(First published in
The Rafu Shimpo on Jan. 24, 2012)


The news on the passing of legendary football coach Joe Paterno rekindled memories for me.

Back in 1975, a Japanese company that I associated with when I lived in Japan contacted me to ask if I could help them promote a college football bowl game featuring two American college teams.

I responded “No,” But they didn’t give up. A few weeks later, they asked me if I would reconsider their request.

Of course, this time, I said, “Okay, if you’ll make it worth it,” meaning if they make a monetary offer. So after much haggling, they agreed, so I started investigating the possibility of such a project.

The first thing I did was contact Mike White, who was the head football coach at UC Berkeley. He chuckled and said he didn’t think a new bowl game played in a foreign country would ever get off the ground. He commented, “There’s six bowl games already and they have all the top conferences locked up, so a new bowl game won’t have any top-rated teams to pick from.”

Then he suggested an all-star game instead because then the Japanese fans would be able to see some of America’s top college players perform.

White then suggested I contact the NCAA and see if they would sanction such a bowl game. So, I hopped on a plane and flew to the NCAA headquarters in a Midwestern city. Their initial reaction was “No way.”

But after a few days of haggling, they agreed to sanction the first NCAA-approved all-star game to be played on foreign soil. So, the Japan Bowl was born.

Next was the problem of signing the top college players.

White suggested that the first thing I had to do was hire some “name” coaches who would attract and help recruit the stars.

I asked him to contact the so-called “name” coaches he knew to see if he could recruit them. Among those he named was Joe Paterno of Penn Sate to coach the East squad, and Mike said he would coach the West.

Over the three years I worked on the Japan Bowl, the game attracted some of the top college players, including a couple of Heisman Trophy winners, who agreed to participate in the first and only NCAA-sanctioned bowl game in a foreign country.

Some of the prominent names who played were Tony Dorsett of Pittsburgh University and Joe Montana of Notre Dame, both of whom went on to be stars in the National Football League.

I’m sure many of the stars agreed to play because of famed coaches like Joe Paterno.

Ah, memories.

In a recent column I mentioned that I attended a meeting of the Carson City Council because one of the issues to be discussed was the naming of the Council Chambers after long-time City Clerk Helen Kawagoe, who had to retire from her post after 37 years because she was stricken with a stroke.

I didn’t hear the outcome of the City Council’s action because I had to leave the meeting since it lasted so long into the evening.

Well, according to the information I received, the council approved honoring Helen by naming the chamber after her. Hopefully, the information given to me is accurate.

As the longest-serving elected official in the state of California, Helen certainly deserves to be recognized.

I will double-check on the matter to see if the information given to me is accurate.

(Editor’s note: There was a debate over whether to name the chambers after Kawagoe immediately, as proposed by Mayor Jim Dear. A majority on the council voted to rename the chambers posthumously.)

I’ve already made the correction in my previous column regarding Princess Masako graduating from Belmont High School.

However, a few more alert readers have contacted me to correct the error.

One of them, Tsutomu Okamoto, wrote: “I am writing to let you know of a big mistake regarding your article about Princess Masako.

“Princess Masako did not go to Belmont High School in Los Angeles. She graduated from Belmont High School in Belmont, Massachusetts. Her father was a professor at Harvard University at the time.

”Please tell your friend (Tak Hamano) the Belmont High School Los Angeles alumni news publication is wrong.”

Well, Tsutomu, Tak is the one who sent me the correction on the article printed in the Los Angeles Belmont High alumni newspaper. I’m sure Tak will inform the publication of the error.

I’m pretty sure that all the Nisei, Sansei, etc., from the Los Angeles area who go to Las Vegas have one thing in common. They go to the place called Sin City to “get away from their usual routine” and look forward to “having fun.”

That would be if they spend time at the gaming tables or the slot machines.

I haven’t met any JAs who say they go to Vegas to “go shopping.” Yet, Vegas is ranked No. 4 in the U.S. on the list of the nation’s “Best Cities for Bargain Shopping.”

The list was published by Forbes this past week, saying that Las Vegas is among the “top 10 cities for offering great deals.”

That’s because the Vegas metro area has 19 Wal Marts and 225 factory outlet stores.

While it is well-known that Vegas has luxury malls on the Strip, tourists and locals frequent the bargain-oriented outlet stores off Highway 15, including the Las Vegas Premium Outlets and Fashion Outlet of Las Vegas in Primm.

Well, JA shoppers may not be listed among the so-called “tourists” but 64 percent of “other” tourists go shopping and on average spend $123.s

Vegas does claim the highest number of Wal Mart locations in the country, 19 within a 10-mile radius of City Center. For a city with nearly two million, that’s considered a lot.

Okay, so I don’t go shopping in Vegas, except for picking up my cigars at the Indian Tobacco shop, but I easily spend an average of $123 on my trips. Heck, the slot machines gobble that much before I can say, “Sayonara, okane-san.”

With the Republican primaries gobbling up the air time on TV and the print media, here’s a bit of surprising news.

The GOP might be gaining a stronger foothold in, of all places, the state of Hawaii.

Hawaii has always been a Democratic state, but according to dependable sources, that is changing.

To begin with, the governor, Democrat Neil Abercrombie, is being referred as the most unpopular governor in America.

