J-TOWN BEAT: Tsuribaka Summer



(Published July 18, 2015)

I had to laugh when I saw the photo of my husband Eric beaming goofily as he held up a 20-pound yellowfin tuna. We’ve been through many happy times together, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an expression of pure joy on his face. For my guy that look is reserved for just a few things: his beloved Anaheim Ducks winning the Stanley Cup and landing a honkin’ big fish. Winning the lottery is probably right up there as well, but sadly we haven’t experienced that one yet.

Eric was among a group from the community, including Jeff Folick, Jerry Fukui, David Teragawa, Glenn Nakatani and Leiton Hashimoto, to take a five-day fishing trip from San Diego last week. Although it’s mostly men on these trips, Sharon Asato is a true champion angler and usually outfishes all the guys. It’s a great group and they always seem to come back loaded with freshly caught fish.

There is a tradition that takes place in the JA community when the fishing is good. The boats return and itadakimasu! — it’s time to eat sashimi. At JANM, the volunteers host a sashimi party a couple times every summer. Eric spent most of Monday and Tuesday driving around SoCal, delivering fish to friends and family.

: Eric Hayashi holds up a yellowfin he caught aboard the Excel.

Eric Hayashi holds up a yellowfin he caught aboard the Excel.

I enjoy fishing, but my kind of fishing involves a reclining camping chair, a good book and a quiet lake in the Sierras. I like the soft tug, tug of a rainbow trout on the line. Ocean fishing is a whole other thing that requires strength, skill, and a strong stomach. Remarkably, Eric gets very seasick, but he doesn’t let that get in the way of his desire to fish on the open sea. I guess I’ll have to go out there again and see if I can catch a tuna. Jerry explained that there are times that you can toss a hot dog in the water and the fish will snap it up. That hasn’t been my experience so far, but hopefully one day I’ll get to experience that.

Year ago I would go fishing with a friend in Tokyo in the waters of Sagami Bay in Kanagawa Prefecture. With Fuji-san in the distance, we’d get to the boat before the sun rose to try the waters, doing a sort of hand fishing, where we’d repeatedly lower yards of thick line set with hooks and a canister filled with bait into the water. The captain would shout out how much line to let out and we spent the day quickly dropping and pulling up the line by hand. Using that method, we’d catch saba (mackerel), inada (yellowtail) and katsuo (skipjack), that I’d take back to my small 1K apartment to grill up.

These days — I dunno — open water fishing just seems like so much work. But I do enjoy the results. The other night, I sliced up some of the sashimi and enjoyed it with a bowl of hot gohan and some fresh cucumbers and tomatoes grown by Norm Naritoku. It was so simple and good, and I’m glad that my husband is such a good fisherman.

Now that I think about it, there is a Japanese term for guys like Eric: tsuribaka or fishing fool. Judging by the sports page of The Rafu there are an awful lot of tsuribaka in this community.

* * *

How’s Horse? Did you get rid of Horse? I get a lot of questions for George Yoshinaga, who has not been feeling well of late. I still go to visit twice a week on our usual schedule, but lately he has not had a column for pick-up. Horse certainly doesn’t need me to put words in his mouth, but I do know that he is eager to return to writing.

One thing I can say is, Happy Birthday Horse! George will turn 90 this Sunday and I can imagine the things he would write about reaching such a momentous age. If readers would like to send him a greeting, they can be sent to the Rafu office at 701 E. Third St., Suite 130, Los Angeles 90013 or you can email him directly at [email protected] His computer has been acting up again, so I’m not sure if he’s able to receive emails.

Horse hasn’t been able to write lately, but I do know he is reading The Rafu and continues to appreciate the support of all of his fans.

“I think Rafu looks different lately,” Horse told me today.

Well of course, Horse! It’s because you’re not here.

* * *

Dizzy might be the word to describe the feeling lately with all the changes in the JA community. No sooner did Keiro and Mikawaya announce that they had been acquired by outside entities, then Marukai in Gardena’s Pacific Square notified customers that they would shut down on Aug. 2.

Those of us old enough to remember when it was Meiji Market can hardly imagine that the space would become vacant, but it probably makes sense if the company is consolidating and the main Marukai is only a few miles away. There are too many Japanese and Japanese American consumers in the immediate vicinity for that store to remain empty for long.

Family-run businesses do more than provide goods, they also help create a community. They support the local Little League team, buy ads in the high school yearbook, donate raffle prizes, or as in the case of Frances Hashimoto and Mikawaya, provide manju for community meetings. That often goes away when a business is bought out by an outside group more interested in future growth than playing a role in creating a community.

I guess the old adage is true: the only thing that is constant is change.


Gwen Muranaka, English editor-in-chief of The Rafu Shimpo, can be contacted at [email protected] Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.




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