By GEORGE YOSHINAGA
Originally printed in The Rafu Shimpo on Feb. 28, 2012
We are all familiar with the phrase “There are two sides to every story.”
Unfortunately, in many cases, only one side gets all the attention.
This is probably true about the experiences the Japanese American community during the early years of World War II when we were all evacuated and placed in relocation camps.
Today’s generation prefers to call the camps “concentration camps” and today’s generation also stresses the negative side of that era.
Well, during the recent Day of Remembrance event held at the Japanese American National Museum, only the negative side of the evacuation was portrayed.
In a follow-up story on the event by Rafu staffer J.K. Yamamoto, one of those present, actor George Takei, was interviewed and quoted.
One of the quotes was about Takei’s parents being sent to Santa Anita Race Track, which was converted into an “assembly center.”
He said his parents had to live in horse stalls.
Over the years, most of the younger generation, in discussing the internment of JAs at assembly centers prior to being sent to relocation camps, emphasized the “living in horse stalls” while at Santa Anita and other race tracks in California used as assembly centers.
The real fact is that although some of the internees were indeed placed in the stable area, the majority lived in barracks built on the parking lots.
Those who lived in the stable area were provided meals at what was labeled the “Blue Mess.”
All of the dining facilities were given colors as names to help the internees identify where they were assigned to get their meals.
In the parking lot barrack areas, there were the White, Green, Orange and Yellow Mess Halls, with the Red Mess located in the grandstand area.
That’s five mess halls, meaning there were five times as many people residing in barracks and not in the stables. Yet, every time someone talks about Santa Anita Assembly Center, they will mention “living in the horse stables.”
It should also be mentioned that while the stables did house race horses when the track was open for racing, those who were employed by horse owners and trainers lived in the stable area, so it wasn’t a completely “horse only” area.
I worked on making camouflage netting while at Santa Anita.
Those of us who toiled on the project were paid $8 a month, which was a lot more than my parents paid me working on our farm.
As a farm boy, I never learned to dance, but at Santa Anita, some older Nisei ladies held dance lessons, so I enrolled.
Never did get too good at it but when we got to Heart Mountain and they began holding dances in the mess halls, I was able to go on the dance floor.
Needless to say, many of the young ladies I danced with would tell me, “Now I know why they call you ‘Horse.’”
Oh well, learning to dance at a race track probably wasn’t the best way to become a dancer.
With all the older Nisei who enjoyed camp life passing on, there won’t be too many left to tell their stories that would reveal a real different picture of what it was like.
Heck, we can probably get another side of the “no-no boys” situation.
I had two personal friends who went to prison for being among the “no-no boys” at Heart Mountain and their reason for taking the stand that they did had nothing to do with the reason most of the current generation believes made them sign “no-no” on the loyalty questionnaire.
After spending their time in prison in Washington state, they were able to return to “normal life” after the war ended and evacuees returned to the West Coast.
They were able to enjoy a normal life because of the war record of those Nisei who served in the military to prove their loyalty as “Americans.”
I wonder where we would be today if every Japanese American answered “no-no” to the loyalty questionnaire?
Maybe we’d be in some rice field in Japan, harvesting the crop.
Oh well, enuff said.
I’m sure many when reading this will utter, “There goes that idiot again.”
It probably won’t make the “top story” category, but my eye caught the article about a fellow playing the penny progressive slot machine, hitting the jackpot and winning over one million dollars.
Of course, while they are called “penny machines,” to win the big jackpots on the progressive machine, the player has to put in the maximum amount of coins, which is $2.20.
That’s almost $2 more than I toss in every hand on the video keno machine.
Of course, the jackpot on the keno machine will never pay in the millions, but the players won’t be tossing in their life’s earnings either.
At any rate, the person who won the penny jackpot won’t get the one million-plus in one lump sum. He will receive several thousand a month until he is paid completely, probably over a period of about 20 years.
We older guys wouldn’t get to enjoy a payoff schedule like that.
By the way, I missed the Day of Remembrance program held at the Gardena JCI this past Sunday because I wasn’t even aware of it being held.
They sent out notices by e-mail, but I wasn’t scanning my mail until late Sunday afternoon and by that time, it was over since the closing time was 4 p.m.
Well, I guess I was lucky that I attended the Day of Remembrance held at the Japanese National American Museum in Little Tokyo.
The speakers at the Gardena event were Dr. Don Hata and Mary Higashi.
Curiously, both were born in 1939, which means they were only 3 years old when they were evacuated.
But, as I always note, most of those involved in the history of the evacuation were not even born or were, as in the case of the two mentioned above, “hana tare kozos.”
The JCI is holding another program in March during which time there will be more discussion on the wartime experiences of Japanese Americans.
I will make it point not to miss this one, especially since Aiko Herzig Yoshinaga will be the keynote speaker.
Over the years, I have heard so much about her because of our similar name, but I never had a chance to meet her.
She was also at the Little Tokyo Day of Remembrance, but before I had the chance to introduce myself to her, she left.
Maybe she didn’t want to be mistaken for a relative of mine. Heh, heh.
What’s our world coming to?
Every time I turn on the TV to watch the news, the types of crime being committed have disgusted me because they involve teachers being charged with sexual acts against young students.