And the Republican Party has a solid chance of picking up a United States Senate seat that has been in Democratic hands for more than 30 years with the announcement that Linda Lingle, the former Republican governor, will be seeking to replace retiring Democratic Senator Daniel K. Akaka.

She will be challenging Democrat Mazie Hirono, who would have been considered a cinch, but not anymore.

A Japanese American Democrat as an underdog to a “haole” Republican? That’s like saying they don’t grow pineapples in Hawaii anymore.

Maybe because of the “new” trend of Japanese Americans and Democrats moving their residency to Las Vegas over the past few years.

Hey brah, the haole buggahs taking over Hawaii.

It didn’t get any publicity, but the Kamai Forum, the newspaper that replaced the Kashu Mainichi after it folded, has announced that its December 2011 edition is the last one and that it is closing its doors.

It kind of saddens me to see the Kamai Forum folding up since it took over for the Kashu Mainichi.

As many of you know, I was with the Kashu Mainichi, more popularly known as “Kamai,” for over 30 years, and I retired when the late publisher Hiro Hishiki told me he was selling his newspaper.

With the folding of the Kamai Forum, on the heels of the two San Francisco publications, the Nichi Bei Times and Hokubei Mainichi, the Rafu is now the only daily Japanese/English newspaper remaining.

Hopefully, the Rafu can continue to serve the Japanese American community, not only here in Los Angeles but throughout the U.S.

I know many people who live in other areas of the U.S. subscribe to the Rafu to keep up with what’s going on among fellow JAs.

Jockey Chantal Sutherland with Mary Antonovich, daughter of Supervisor Mike Antonovich, at the Santa Anita race track in Arcadia.

Well, she’s getting an early start as a horse racing fan.

That would be Mary Antonovich, daughter of Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who  recently visited the current Santa Anita races in Arcadia.

She’s seen in a photo with jockey Chantal Sutherland, one of the few successful female riders at a major thoroughbred race track in the country.

I became a horse race fan when I hit 21 years, and I thought I was pretty young to bet on races.

I can’t attest to the accuracy or truthfulness of the following piece sent to me by a reader who calls himself “Retired Mas” because I’ve never seen it anywhere else in the print or broadcast media.

He entitles his piece “Very interesting.” You decide.

It read: “Back in 1961 people of color were called ‘Negroes.’ So how can Obama’s birth certificate state he is African American when the term wasn’t even used at the time?

“The birth certificate that the White House released lists Obama’s birthday as Aug. 4, 1961. It also lists Barack Husserin Obama as his father. No big deal, right? At the time of Obama’s birth, it also shows that his father was 25 years old and that Obama’s father was born in ‘Kenya, East Africa.’ This wouldn’t seem like anything of concern, except for the fact that Kenya did not even exist until 1963, two whole years after Obama’s birth and 27 years after his father’s birth.

“On the birth certificate released by the White House, the listed place of birth is ‘Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital.’ This cannot be because the hospital in question in 1961 was called ‘Kauikeolani Children’s Hospital’ and ‘Kapiolani Maternity Home,’ respectively. The name did not change to Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital until 1978 when the two hospitals merged. How can this particular hospital be on the birth certificate dated 1961 if this name had not been applied until 1978?”

As I stated in opening this segment, I can’t attest to the accuracy of the info contained in Retired Mas’ email.

Today’s closer is entitled “Priceless,” and the title fits. It goes:

If you’ve ever worked for a boss who reacts before getting the facts and thinking things through, you will recognize this.

A Japanese firm headquartered in the U.S., feeling it was time for a shakeup, hired a new CEO. The new boss was determined to rid the company of all its slackers.

On a tour of its facilities, the CEO noticed a guy leaning against the wall. The room was full of workers and he wanted to let them know that he meant business. He asked the guy, “How much money do you make a week|?”

A little surprised, the young man looked at him and said, “I make $400 a week. Why?”

The CEO said, “Wait right here.” He walked back to his office, came back in two minutes, handed the guy $1,600 in cash and said, “Here’s four weeks’ pay. Now get out and don’t come back.”

Feeling pretty good about himself, the CEO looked around the room and asked, “Does anyone want to tell me what that goofball did here?”

From across the room, a voice said, “He’s the sushi guy from the sushi restaurant down the street.”

Heh, heh.


George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and may be reached via email by email. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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  1. Hi, George,

    I’ve been an avid reader of your articles for many, many years. For the most part, I agree with your opinions and especially enjoy your funny endings. This is the first time I’m writing to you.

    I’m a sansei from HI and enjoy your references to your HI connections. On Tues., Jan. 31st,(a few days ago) you mentioned the card game, Hanafuda. Growing up in HI, I remember playing
    this card game with my ojichan. Those were very fond, warm memories. While in HI recently,
    I met Helen Nakano, founder of a group called Hanafuda, Hawaii Style. You might be interested in learning more about it. Log on to
    You may contact me (I live in Lomita) via my email or cell (310) 626-2621 if you’d like to learn
    how to play. I teach for fun, only. NO GAMBLING! (this might turn you off), knowing how you
    frequent Vegas a lot. I’ve never played baccarat so I don’t know if there’s any similarity as you say. Although it’s similar to the Japanese style, it’s more colorful and the points are on the cards.
    Check it out! Keep up the great job!! I’ll keep looking forward to your articles. JHK