and establish a permanent memorial.

At almost the same time, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe addressed a joint session of Congress. And the highlight of his speech is a pledge to strengthen military ties. He then comes to L.A. to acknowledge the important role Nisei played in the difficult two-nation relationship, especially during the elite ’80s. And do any of you give it much thought when a foreign dignitary comes here and speaks English? (Not including Netenyahu.) I guess Caroline Kennedy has “kon-ban-wa” down pat by now. That Abe attended USC is just another never no mind.

Of course the winds of war blow hot and cold. We were sideline observers during the Tokyo Rose and the less famous “Meatball” Kawakita war crime trials. She had the misfortune of being a radio propagandist turned into a traitor for wont of a scapegoat. Those who have read Laura Hillenbrand’s book or seen the movie “Unbroken” know the story of Olympian Louis Zamperini. How he survived 47 days on the Pacific only to suffer more as a prisoner of war; mostly at the hands of a sadistic POW camp head tabbed “The Bird.” In brief, Kawakita (a Nisei from Imperial Valley) was a WWII version of Hillenbrand’s Matsuhiro Watanabe. In a million-to-one shot, he was spotted by a former POW in a local market after the war.

Even the ongoing drought I turn into an ethnic reminder. You’ve got urban needs facing off against agricultural thirst, northern versus southern Cal, the state facing off against Nevada and Arizona for water originating in Colorado. The water brouhaha reminds that it was the Issei who transformed an arid, rock-strewn wasteland known as Imperial Valley into the state’s food basket. That’s not a stretch. In pre-war years, they expertly tilled barren acreage into thriving greenery and then were made to move on. Their homes were on wheels, mobile to make it easier to move to the next challenge. One of the major reasons evacuation hysteria became a reality is because of farm grange pressure to oust the original peaceful invaders.

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In Monday’s Los Angeles Times there were six obituaries. Three were Nisei. Why do we always have to be so prominent?


W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.



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