The disgusting part is how they were able to commit these lewd acts over such a long period of time without being discovered.
These are not rare cases but involve many teachers engaged in these illicit acts in the Los Angeles school area.
The reason I am more concerned is that my two granddaughters are of the age of the students who were the victims in these crimes.
The other crime news that is disturbing to me is that they involve persons of Japanese ethnicity. This was almost an unheard-of happening in the past.
One of the recent cases involved a female legislator in the San Francisco area being arrested and charged with shoplifting at a Bay Area department store. (Editor’s note: The suspect has a Japanese last name but is actually a Korean American married to a Japanese American.)
She was arrested when a surveillance camera in a Union Square store showed her walking out the door with unpaid merchandise in her shopping bag.
She was accused of stealing nearly $2,500 worth of clothing.
A spokesman for the suspect said that she was distracted by a cell phone call and forgot to pay for the merchandise.
The other case, involving a Nisei lawyer, has been written about, so his case might not be surprising news.
He is charged with embezzling more than $500,000 from the estate of one of his clients.
Now, he has been charged with allegedly stealing money from another estate, so he remains in jail while the new charges are pending.
Let’s hope this is the end of JAs involved in criminal acts.
The latest news on the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan is the TV newscaster David Ono, who is going to make another trip to Japan to do a story on the recovery that has taken place in the Fukushima area.
I have met and chatted with David on numerous occasions at various JA community events, but I never asked him if he spoke fluent Japanese.
I would assume that if he is like the rest of the JAs, he has a knowledge of the language. At least enough to carry on a conversation with the natives of Japan.
In the story regarding David’s trip in Japan, there were a dozen or so photos of the area and I was amazed by the way the people of the area have rebuilt all the damaged buildings and roads.
I would guess that only the Japanese could recover so rapidly.
I will be looking forward to his TV coverage as I assume most Americans will be doing.
One thing I’d like to do if I get a chance is to interview David is to get information on his Japanese background.
Another major news item that has been swirling around Southern California is the rising price of gasoline.
Some experts predict that we will be facing $5 a gallon in the next week or so.
Oh my gosh, I guess I’d better take my old bike out of the garage.
Perhaps the current generation of drivers might find this hard to believe, but when I first began driving way back when, the price of gas was 17 cents a gallon, which means that for that price, we could fill up the 10-gallon tank of our Model-T Ford for less than what a gallon costs today.
Of course, in those days, we’d probably run up about 30 miles a week at the most.
Ah, what sweet dreams.
If you think that the new Chinese basketball player Lin got a lot of media attention, I can imagine what it would be like if Sansei Natalie Nakase becomes the first female coach in the NBA, but that’s her goal.
At the moment, she’s the first and only head coach in the Japanese pro basketball league, as the head mentor of the Saitama Broncos.
Being a Sansei, she wants to improve her Japanese because eight of the ten Saitama players speak only Japanese and she has a difficult time communicating with them.
She wants to be able to talk to the players without using an interpreter.
Nakase is a native of Huntington Beach.
Her team, the Saitama Club, hosted the 2012 Japan All-Star game before a crowd of 14,011 last month and it put her in the national spotlight as the game was televised on Fuji TV.
Nakase was a point guard at UCLA during her collegiate basketball career.
She has an open mind about returning to coach in Saitama next season if she is offered a contract, but her ultimate goal is to reach basketball’s pinnacle — to coach in the NBA.
“It doesn’t have to be as head coach, but just being part of a program in the NBA and reaching a level where it’s the highest level in the sport,” she said.
She grew up as an L.A. Lakers fan watching them on TV and developed a love for the sport.
It sure would be nice for the first woman coach in the NBA to be a Japanese American.
Hope the ladies in the reading audience get a chuckle out of this:
A store that sells new husbands opened in New York City, where women may go to choose a husband. Among the instructions at the entrance is a description of how the store operates:
You may visit this store only once.
There are six floors and the value of the products increases as the shopper ascends the flights.
The shopper may choose any item from a particular floor or may choose to go up to the next floor, but cannot go back down except to exit the building.
So, a woman goes to the Husband Store to find a husband. On the first floor, the sign on the floor reads:
“Floor 1 — These men have jobs.” She is intrigued but continues to the second floor, where the sign reads:
“Floor 2 — These men have jobs and love kids.”
“That’s nice,” she thinks, “but I want more.” So she continues upwards. The third-floor sign reads:
“Floor 3 — These men have jobs, love kids and are extremely good looking.”
“Wow,” she thinks, but feels compelled to keep going. She goes to the fourth floor and the sign reads:
“Floor 4- — These men have jobs, love kids, are drop-dead good looking, and help with housework.”
“Oh, mercy me,” she exclaims, “I can hardly stand it.” Still, she goes to the fifth floor and the sign reads:
“Floor 5 — These men have jobs, love kids, are drop-dead gorgeous, help with housework, and have a strong romantic streak.”
She is so tempted to stay but she goes to the sixth floor, where the sign reads:
“Floor 6 — You are the 31,456,012th visitor to this floor. Therefore, no men on this floor. This floor exists solely as proof that women are impossible to please. Thank you for shopping at the Husband Store.
George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.