(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on June 16, 2012)


Before I pound another word, I want to thank The Rafu for giving me a copy of the book “Proud to Serve,” which the newspaper published with Chris Komai as its editor.

The book salutes the vets of the 442nd, 100th and MIS.

For those who are interested in getting a copy of the book, contact The Rafu.

Okay, let me get on with today’s chatter.

This past Monday evening I attended a ceremonial presentation by the City of Carson at which Helen Kawagoe was among those being honored.

As we all know, Helen served the City of Carson as the city clerk for 37 years until she suffered a stroke last year and had to retire. She was the longest-serving elected public official in the State of California.

Helen was brought to the ceremony in a wheelchair since she was unable to walk.

During the presentation by Carson Mayor James Dear, the matter of naming the Carson City Council Chambers the “Helen Kawagoe Council Chambers” was brought out by the mayor.

The issue came up when Helen was stricken and had to retire from her post.

A petition with 2,000 signatures, including those of Congresswomen Maxine Waters and Janice Hahn, was presented to honor Helen.

However, three City Council members, Julie Ruiz-Raber, Lula Davis-Holmes and Mike Gipson, ignored the wishes of the community and voted against the renaming of the chambers in Helen’s honor.

So, until the next election, at which time a replacement would be named, Mayor Dear recommended that Helen’s long-time assistant be assigned to the post of city clerk.

Again, the three opposed Dear’s recommendation.

Helen’s assistant is Wanda Higaki.

Could the ethnicity of Helen and Wanda as JAs be playing a part in the rejection by the three City Council members?

Why would the three council members reject Wanda’s temporary appointment when she served as Helen’s assistant for over 30 years, especially since even if she were appointed, it would be only temporary, until the voters select the new city clerk?

Of course, with the support Wanda received, if she decides to seek the post in the election, she would be the heavy favorite to win.

So, getting back to the reason the three opposed Helen being honored and Wanda being named “temporary” city clerk, I’m surprised nobody touched on the reason the three opposed both Helen and Wanda.

In this era, the charge of “racism” is frequently used in discussing issues such as this.

Let’s hope this is not the case since Helen is often referred to as “The Mother of City Hall,” and Carson is a racially diverse community.

My wife was born and raised on Maui, but when I showed her an article sent to me by reader Harold Fujimoto, she said she had never heard about internment camps for Japanese Americans on her home island.

Fujimoto wrote, “I was only seven years old living on Maui, but my parents never mentioned anything about internment camps.”

At any rate, this is the story by Melissa Tanji, staff writer for a Hawaii newspaper: “The Kalana O Maui Building in Wailuku and possibly Horizons Academy of Maui in Haiku sit on sites of former World War II internment camps for Japanese Americans on Maui.

“The sites are among 13 in the state identified through preliminary studies by the National Park Service, which is holding meetings statewide to learn more about the WWII internment camps in Hawaii. The camps held Japanese Americans and Japanese aliens during the war.

“‘What we are happy about with the study is people will be able to provide more information to us,’ said Suzanne Bott, a National Park Service planner and project manager for the World War II internment study. The National Park Service is conducting a ‘special  resource study’ of the confinement sites to determine the best way to preserve the sites and share their history. There will be informational meetings and a chance for the public top offer input in Maui County beginning this week.

“On Maui, there is nothing left from the camps to preserve, said Bott, who is seeking the community’s feedback on where they would want the story of Maui’s camps told —possibly on the Valley Isle or included in projects on Oahu.

“Congress directed the Park Service to carry out the study because of the importance of the history of Hawaii’s Japanese Americans forcibly confined during World War II.

“The more well-known camps on the Mainland, such as Tule Lake and Manzanar, both in California, tell only part of the story of the Japanese American experience. These camps are part of the National Park system today.

“The Hawaii sites received little attention. They held people for varying lengths of time between the start of World War II in 1941 and its conclusion in 1945. The Hawaii sites were found on six Islands, Maui, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai and the Big Island.

“Bott said internees from Maui were taken to the Wailuku County Jail.

“Japanese American internees, who were usually teachers, business people, community leaders and Buddhist priests, were usually held ‘temporarily’ at Maui camps before being moved to a Sand Island internment camp on Oahu or transferred to the more widely known internment camps on Mainland.

“It was uncertain how many people were held in internment camps on Maui, but Bott said there were 58 people listed on the FBI’s detention list for Maui.”

Reading the article in The Maui News made me wonder what would have happened if the government placed every Japanese American on Maui in internment camps as they did the Mainland JAs.

Hey, unlike sending the Japanese American population on the West Coast to camps, if they did the same thing on Maui, the island would have become  a ghost town.

According to my relatives on Maui (my in-laws), Japanese Americans were about 50 percent of the population.

So, if they rounded up every Japanese American and sent them to camp, as they did on the West Coast, the Maui schools would have been empty, businesses would have closed, and there would be nobody around.

My wife said 80 percent of her school class were JAs.

In Heart Mountain, I know we did get several families from Hawaii, but I don’t know if they were from Maui.

In those days, I didn’t know anything about Hawaii, so if someone said he/she was from Maui, I wouldn’t know what they were talking about.

The irony is that I ended up with a wife from Maui.

I can’t even add my usual heh, heh, to this comment.

(Maggie’s comment: Sorry to say this, Mr. Y., but the article re Maui’s internment camp has been written about two or three times already).

Letter time:

Got this one from a reader on the state of Evergreen Cemetery in Boyle Heights. She wrote:

“During Memorial Day weekend, I went to the Evergreen Cemetery in Boyle Heights to pay my respects to my deceased relatives who are buried there.

“Every time I go there, I am disturbed by the poor condition of the cemetery grounds. I am sad and angry about the shocking neglect by the management of Evergreen. I’m appalled by the dead, brown grass. The flowers I brought weeks ago have long since died, but have not been removed.

“It’s dangerous to walk around the cemetery because of the potholes along the roads, the holes in the grass and the crumbling walkways.

“Evergreen Cemetery is the final resting place of many Japanese who had lived in Los Angeles. It is also the home to a memorial for Japanese American soldiers who had fought in U.S. wars.

“Evergreen is an important part of Japanese American history in the Los Angeles area. I’m sickened to see the shameful condition of the cemetery that should supposedly be honoring our dead. I’m sure that many of your Rafu Shimpo readers also have loved ones that are buried at Evergreen Cemetery and feel the same way as I do.

“I would like to encourage everyone to write a letter to Evergreen Cemetery to ask them to make the place beautiful once again so that we can honor our deceased with the respect that they deserve. Please write to: Evergreen Cemetery, 204 N. Evergreen Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90033.”

Thanks for your letter. Hopefully many who feel as you do will respond and contact the management there.

Unfortunately, the area in and around Evergreen has fallen apart in recent years.

I know that he will never get the media attention that the Los Angeles Kings got for winning the Stanley Cup.

He won’t even get the attention that the young Sansei basketball players received in The Rafu for starring on their high school cage team.

His name is Hikaru Nakamura, but he isn’t going to make headlines because he hit bases-loaded home runs.

He is the United States chess champion.

Maybe some of you don’t even know what a chess champion is.

Chess, for those of you who may not know, is a game similar to checkers.

I don’t think you’ll find any U.S. champion with a Japanese surname.

Well, Nakamura defeated defending champion Gata Kamsky to win the title as the best chess player in the U.S.

Another “time flies” tidbit.

Many years ago in New Jersey, I met a chap named Rocky Aoki.

Never heard of him prior to our meeting, but I learned that he opened a new restaurant in New York City and he took me and a few other guys to dine there.

It was a place called Benihana, a new type of Japanese eatery.

Well, a few years later, almost everyone who enjoys Japanese cuisine got to know about Benihana.

Now, I see that the well-known chain is being sold.

A company named Angelo Gordon & Company is buying out Benihana for (get this) a cool $296 million.

Gee, maybe I’ll ask the Aokis if they could loan me $5.

Since it’s no secret that I’m a Republican, I get a lot of rib-ticklers that only we GOP people can enjoy.

Here’s one from my old friend, Em Yamada. Didn’t know the former Nisei Week Queen was a Republican. Her giggler reads:

“There are less than six months until Election Day, when the people will decide who will be the next president of the United States. The person elected will be the president of all Americans, not just Democrats or the Republicans.

“Democrats and Republicans alike, in a bipartisan effort for America, if you will support Mitt Romney, please drive with your headlights on during the day. If you support Barack Obama, please drive with your headlights off at night. Together, we can make it happen.”

Heh, heh.

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

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